Best Airline Credit Cards of June 2021

Best Cards Summary

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, plus 5% cash back on up to $1,500 each quarter in rotating bonus categories you activate. You’ll also get 3% back at drugstores restaurants, including takeout delivery, 1% on other purchases year-round. See our full review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar on flights with no cap on earnings, regardless of which airline you book. You can redeem miles with no blackout dates or restrictions, or transfer them to more than 10 top travel loyalty programs. This card charges a $95 annual fee. See our full review.

United℠ Explorer Card

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: The United Explorer Card offers unlimited 2 miles per dollar on United flights, hotel stays purchases at restaurants. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar. Cardholders get valuable airline perks, including up to a $100 fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, your first checked bag free, priority boarding 25% back on United in-flight purchases. See our full review.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card earns a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, worth $500, after you spend $3,000 on the card within 90 days of opening it. The card gets two points per dollar on travel dining purchases 1.5 points per dollar on all other purchases, with no limits on earnings. It includes up to $100 in annual statement credits for incidental airline fees, such as seat upgrades checked bag fees, plus a $100 statement credit every four years for your TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee. Although the card charges a $95 annual fee, you can earn up to 75% more in rewards if you are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client. See our full review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: The Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns 5% cash back when you buy airline tickets or make other travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You also receive 3% cash back on dining drugstore purchases 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. See our full review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers flexible redemption options when booking flights. Travel dining purchases earn unlimited two points per dollar, which can be redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards for 25% more value. Or, you can transfer points on a 1:1 basis to partner airlines hotels. This card has a $95 annual fee no foreign transaction fee. See our full review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers a $300 annual travel statement credit against travel purchases charged during the year, including flights. Once you earn the credit, you can begin earning three points per dollar on travel purchases. You also earn three points on dining one point on all other purchases. When you redeem points for flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’re worth 50% more in travel value. See our full review.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Why this is one of the best airline credit cards: If Delta is your preferred airline, this card can help you earn free award flights faster. Delta purchases purchases at restaurants U.S. supermarkets earn 2 miles per dollar, you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. You’ll also get your first checked bag free on Delta flights, priority boarding on Delta flights 20% savings as a statement credit when you charge Delta in-flight purchases See Rates & Fees). See our full review.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why this is one of the best airline cards: This card is firmly in the luxury travel category, with benefits like access to the Global Lounge Collection, up to a $200 airline fee credit Fine Hotels & Resorts perks. Flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel earn five Membership Rewards points per dollar (beginning Jan 1, 2021, bonus points in these categories will be limited to the first $500,000 in combined purchases each year). Hotels booked through also earn five points per dollar. Those features help balance out the $550 annual fee See Rates & Fees). See our full review.

American Express® Gold Card

Why this is one of the best airline cards: The American Express Gold Card offers four points per dollar at restaurants, four points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up $25,000 in yearly purchases (then one point per dollar thereafter), three points per dollar for all flights booked directly with an airline or on one point per dollar for all other purchases. The card charges a $250 annual fee See Rates & Fees). See our full review.

How Do Airline Credit Cards Work?

When you make purchases with your credit card, you earn points or miles that can be redeemed for free flights for many other travel-related expenses. Often, travel spending on airlines, rental cars hotels earns bonus points. Some airline credit cards even allow for higher point valuations when points are redeemed for airline rewards.

Most airline credit cards earn at least two points or miles per dollar on airline purchases.

Many airline credit cards earn rewards that you can redeem as cash back, travel bookings or transfers to travel partners. Some airline cards have rewards you can redeem with multiple partners, such as within an airline alliance.

Sign-up bonuses worth at least $100 are common, many cards offer sign-up bonuses worth $500 or more.

Most airline credit cards have an annual fee, but a few waive the annual fee for the first year.

You can expect to have an annual percentage rate of at least 15% with airline cards, many have a minimum APR between 15% 18.99%.

In addition to earning free flights, many airline credit cards come with travel perks such as free checked baggage, priority boarding, seat upgrades, concierge services or access to members-only airport lounges.

Is an Airline Rewards Credit Card Worth It?

Before you apply for an airline credit card, take a look at this checklist to see if these cards are a good fit for you.

  1. You frequently fly with the airline or plan to do so in the future. If you don’t travel frequently or visit destinations served by a particular airline, a general travel rewards card may be a better choice than an airline credit card.
  2. You have good or excellent credit. Airline credit cards usually require good to excellent credit. You should have a FICO credit score of at least 670 before you apply for an airline rewards credit card.
  3. You can pay off your balance each month. You should be debt-free avoid carrying a balance on your airline rewards credit card, as interest charges can quickly wipe out any rewards you earn.

How Can You Choose the Best Airline Credit Card?

Airline loyalty, spending habits preferences are different for every traveler, so the “best airline credit card” will differ from person to person.

When you’re trying to pick the best airline credit card, follow these six simple steps to evaluate each card:

1. Pick the right rewards program for you.

Co-branded airline credit cards sometimes offer the biggest benefits toward airfare related purchases. Travel rewards cards provide broader rewards categories, but many don’t offer the same level of rewards for airline-based earnings.

Co-branded cards: Airline credit cards are often called “co-branded cards” because they are tied to a particular airline, such as Delta or United, which can limit your travel options.

If you’re signing up for a co-branded airline card, consider airlines with hubs at your local airport. For example, many frequent flyers in Atlanta fly with Delta because the airline has a huge hub there.

Travel rewards cards: With travel rewards cards, points or miles can be used for flights, hotels rental cars without being restricted to a particular airline or an airline partner. They can also be redeemed for merchandise or cash back.

Take your time decide which type of rewards will benefit you the most. The best type of credit card is the one that works best for you.

2. Calculate earning potential.

With the best rewards on airfare related purchases made directly with the airline, co-branded airline cards promote brloyalty.

General travel rewards credit cards often provide you with more chances to earn a higher rewards rate. They may offer broader bonus spending categories or simply earn a higher rate on all purchases.

3. Calculate sign-up bonuses welcome offers.

Sign-up bonuses welcome offers provide a lot of points or miles, but only after you meet certain spending requirements.

But a warning: Don’t get dazzled by a fabulous sign-up bonus. Make sure the credit card is right for you, apart from the sign-up bonus. In other words, keep a cool head choose wisely.

4. Calculate redemption value.

For most travel rewards cards, one point is equal to 1 cent. Co-branded airline cards may offer from 1 cent to 5 cents per point, depending on the flight, but it’s difficult to put a consistent value on what you earn in rewards because it’s always changing based on flight prices, route, availability more.

While some airlines have a published award chart you can use to estimate value, others don’t.

Subtract annual fees from your potential earnings to estimate the true rewards value of a card. Although a card may have annual fees, the benefits rewards could offset those costs.

6. Understtravel benefits.

Airline rewards cards come with benefits that can be helpful for traveling making purchases. Many travel cards offer perks, including no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation or interruption insurance, auto rental insurance lost baggage protection.

Airline co-branded cards typically provide more valuable cardholder benefits than general travel cards. They may offer benefits directly with the airline, which could include free checked bags, priority check-in, priority boarding, companion tickets access to airport lounges.

How Can You Maximize Airline Rewards?

Make sure the fees are worth it. Consider your plans for using the card, earning rewards taking advantage of benefits. If you won’t use it enough to offset associated fees, the card may not be worth it.

Combine cards. If you have a general travel rewards card but often fly one airline, it may make sense to supplement with an airline credit card. Your general travel rewards card may offer better rewards on bonus categories, but your airline card will earn the most when you fly with that specific airline.

Maximize loyalty tier rewards. To do this, you have to travel as much as you can with a single airline. Keep close track of your qualifying purchases, points flights, find out when qualifications expire. Schedule your trips so that you can maximize earnings within the calendar year earn a tier upgrade. You’ll need to think ahead to make it work out.

Maximize bonus category returns. Understthe criteria for earning bonuses, keep track of any promotional programs your credit card company offers. Keep in mind that bonus spending with airlines may not be limited to flights. And don’t overspend to get the bonus or the rewards. Have a budget for your airline credit card stick to it.

What Are the Perks of Owning an Airline Credit Card?

  • You can use points for travel: Rewards can be a major incentive for frequent travelers. Airline credit cards may offer bonus points for purchases with the airline, for other travel-related purchases, or on categories such as dining, entertainment groceries.
  • Airfare discounts: Even when you’re not redeeming rewards points or miles, you can use your airline card to save money.
  • Airline privileges: Many airlines offer special privileges for airline credit card holders, including free checked bags, priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases seat upgrades. Your card may also get you into private airport lounges with complimentary beverages, snacks, internet access workspaces.
  • Travel perks protections: Many airline credit cards waive foreign transaction fees, which is important if you travel overseas. They may also offer insurance protection for travelers, including trip cancellation insurance, car rental insurance, lost baggage protection emergency assistance.

What Are the Drawbacks of Owning an Airline Credit Card?

  • Complicated rewards structure: With airline co-branded credit cards, point valuations are fluid. Determining just how much a point or a mile is worth can sometimes be a challenge.
  • Annual fees: Many airline credit cards have annual fees, so you’ll have to make sure your rewards will outweigh the cost.
  • Higher purchase balance transfer APRs: Purchase balance transfer APRs for airline credit cards may be higher than other types of rewards cards.
  • Credit score requirements: Airline credit cards are often reserved for consumers with at least good credit (FICO score of at least 670).
  • Restrictions on earnings: Many airline credit cards only earn bonus points or miles on purchases with a specific airline. Or some bonus categories may only earn the bonus rewards rate on a limited amount of annual purchases.
  • Restrictions on redemptions: Points or miles earned with an airline credit card may only be usable with a particular airline or with its partners. There may be blackout dates, which limit the flights you have access to as well as the dates when you can travel.

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