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-times the rewards earned differ based on a cardholder’s purchasing activity.
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, there are myriad of choices giving travelers the flexibility they need to take advantage of airline points.
Finding the best credit card for air travel is a function of preferences and specific benefits.
See Related: How to Earn Airline Miles Without a Credit Card
Table of Contents
Best Travel Credit Card Deals
American Express Platinum Card
Although the Amex Platinum Card comes with a $550 annual fee, it has a spectrum of benefits, perks and airline points that can be earned.
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 in terms of 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 premium economy, business and international first seating, on over 25 world-class airlines.
There are certain conditions that 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 that like airline points and international travel.
Amex offers programs making flights and travel more enjoyable.
For example, the Global Lounge Collection gives cardholders access to more than 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 how to maximize 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 the opportunity to earn 100,000 membership rewards 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 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 and 22.99 percent. We used this card to book a hotel in Denali National Park.
Additional advantages with the Platinum Card include:
- $15 in Uber cash for rides or eats orders in the U.S.
- Become 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
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 4 upgraded boardings per year.
When cardholders open their account, they have the opportunity to earn substantial bonus points that can be applied to travel with Southwest Airlines.
One can earn 50,000 points after $2,000 in purchases are made within the first three months of opening an account.
Additionally, 30,000 points are available when cardholders spend more than $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 for use of this card.
There are different versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards card that 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 at first, 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
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa
With a lower annual fee of $69, the Rapid Rewards Plus Visa is an alternative to other Southwest Visa credit cards with higher annual fees.
While not all of the perks are available with this card, it still provides travelers with the opportunity to earn a large number of rewards points that can be applied to flights.
Plus, 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 they can earn 1X points on all transactions.
For travelers that enjoy flying but do not travel regularly, this credit card is a dynamic solution.
With the low annual fee, it allows for the accumulation of 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.
Having a credit card that is widely recognized and accepted around the world is critical, especially if a cardholder plans on flying domestically with Southwest and then with other carriers for international travel.
Being able to acquire points on a wide spectrum of purchases almost anywhere one goes maximizes 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
CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard
For business travelers looking to supercharge their airline rewards points, the AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard offers significant benefits including the opportunity to earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage.
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 use of this card, but the benefits of holding an account oftentimes 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. 1 AAdvantage mile can be earned 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 is a solution that 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
- First bag checked 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
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
Travelers that 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 price 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 have the opportunity to 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 based on the creditworthiness of the holder.
Bonus miles can be applied to flights, upgrades to first class, 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 inflight meals
- No limit to the number of AAdvantage miles that can be earned
- AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for travel to over 1,000 destinations worldwide
- Contactless pay with card
- Digital wallets
Selecting the Best Travel Credit Card Deals
Cardholders looking for the best credit cards for travel, or the best airline card for international travel, should weigh a number of factors before making a decision.
Credit cards with an annual fee are often times worth the charge, but only if cardholders use the card with enough frequency and on the right types of purchases.
Bonus points and special offers are typically contingent on the type and amount of spending done, normally within the first 12 months of opening an account.
These calculations are important to make, as well as considering the APR if cardholders intend to carry balances over long periods of time.
One should weigh their past purchasing activity against the bonus point structure and their 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 are saving up to take extensive vacations or business trips.
While some credit cards are exclusive to one airline, there are others that allow points to be applied to most major carriers.
Another important consideration are the travel related perks that come with a credit card.
Discounts on Uber, hotels, and TSA PreCheck are among the benefits that may be desirable, especially if a cardholder plans on flying across the U.S. or internationally.
There are some credit cards, such as the American Express platinum card, that 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 of the available options and perks to define and then 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 an array of travel deals, accommodations, and emergency support services they previously didn’t have.
This is especially true when traveling overseas. If there is a medical emergency or flight cancellations and delays, customer support can prove critical in correcting issues and ensuring a safe trip home.
Finding the right fit will provide financial leverage, more air travel, and greater peace of mind.