Best Credit Cards for Airline Miles
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.
If you are looking for a new airline credit card in 2020, 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.
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 are 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:
- British Airways Executive Club
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue Miles
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
- United MileagePlus®
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Aer Lingus
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 wife and I took be taking in April 2017. 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 Traveling in Style: The Platinum Card® by American Express
The Platinum Card® by American Express is my favorite card in my wallet for traveling in style. Not only do I get lounge access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide, like Amex’s own fantastic Centurion Lounges, but the card offers many other perks for when I fly. They recently added trip protections, which was sorely needed, as well as a $15/month Uber credit ($35 in December).
In addition, you have a yearly $200 Airline Fee Credit for an airline of your choice, to waive fees like seat selection, bag fees, and change fees.
If you don’t already have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you can use the card’s fee credit to waive the $100 sign up fee.
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 Cards by Airline 2020
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.