If you travel on a regular basis using the same airline, an airline credit card can be a valuable addition to your wallet. The best airline credit cards can help you get seat upgrades, free flights, and much more. Of course, there are other cards designed for those who travel on a variety of airlines. Depending on how often you fly, spend money, or wish to accumulate points, each card can offer you something in particular which will directly cater to your preferences.
These are our picks for the top ten airline credit cards of 2016 (not in any particular order):
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is unique in that it can be used in several ways, unlike cards limited to a specific airline. Every $1 spent on traveling and dining earns you two points while every dollar spent on everything else gives you one point. If you book your travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, the points are worth 25 percent. Alternatively, you may decide to transfer them to a variety of frequent flier programs at a 1:1 ratio. Additionally, the card features a substantial sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases during the first three months of opening the account. This translates to $625 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
2. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
The best thing about airline-specific cards is that they come with great rewards when flying. This card gives you a free checked bag for five people on reservation, as well as a discount on beverages and in-flight food. For every dollar you spend on American Airlines purchases using this card, you get two miles. One dollar spent elsewhere is equals to one mile. The sign up bonus is 30,000 miles on American Airlines after $1,000 worth of purchases within the first three months of opening the account.
3. United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
This card gives you 2 one time passes per year to United’s airport lounges, priority boarding, and a free checked bag when flying. Every dollar spent purchasing tickets from United is worth two miles while the same amount spent on everything else rewards one point. It also comes with a sign up bonus of 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account. Those who spend more than $25,000 per year enjoy a tantalizing bonus of 10,000 points.
4. British Airways Visa Signature® Card
With the British Airways Visa Signature Card, you don’t have to spend a lot to earn a significant sign-up bonus. Once you reach $3,000 in terms of purchases within the first three months of opening the account, you get 50,000 points. The card is excellent for international travel, as it does not come with foreign transaction fees. Cardholders who spend at least $30,000 in a year can invite a companion on board using their Travel Together ticket. The companion ticket will only require the applicable fees and taxes.
5. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Unlike other airline credit cards that only give you extra rewards for buying plane tickets, this card also earns extra points for booking car rentals and hotel stays through any of Southwest’s partners, such as Hyatt and Hertz. There is a low spending requirement of $2,000 during the first three months of account opening to earn the 50,000 sign-up bonus points. What’s more, there is a 6,000 anniversary bonus points that is independent of your spending and that does not include any foreign transaction fees. Once you earn 110,000 points or complete 100 one-way flights in a year, you get Companion Pass status that allows you to invite a guest on Southwest flights free of charge, which is valid for the rest of the year and the year after.
6. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood hotel spendings can be converted into free flights by exchanging your points with more than 24 frequent flier programs. However, the highest value redemption alternative for this card is still hotel stays. Every dollar spent at engaging SPG locations is worth five Starpoints, while all other purchases earn you one Starpoint per dollar. The sign up bonus for the card is 25,000 Starpoints after $3,000 spent on purchases within the first three months. SPG points are extremely valuable, with the bonus translating to about $575.
7. Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
After spending $1,000 on purchases with your new Card in the first three months of account opening, you get 30,000 extra miles and statement credit worth $50 after making a Delta purchase within the same period. Purchases made directly through Delta earn two miles per dollar, while every dollar invested in other eligible purchases gives you one mile. There is a free checked bag for every Delta flight, saving you up to $200 for every trip with a group of four. There is no annual introductory fee during the first year, but you have to pay $95 the year after.
8. The JetBlue Plus Card
The JetBlue Plus Card comes with a generous bonus of 30,000 points for every $1,000 spent on purchases during the first three months. Every dollar spent on JetBlue purchases is worth one point. JetBlue-operated flights can be redeemed any time for any seat. The preset base fare when booking a flight will determine the points needed for an Award Flight. Points earned in the TruBlue account do not expire. Each year on your account opening anniversary you are rewarded with 5,000 extra points, while eligible in-flight purchases come with 50 percent savings.
9. United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
$1,000 spent on purchases within the first three months of opening an account with United MileagePlus® Explorer Card earns 30,000 extra miles. Save up to one hundred dollars per trip by checking your first bag free of charge. You get 2 one-time-use passes per year that you can use to visit the United Club and enjoy boarding privileges. Tickets bought from United earn double miles, while every dollar spent on other purchases is valued at one mile. Unless you close your credit card account, the miles cannot expire. These can be used any time, for any seat, and on any United flight.
10. Virgin America Visa Signature® Card
The Virgin America Visa Signature® Card comes with 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months. This totals to $200 when redeemed through Virgin America flights. Each dollar spent on Virgin America earns three bonus points while the same amount spent on other purchases earns one bonus point.