Best Credit Cards for Airline Miles in 2019

Best Credit Cards for Airline Miles in 2019
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A great airline credit card should help you sit in a better seat, cut out add-on fees, and earn you free flights while you fly. Everyone's travel habits are different, which means there's no one-card-fits-all when it comes to finding your perfect travel credit card. But we're here to help. We've analyzed every travel card on the market, picked our favorites, and sorted them into categories to help you make the right choice based on your individual travel needs.

Click on a credit card below to read more about how you can best use them for air travel.

Credit Card
Best Card For...
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Regular Travelers
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Most Value
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard
Easy Sign Up Bonus
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Domestic Travel

Best Credit Cards for Airlines Miles 2019

If you are looking for a new airline credit card in 2019, you'll want to take a look our recommendations below. We broke out our picks for credit cards into eight distinct categories, each based on a different type of traveler. Which one are you?


Best Credit Card for Regular Travelers: Chase Sapphire Preferred®

We define a "regular traveler" as someone who travels once per quarter, either for work or pleasure. While a road warrior or business consultant who travels once per week will definitely get value out of this card, there are even more powerful cards out there (that have higher annual fees) that are a better fit for them.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is my pick for folks who travel regularly. In fact, it was my go-to card for several years, and it took me all over the world with its Ultimate Rewards points.

Earning points is easy with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. You'll earn two points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases, and one point per dollar on everything else. Currently, the card also has a 60,000 point sign up bonus for spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. 60,000 points is worth $1,200 in travel rewards based on our valuation.

These points can be transferred to a number of airlines and hotel brands. Airline brands include:

Chase Sapphire Preferred®  Airline Transfer Partners:

Depending on how you redeem those points, you can really stretch out their value. I used my stockpile of 125,000 Ultimate Rewards points to book a one-way business class flight for two on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles to the Maldives, which my fiancée and I will be taking in April. If I'd bought those tickets outright, it would have cost me a whopping $10,100.68. That's a value of more than 8 cents per point! Note: Krisflyer changed their award chart in 2017, and now awards are priced higher than when I booked (but you'll pay less taxes and fuel surcharges!).

If you prefer more flexible travel booking options, you can redeem your points at a strict 1.25 cents per point redemption on flights booked through Ultimate Rewards' flight booking engine. I've found that prices mostly match ones found on Google Flights, so if you need a specific flight, that option is out there.

We're focusing on airline benefits in this post, but other benefits for this card include transferring to hotel partners, rental car insurance, and no foreign transaction fees when you use it abroad (check out where those points can take you in this post). With a $95 annual fee, we recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card for the regular traveler.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Highlights:

  • Two points per dollar spent on dining and travel
  • 1:1 points transfer partner with 11 travel partners
  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 in three months


Best Credit Card for Most Value: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, which just came out last year, is similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, and it's quickly become one of the most popular cards on the market for frequent travelers. If you travel at least once per month domestically or four times per year internationally, we recommend this card.

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card earns you two points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card increases that 50 percent to three points per dollar! When the Reserve card came out, there was a 100,000 point sign-up bonus, but that has been reduced to a 50,000 bonus for spending $4,000 in the first three months after account opening. Plus, you still have access to all the travel transfer partners the Sapphire card has access to.

If you're someone who has a lot of annual travel expenses, the extra point per dollar really adds up. Keep in mind, the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is $450 per year, but that higher fee comes some added benefits for flyers:

  • $300 Annual Travel Credit, which is put automatically towards any travel purchase on the billing statement (even Ubers!).
  • $100 application fee credit for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
  • 1.5 cents per point redemption if booking flights through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Priority Pass Select Membership, which gives access to 900+ lounges for you and a guest.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance, which covers up to $10,000 for severe weather, sickness, and more.
  • Trip delay reimbursement, which gives coverage for delays over six hours for up to $500 per ticket.
  • Lost baggage insurance, for delays over six hours; $100 per day for five days.
  • No foreign transaction fees

Say you're traveling on an international itinerary. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, you'll be able to waive the first $300 in fees for your trip (or even $300 off your flight if you book direct with the airline) if you haven't already used the credit that calendar year. Then, you'll be able to use TSA pre-check security lines at the airport, and use the Priority Pass lounge if your airport has one. You'll be earning three points per dollar on all your travel and dining during your trip, with no foreign transaction fees! If there happen to be any long delays, you're covered. Now, repeat that for every trip going forward. See the value?

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Highlights:

  • Three points per dollar spent on dining and travel
  • 1:1 points transfer partner with 11 travel partners
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 in three months.


Easiest Sign Up Bonus: AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard is a newer card on the market, and currently has a sign up bonus of 60,000 AAdvantage miles for making just one purchase. If you have an American flight in the future, you might be able to score an application in the air, which makes the sign up bonus 60,500 miles. Obviously, the card is good for American frequent flyers, with one free checked bag for each passenger on your reservation, early boarding privileges, and two points per dollar on all American purchases.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Highlights

  • 60,000 Mile Sign Up Bonus after First Purchase
  • 2 points per dollar on American flights
  • Free Checked Bag
  • Early Boarding


Best Credit Card for Domestic Travel: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card

Earn 40,000 points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. There's also 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary. You'll earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. You'll earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open. There are no foreign transaction fees and no blackout dates or seat restrictions.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card Highlights:

  • 40,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $1,000 in three months.
  • 3,000 Rapid Rewards points on your account anniversary.
  • Use your points on any flight on Southwest.

Best Credit Cards by Airline 2019

If you're strictly loyal to one airline, either for work or personal preference, we understand. Here are the top cards for each major brand:

Credit Card
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
30,000 Delta Miles
United MileagePlus Credit Card
50,000 United Miles
British Airways Credit Card
British Airways
100,000 Avios
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card
40,000 Rapid Rewards Points
JetBlue Plus Mastercard
10,000 TrueBlue Points
Spirit Airlines World Mastercard
15,000 Miles
Allegiant World Mastercard
15,000 Miles
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
Alaska Airlines
30,000 Alaska Miles
Frontier Airlines Mastercard
Frontier Airlines
40,000 Miles

What's behind our selection methodology?

We pride ourselves on editorial independence at Brad's Deals, and we make sure to give our honest and researched recommendations, regardless of compensation from card issuers. Many of the recommendations above are either based on my own personal experience using those while traveling, or through hundreds of discussions with readers on their needs from an airline credit card.