Credit Cards for Frequent Airlines Travelers

In the past, most cobranded airline-bank credit cards offered a simple concept of earning air carrier frequent flyer program miles. After collecting enough miles, a customer could redeem those miles for a free ticket.

This model had its limitations and drawbacks: blackout dates and seat restrictions. Moreover, recent frequent flyer program terms changes dropped a shadow on the idea of air miles rewards.

In recent years, the game has changed. Now airline cards are competing with general travel cards that offer flexible reward points that can be either transferred to one of many frequent travelers programs or used as a statement credit to offset travel expenses.

In this competition, airline cards are still attractive for some customers, with many of them offering airline specific perks like a free first bag checked in, companion fare coupons, in-flight discounts, and priority boarding.



Let’s have a look at the best airline credit cards:

intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR13.49 - 23.49% (V)
intro BT APR 13.49-23.49% 3% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1x-2x miles per dollar +5,000 bonus
  • 2x miles on gas and groceries
  • 1x miles on all other purchases
  • get 5,000 bonus on first card use


bad credit required

$25 annual fee

$0 first-year fee

reports to credit agencies

24 days grace period

unsecured card offer after 12 months

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intro purchase APR 0% APR offerregular APR*see offers
intro BT APR 0% BT APR offer *see offers
rewards earn miles for your spending 
excellent / good credit required

no annual fee

no foreign transaction fee

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intro purchase APR n/aregular APR16.49 - 23.49% (V)
intro BT APR 16.24-23.24% 5% BT fee, $5 min
rewards 100,000 intro spending bonus 3x on travel and dining/$300 annual travel credit/$100 Global Entry credit
  • 3x points on purchases in travel and dining categories
  • 1x regular rewards rate
  • 100,000 points intro rewards for spending $4,000 in the first three months of the account. That's $1,500 to spend towards travel if you purchase through Chase Ultimate Rewards® 
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check purchase.
excellent required

$450 annual fee

$300 annual travel credit

$100 credit on Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check

50,000 intro bonus for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

50% bonus on redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR16.49 - 23.49% (V)
intro BT APR 16.49-23.49% 5% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1-2 miles/$1 +60,000 sign-up bonus
  • 2x points on Southwest purchases and on Southwest Hotel and car rental programs partners purchases
  • get 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
  • +6,000 miles every account anniversary


good credit required

$99 annual fee

2x on Southwest purchases

60,000 miles bonus

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intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR16.49 - 23.49% (V)
intro BT APR 16.49-23.49% 5% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1x-2x miles per dollar +30,000 bonus miles
  • earn 2x miles on United purchases
  • 1x regular rate on all other purchases
  • get 30,000 miles bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months 
good credit required

$95 annual fee, waived for the first year

first checked bag free

30,000 miles intro bonus

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Mostly, airline cards charge you an annual fee ranging from $19 on a Spirit cobranded card to a $450 for a luxury pack of benefits on Delta SkyMiles Reserve.  In return, you get a sign-up bonus after a first purchase or upon spending a qualifying sum on the card in the first month of the account. It is wise to consider if you are willing to qualify for the bonus before applying for the card.

Airline specific perks can be useful, with some of them offering really nice packages with free VIP lounge access around the world, companion ticket certificates, and additional benefits.

However, if you do not travel one preferred airline but would rather shop around for the best prices and connections, most of these benefits will be not relevant to you. Many airline frequent programs allow you to transfer your frequent flier miles to partner airlines, so sometimes it is useful to check all available options before redeeming miles for tickets. More opportunities to save arise when you consider that different airlines calculate fees and tax portions of the ticket (which you pay even if you use miles) differently.

It is always wise to mention that if you carry a balance on the card, you’d better find a low APR card instead. The interest you pay to the bank on your debt is much more than all the rewards and benefits games.

If you have an imperfect credit score or are new to credit and it is difficult for you to get approved for a credit card, there are also secured cards with good airlines rewards - Aero Mexico secured card is a good example.

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