If you’re a frequent traveler – for pleasure or business – a great travel rewards credit card is a must-have. If you prefer to fly with a certain airline, then a card that offers miles for that airline is essential.
Airline miles credit cards are great because they can boost the miles you receive through your preferred airline’s mileage program. You can rack up miles by the millions. (Don’t believe me? Just check out the movie Up in the Air.)
Note that the cards listed below are airline specific, rather than generic travel rewards cards that let you use your points on just about any airline. We’ve focused on great cards from some of the nation’s top airlines.
1. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
There’s a reason this card is popular. It offers 2 points per $1 spent with Southwest Airlines® (direct purchases only) and 2 points per $1 spend on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners – including Best Western, Marriott, Hyatt, and more. You’ll get 1 point per $1 spend on all other purchases, and 6,000 bonus points per year on your cardmember anniversary.
Bonus: Right now, new card holders can get 50,000 bonus points when they spend $2,000 in the first three months of opening their account.
Fees: The Premier card comes with a $99 annual fee. If you spend enough on this card, though, you can easily outweigh that fee. The card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, though, which could spell big savings for frequent international fliers (though Southwest only flies to Mexico and the Caribbean).
Other Benefits: You can redeem your miles for any seat on any Southwest or AirTran flight, and there are no blackout dates.
Membership Levels: Your credit card points can help boost your membership level in the overall Rapid Rewards program. A-List members get a 25% point bonus on top of base flights earned from each flight, priority boarding, and expedited security. Companion Pass – the highest status – earns you the ability to bring a companion for free whenever you purchase a ticket for yourself. You can change you receives the companion benefits up to three times per year.
2. Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
If your preferred airline is American Airlines, this is a must-have card. It offers 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases, and 1 AAdvantage mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, when you redeem your AAdvantage miles, you’ll get 10% of your miles back – up to 10,000 miles per calendar year.
Bonus: Right now, new credit card users can earn 50,000 bonus mils when they spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account.
Other Perks: You get Group 1 boarding just for holding this card, and you’ll get the first checked bag free for yourself and up to 4 travel companions. When you use your card to purchase in-flight food and beverages, you’ll enjoy a 25% discount.
Reduced Mileage Awards: You can use your miles on the MileSAAver® program, which offers discounted fare to certain destinations every other month. The discount is 7,500 for a round trip, or 3,750 for a one-way trip.
3. American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
With this card, you’ll earn 2 mils per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
Bonus: Right now, when you are a new cardholder, you’ll earn 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of card ownership.
Fees: This card comes with a $0 introductory fee for the first year, and then a $95 fee per year after that. The card has no foreign transaction fees.
Other Perks: Cardholders save 20% (in the form of a statement credit) when they make in-flight food, beverage, and entertainment purchases with this card. Cardholders also get the first checked bag free for the cardholder and traveling companions, as well as priority boarding. Plus, the card comes with reduced fee Delta Sky Club® Access for the cardmember and two guests.
4. US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®
With this card, you’ll earn 2 miles per $1 spend directly with American Airlines and US Airways, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. You’ll also get one companion certificate, which is good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways-operated flight. The certificates are $99 each, plus taxes and fees.
Bonus: New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus miles after the first purchase and payment of your $89 annual fee.
Annual Fee: This card has an $89 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees.
Other Perks: This card offers a free checked bag for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways-operated flights. You’ll also enjoy priority Zone 2 boarding, and 25% in-flight savings on food, beverages, and headsets. You can redeem miles earned with this program with either US Airways or American Airlines.
5. CIBC Aerogold® Visa Infinite® Card
With this card, you’ll get 1 point per $1 spent on any purchase, plus 50% more points when you use your card at grocery stores, gas stations, and drug stores (on up to $80,000 in annual spending). You can also earn 3 miles per $1 spend at participating restaurants, hotels, inns, and spas.
Bonus: Earn 15,000 Aeroplan miles just for opening the card.
Fees: This card has an annual fee of $120, and a $50 fee for each additional card, with a three-card maximum.
Other Perks: Cardholders get priority check-in and boarding, access to the Maple Leaf airport lounge, and luxury hotel benefits with participating partners.
As you can see, the rewards for these cards are fairly similar, as are the annual fees. The main difference is which airline each credit card works for. If you’ve got a favored airline, picking up that airline’s credit card for travel perks can be an excellent idea.