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Do credit card airline points work? What are the best travel credit card deals to take advantage of? Read on to uncover the best card deals and how they can ease your travel.
Flying for business or leisure is a process made more affordable, convenient, and enjoyable with the help of credit card airline points. However, not all credit cards offer rewards or miles, and often, the rewards earned differ based on a cardholder’s purchasing activity.
But to find the best travel credit card deals and maximize the benefits of airline points, it’s critical to compare and contrast the available options.
Fortunately, myriad choices give travelers the flexibility to take advantage of airline points. And while a platform like Skyscanner gives you access to cheap flights, travel credit cards might improve things.
Ultimately, finding the best credit card for air travel is a function of preferences and specific benefits.
- Best Travel Credit Card Deals
- 1. American Express Platinum Card
- 2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa
- 3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa
- 4. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard
- 5. American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
- 6. Chase Freedom Flex℠
- 7. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- 8. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- 9. Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 10. Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card
- 11. Alaska Airlines Credit Card
- Final Thoughts – Selecting the Best Travel Credit Card Deals
Best Travel Credit Card Deals
1. American Express Platinum Card
Cardholders earn 5X membership points for flights booked directly with American Express Travel or with airlines. Cardholders can also earn 5X membership points on prepaid hotels through American Express Travel.
This gives cardholders a lot of flexibility regarding the airlines they can use and opportunities to apply points. These are only part of the flight-related benefits.
The Amex International Airline Program offers discounted rates on the best seating available, but the preferred rates can only be applied to eight tickets per booking.
This includes savings on the premium economy, business, and international first seating on over 25 world-class airlines. Certain conditions apply, such as traveling with an itinerary and booking flights originating and returning to the U.S.
This is a remarkable perk and ideal for those who like airline points and international travel. Amex offers programs that make flights and travel more enjoyable.
For example, the Global Lounge Collection gives cardholders access to over 1,300 airport lounges in more than 140 countries. The Platinum Travel Service program and its counselors help cardholders with custom itineraries and recommendations on maximizing their travel plans.
The Hotel Collection makes travel more relaxing with a $100 onsite credit for qualifying activities like dining or spa treatments. Other benefits include earning 100,000 membership reward points if cardholders spend $5,000 within the first six months of opening an account.
For purchases made at U.S. gas stations and supermarkets, 10X points are available for up to $15,000 in combined purchases during a cardholder’s first six months of opening an account.
The APR on this card is variable and ranges from 15.99 percent to 22.99 percent. We used this card to book a hotel in Denali National Park.
Additional advantages of the Platinum Card include:
- $15 in Uber cash for rides or eat orders in the U.S.
- Become an Uber VIP without meeting ride requirements
- Up to $100 in statement credits for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue
- Membership Rewards Program and Pay with Points on amextravel.com
- Access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program
See Related: Free California Travel Guide
2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa
As the name of this credit card implies, it’s all about airline points and booking discounted flights by redeeming rapid rewards.
The Rapid Rewards Priority Visa allows cardholders to earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Southwest Airlines. Cardholders also earn 2 points per $1 spent on qualifying hotel and car rentals, plus 1 point spent on all other purchases.
Other perks include 7,500-anniversary points and four upgraded boardings per year. When cardholders open their account, they can earn substantial bonus points that can be applied to travel with Southwest Airlines.
One can earn 50,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening an account. Additionally, 30,000 points are available when cardholders spend over $10,000 in the first nine months of an account being opened.
This provides a significant opportunity for travelers to earn free flights and see the U.S. for business or leisure. There is an annual fee of $149 when you use this card.
Different versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards card come with higher or lower annual fees based on the needs of cardholders. This provides different price points and benefits, allowing travelers to tailor a credit solution to meet their financial and air travel needs.
While large annual fees may seem intimidating initially, they may be well worth the cost over the long run. One can speak to an advisor to learn about all of the benefits.
Additional advantages of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa include:
- $75 Southwest annual travel credit
- 20 percent back on all inflight purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- Redeem points for international flights, cruises, and related activities
- 1,500 tier qualifying points
See Related: How to Earn Airline Miles Without a Credit Card
3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa
With a lower annual fee of $69, the Rapid Rewards Plus Visa is an excellent alternative to other Southwest Visa credit cards with higher annual fees.
While not all of the perks are available with this card, it still allows travelers to earn many rewards points that can be applied to flights. Cardholders earn 3,000 bonus points on the anniversary of opening their account. Higher numbers of points can be earned on qualified transactions, too.
Cardholders can earn 2X points on all purchases made directly from Southwest Airlines and 1X points on all transactions. This credit card is a dynamic solution for travelers who enjoy flying but do not travel regularly.
Its low annual fee allows accumulating enough points to give cardholders an advantage and cost savings. If additional perks are required, then there is a version of the Southwest Visa credit card series that can meet one’s needs.
This card is also advantageous because it is done in partnership with Visa. A widely recognized and accepted credit card worldwide is critical, especially if a cardholder plans to fly domestically with Southwest and then with other carriers for international travel.
Acquiring points on a wide spectrum of purchases almost anywhere one goes, the benefit of carrying a rapid rewards card and paying an annual fee.
Additional advantages of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa include:
- No foreign transaction fees
- Points can be redeemed for flights, cruises, and accommodations
- Points do not expire
- Bags fly free program
- Unlimited rewards seats with no blackout dates
You can add a travel insurance cover to your traveling package to ensure that everything is taken care of.
4. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard
For business travelers looking to supercharge their airline rewards points, the AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard offers significant benefits, including earning 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage.
But to earn these points, cardholders must spend $4,000 in the first four months of opening their account. There is an annual fee of $99 for using this card, but the benefits of holding an account often outweigh this nominal fee.
Cardholders earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on qualifying American Airlines purchases. They also earn 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, gas stations, cable providers, and car rental services. You also earn 1 AAdvantage mile on all purchases.
All points can be redeemed for qualifying airline travel, making this card an affordable and highly practical solution. For companies with operations in multiple geographic locations, this solution proves beneficial almost immediately. This card is ideal for middle management and senior leaders alike because it provides flexibility and the accumulation of AAdvantage miles for routine business purchases.
This card can be used for Uber rides, business dinners, and a variety of office supply purchases, among other nominal expenditures in the routine course of business.
Instead of using petty cash or another payment mechanism that offers no miles, cardholders can maximize the benefits this credit solution offers.
Additional advantages of the AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard include:
- Preferred boarding
- The first bag checked as free
- 25 percent savings on American Airlines inflight WI-FI
- Personal Business Assistant for 24/7 help with travel
- Access to monthly billing statements and account summaries online
See Related: How to Maximize the Amex Platinum Travel Credit
5. American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
Travelers who enjoy American Airlines and visiting destinations around the U.S. can opt for the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard.
Cardholders can earn 2X AAdvantage miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines. Similarly, they can earn 2X AAdvantage miles at the grocery store and 1X AAdvantage miles on all other purchases.
This earning power allows travelers to rack up points quickly for reduced prices or free airline flights. If cardholders prefer American Airlines and the services they receive from this provider, this card may be the optimal choice.
It has no annual fee, and cardholders can earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles and a $50 credit card statement after making $500 in purchases within the first three months.
The APR for this card is between 15.99 percent and 24.99 percent and depends on the cardholder’s creditworthiness. Bonus miles can be applied to flights, first-class upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, and vacation packages.
Cash advances and balance transfers are possible with cards at competitive rates, giving cardholders the flexibility to consolidate their outstanding debt and get cash when they need it the most. The fees paid are contingent on the balances involved.
There are many other benefits to holding this card and attaining airline points, including a wide range of travel destinations. American Airlines operates throughout the continental U.S., making it one of the best travel credit card deals.
Additional advantages of the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard include:
- 25 percent savings on beverage purchases and in-flight meals
- There is no limit to the number of AAdvantage miles that you can earn
- AAdvantage miles are redeemable for travel to over 1,000 destinations worldwide
- Contactless pay with a card
- Digital wallets
See related: How to Book a Flight Without a Credit Card
6. Chase Freedom Flex℠
The offers here are simply stunning. First, the card charges a $0 annual fee, with a welcome bonus of $200. However, you’ll have to make at least $500 worth of travel purchases in the first three months of your sign-up to win the bonus.
But that still feels like an excellent deal, right? And that’s not all. Cash Ultimate Rewards is a program with this card that allows you to redeem rewards for travel, cash back, or gift cards.
You are also eligible for a 5% cashback of purchases in bonus categories, up to $1,500, for every quarter you activate. Also, when you make travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get a 5% cashback opportunity. There’s a 3% cashback when you make purchases at certain drug stores or dine at restaurants, including delivery services and takeout. And the 1% unlimited cash back on any purchase you make crowns it all.
Other advantages of using this travel credit card include;
- The zero minimum policy on cashback withdrawal
- 0% APR for the first 15 months
- Allowing you to keep tabs on your credit health
So, when I say that Chase Freedom Flex is among the best credit cards for airline travel, you can easily see why.
7. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture X is another excellent travel credit card program that frequent travelers can use. The rewards are attractive, and they help make your travel worthwhile.
For instance, the card offers up to a 10x rewards rate. That’s right! With this card, you earn 2x miles for every dollar spent on qualifying purchases. Additionally, it offers 10x miles for each dollar spent on hotels and car rental services and 5x miles for each dollar on flights. Doesn’t that seem like a worthy deal?
Capital One Venture X rewards program makes every trip you take cheaper. It’s among the travel credit cards that have rewards for almost every activity you do on the card. This is because you earn points right, left, and center.
And who doesn’t want some traveling costs pulled off their back? This credit card does exactly that. Imagine 75,000 miles as a welcome bonus – this one is huge. While you must spend at least $4,000 as a cardholder in your first three months to win the reward, it’s still worthwhile.
Besides, you can get $300 cashback annually as a reward for your bookings using this travel credit card. You’ll get the best prices negotiated for each of those eligible purchases. Can it get any better?
Capital One is undoubtedly among the best airline credit cards for many reasons. And if not for the points, the unlimited complimentary access to over 1,400+ lounges for you and two more guests might charm you even more.
The card is the premium version of the basic Capital One venture rewards credit card, and they have done a great job. Capital One can now comfortably compete with the industry’s bigwigs with the card.
See related: Cheapest Shopping Destinations in the World
8. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Saphire Preferred Card offers some of the best choices if you are looking for the best airline credit card deals. You get a 60,000-point bonus for signing up for the card. Isn’t this an incredible welcome gesture, considering it’s around $750 when redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards?
Secondly, for the travel purchases you make using the card, there is a 5x points reward. These include flight tickets and in-flight purchases.
Additionally, even dining earns you points. You get a 3x rewards rate for dining, while any other travel purchase earns you 2x points.
But what if you don’t want to redeem your points for travel? You can transfer them to 13 airline partners or hotel loyalty programs. The best part is that you book using your points without blackout dates or seat restrictions.
Other benefits of this card include a $300 annual travel credit, which more than offsets the $95 annual fee. And if you’re a newbie in the traveling world, don’t worry. This card comes with trip delay and baggage delay insurance of up to $500 per ticket.
9. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Like Sapphire Preferred, this travel credit card has a 60,000 points sign-up bonus. This makes it one of the most rewarding airline credit cards around.
However, unlike its counterpart, the annual fee is a bit lower – $550, to be precise, compared to the Chase Sapphire card’s $950. But that’s not all. You also get a $300 annual travel credit, making the card quite economical.
On top of that, you get up to a $100 application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Now let’s talk about the points.
With this card, you earn a whopping 10x points on car rentals and hotels. As for travel purchases, you receive 5x points for every dollar spent. That means if you spend $100 on travel using this card, you’ll get 100 points.
If you redeem these rewards through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get 50% more value. And did we say that the card is perfect for covering your travel issues? Yes, it is!
It offers various insurance covers for your trip, including trip interruptions or cancellations, lost luggage insurance, and auto rental collision damage waiver. All these benefits make it one of the best airline credit cards in the market.
10. Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card
Do the 90,000 miles sign-up bonus sound impressive to you? That’s precisely what Delta SkyMiles Platinum airline credit card offers. And the only thing you should do is spend $3,000 on your new card in its first three months.
And to make it even more attractive, the card has a program that allows you to make up to 20,000 points known as Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) every year. Spending $25,000 on the card in a year will earn you 10,000 MQMs. This can happen up to two times annually.
Regarding earning miles, Delta purchases or those you make directly through hotels earn you 3x points. Purchases in restaurants, takeout, and eligible delivery services get you 2x points. Any other eligible purchases get you 1x points per dollar.
Other benefits of the card include the lower annual fee of $250 and zero foreign transaction fees. These features and benefits make the card quite attractive for frequent travelers.
11. Alaska Airlines Credit Card
Alaska Airlines has some of the market’s most attractive travel credit card deals. For starters, it offers a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles when you spend $2,000 on your new card within three months. Also, you’ll earn up to $100 as statement credit annually.
Regarding annual fees, this card is quite affordable at $75. As that’s not enough, there are no foreign transaction fees, making it perfect for international travel.
On every eligible Alaska Airlines purchase made using the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card, you earn three miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines tickets, vacation packages, and cargo purchases.
You also earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
This airline card gives you a free checked bags service for yourself and up to six other people on your reservation. You also get a discount of $99 per person on Alaska Airlines companion fares every year.
Final Thoughts – Selecting the Best Travel Credit Card Deals
Cardholders looking for the best credit cards for travel or excellent airline cards for international travel should weigh several factors before deciding.
Credit cards with an annual fee are often worth the charge, but only if cardholders use the card with enough frequency and make the right purchases. Bonus points and special offers are typically contingent on the type and amount of spending, generally within the first 12 months of opening an account.
These calculations are essential, in addition to considering the APR if cardholders intend to carry balances over long periods. One should weigh their past purchasing activity against the bonus point structure and travel plans, including the airlines they typically enjoy using.
Visa, Mastercard, and other major credit card companies have partnered with different airlines to up the benefits for cardholders on certain types of travel.
Also, many cards allow for the rollover of points annually, so they don’t expire. This is a critical consideration, especially if cardholders want to save up to take extensive vacations or business trips.
While some credit cards are exclusive to one airline, others allow the application of points to most major carriers. Another important consideration is the travel-related perks that come with a credit card.
Some credit cards, such as the American Express platinum card, come with a suite of travel-related perks that make flying safer and more affordable despite the higher-than-average annual fee.
Cardholders must weigh all available options and perks to define and attain their credit requirements. Finding the optimal credit card for airline bonus miles may take research.
But the right credit solution can save cardholders money over the long run and provide them with various travel deals, accommodations, and emergency support services they previously didn’t have.
This is especially true when traveling overseas. Customer support can prove critical in correcting issues and ensuring a safe trip home if a medical emergency or flight cancellations and delays occur. Finding the right fit will provide financial leverage, more air travel, and peace of mind.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.