frequent flyersUpdated: July 12, 2017

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

Southwest frequent flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

frequent flyersIf 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 $1.66 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 60,000 bonus points, which holds a value of $947. While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card has a $99 annual fee, cardholders will receive 6,000 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 Gold World Elite Mastercard

frequent flyersIs American Airlines your go-to airline? If so, the Citi / AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is a great option. This card makes earning rewards easy because it earns 1 mile per $1 spent on all purchases. But the rewards miles don’t stop there because when you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, you’ll earn 25,000 bonus miles — that’s a value of $330 in flights! In addition to getting the $50 annual fee waived for the first 12 months, you’ll also get a 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases and access to a 24/7 concierge team to help you book travel. 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.

JetBlue frequent flyers: JetBlue Card

frequent flyersThe 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

frequent flyersThose 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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