Best airline credit cards for October 2020

6 Oct, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


For those who love racking up airline miles with their favorite carrier and wish they could take some of the hassles out of flying, airline credit cards are enticing — even if flying isn’t as frequent these days. These cobranded cards offered by an airline card issuer work with a bank to reward users with frequent flyer miles. Benefits include reduced or complimentary companion fares, waived checked bag fees and discounted incidentals such as Wi-Fi

Unlike general travel rewards credit cards, which offer plenty of options for redeeming points, cobranded airline cards are less flexible. Their rewards apply to one specific airline card issuer (instead of multiple hotels and airlines) and the purchase categories you are rewarded for are usually restricted to those made with the airline, with some minor exceptions. As such, these kinds of airline reward cards are best for those who are already loyal to one airline — and thus don’t mind the inflexibility of the rewards — as well as those who value perks like airline lounge access and waived baggage fees. However, despite their rigidity, there are lots of situations that make airline cards worthwhile, especially because some of them offer card reward standbys like balance transfer, a welcome bonus for new card holders and a cash advance.

If you rarely check a bag and bargain-hunt for most flights, an airline credit card might not be the best choice for you. Instead, consider the best travel credit cards, two of which are listed below, or the best cash back credit cards. But if you fly on the same airline with your family a few times a year (or more) and check a bag every time you fly, those waived baggage fees can add up to hundreds of dollars in annual savings. Plus, early boarding often guarantees overhead bin space, giving you more leg room (and less stress).

Some common benefits of an airline credit card include:

  • Waived checked baggage fees
  • Priority boarding
  • Lounge access (during some, not all, itineraries) 
  • Accelerated airline status qualification
  • Complimentary or reduced companion fares
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits
  • Generous sign-on bonuses

To determine the best airline credit card below, we compared the cards available for seven of the most popular airlines in the US and selected the options that offer the best value for the largest portion of travelers. We update this periodically. Because most of the rewards rates fall in the same 2-3x miles range, perks like a free checked bag and credits for rewards like companion fares or gift cards are the key differentiating factor between each card. Dollar values are assigned to each frequent flyer program rewards mile by averaging the calculated valuations by The Points Guy and NerdWallet

Best Airline Credit Cards

Card Reward rates New member bonus Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve 3x points on travel and dining; (* begins after earning $300 credit), 1x points on all other purchases 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in first 3 months $550
American Express The Platinum Card 5x points on flights (*booked directly w/ airline or Amex Travel) and prepaid hotels (*booked on Amex Travel) 70,000 points after spending $5,000 in first 3 months $550
Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Credit Card 3x miles on Delta, hotels, 2x Miles on restaurants, supermarkets, 1x miles on all other purchases 5,000 MQMs + 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months $250
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card 2x points on Southwest, 1x points on all other purchases 40,000 points; 7,500 points annually after spending $1,000 in first 3 months $149
United Explorer Card 2x miles on United, 2x miles on Restaurants and Hotels, 1x miles on all other purchases 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months $95
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard 2x miles on American, 1x points on all other purchases 60,000 AAdvantage miles; Anniversary companion certificate at $99 (*after spending $20,000 on purchases). Have to make one purchase, pay the annual fee within 90 days $99
JetBlue Plus Card 6x points on JetBlue; 2x points on dining and groceries, 1x points on all other purchases 40,000 points; 5,000 annually after spending $1,000 in first 3 months $99
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card 3x miles on Alaska, 1x miles on every other purchase 40,000 miles; $100 statement credit; Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare after spending $2,000 in first 90 days $75

The best overall travel card for nonloyalty fliers

Chase

  • Reward Rates: 3x points on travel and dining (begins after earning $300 credit), 1x points on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • New Member Bonus: 50,000 bonus points
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: Spend $4,000 in first 3 months
  • APR: 16.99% to 23.99% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Credit Requirement: Excellent

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a general travel rewards credit card, meaning you earn points on any travel or dining purchase, not just with a single airline card issuer, and your redemption options are much more flexible and transferable. The Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards card is included here for those who want more flexibility but still want to use rewards to book future travel. This rewards card is even better for those who value the additional travel perks like travel insurance, hotel discounts and freebies, and lounge access. Chase Sapphire Reserve offers great value for anyone spending around $12,000 or more annually on travel (flights, hotels, rental cars, trains, buses, taxis), and dining (restaurants, cafes, bars) combined. 

Rewards card details

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers earn unlimited 3x points on travel and dining purchases, 1x points on all other eligible purchases, and 10x points on Lyft rides through March 2022. While the $550 annual fee is on the high side, an annual $300 statement credit for travel purchases brings the yearly commitment down to $250. The signup bonus is 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months (worth $750 when redeemed for travel in the Chase portal, or up to $1000 when points are transferred to travel partners). Chase Sapphire card holders also get a statement credit reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA precheck, both of which are valid for five years) plus a number of VIP-style travel perks, which are listed in our full review of the card.

Redemption details

UR points can be redeemed in three main ways: You can transfer points to one of 13 travel partners, including 10 airlines, at a redemption rate of about 1.75 cents per point for a 5.25% total return. You can book travel (flights, hotels, cruises, etc) through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal, which will get you a rate of 1.5 cents per point, or $1.50 for 100 points — a return of 4.5% on travel and dining purchases (well above most airline credit cards). The final option is cash redemption at a 1-cent rate, effectively turning your card into a 3% cash back card for travel and dining purchases. 

The best travel card for first-class fliers

American Express

  • Reward Rates: 5x points on flights (booked directly w/airline or Amex Travel) and prepaid hotels (*booked on Amex Travel)
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • New Member Bonus: 70,000 points 
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: Spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • APR: 25.24% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

Another high-return travel rewards card, the Platinum Card from American Express offers frequent fliers the highest potential reward rate of any travel rewards card we’ve reviewed, topping out at around 7.5%. Even if you’re loyal to one airline, if you spend more than $10,000 annually on flights and hotels you’ll get a better return on spending with the Platinum card than you would with a cobranded airline credit card. It’s an excellent choice for those who value premium travel perks like lounge access and hotel upgrades, or who want the flexibility to redeem rewards with a larger roster of airlines. 

Rewards details

The Platinum Card earns 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points on flights booked directly with airlines or through the Amex portal (flights booked on third-party sites don’t qualify), and prepaid hotels booked through the Amex portal, as well as 1x MR points on all other eligible purchases. The high annual fee of $550 is offset by a $200 airline fee credit for travel incidentals, a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (worth $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA precheck, both of which are valid for five years), and $200 in Uber credits per year. The new member bonus is on the high side at 70,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months, worth up to $1,400 when points are transferred to travel partners. The Platinum Card also offers a number of premium travel benefits, including hotel perks and access to the Global Lounge Collection.

Redemption details

The Platinum card offers two main methods for redemption. The first is for travel purchases made through the Amex Travel portal, where points are equal to one cent. The second option is to transfer your MR points to one of 18 airline partners or three hotel partners, for a value of up to two cents per point. Because points are worth twice as much when redeemed through partners, it’s highly recommended to go this route. (You can also redeem your points as a statement credit, but the rate is variable and you’ll earn less rewards when you do so.) 

The best Delta credit card

American Express

  • Reward Rates: 3x miles on Delta, hotels; 2x miles on restaurants, supermarkets, 1x miles on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $250
  • New Member Bonus: 5,000 MQMs + 60,000 miles 
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: $3,000 in first 3 months
  • APR: 15.74% to 24.74% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

With an annual companion pass, a generous sign-on welcome bonus for new card members and a moderate annual fee, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card from American Express is the best airline rewards card for most Delta fliers. The 3.5% return is fairly average for an airline rewards program, but this airline rewards credit card makes up for that with other perks. Those who check bags often and travel with a companion (domestically) at least annually can save a substantial amount of money. Add that to the $1,150 in value from the first-year bonuses and loyal Delta fliers can realize a lot of Delta purchase value out of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card.

Rewards details

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card offers 3x miles on Delta purchases, 2x miles at restaurants and US supermarkets, and 1x miles on all other purchases. At a value of around 1.15 cents per point, that represents about a 3.5% return on Delta purchases and a 2.3% return at restaurants and US supermarkets.

Though some rewards cards (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve) carry $550 annual fees, this card’s $250 annual fee is considered steep for a cobranded airline card. However, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card also offers an above-average sign-on bonus of 70,000 bonus miles (which translates to around $920 worth of travel — that’s significant) after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Cardholders also get an additional 20,000 bonus miles after their first annual renewal. 

Delta SkyMiles Platinum cardholders also get their first checked bag free, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, a credit for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck application (worth up to $100) and an annual complementary domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate (you pay taxes and fees of no more than $75).

Redemption details

The best way to redeem Delta SkyMiles is by booking Delta flights through the Delta website. SkyMiles can also be transferred to one of 20 airline partners in the SkyTeam Airline Alliance, like Air France and KLM, but note that the value of miles can be less when transferred. Delta doesn’t offer an award chart so it’s not always easy to calculate the value of a given reward flight, but you can do so manually by comparing the SkyMiles price with the dollar price and making sure you’re getting around 1.15 cents per point or better. For example, if a flight costs 15,000 points or $149, take the dollar cost and divide it by the mile cost, and multiply by 100. So 149/15000 = 0.0099 x 100 = 0.99 cents per mile. There are also no blackout dates when booking award flights through Delta, though the availability of reward seats is variable and you can’t always book a flight with miles, even if it’s available through normal channels.

The best Southwest credit card

Southwest

  • Reward Rates: 2x points on Southwest, 1x points on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $149
  • New Member Bonus: 40,000 bonus points; 7,500 points annually
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: $1,000 in first 3 months
  • APR: 15.99% to 22.99% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

Given its perks and credits, the Priority card, which is cobranded with Chase, offers the best value among Southwest Rapid Rewards cards. With a 40,000 points welcome bonus for new card members (worth around $580 in Southwest travel) after spending $1,000 in the first three months, a decent reward rate of 3% and a $75 annual travel credit, this card pays for itself fairly quickly. Though Southwest already gives fliers their first two checked bags for free and doesn’t have airport lounges, this rewards credit card saves Southwest loyalists money in other ways. 

Rewards details

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card offers 2x points on Southwest Airlines purchases and 1x points on all other purchases. At a value of around 1.45 cents per point, that represents just under a 3% return on Southwest Airlines purchases.

The $149 annual fee is offset by the $75 annual travel credit, which is automatically applied to your account each year when you use your card for a Southwest Airlines purchase, and the additional 7,500 points awarded each card anniversary, which we value at around $110. Finally, the Priority card offers four upgraded boardings a year which usually cost between $30-$50 each and 20% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi in the form of a statement credit.

Redemption details

The best way to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards is by booking Southwest “Wanna Get Away” flights — which are basically economy tickets that allow you to rebook or change your flight, but not cancel for a refund — on Southwest’s website. Southwest doesn’t have an award chart for calculating the value of points, but you can do it manually by comparing the Rapid Rewards points price with the dollar price and making sure you’re getting around 1.45 cents per point or better. For example, if a flight costs 15,000 points or $149, take the dollar cost and divide it by the mile cost, and multiply by 100. So 149/15000 = 0.0099 x 100 = 0.99 cents per mile. Southwest also ensures unlimited reward seats with no blackout dates or seat restrictions, so don’t worry about certain flights not being available when booking with Rapid Rewards. 

The best United Airlines credit card

United

  • Reward Rates: 2x miles on United, 2x miles on restaurants and hotels, 1x miles on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • New Member Bonus: 60,000 miles
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: $3,000 in first 3 months
  • APR: 16.49% to 23.49% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

The rewards rate of Chase’s United Explorer card is on the low end for cobranded airline credit cards at 2%, but it does offer decent value through its new card member sign-on bonus and waived baggage fees. In many cases, you’d be better off with a no-fee cash back credit card, like the Wells Fargo Propel, if you spend less than $10,000 annually on travel and dining. But if you value priority boarding and check a bag every time you fly United, the Explorer card is worth considering. Generally, United’s credit cards don’t compare well to the other airlines when it comes to overall value, so this recommendation is really the best of not-so-great options. 

Rewards program details

The United Explorer card offers 2x miles on United purchases, 2x miles on restaurants and hotels and 1x miles on all other purchases. At a value of around 1.05 cents per mile, that represents just over a 2% return on spending. The card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year of ownership and new cardholders earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months (worth around $420 in United travel). 

Card holders get their first checked bag free, a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (worth $100), 25% back on in-flight United purchases, and priority boarding on United-operated flights. The main value in this card comes from those waived baggage fees, so if you check bags for each leg of a flight, that’s $60 back in your pocket (or on your statement credit) for each round-trip flight.

Redemption details

United MileagePlus miles will go the farthest when redeemed to book United flights or transferred to partners in the Star Alliance airline program (like Lufthansa and Air Canada). United doesn’t have an award chart for calculating the value of points on given flights or distances, but you can do it manually by comparing the MileagePlus price with the dollar price and making sure you’re getting around 1.05 cents per point or better. For example, if a flight costs 15,000 points or $149, take the dollar cost and divide it by the mile cost, and multiply by 100. So 149/15000 = 0.0099 x 100 = 0.99 cents per mile. 

There are two types of award seats when redeeming miles, “Saver Awards” seats and “Everyday Awards” seats. The former are cheaper than the latter, and there are no blackout dates for cardholders when booking Everyday Awards seats.

The best American Airlines credit card

American Airlines

  • Reward Rates: 2x miles on American, 1x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Annual Fee: $99
  • New Member Bonus: 60,000 AAdvantage miles; Anniversary companion certificate at $99 (*after spending $20,000 on purchases)
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: Make one purchase, pay the annual fee within 90 days
  • APR: 15.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

The Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard from Barclays, with its free checked bags for up to four others, is ideal for families who travel together often. It only takes one round-trip flight with the whole family and a cart-load of bags to earn back for the $99 annual fee and it’s also the card with the lowest spending threshold to earn the 60,000 airline mile sign-on bonus. 

Rewards program details

The Aviator Red World Elite card has a moderate annual fee of $99 and a sign-on bonus of 60,000 AAdvantage miles after making just one purchase and paying the annual fee. Those 60,000 miles are valued at $720. 

The card offers 2x miles on American Airline purchases and 1x miles on all other eligible purchases. At a value of around 1.2 cents per mile, that represents a 2.4% return on spending. Cardholders get their first checked bag free and a free checked bag for up to four companions traveling on the same reservation, which can add up to $300 in baggage fee savings for one round-trip flight. The card also offers preferred boarding, a $25 statement credit for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases per year, and 25% back on in-flight food and beverages. 

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite card holders can also earn a $99 companion certificate each year after spending $20,000 on purchases during the “card membership” year, which starts when you sign up. Given this incredibly high spending threshold, we don’t place too much value on the companion certificate. 

Redemption details

You can redeem AAdvantage miles for American Airlines flights or partner flights in the Oneworld alliance network, which includes airlines like British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines. American Airlines is one of the few airlines with an award chart, so start there when booking travel as it will help you get a sense for how far miles will go according to your destination. As a general baseline, aim for around 1.2 cents per mile or better, which you can calculate by comparing the AAdvantage mile price with the dollar price. For example, if a flight costs 15,000 points or $149, take the dollar cost and divide it by the mile cost, and multiply by 100. So 149/15000 = 0.0099 x 100 = 0.99 cents per mile. 

The best JetBlue credit card

JetBlue

  • Reward Rates: 6x points on JetBlue; 2x points on dining and groceries, 1x points on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $99
  • New Member Bonus: 40,000 bonus points; 5,000 annually
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: $1,000 in first 3 months
  • APR: 15.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

The Barclays JetBlue Plus card has the best rewards rate of any airline card on this list and its other features, perks, and bonuses are on par with category averages, including its fairly standard $99 annual fee. It’s a good card for JetBlue loyalists and even a good option for those who fly JetBlue only a few times a year, but who can take advantage of the sign-on bonus and free checked bags. 

Rewards program details

The JetBlue Plus card offers 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x points on all other purchases. At a value of around 1.3 cents per point, that represents an almost 8% return on JetBlue spending, well above the average airline card. The sign-on bonus is 60,000 TrueBlue points after spending $1,000 in the first three months — worth around $520. That’s just below what some other cards offer in terms of monetary value, but the $1,000 spending threshold is easier to meet. Cardmembers also get an additional 5,000 bonus points each year on their account anniversary, worth around $65. 

The first checked bag on each flight is free for you and up to three companions traveling on the same reservation, representing up to $70 in savings per person per round-trip flight. JetBlue Plus card holders also get 50% off in-flight food and beverage purchases, twice the discount that most other airline cards offer. 

Redemption details

The TrueBlue rewards system is one of the better airline loyalty programs, mainly because you’ll rarely get less than 1 cent per mile when redeeming points, even when booking partner flights with Hawaiian Airlines or vacation packages through JetBlue. There are also no blackout dates when booking with points, though we always recommend you do some quick math (comparing the amount of miles a flight would cost to its dollar cost) to ensure you’re getting around 1.3 cents per point when booking a flight. For example, if a flight costs 15,000 points or $149, take the dollar cost and divide it by the mile cost, and multiply by 100. So 149/15000 = 0.0099 x 100 = 0.99 cents per mile. 

The best Alaska Airlines credit card

Alaska Airlines

  • Reward Rates: 3x miles on Alaska, 1x miles on every other purchase
  • Annual Fee: $75
  • New Member Bonus: 40,000 miles; $100 statement credit; Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare
  • Bonus Redemption Threshold: $2,000 in first 90 days
  • APR: 15.99% to 23.99% variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Credit Requirement: Good to excellent

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card from Bank of America is the only airline card offered by Alaska Airlines, but it’s a good one. The annual $99 companion fare and 4% return on Alaska spending can translate into valuable savings for an Alaska frequent flyer. It’s the only card we found that offers free checked bags for up to six companions, so families will obviously benefit from those waived fees. The rewards rate is also substantial, and paired with a lower-than-average annual fee of $75, this card can save Alaska Airline loyalists a significant amount of money. 

Rewards details

The Alaska Airlines Visa card offers 3x miles on Alaska purchases, 20% back on in-flight purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases. At a value of around 1.35 cents per mile, that represents just over 4% back on spending. The sign-on bonus is 40,000 points after spending $2,000, valued at around $540 in the first three months and there’s also a $100 statement credit, which covers the annual fee the first year (and then some.) 

Best of all is the aforementioned annual $99 companion fare (plus taxes and fees), and a free checked bag for you and up to six other guests traveling on the same reservation each time you fly. The waived checked bag fees can be worth up to $420 for each round-trip reservation of seven people and the companion fare includes any destination that Alaska flies to with no blackout dates.

Redemption details

Alaska publishes an award chart online, so start there to see which regions will make the most sense or get you the best value based on your travel plans. Alaska also has partnerships with international airlines or airlines that fly internationally, including Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas and American Airlines (full list on its website). 

Booking flights with international partners can sometimes be the best way to get top value for your miles, but keep in mind that sometimes means booking a first-class ticket at a big discount, which could still cost way more than you’d normally spend on an economy ticket. We recommend comparing the dollar cost of a certain flight with its miles cost to determine the mile value, and aim for around 1.3 cents per mile or better. For example, if a flight costs 15,000 points or $149, take the dollar cost and divide it by the mile cost, and multiply by 100. So 149/15,000 = 0.0099 x 100 = 0.99 cents per mile. 

How do airline credit cards work?

Airline credit cards reward users with points or miles from an airline’s frequent flyer program, which can be redeemed for flights with that airline. Sometimes you can transfer those points to one of the airline’s travel partners, though this option varies from airline to airline. 

Airline credit cards operate like loyalty programs in that you stay in a closed loop rewards system. You earn rewards when you purchase flights on the airline, and you can use those points for future bookings. Some airline credit cards also reward card holders for making purchases at restaurants, grocery stores or other categories, but given the average reward rate of airline credit cards for those categories, we generally advise paying for those purchases with a cash-back credit card or general travel rewards credit card. 

Read more: Your credit cards have hidden benefits. Here’s how to unearth them

How we pick the best airline credit card

Each major airline generally offers three to four tiers of credit cards with a range of annual fees, rewards structures, and available perks. The lower-tier cards have annual fees under $100, while the highest-tier cards have annual fees that can reach $450-$550. Most of the airline credit cards we recommend fall in the middle of that range. This is because there are excellent no-fee or low-fee cash-back credit cards available that offer better rewards rates than most airline cards. Once you reach the travel spending threshold required to make a $500 annual fee airline card worth it, you would see more value return from a high-end travel rewards card such as the Platinum Card from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, listed above. 

To determine the best airline credit card, we researched all the available cards for seven major airlines and selected those that offer the best potential financial value. Given that the value of airline credit cards can fluctuate considerably based on factors like how many bags you check with your preferred airline in a given year, it’s harder to calculate the specific spending thresholds at which a card makes sense. That being said, we emphasize the rewards and perks that matter the most with each card so you can find the best airline credit card given your situation. 

How do airline cards compare to travel rewards cards?

While airline credit cards offer rewards in the form of an airline’s miles or points, general travel rewards credit cards have their own systems, like American Express’ Membership Rewards points or Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points. General travel credit card points can either be used to redeem travel (with any available airline) through the card issuer’s travel portal, or for maximum value, transferred to an airline partner. You also earn extra points on any travel purchase, regardless of the airline.

Though they charge higher annual fees, the general travel rewards credit cards tend to offer superior return rates and, since they cover a much greater range of purchases, they are often the better option. American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points are also worth more cents per point when transferred strategically, making the return even greater.

Even the best airline credit card is typically less flexible than general travel cards, since you only earn the bonus reward rate when making purchases with an airline, and your options for redemption are much more limited. Given their relative inflexibility, airline credit cards are best for travelers who want to take advantage of airline-specific perks. If you often spend on upgraded boardings or checked bags and you always fly with the same airline, these cards can save you money. 

If you’re not loyal to one airline, rarely check bags, and don’t care about your frequent flyer status, a general travel credit card is a better choice.

Read more: Airline cards vs. travel credit cards: The pros and cons — and which one’s better for you

How to use an airline card as a secondary travel rewards card

While airline credit cards are usually best for travelers who are loyal to one airline, they can also be used as valuable “secondary” cards, in conjunction with a general travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Gold Card from American Express, or Platinum Card from American Express. 

This works by taking advantage of the generous sign-on bonuses, which value in range between $500-$1,000. You’ll need to satisfy the spending threshold to earn those bonuses, but if you can identify an opportunity, like holiday flights, business-related trips, or a family vacation, the strategy works. In those cases, you can sign up for the credit card in advance, use it to book your trips, then re-assess in a year to see if you want to hold onto it. 

That said, I’m generally not a fan of the “super user” strategy of signing up for lots of different cards to take advantage of bonuses, as it usually ends up taking more time and energy than it’s worth. Trying to keep track of several accounts is not a prudent financial strategy. And from an overall returns rate perspective, you’ll usually be better off simply using a general travel rewards card for all those purchases from different airlines.

Read more: How to choose a rewards credit card

Cards we researched

More personal finance advice

Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time-to-time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider’s website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

The comments on this article are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.



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