As a perceptive consumer, you've already discovered that you can use reward credit cards to your advantage. If you enjoy travel or aspire to travel, the best way to earn miles is by using airline credit cards. These are ideal rewards credit card option because they give you an opportunity to earn air miles rewards simply by using your credit card to make everyday purchases.
In addition to providing you with air miles that you can leverage to help fund your travels, these cards often include additional perks, like free bag checking or priority boarding, that can make your travel either less expensive or more convenient.
The best airline credit cards we've identified include the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the United℠ Explorer Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.
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The best credit cards for travel
The Platinum Card® from American Express
$1,200 bonus value* | $550 annual fee
Bonus offer includes 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (terms apply). Perks include up to $200 airline fee credit to cover incidental fees, up to $200 annual Uber credits, up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, $250 lounge access (terms apply).View Deal
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
$720 bonus value* | $95 annual fee (waived first year)
The go-to card for casual Delta flyers, you'll get a welcome bonus of 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first three months, and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer expires: 10/30/2019.View Deal
United Explorer Card
$520 bonus value* | $95 annual fee (waived first year)
This co-branded airline credit cards has a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you make $2,000 in purchases in your first three months (terms apply). Perks include free checked bags, priority boarding and annual lounge visits. View Deal
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
$700 bonus value* | $95 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months)
Bonus welcome offer includes 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first three months, while perks include an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck – lots of other cards that offer this benefit have annual fees above $400.View Deal
* Note that bonus value is based on valuations from The Points Guy
How to choose the best travel credit card
Air Miles Credit Cards: What to Look For
Evaluating air miles credit cards can be challenging because in addition to air miles, there are additional travel benefits and financial factors to consider. We used the following criteria to determine the top airline miles credit cards.
For each dollar you spend, most air miles credit cards give you one mile or one point. The best miles credit cards give you the opportunity to earn double miles when you make certain purchases, such as purchasing a flight from the participating airline, which makes it easier for you to accumulate the miles you need to earn a flight.
In addition to earning miles, most air miles credit cards have additional benefits that enhance your enjoyment of the card. The best frequent flyer miles provide travel benefits like in-flight discounts, priority boarding and access to VIP lounges inside airports. They also don't have blackout dates that might restrict your ability to use your miles at optimal times.
The best frequent flyer credit cards include features that give you peace of mind when you travel, as they provide you with the assistance you would need in the event of an emergency. Many of these features automatically activate when you use your air miles credit cards to purchase your travel fare. Examples of these features include lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance and rental car insurance.
Like any other credit card, an important consideration when you're selecting an air miles card is the annual percentage rate that it carries. The annual percentage rates should be relatively low for purchases and balance transfers. APRs for cash advances and penalties should be on par with those charged by other credit cards.
Fees & Penalties
You should expect your air miles credit card's fees and penalties to be in line with industry-standards. Common fees include a cash-advance fee, a balance transfer fee, a late fee and a returned payment fee. The best air miles credit cards don't have annual fees and don't charge you international purchase fees.
When you're traveling, being able to contact your credit card provider at any time of day or night isn't just a convenience, it's a necessity. Your air miles credit card company should provide 24/7 member support that you can contact by phone. In the event that your card is lost or stolen, the company should be willing to get you an emergency card replacement as quickly as possible – preferably, they should overnight it to you. Other member support features on the company's website, like live chat and a list of frequently asked questions, make it easy for you to find helpful information about your card's benefits, thus increasing the overall convenience of using your card.
Air Miles Credit Cards: Specific Considerations
Depending on your overall use of the credit card and your ability to take advantage of the benefits that it provides, your individual preferences and needs may vary. Here are some key decisive features, along with our recommendations based on each feature.
No Annual Fee
If you don't want to pay an annual fee and don't want to have to remember to cancel a card after the introductory period expires, consider the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card or Blue Sky from American Express®.
Free VIP Lounge Access
If you want a comfortable place to rest while you're waiting for your flights and VIP Lounge Access is a perk you can't do without, check out the United Explorer Card or the United Club Card.
If being able to board the plane a little sooner helps you snag a better overhead bin or helps you get your little one settled, look for a card that gives you this advantage. In addition to the first two cards on our lineup, also consider the Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® or the United℠ Explorer Card.
For the frequent or would-be traveler, an air miles credit card is an excellent choice of rewards credit card because it helps you earn frequent flyer miles simply by making everyday purchases. With this type of card, you may even be able to earn double points when you use the card to purchase flights. Many cards also provide benefits that elevate your travel experience, like VIP lounge access, priority boarding and concierge service.
*Disclaimer: The Annual Percentage Rate or APR is reflective of the date this review was last updated.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.