New 60,000 points offer. Terms apply.

50,000 Bonus Miles! 2x Miles on All Spending, $95 Annual Fee waived, TSA Precheck Credit. Apply Now

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Disclosure, visit this page.

What are the best airline credit cards 2019? There’s a lot of different co-branded airline credit cards to choose from. And if you’re loyal to one airline, you know upgrading to higher airline status levels isn’t exactly easy. But using the right airline credit card gives you a head start toward reaching those higher tiers.

These airline cards can also provide a few other perks as a loyalty award. Most airlines offer expedited elite status when you use their co-brand credit cards. Besides earning elites airline status, you may also enjoy perks like free checked bags and lounge access.

Best Airline Credit Cards 2019

Which airline credit card is right for you?

If you’re a traveler chasing status, then it’s a no-brainer to apply for the co-branded credit card offered by your preferred airline. For the rest of us that are agnostic to which airline we fly, the choice isn’t always as clear.

Comparing Best Airline Credit Card 2019 Benefits

This chart breaks down the benefits offered from each premium airline credit card so you can pick one based on the perks that matter most to you.

Credit CardAmex Delta ReserveChase United MileagePlus ClubCiti AAdvantage Executive
Annual Fee$450 ($550 if the application is received on or after 1/30/2020 — See )$450Also $450
Sign-up/Welcome bonus40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs50,000 miles50,000 miles
Minimum spend$3,000 within 3 months$3,000 within 3 months$5,000 within 3 months
Bonus categories2x on DeltaEarn 2x on United2x on American
Standard earn rate1x on all others1.5x on all others1x on all others
Elite qualifying miles15,000 MQMs & 15,000 miles after $30,000 in a calendar year; earn an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs after you spend $60,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year for a total of 30,000 bonus miles and 30,000 MQMs. Starting January 30, 2020, you will no longer earn bonus miles with this benefit.None10,000 EQMs after $40,000
Checked bagsFirst checked free for up to 9 passengers on same itinerary1st and 2nd checked bag for cardholder and one companionFirst checked free for cardholder and up to 8 companions
Priority boardingMain Cabin 1Group 2Group 4
Lounge access
  • Enter Delta Sky Club® at no cost
  • Bring up to two guests for an exclusive rate of $29 per person per visit
  • Flying on United or partner airline
  • 2 adult guests or 1 adult & dependent children under 21 years of age
  • Flying on any airline through Oct 31, 2019
  • After Nov 1, 2019, must fly on American or partner airline
  • 2 adult guests or 1 adult & dependent children under 18 years of age
In-flight discount20% in a statement creditNone25%
  • Companion certificate after $30,000 spend
  • MQD waiver
  • No close-in booking fees
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades
  • Hertz President’s Circle
  • LHR Collection
  • Up to 10 authorized users at no charge
  • Authorized users also have lounge access
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit

My Personal Strategy for Using the Best Airline Credit Card Options

I currently have the Citi AAdvantage Executive Platinum credit card because it provides access to the Admirals Club lounges no matter which airline I’m flying. When the entrance rules change in November 2019, the value will decline considerably.

Since I’m not focused on airline status, I may abandon premium airline credit cards and downgrade to the mid-tier airline cards or another travel credit card. They’ll provide most of the same benefits and then I’ll access the Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass lounges through other premium credit card options.

Do you have one of the best airline credit cards? What is your favorite benefit of your card?

For rates and fees of The Delta Reserve Credit Card, please .

The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, the Delta Reserve® Credit Card, the United MileagePlus® Club Card, and the United℠ Explorer Card has been collected independently by Talkwireless. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Premium credit cards are a popular option with consumers looking to benefit from sign up bonus miles and earning potential. But, airline credit cards are the best way to rack up benefits with an airline you fly often. From lounge access to priority and a free checked bag, here are three of the best airline credit cards to enhance your next travel experience.

best airline credit cards

United MileagePlus Club Card Airline Credit Card

First introduced in 2012, the is great for travelers who value lounge access and fly regularly on United. The $450 annual fee is hefty when compared with competitors. But, it is actually a more economical way to purchase a membership to the United Club network. Membership costs $550 per year, so you’d be saving $100.

You’ll gain full access to some of the , as well as unrestricted access to Star Alliance business lounges when flying on a Star Alliance airline. This is one of the best airline credit cards if you want lounge access.

Another reason to relax about the annual fee is the earning rate. The United MileagePlus Club Card earns 1.5 United miles per dollar spent on all purchases. If you use this card for everyday spending, your earnings will quickly add up to serious savings toward future flights. This is especially enticing.

United MileagePlus Club Card
United MileagePlus Club Card

United MileagePlus miles are the most valuable of the three legacy airline loyalty currencies. Considering the 50,000 miles you’ll receive as a sign-up offer after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, you’ll have enough miles to book a flight in no time. This covers the annual fee for the first year, extra that you can put towards upcoming travel plans.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

If you’re looking for an airline credit card with a lower annual fee (See ) and spend requirement, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is the perfect addition to your wallet.

This card comes with the opportunity to earn 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 on your card within the first 3 months of account opening. New cardholders can also earn a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase on their new card within the first 3 months of account opening. This offer expires on 10/30/2019.

With such a low threshold, you should be able to start earning in no time.

Other benefits include priority boarding, a free checked bag, 2 miles per dollar when you make a Delta-related purchase, and payment flexibility. This last reward is especially helpful in managing large monthly expenses because it allows you to carry a balance (interest rates apply) instead of paying it in full each month.

However, we wouldn’t recommend using this benefit unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Furthermore, you’ll benefit from a 20% discount on all in-flight purchases, , and discounted access to the lounge. If you value lounge access above other amenities, know that Delta is more restrictive than the United MileagePlus Club Card.

American Express is known to provide excellent benefits and insurance protection. If you choose the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express option, all you’ll need to worry about is what the weather will be like in your destination. This a good offer if you prefer flying Delta exclusively.

This is easily one of the best Delta credit cards.

American Airlines Citi AAdvantage Platinum Credit Card

Another option for a travel credit card is the . There is a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You can earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after a total of $6,000 in purchases is made within the first 12 months.

With this bonus, you can travel roundtrip to destinations as far as Europe for only the cost of taxes and fees.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select®World Elite™ Mastercard®

In addition to a substantial bonus offer, the Citi AAdvantange Platinum card offers double the miles when you dine out at restaurants. It also comes with 2x miles when you fuel up at gas stations. You can earn a $100 annual discount on an AA flight if you spend $20,000+ during your membership and renew your card.

If you travel overseas, you will benefit from no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get a free checked bag for you and four companion travelers and a 25% discount on all in-flight purchases. The SAAver price level on American Airline’s award chart makes it easy to see where you can fly and for how much.

This is one of the best airline credit cards if you’re looking to travel for free (save the spending threshold) in your first year of airline credit card ownership.

Best Airline Credit Cards Summary

For frequent travelers, the best airline credit cards 2019 can be highly lucrative for redeeming award flights. Other premium credit cards with have points-to-miles transfers. But no credit card will earn you as many miles as a prominent airline card. Choose which are the best airline credit cards for your travel needs. Then pack your bag and start dreaming of your next getaway.

There’s a big push from airlines for you to get their co-branded credit card. But is that the best thing for you to do? It depends. We’ll discuss their benefits and limitations and why ultimately, if you’re only going to pick one credit card, why you shouldn’t get an airline credit card.

New Chase Ink Unlimited business credit card

What are the benefits of having an airline credit card?

If you consistently fly one airline, it may make sense for you to apply for that airlines co-branded credit card. When you have the credit card for that airline, you’ll receive several benefits that are usually reserved for elite members of their frequent flyer program.

These elite member style benefits may include:

  • Access to the airline’s airport lounge clubs
  • Free checked bags for you and your companions
  • Priority boarding for your flight
  • Discounts on food and beverages during your flight
  • Dedicated phone numbers to the airline’s customer service
  • Bonus miles for spending with their airline
  • An easier path to higher elite status

But what if you’re like most travelers who only travel a few times a year and often look for the best deal instead of being loyal to a single airline?

Why you shouldn’t get an airline credit card

If you aren’t too concerned with flying a specific airline, then there are better options for your wallet that can still help you reduce your travel expenses and get you some pretty awesome perks.

Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards offer the ultimate in flexibility. When you use your cash back credit card, you’ll earn some cash on every purchase that you make. Most of the cash back credit cards will provide a rebate of 1.5% to 2.0% on every dollar that you spend.

I use the because it earns 1% when I make a purchase and then gives me another 1% whenever I make a payment for a total of 2% cash back.

With the cash that you earn, you can put it towards a travel fund that you draw upon whenever you find an airline ticket you want to buy. If you decide not to fly this year, the money can go towards a staycation, repairs around the house, paying off debt, or anything else that you can think of.

Bank Points Credit Cards

Credit cards that offer proprietary points are another excellent alternative to a co-branded airline credit card. Examples of these types of points would be Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and American Express Membership Rewards.

These bank points can be redeemed for cash, used to purchase travel, or transferred to an airline or hotel partner.

When you redeem bank points for cash, you’ll usually receive $1 for every 100 points. Although the cash can be useful, it is generally the least valuable option for redeeming these points.

If you purchase travel through the bank portal, you can redeem for a better rate. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, you’ll receive $1.50 in value for every 100 points that you redeem. The standard bonus for the Sapphire Reserve is 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for $750 in travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. I’ve been able to redeem for flights, hotel reservations, and excursions during my vacations.

Transferring Bank Points

Bank points can also be transferred to one of many hotel and airline transfer partners. Many of these transfers happen instantaneously, although some can take several days. I recommend that you research your flight or hotel choices to ensure there is availability, then transfer the necessary number of miles or points.

Some airlines will allow you to place a ticket on hold while your points transfer.

Before transferring points to book an award ticket or hotel reservation, compare the cost in points to see which is the better deal. Keep in mind that some award flight redemptions will charge a portion in cash for taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.

Redemptions are not the only areas where bank points credit cards offer more value and flexibility than an airline credit card.

Most of the bank points credit cards offer bonuses for spending on the cards in certain categories. Some cards offer bonuses that are better than using an airline’s co-branded credit card to buy a ticket on that same airline. Bank points credit cards can offer premium perks like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership reimbursement, access to Priority Pass lounges, and trip protection.

Hotel Credit Cards

You may think it is odd that a hotel credit card may be a better option than a co-branded airline credit card when it comes to purchasing flights. But there are some cards that hold great value when transferring points to an airline.

The American Express SPG card is another great option to earn airline miles. The Starwood Preferred Guest program (expired now) provides a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 SPG points that you transfer at a 1:1 ratio to airline miles. With this 25% bonus, you’re actually earning airline miles faster by using this card for everyday spend than you would with most airline credit cards.

What airline credit card should you get?

When you’re looking for a new airline credit card that will save you money on future flights, you don’t necessarily have to get an airline credit card. There are many miles credit card choices available that will provide you with better value, more flexibility, and greater options. Some of these credit cards offer valuable perks that rival what you would receive with an airline credit card.

For the best combination of flexibility, earning power, and value, I recommend applying for a bank points credit card like Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer to the airline of your choice while having the option of using the points as cash to purchase the ticket if you can find a great cash price. Plus, you’ll receive valuable perks, such as lounge access, no matter which airline you’re flying.

Delta SkyMiles

The prize for having the best credit cards to earn airline status might belong to Delta.

Delta Reserve Credit Card

The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express is the premium product of the Delta credit card lineup. You can also enjoy these SkyMiles travel benefits:

  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club Access
  • Annual companion certificate for a domestic roundtrip first class, Comfort+, or main cabin ticket
  • First checked bag free for up to 9 travelers
  • Main Cabin 1 priority boarding
  • 20% in-flight purchase savings

The welcome bonus for the Delta Reserve® Credit Card gives you a head start on earning Medallion status as you can earn 10,000 bonus MQMs and 75,000 SkyMiles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Offer Expires 10/30/2019.

Plus, cardholders can earn an additional 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000 on eligible purchases in the calendar year.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express

Business travelers can also enjoy the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express. You can earn 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus earn a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase on your card within the first 3 months of account opening.

You can also enjoy Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, 20% on eligible in-flight savings in the form of a statement credit, and discounted Sky Club access at $29 per person (up to two guests). Cardholders can also check their first bag for free and save up to $60 on a round trip Delta flight.

American Airlines AAdvantage

The is the most benefit-rich American Airlines credit card. It’s $450 annual fee gives you free Admirals Club membership. You can also add up to 10 authorized users for free. They also receive free Admirals Club access when you (the primary cardholder) doesn’t travel with them.

To achieve American Airlines AAdvantage airline elite status sooner, you get 10,000 bonus elite qualifying miles after spending $40,000 in annual purchases. You can also enjoy the “enhanced airport experience” which includes priority check-in, airport screening, and boarding for you and eight travel companions. Cardholders can also get the first checked bag free for them and up to 8 travel companions.

New cardmembers can also earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.

United Airlines MileagePlus

My favorite United credit card is the United Explorer.

For MileagePlus Premier members, the can be the best fit if you’re willing to pay a $450 annual fee. You get immediate access to United Club which can be a $550 annual value. Other complimentary Premier benefits include:

  • Space-available Premier upgrades on award tickets (United-operated flights only)
  • Priority check-in, security screening, boarding, and baggage handling
  • No close-in award booking fees (this fee disappears for all MileagePlus members in late 2019)

You will also have Hertz President’s Circle elite status and special amenities when staying at the Luxury Hotel and Resorts Collection portfolio.

The current signup bonus is 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

You can see the list of the best United credit cards in this post.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

There are three personal Southwest Airlines credit cards and one business card. Southwest doesn’t quite fit the typical mold for airline elite status. While you might think the Southwest Companion Pass is the highest elite status, that honor actually belongs to the A-List Preferred membership tier as the Companion Pass only lets your companion fly free, minus fees and taxes, but doesn’t include other perks like priority boarding and same-day standby.

Having the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card helps you achieve A-List status and Companion Pass simultaneously. The current bonus offer is the ability to earn up to 60,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points. New cardholders can earn 40,000 points by spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Then, they can earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 in the first 12 months of account opening.

These points purchase rewards count toward the annual 110,000-point Companion Pass requirement.

You also get these exclusive card benefits:

  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 annual Upgraded Bookings (when available)
  • 7,500 points anniversary bonus

The annual fee is $149.

JetBlue TrueBlue

The gives you TrueBlue Mosaic status after spending $50,000 in a calendar year. Without this card, you must either earn 15,000 flight points or fly 30 segments and earn 12,000 flight points each year. Mosaic benefits include waived change and cancellation fees, two free checked bags, and discounted Even More Space award seats.

Being a Plus cardholder lets you check you and three travel companions check your first bag free. You can also enjoy an annual $100 statement credit on JetBlue Vacations package and a 50% in-flight savings for drinks and food.

The annual fee is $99 and you get 5,000 bonus points each card anniversary. New cardmembers can earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000.

American Express Platinum Card

Maybe you have airline elite status with several frequent flyer programs and can benefit more from a flexible travel rewards card. The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the best air travel credit cards. This is because you earn 5x points on plane tickets booked directly through the carrier or on AmexTravel.com. It’s also an awesome card because of the following air travel benefits:

  • Annual $200 airline fee credit
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement
  • Complimentary Global Lounge  Collection Membership (includes The Centurion, Priority Pass, and Delta Sky Club networks)
  • 1:1 point transfers to airline loyalty programs (includes Delta SkyMiles, Emirates, and British Airways)

You can also get upgraded hotel elite status at Hilton Honors (Gold) and Marriott Bonvoy (Gold Elite). Plus, you can enjoy up to $200 in annual Uber ride credits.

For a limited time, you might qualify for the 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards points welcome offer that’s worth $1,000 in award travel. If you qualify for this offer, you only need to spend $5,000 in the first 3 months to receive the full bonus amount.

Summary on Best Airline Credit Cards 2019 for Status

Loyalty has its perks. The best airline credit cards 2019 reward you with elite qualifying miles when you reach certain annual spending targets. In the meantime, you can enjoy special perks typically reserved for elite status members that you don’t get as a general loyalty program member with a travel credit card.

Related posts:

What’s the Best Airline Credit Card 2019 for Airline Purchases?

Before making the investment in a premium credit card for airline purchases, you need to make sure you’re picking the right one. All major airlines offer their own premium credit card. Each one has valuable benefits suited for a specific traveler. These benefits are often useful for both domestic and international travel. This guide will compare the benefits of several premium credit card options so you can make an informed decision.

premium credit card

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

For people who fly American Airlines, there is great value in the . This premium credit card provides benefits you love of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. Priority boarding, free checked bags, and a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverages are all included. Plus there is so much more which justifies the premium annual fee.

Admirals Club Lounge Access

My favorite benefit is that cardholders have access to more than 50 Admirals Club lounges around the world. You may bring immediate family members and children under age 18 or up to two guests into the lounge at no additional charge. Admirals Club members pay up to $650 per year for a single member, so they’ll love saving money with a credit card annual fee of just $450.

Currently, cardholders and authorized users have access to the Admirals Club lounges even if they aren’t flying on American Airlines. Beginning November 1, 2019, they will only have access to the lounge if they are flying American Airlines or one of their partner airlines. This same restriction will apply to Admirals Club memberships, so Admirals Club access will remain equal between the credit card and membership.

Earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)

Although you won’t earn any as part of your sign-up bonus, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases with the card year. The signup bonus comes with the ability to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Additional benefits

You’ll earn 2x miles for every dollar you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x miles everywhere else. Keep in mind that you will not earn 2x miles on dining or gas with the Executive card.

Other benefits of this premium credit card include:

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA itineraries for you and up to 8 travel companions
  • Preferred boarding on AA flights with Group 4
  • Priority check-in and airport screening (where available)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Add up to 10 authorized users at no additional charge

If earning Elite Qualifying Miles or having access to the Admirals Club is not a priority for you, the with its $95 annual fee is a worthwhile alternative. Or, if you are looking for more versatility, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture each offer their own set of consumer travel perks.

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express provides excellent benefits if you like to fly Delta Air Lines. You’ll receive priority boarding, first checked bag free, and a 20% savings on in-flight food, beverage, and audio headsets purchases. These airline credit cards also earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), complimentary Sky Club access, and a companion certificate.

New cardholders can earn 75,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Expires 10/30/2019.

Delta Sky Club lounge access

There are 45 Delta Sky Clubs around the world. Normal memberships are $545 per year. This offsets the annual fee of $450 ($550 if the application is received on or after 1/30/2020 – See ).

The Delta Sky Club lounge benefit is somewhat limited with the Delta Reserve Credit Card. First, you must be flying on a Delta or a partner flight. Then, only the cardholder will receive complimentary entrance to the Delta Sky Club lounge. You may bring two guests and children with you for $29 per person.

Earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)

Cardholders who are seeking status with Delta will love that this credit card offers MQMs two ways. You will receive 10,000 MQMs after meeting the minimum spend requirements. And you can earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000 in eligible purchases each calendar year.

Additional benefits of the Delta Reserve Card

When you fly, you will receive Priority Boarding with the Main Cabin 1 group. One bag can also be checked free for up to nine passengers per itinerary. With bag fees of $30 each way, that’s a savings of up to $540 per round trip flight.

One unique benefit of the Delta Reserve Card is that cardholders receive a companion pass once per year. It is good for one free round-trip First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin domestic US ticket with the purchase of a ticket.

Other benefits of the Delta Reserve Card include:

  • Upgrade priority over others in your Medallion Tier and fare class grouping
  • MQM Gifting to give Miles Boost MQMs to others
  • Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) Waiver

For travelers that aren’t concerned with Delta Sky Club access or earning MQMs, you’re better off applying for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. Remember that the Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders also receive access to the Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta.

Chase United MileagePlus Club Card

The Chase offers the best everyday earning rate of these premium credit card options for airline purchases. It earns 1.5 miles on every dollar spent, which is 50% more than the others.

United Club lounge access

United Club members have more than 45 locations around the world to choose from. Normal memberships range from $450 to $550 per person.

Cardholders can access the United Club with a same-day boarding pass. They can bring two guests or one adult and dependent children under the age of 21 years.

Additional benefits of the Chase United MileagePlus Club

The free checked bag benefit for this premium credit card is different than the others. It is better if you have a small party because you can get a total of four free checked bags for two people. However, if you are traveling with more than four people on the same itinerary, this benefit is worse than American or Delta’s co-branded airline credit cards.

Other benefits include:

  • Waived close-in booking fees on award tickets
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets
  • Hertz President’s Circle elite status
  • Hotel benefits with the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Primary rental car coverage

The Chase United℠ Explorer Card is a good alternative. It offers free checked bags and priority boarding, it gives cardholders two complimentary United Club lounge passes each year. If you fly United frequently, having one of their credit card options may be useful.

For rates and fees of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, please.

Related Posts:

Geoff Whitmore

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Best Airlines Credit Cards 2019 – Earn Miles, Perks and Airline Status
3.38 (67.5%) 8 votes