Best Airline Rewards Credit Cards

Top Picks & Rewards Calculator
Get our top picks for best airline credit cards and find out which cards can earn you the most airline miles based on the spend amounts you enter.
Last Updated 2022-08-27 By R.Flowers III

Airline credit cards allow you to earn frequent flyer miles on your everyday spend and typically grant benefits that closely mirror having frequent flyer status. Review the best airline credit cards and calculate which cards can earn you the most rewards based on your spend.

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Best For Lounge Access & Luxury Travel

If you're looking for luxury travel perks, extensive lounge access, and a great return on airfare purchases, you'll want to consider picking up The Platinum Card® from American Express.

The card earns 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on airfare purchased directly with an airline, airfare purchases through the AMEX Travel Portal, and pre-paid hotel purchases through the AMEX Travel Portal. While you can earn a solid return on these purchases, The Platinum Card gets pretty much all of it's value from the long list of perks and benefits it offers.

The most popular benefit of the card is the AMEX Global Lounge Collection which grants access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Lounges, Delta SkyClub Lounges (when flying Delta), Airspace Lounges, and Escape Lounges.

Along with lounge access, you'll receive over $1,400 in annual credits, complimentary status with Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and several car rental agencies, purchase and travel insurance, and much, much more.

What makes The Platinum Card even better is that additional Platinum cardholders also receive access to most of the benefits. You can add up to 3 additional Platinum Cards for a total of $175 per year which is a superb deal considering each cardholder receives their own elite status, lounge access, and more—even when not traveling with the Primary cardholder.

Intro Bonus: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Best For Restaurants & U.S. Supermarkets

When it comes to earning rewards on restaurant and supermarket spending, no card does it better than the American Express® Gold Card.

The card earns 4 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at restaurants and on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $25,000 per year, then 1X), 3 points per $1 spent on airfare booked directly with an airline or through the American Express Travel Portal, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

It also offers up to $120 in annual Uber credits and up to $120 in annual dining credits, both dished out in $10 increments every month (enrollment required).

Intro Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

Best For Everyday Categories & Travel

The Citi Premier® Card is another solid option when it comes to building rewards points across great categories.

It earns 3 ThankYou Rewards points per $1 spent on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, air travel, and hotel purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. This makes it easy to earn points whether you're at home or on the road.

In terms of benefits the card offers an annual $100 hotel credit good for bookings made through thankyou.com. The Citi Premier also grants the ability to transfer points to all of Citi's airline and hotel partners which makes it possible to pair the card with the Citi® Double Cash Card or Citi Custom Cash℠ Card to maximize your spending.

Intro Bonus: For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Best For Delta Travelers

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is a great option if you're loyal to Delta Airlines.

The card earns 3 Delta SkyMiles per $1 spent on Delta and hotel purchases, 2 SkyMiles per $1 spent at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1 SkyMile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is most known of it's annual companion pass for Main Cabin. This pass allows you to bring a companion to travel with you in Main Cabin for just the cost of taxes & fees. This pass alone can offer an easy $250+ in value depending on the flight.

If you're able to run heavy spend through the card, you can earn Medallion Qualifying Miles towards status. You can also spend your way to a Medallion Qualification Dollars waiver which can help you bypass the U.S. spending requirement for Delta Medallion Status.

Another big money saver of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is that you and up to 8 others traveling with you will receive the first bag checked free of charge. With bag checks costing $25 to $30 per person, per direction, this can save you hundreds if not thousands per year depending on how often you and those traveling with you fly.

Overall, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers superb value and is one of the best well-rounded credit cards if you often fly Delta.

Intro Bonus: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.

Best For United Travelers

The Unitedâ„  Explorer Card is an entry-level airline credit card that's great for earning miles with United Airlines while receiving some solid benefits.

It earns 2 United miles per $1 spent on United, restaurant, and hotel purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits of the card include a free checked bag for you and one other traveling on the same reservation, priority boarding, two annual United Club passes, and up to $100 towards a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.

Overall, the Unitedâ„  Explorer Card offers great value for such a low annual fee.

Intro Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Best For Southwest Travelers

If you want to earn Southwest points at a great rate and be given some great benefits with Southwest, you'll want to turn your attention towards the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

It earns 3X Southwest points on dining for the first year, 2X on Southwest purchases, and 1X on everything else.

The card offers several benefits including 7,500 anniversary points each year, an annual $75 Southwest travel credit, four upgraded boarding per year (when available), and 20% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi.

It's one of the best cards to have if you frequently fly Southwest Airlines.

Intro Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Best For Flat-Rate Travel Rewards

If you want flexible rewards that can be used towards any kind of travel, you'll want to consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. It earns 5 Venture Miles per $1 spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and an unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Venture miles earned with the card can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent each towards any travel charged to the card. This means you can charge flights, hotels, car rentals, transportation and just about any other kind of travel to the card and use the rewards you've earned to wipe away those card charges.

Venture Miles can also be transferred to Capital One's airline and hotel partners which include JetBlue TrueBlue, Air Canada Aeroplan, and Wyndham Rewards to name a few.

Intro Bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Best For Flexible Travel Rewards

Whether you're new to earning rewards or you're a seasoned veteran, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the one of the best well-rounded travel cards in the market.

It earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3 points per $1 spent on online grocery purchases, select streaming services, and dining purchases, 2 points per $1 spent on other travel purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.

Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1 cent each for many redemptions, but as a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholder you'll be able to redeem points for 25% more value towards travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. This gives you an easy redemption value of 1.25 cents per point.

Ultimate Reward points can also be transferred to Chase's airline and hotel partners for a chance at even higher value.

Intro Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Best Airline Credit Cards Summary

Credit Card Annual Fee Best For
The Platinum Card® from American Express $695 Lounge Access & Luxury Travel
American Express® Gold Card $250 Restaurants & U.S. Supermarkets
Citi Premier® Card $95 Everyday Categories & Travel
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card $250 Best Card For Delta
Unitedâ„  Explorer Card $0 the first year, then $95 Best Card For United
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card $149 Best Card For Southwest
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $95 Flat-Rate Travel Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card $95 Flexible Travel Rewards

Calculate Airline Credit Card Rewards

Use the calculator to get an idea of which credit cards will earn you the most rewards and best return when it comes to airline redemptions.

Results will consist of top-rated airline and travel credit cards from our partners. They will be sorted by net return which is the average value of the total rewards earned, plus annual credits, and minus annual fees.

Remember that airline credit cards offer benefits that can save you money or add significant value to the card. This includes free checked bags, companion passes, and more.

You'll want to take this into consideration along with the return you'll get running spend through the card.

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These estimates are to help guide you towards making the best decision when it comes to picking up a rewards credit card. They should be used for illustrative purposes only.

You can click on the estimated earnings to see the calculations or click on the card to learn more and apply for the card through our partners.

Do note that all spend amounts entered into the tool above will carry over to every credit card rewards calculator on the site, so there's no need to re-enter spend if you choose to dive deeper into calculating rewards for credit cards on the site.