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 APR16.24 - 25.24% (V)
intro BT APR 16.24-25.24% 3% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1-2 miles/$1 +30,000 bonus miles
  • get 30,000 miles bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • get $50 statement credit if you make Delta purchase in the first 3 months
  • 2x miles on Delta purchases
  • 1 mile for $1 on other purchases
excellent required

Gold: $95 annual fee, waived for the first year

Platinum: $195 fee

Reserve: $450 fee

Delta benefits

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intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR16.24 - 16.24% (V)
intro BT APR no intro offer 3% BT fee with $5 minimum
rewards 1-2 miles/$1 +50,000 spending bonus
  • 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2 Admiral's Club lounge One-Day Passes 
  • 5% bonus on miles on annual renewal
  • Companion Certificate each year if you spent $30,000
  • Additional American Airlines travel benefits


excellent required

$95 annual fee, waived for the 1st year

up to 2 miles/$1

50,000 sign-up bonus

lots of AAirlines travel perks

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intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR12.74 - 19.74% (V)
intro BT APR 4% min $10 12.74-19.74%
rewards 1-3 miles/$1 +30,000 sign-up miles
  • 3 miles per $1 on Alaska purchases and vacation packages
  • 1 mile/$1 on all the rest
  • 30,000 miles after your first purchase on the card
  • Coach Companion Fare as an annual bonus
  • Alaska Airlines miles are one of the most valuable among air carrier programs


excellent required

annual fee: $50 per company+$25 per card or $75 per card

up to 3 Alaska Airlines miles per $1 spent

Alaska Airlines miles value is up to 2 cents each 

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intro purchase APR no intro offersregular APR13.74 - 13.74% (V)
intro BT APR 4% min $10 13.74%
rewards 1-2 miles/$1 +10,000 on sign-up
  • 10,000 miles after first card purchase
  • 2 miles per $1 on Asiana purchases
  • 1 mile/$1 on all purchases



excellent required

$80 annual fee

2 miles/$1 on Asiana purchases

1 mile/$1 on all purchases

10,000 miles sign up bonus

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intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR13.49 - 20.49% (V)
intro BT APR 13.49-20.49% 3% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1x-2x miles per dollar +15,000 miles
  • 2x miles on Korean Air purchases
  • get 15,000 miles after first purchase

basic card $50 annual fee

signature card $80 annual fee

no foreign transaction fee

read review

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.

exclusive members-only deals
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