The airline industry is constantly evolving, and the best credit cards for airlines are always changing. Here’s a list of the top five cards to help you plan your next trip.
The best airline credit card no annual fee is a type of credit card that allows users to earn points or miles for using the card. These points can then be redeemed for travel on various airlines.
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It’s no secret that travel — particularly air travel — has been slow this year. However, with the future looking better and aircraft filling up, now is the ideal moment to start accumulating frequent flyer miles to get you back in the air, even if you don’t intend on flying until later this year or even next year.
You’re probably thinking which of the numerous credit cards that earn airline points and miles is ideal for you. We examined all of the cards available and selected our favorites so you can discover which ones are the best for not only earning points but also receiving excellent benefits when traveling.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is ideal for first-time cardholders. Best travel insurance protections: Chase Sapphire Reserve The American Express Platinum Card® is ideal for premium travel. Delta The American Express SkyMiles® Gold Card is ideal for Delta passengers. The United Explorer Card is the best option for frequent United fliers. Best for Southwest fliers is the Rapid Rewards from Southwest Priority Credit Card. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World EliteTM Mastercard® is ideal for frequent travelers from the United States. The JetBlue Plus Card is the best option for frequent JetBlue travelers. Best for flexible rewards is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.
Why did we choose these cards as the best airline credit cards for the year 2021? The thorough credit card approach used by CNN Underscored analyzes every element of each airline credit card to our “benchmark credit card” to discover which cards may possibly provide you with the most value. So join us in delving into the intricacies of each card to see how they stack up.
You may be shocked to find a credit card on our list that isn’t named after a particular airline, but that’s exactly what makes this card so special. When it comes to air travel, the Chase Sapphire Preferred generates Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which may be redeemed in two ways.
The first and most flexible option is to use the Chase travel site to redeem your Chase points. When you redeem points this way, you may book any flight without worrying about award availability or ban dates – if you can buy it with cash, you can buy it with points.
When you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred to redeem your rewards, you’ll receive 1.25 cents per point, and you’ll also earn airline miles for the trip since airlines treat these tickets as normal tickets rather than award redemptions.
Your Ultimate Rewards points may also be transferred to any of Chase’s airline or hotel partners. There are ten distinct airline partners and three different hotel partners, which are as follows:
|Aer Lingus AerClub is a service provided by Aer Lingus.||TrueBlue JetBlue||Hyatt’s World|
|Flying Blue Air France-KLM||Singapore Airlines is a Singapore-based airline. KrisFlyer||IHG Reward Program|
|Executive Club of British Airways||Southwest Rapid Rewards||Marriott Bonvoy is a loyalty program offered by Marriott.|
|Emirates Skywards is a loyalty program offered by Emirates.||MileagePlus is a program offered by United Airlines.|
|Plus Iberia||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a membership program offered by Virgin Atlantic.|
Chase points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, which means you’ll receive 1,000 airline miles for every 1,000 Chase points you transfer, and you’ll be able to book your trip using those miles. However, you’ll be limited to booking seats that are available for reward redemptions, which isn’t always the case.
Why would you book this manner when the first approach allows you to book any flight? Because you may possibly receive a lot more value for your points if you transfer them, particularly if you want to travel first or business class abroad. That’s why The Points Guy, a frequent flyer website, rates Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each.
Interested in the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Here are six reasons to apply.
Transfer your Chase points to British Airways or other airlines and use them to book tickets.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is our top airline credit card and our best travel credit card for beginners because of the amazing flexibility of Ultimate Rewards points. And the sign-up bonus on this card is now the highest we’ve ever seen.
New Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders may now receive 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card during the first three months of account creation. If you redeem 100,000 points via the Chase travel site, you’ll get a guaranteed $1,250 in travel, and you might get a lot more if you transfer them to Chase’s airline partners.
In addition to the sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards you with 2 points for every dollar spent on restaurants and travel, and 5 points for every dollar spent on Lyft trips (through March 2022). You may also get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access subscription in 2021 only.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has an annual cost of just $95 per year. Paying less than $100 for a travel credit card is a fantastic way to learn more about the different airline partner programs, especially if you’re a novice.
Despite the modest annual cost, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a number of important travel insurance features. For example, if you pay for travel using the card, you’ll be protected up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip if your trip is canceled for any covered cause. If your flight is delayed by at least 12 hours or necessitates an overnight stay, you’ll be paid for any covered out-of-pocket costs up to $500 per person.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred was reviewed by CNN Underscored. Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred and how to apply.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve operates similarly to the Chase Sapphire Preferred when it comes to redeeming credit card points for air travel, but with a few differences.
Because both cards accrue Ultimate Rewards points, you may use them in the same ways: at a set rate via the Chase travel site or by transferring them to Chase’s partners at a 1:1 ratio. The major difference is that with the Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents per point when redeemed via the Chase site, vs 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred.
Which is better for you: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Despite the $550 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 annual travel credit, complimentary Priority Pass Select airport lounge access, up to $60 back in statement credits on DoorDash purchases in 2021, and up to $120 back on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Memberships in 2021.
If you can take advantage of all of these credits, you may effectively reduce the Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee, reducing your net cost for the card. In addition, new Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders may now receive 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months of account creation, which are worth a guaranteed $900 when redeemed for travel via the Chase travel site.
Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the higher annual fee? Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the increased yearly fee?
Redeem Chase Sapphire Reserve points for a fantastic beach trip.
A high earning rate on flights is also available with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. For every dollar spent on travel and eating, you’ll get three points, and the travel category is very wide. It covers not just air travel but also hotels, vehicle rentals, cruises, ride-sharing services, and tolls. You’ll also get 10 points every dollar spent on all Lyft trips for a short period, until March 2022.
Finally, if you need travel insurance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the finest card to have. It’s the only card that covers all seven main kinds of coverage: trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, rental vehicle protection, travel accident insurance, and emergency evacuation aid, to name a few.
Related: Having a credit card with travel insurance on your next vacation may save you hundreds of dollars.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve also covers you for up to $1,000,000 in case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling, which is a feature we hope you never have to use. Most other credit cards that provide similar protection only cover you for half of that amount.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve was reviewed by CNN Underscored. Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve and how to apply.
The American Express Platinum Card is similarly not linked to a particular airline, but instead accumulates points that may be redeemed immediately for any ticket or transferred to a variety of airlines and hotels — although with a different list of partners than Chase’s credit cards.
The Amex Platinum offers the best earning rate of any credit card on our list when it comes to earning points on flights. When you book directly with the airline, you’ll get 5 points for every dollar spent. That’s higher than the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 3 points per dollar, but the Chase card also gets bonus points on many other travel expenditures, while the Amex Platinum only earns enhanced points on airfare, hotels, and flights booked via American Express Travel.
The Amex Platinum, on the other hand, is renowned for its luxurious benefits. To begin, just having a card gives you access to hundreds of airport lounges across the globe, including the elite American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounges (but not Priority Pass restaurants).
Travel with luxurious benefits when you use the American Express Platinum card.
Julian Kheel is a musician from the United Kingdom.
Access the new Amex Centurion Lounge at New York’s LaGuardia airport with your Amex Platinum card.
Cardholders also get free Gold elite membership with the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains, which entitles them to benefits like as late check-out, extra points while staying on a paid rate, space-available upgraded rooms, and complementary breakfast at certain locations. With Hertz, Avis, and National Car Rental, you’ll also enjoy Preferred elite status.
The Amex Platinum, on the other hand, isn’t inexpensive. In fact, the yearly price has recently increased to a staggering $695. (see rates and fees). Fortunately, the card comes with a number of annual credits that, if used properly, may help offset the cost.
Up to $200 in airline incidental fees, up to $200 in Uber credits (distributed in $15 monthly installments with an extra $20 in December), up to $240 in digital entertainment credits (distributed in $20 monthly installments), up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits (divided into $50 for each half of the year), and up to $179 for an annual Clear membership are included.
If you utilize all of your Amex Platinum credits each year, you’ll get $919 in value, more than covering the $695 yearly cost. However, not everyone will be able to take use of all of these credits, so think about which ones you’ll utilize and if the card’s net effective cost is worth it for you.
If you don’t already have an Amex Platinum card, now is a perfect opportunity to acquire one since new card users will get 100,000 extra points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account creation. In addition, new card members receive 10 points per dollar spent at restaurants globally and when they Shop Small in the United States for up to $25,000 in combined purchases within their first six months.
The Amex Platinum Card was reviewed by CNN Underscored. Learn more about the American Express Platinum Card.
There are seven distinct Delta credit cards available, four personal and three business, so there’s one for everyone. However, if you just travel once in a while, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is likely to be the best option.
The Delta Gold Amex offers no annual charge for the first year, then a $99 cost after that (see rates and fees), allowing you to test the card for a year to determine whether it’s suitable for you. For a limited period until July 28, 2021, new card users may receive 70,000 extra miles after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first three months after establishing the account, as well as a $200 bill credit if they make a Delta transaction using their new card.
Our best credit cards for Delta fliers are listed below.
When you travel Delta and hold the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card, you may receive additional benefits.
On purchases made directly with Delta using the Delta Gold Amex, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar, as well as in restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery) and U.S. supermarkets. You’ll also receive priority boarding on Delta flights, a free checked bag, and a 20% discount on Delta in-flight purchases while flying Delta.
In addition, if you spend $10,000 on the Delta Gold Amex card in a calendar year, you’ll get a $100 Delta flight credit. So, if you can spend this amount on your credit card each year, you’ll be able to cover the annual charge.
With the Delta SkyMiles Gold credit card, Delta passengers get a complimentary checked bag.
If you anticipate to be in the air a lot more when the epidemic fades, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card may be a better fit. Both of these higher-end cards will help you achieve Delta elite status faster and will come with additional Delta benefits, such as an annual companion voucher after your first year.
When flying Delta, the Delta Reserve card also grants entry to the Delta SkyClub and Amex Centurion Lounges. However, both of these premium Delta credit cards have substantially higher annual fees, so depending on how often you travel, the advantages may or may not outweigh the expense.
The Delta Gold Amex card was reviewed by CNN Underscored. Learn more about the American Express Delta SkyMiles Gold Card.
If you’re a United fan, the United Explorer Card has no annual charge for the first year, then a $95 for the second year, enabling you to basically test out the card for free while deciding if it’s right for your spending and travel patterns.
With the United Explorer Card, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on United, as well as in restaurants (including qualified delivery services) and on hotel stays booked directly with the hotel, plus 1 mile for every dollar spent on everything else. That’s not terrible, but bear in mind that the Chase Sapphire Preferred gets 2 points for every dollar spent on meals and travel, and Chase points may be transferred to United.
The main purpose to having a United Explorer Card is to receive benefits while traveling with United. When flying with United, you’ll get priority boarding and 25% back on in-flight purchases, plus you may check your first bag for free (as well as one for a traveling companion). Per year, you’ll also get two United Club lounge day tickets.
For every $12,000 spent on the card, customers may earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), up to a maximum of 1,000 PQPs each year. You’ll also get refunded up to $100 for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, which is a great perk on a $95 a year travel card.
When you travel United with the United Explorer Card, you’ll receive a free checked bag and additional benefits.
The United Explorer Card is now giving up to 70,000 extra miles to new cardholders: 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account creation, plus an additional 10,000 miles after spending $6,000 in the first six months. However, if growing your miles balance is a key goal, you may want to choose one of two other United credit cards.
With the new United Quest Card, you may earn up to 100,000 bonus miles – 80,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months and an extra 20,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first six months. This card is more costly, costing $250 per year, but it comes with additional benefits, including up to $125 in yearly statement credits for United purchases made with your card.
United Airlines has recently released a new credit card that offers up to 100,000 extra miles.
If you’re a frequent traveler, the United Club Infinite Card may reward you with 75,000 extra miles if you spend $3,000 on the card during the first three months of account creation. While this is a fantastic deal, and the card provides access to the United Club lounge, it comes at a high cost, with an annual charge of $525.
Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the top credit cards for United travelers. Learn more about the United Explorer Card and how to apply.
If you fly Southwest, having one (or more) of the five Southwest credit cards in your wallet is a fantastic way to boost your point balance, get fun flight benefits, and perhaps acquire the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.
Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, which costs $149 a year, is the most costly of the Southwest personal credit cards, we like it since it offers the most perks and allows you to easily come out ahead year after year.
The Southwest Priority card comes with a $75 Southwest travel credit each year that can be used on Southwest flights, as well as four upgraded boarding positions per year, 7,500 bonus points starting with your second year as a card holder, 20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi, and no foreign transaction fees.
Related: These Southwest credit cards may earn you up to 65,000 extra points.
The Southwest Priority card’s benefits clearly outweigh the $149 annual cost.
Because Southwest points are worth approximately 1.4 cents apiece, the Southwest Priority’s yearly 7,500 bonus points are worth $105. When you add in the $75 in travel credits, your $149 annual fee is more than covered for the first two years — and that’s before you even consider the card’s other perks.
Additionally, the points you earn on the Southwest Priority card, including the sign-up bonus, contribute toward the Southwest Companion Pass qualification. The pass may save you thousands of dollars since it enables you to travel with a companion for free (plus the cost of taxes and fees) for the remainder of the year you earn the pass, as well as the following year.
Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the top credit cards for Southwest travelers. Learn more about the Southwest Priority Card and how to apply.
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum is a fantastic card to have if you travel American Airlines sometimes, particularly because there is no annual fee for the first year and just $95 afterwards. While it isn’t the ideal card for daily purchases, it may save you money on baggage fees and even provide you access to reduced award flights.
On domestic American flights, all Citi AAdvantage Platinum cardholders receive a free checked bag for themselves and up to four extra passengers on the same ticket. With baggage costs beginning at $30 per bag, a family of four may easily save $240 roundtrip by traveling only once a year, making the yearly price worthwhile.
With the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, you’ll receive a free checked bag for you and up to four passengers on the same reservation.
Additionally, American provides discounted mileage awards to its credit card members throughout the year, which give up to a 7,500-mile reduction on round-trip award flights. Typically, the airline publishes a four-month calendar in advance detailing which routes in North America will benefit from the price. If you chance to be traveling on a qualifying route, it’s a pleasant bonus.
If you travel American often, you may choose the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which includes an Admirals Club membership as well as extra perks including the ability to earn bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). However, at $450 a year, the card is probably reserved for people who plan to fly to the United States at least once a month.
Learn more about the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard and how to apply.
If you reside in a JetBlue hub city, make sure you have a wallet that can accommodate the JetBlue Plus credit card. It’s not the best card for daily shopping, but it does come with some excellent benefits that may help you get the most out of your JetBlue flight.
You’ll get 6 points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per dollar in restaurants and grocery shops, and 1 point per dollar on everything else with the JetBlue Plus card. According to The Points Guy, JetBlue points are worth approximately 1.3 cents apiece, which means you’re getting a 2.6 percent return on restaurants and grocery shops but just a 1.3 percent return on everything else.
While it isn’t as excellent as some other cards, if you travel JetBlue even once in a while, you’ll certainly save money with it. When flying JetBlue, having a JetBlue Plus card entitles you and up to three passengers on the same reservation to a free checked bag, which may easily save you hundreds of dollars on a single trip.
The JetBlue Plus Card entitles JetBlue passengers to a complimentary checked bag for oneself and up to three friends.
While there is a $99 annual fee for this card, you will get 5,000 extra points per year beginning with your first account anniversary (meaning a year after you first get the card). According to The Points Guy, these 5,000 points are worth approximately $65 and will cover about two-thirds of the card’s cost.
Finally, if you want to achieve JetBlue elite status, you may do so by spending $50,000 or more on your card during a calendar year (and in 2021 only, you can gain status by spending $30,000 on your card plus collecting 4,000 Mosaic qualifying points by traveling throughout the year). If you can’t gain status through flying — which is particularly difficult this year — having status via your credit card is a great bonus.
When it comes to versatility, the Capital One Venture card takes the cake. This simple travel card gets 2 miles for every dollar spent – no extra categories to think about. You may then redeem your miles for 1 cent per mile on any trip transaction, giving you a 2 percent return on all expenditures, which is similar to the finest credit card choices available.
Using the Capital One Venture’s “Purchase Eraser” function, redeeming your miles is a breeze. Simply charge any travel-related item to your Venture card, then go online within 90 days and opt to redeem your miles instead of paying with cash for that transaction.
You may now transfer your Capital One points to 19 other travel partners, including JetBlue, British Airways, Air Canada, Avianca, and Wyndham Rewards, provided you’re an expert in frequent flyer programs. If you go this path, you’ll have to do your research, but you’ll be able to receive a lot more value for your points, according to frequent flyer website The Points Guy, which rates Capital One miles at 1.7 cents apiece.
Capital One has added additional airline and hotel partners to its credit card portfolio.
Wyndham Hotels is a chain of hotels owned by Wyndham
Capital One points may be transferred to Wyndham Hotels and 18 other travel partners.
This is also an excellent time to apply for the Capital One Venture card, as new cardholders may earn up to 100,000 bonus miles now until July 19. It’s divided into two tiers: 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 in the first three months after establishing the account, and another 50,000 miles for spending $20,000 in the first year. Although that is an obviously hefty minimum spending requirement, if you can achieve it, you will get $1,000 in miles to use toward your next trip.
The Capital One Venture card was reviewed by CNN Underscored.
Are you in the market for a new credit card? CNN Underscored has compiled a list of the top credit cards for 2021.
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The best airline credit card consumer reports is a website that reviews the best airline credit cards. They have reviewed over 100 different cards and ranked them based on their value.
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