If you fly frequently, whether it’s for business or leisure, you likely have a favorite airline that you choose to fly with, as free checked bags, priority boarding and flight upgrades are just a few of the perks consumers experience when they’re loyal to a particular airline brand. But did you know the perks get even better if you own a credit card branded with your favorite airline? That’s because cardholders can earn free flights and other discounts and travel benefits. Whether you’re already loyal to a particular airline or you’re looking to switch your preferred airline, we break down if an airline-branded credit card is right for you and list some of the most popular options that earn you points or miles to redeem for future flights and provide you with other travel perks.
Does it make sense to get an airline-branded credit card?
If you don’t have a preference for which airline you fly with when you travel or you find yourself jumping toward whichever airline can accommodate your travel plans, you may want to consider a general travel rewards credit card. These cards allow you to earn points or miles that can be redeemed for flights with big-name airlines, hotel stays and more, providing you with more rewards flexibility. If you’re looking for the travel rewards credit card with the most travel redemption flexibility, you may want to check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which allows cardholders to transfer their points to other leading travel programs at a 1:1 ratio. Read our guide to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Point Transfers to learn more, or if you think an airline-branded credit card is right for you, keep reading to see our top choices for some of the big-name airline frequent flyers.
Best credit cards for frequent flyers
Virgin America frequent flyers: Virgin America Visa Signature Card
Our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis winner for best flight value is the Virgin America Visa Signature Card, which carries a $2.57 redemption value for every $100 spent. Cardholders will earn 3 points for every $1 spent with Virgin America, plus 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Next, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, you’ll receive 10,000 bonus points — that’s worth up to $200 toward no-blackout reward flights on Virgin America. Although this card does have a $49 annual fee, the perks make it well worth it. In addition to earning points that can be redeemed for Virgin America flights (as well as flights with international partner airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia), cardholders will enjoy one free checked bag for you and your plus one, $150 off a companion ticket every year and 20% off all your in-flight purchases, such as meals, beverages and entertainment.
Southwest frequent flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
If you’re a fan of Southwest Airlines and its Bags Fly Free policy, you’ll want to check out the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, which has a flight redemption value of $1.78 for every $100 spent, according to our analysis. In terms of reward, you’ll earn 2 points for every $1 you spend on Southwest Airlines purchases and eligible hotel and car rental purchases, along with 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other purchases. Plus, if you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points, which holds a value of $849. While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card has a $69 annual fee, cardholders will receive 3,000 bonus points on their card member anniversary every year, which can help offset the fee a bit. Your earned points can be used toward Southwest domestic and international flights, hotel stays, car rentals and more.
American Airlines frequent flyers: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Is American Airlines your go-to airline? If so, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard (a NextAdvisor advertiser), which, according to our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis, has a flight redemption value of $1.39 for every $100 spent, is for you. With this card, you’ll earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases as well as 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. But the rewards miles don’t stop there: when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, you’ll earn 30,000 bonus miles — that’s a value of $398! In addition to getting the $95 annual fee waived for the first 12 months, you’ll also have a chance to earn 10% of your redeemed miles back (up to 10,000 miles) each calendar year. Cardholders can look forward to priority boarding, a 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases and the first checked bag free for you and up to four companion on domestic American Airlines flights. You can redeem your miles for free flights and flight upgrades (valid on American Airlines and its partner airlines, including British Airways, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines) as well as other things like car rentals and hotel stays.
Delta Airlines frequent flyers: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
If you’re loyal to Delta Airlines, you’ll want to consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser), which has a flight redemption value of $1.47 for every $100 spent, according to our analysis. You’ll earn 2 miles for every $1 you spend on Delta flights and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. On top of that, if you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, you’ll earn 30,000 bonus miles — a value of $400! But that’s not all, you can earn a $50 statement credit if you make any Delta purchase in the first 3 months of opening the card. It’s important to note that this card does charge $95 annual fee, but that fee is waived for the first year. Cardholders can also look forward to priority boarding and getting the first checked bag free on every Delta flight — a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of 4. When it’s time to redeem their miles, cardholders can get free Delta flights as well as flights with Delta’s partners, such as Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Air France Airlines.
JetBlue frequent flyers: JetBlue Card
The JetBlue Card is a great option for those who prefer to fly JetBlue and want to earn points to use toward JetBlue flights. With this card, you’ll earn 3 points for every $1 spent on JetBlue purchases, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, you’ll earn 5,000 bonus points! Cardholders will also enjoy a 50% savings on in-flight purchases on JetBlue operated flights. Unlike many other travel rewards credit cards, the JetBlue Card is also a great balance transfer card, featuring a 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers completed within the first 45 days (with a 3% balance transfer fee). This card has no annual fee and no blackout dates or restrictions, and you can redeem your points for future flights on JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines, along with GetAways vacation packages, which include airline, hotel stays and car rentals (note that these packages require a combination of cash and points). If you’re looking to earn even more rewards, its sister card — the JetBlue Plus Card — is worth looking into. Although it charges an annual fee of $99, it earns you substantial rewards — 6 points for every $1 spent on JetBlue, 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases — and 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
British Airways frequent flyers: British Airways Visa Signature Card
Those who prefer to fly British Airways will definitely want to check out the British Airways Visa Signature Card. That’s because this card earns you 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways flights as well as 1 Avios mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Next, when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus Avios! This card also features other bonus opportunities based on the amount you spend in the first year, with the potential to earn up to 100,000 total bonus Avios. You can redeem your earned Avios to book and upgrade flights as well as to book car rentals and hotel stays. Rounding out the British Airways Visa Signature Card is a $95 annual fee.
Visit our travel rewards credit card reviews to learn more about the cards detailed in this post and other top travel credit cards.
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