Best Credit Cards For Airline Purchases

A list of the best credit cards for airline spend based on how much you spend per month or year on airlines. Pulls from 250+ card database.


Whether you're running airline spend through a co-branded airline credit card or you're running spend through a rewards card that earns on airfare or travel spend, there's a lot of possibilities for earning an excellent return spending on air travel.

Airline Credit Cards

If you're loyal to a specific airline or alliance, you'll want to check to see if that airline has a co-branded credit card. Airline credit cards usually grant great benefits such as priority boarding, discounts in-flight, complimentary lounge access, and (most importantly) free checked bags. If you don't have elite status with an airline and you fly a few times per year by yourself or with others, the free checked bag perk offered on these cards alone is worth it.

Airline credit cards also allow you to earn miles on everyday spend along with bonus miles across different categories. For most airline cards (especially those in the U.S.) the earning rates will be "okay", but you'll typically be able to earn more rewards using partner credit cards and then transferring those earned rewards to a frequent flyer program. There are exceptions to this such as the JetBlue Credit Cards which earns a great return on JetBlue spend.

General Airline Spend

If you're not loyal to any specific airline or you found/have an airline card that don't offer the greatest return, you'll want to consider picking up a card that's great for airfare or travel spend that not specific to an airline. Luckily, you'll have lots of options ranging from premium, luxury travel cards down to no-annual fee cards.

The American Express Platinum Card usually sits at the top in terms of general airline spend. This is premium card so I recommend only picking this up if you're able to use the majority of the perks it offers. If you fly Delta Airlines (or other SkyTeam Alliance partners), this card will benefit you more than others thanks to the complimentary Delta SkyClub access.

Moving out of the luxury card market, the American Express Gold Card and American Express Green Card both offer a great return on airline spend. The AMEX Gold earns a superb return on supermarket, restaurant, and airfare spend and comes with dining & airline credits while the AMEX Green earns on both travel & dining and comes with annual CLEAR and Lounge Buddy credits.

For those looking for Ultimate Rewards Points, you can pick up the Chase Ink Business Preferred or the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Chase Ink Business Preferred offers triple points on travel along with several business categories including shipping, internet, advertising, and more. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers triple points on travel & dining purchases and a whopping 10x on Lyft purchases. The Reserve also comes loaded with a bunch of elite travel perks as well as travel and purchase protections.

If you're not looking to earn transferable rewards points or you don't spend a ton on airline purchases every year, the Wells Fargo Propel AMEX is a great choice. The card has no annual fee and offers triple Go Far Rewards Points on travel, dining, and streaming service spend.

Bank of America also provides great options for lower airline spend with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card and Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Card. Both cards can earn between 3% and 5.25% cash back depending on your relationship with Bank of America and their partners.

If nothing listed tickles your fancy, you can always pick up a card that earns 2% cash back on all purchases such as the Citi Double Cash or PayPal CashBack Mastercard.

Best Cards By Category Calculator

The Best Credit Cards By Category Calculator below will find the best credit cards for the listed categories based on your spend and the filter options selected. This will output a list of up to 50 credit cards sorted by total return.

Compare credit cards side by side based on spend, benefits, and fees.

I recommend using the Rewards Calculator which allows you to compare results side by side other cards, factor in sign up bonuses, add authorized users, select elite status (hotel cards), and much more.

Category Spend

Enter your spend per month, year, or quarter for the listed categories. You can then click Get The Best Cards to get the list of results.

Airline

Spend Duration

You can set the duration of the spend for the categories listed above. If you're looking for the best card for only n-months worth of spend, this is where you change the option. If you want to calculate based on a full year, you can leave it set to a duration of 'year'.

Adjust Transferable Points

Some rewards programs allow you to transfer your earned points to airline, hotel, and other loyalty programs. These programs will generally have higher point values when doing such. Since these matter so much when choosing a credit card, you can enter your own point value for these programs to include in the calculations. You can set any of the currencies listed below to 0 to calculate based on the non-transfer value (in which most are 1 cent per point with the exception of Chase's 1.25/1.5 cent redemptions).
When transferring to other programs, you should be able to get 1 to 2 cents in value for most of the programs listed below, so I defaulted most to a low average of 1.5 cents. You can click on the to learn more about the value of the currency (opens in a new tab/window).

Include Annual Credits/Bonuses

Several credit cards feature annual bonuses. These are usually anniversary bonuses for having the card, airline credits, hotel credits, and more. If you want these included in the calculation, you can check thy box below.

Bank

The bank that issues the card. De-select the banks that you do not want in the results.

Network

The network that the card is tied to such as VISA, Mastercard, Discover, or AMEX.

Card Type

The type of card such as a co-branded airline card, bank rewards card, or cash back card. Do note that some store cards will appear under cash back if you're able to redeem cash back like a normal cash back credit card.

Reward Type

The type of rewards the card earns. This will either be points, miles, or cash back.

Personal/Business

Toggle the showing of personal or business cards in the results. Card combinations are also featured on this site. The combo option is only available if it's more than one category you're enter spend for.

Annual Fee

The range of fees you're willing to pay to wield such awesome credit cards. The First Year Free (FYF) / First Year Reduced (FYR) option will only show FYF/FYR cards that has an second year (and onward) annual fee that falls within the range you entered.

Income Requirements

Some credit cards require a certain amount of annual individual or household income. Enter a max income or enter -1 to show all cards.

Foreign Transaction Fees

Toggle whether to include credit cards that have a foreign transaction fee, foreign conversion fee, or any other type of charge that has to do with making purchases outside of the region.

Results

Do note that results may take a few seconds to generate after doing a search.
You can click on the 'Rewards Calculator' for any of the cards listed in the results to calculate even more accurate results. You'll be able to enter spend for other categories, toggle fees, add authorized users, and more.
Results Will Appear Here

Recommended Reads