Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 15, 2018.
If you primarily fly one airline, it’s wise to consider applying for your airline’s co-branded credit card. Such credit cards can make your flying experience considerably smoother, thanks to perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, lounge access and more. And you can significantly boost your mileage earnings, which will earn you free flights and, in some cases, an elite status much faster.
We’ve rounded up the best airline cards, including some elite card options for those willing to spend a bit more on an annual fee.
1. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World EliteTM Mastercard®
This offer is no longer available.
Annual Fee: $99, waived the first year
If you primarily fly American, you’d be smart to keep this card in your wallet. You earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations and on American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile on everything else.
You also get your first checked bag free for you and up to four traveling companions on the same reservation, as well as a $100 American Airlines discount after you spend $20,000 or more on your card. Apply now and earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3000 on the card within the first three months of opening the account.
Annual Fee: $450
If you fly frequently on American and are willing to spend a little more on a credit card, this one is worth considering. The card gets you automatic access to the Admirals Club, American airport lounges (if you’re already a member, you could be eligible for a prorated refund on your Admirals Club membership fee).
You’ll also get priority check-in, priority airport screening, and boarding, along with the first checked bag free for you and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation. That’s a lot like having elite status.
You will also earn 2 miles per $1 spent on American Airline purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. You can also reach elite status faster with 10,000 elite qualifying miles after you spend $40,000 on the card in one year.
Another perk: Up to $100 statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application. (See also: Fly Through Airport Security With These Credit Cards)
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Casual Delta flyers will benefit from this card, thanks to priority boarding and free first checked bags for up to four people traveling on the same reservation. You earn 2 SkyMiles for every $1 spent on Delta purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on everything else.
Apply now and get the chance to rack up 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1000 on the card in the first three months of account opening, along with a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first three months of account opening. Need Delta Sky Club access? You can have it with a $29 one-time entry fee.
Annual Fee: $450
The annual fee may be hefty on this card, but it does get you complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs around the world. You will earn 2 SkyMiles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and 1 SkyMile for every $1 spent on everything else; you can also earn significant bonus miles, including Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) which get you to elite status.
Spend $30,000 on the card in one year and get 15,000 bonus miles, along with 15,000 MQMs. That doubles if you spend $60,000 on the card in a year. You also have access to priority boarding, a free checked bag, and a free companion certificate for domestic travel each year.
Annual Fee: $99
If JetBlue is your airline of choice, consider adding this card to your rotation. You get your first checked bag free for yourself and up to three companions on the same reservation, plus a 50% discount on eligible in-flight purchases, including cocktails and food.
Cardholders earn 6 points per $1 spent on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. You also earn 5,000 bonus points on each anniversary of your account. Apply now and earn 40,000 bonus points after you make $1000 in purchases in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: $69
Cardholders earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases, as well as on Southwest’s car and hotel partners, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
You’ll always be able to use your Southwest points to pay for airfare, thanks to Southwest’s unique policy that ties the number of points needed to redeem for an airline ticket to the cost of the airfare. (So you’ll always be able to pay with points unless a flight is completely sold out.) Cardholders earn 3,000 bonus points on their anniversary each year.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
United frequent flyers will find a lot to like in the new Explorer card, which gets you a free checked bag for you and one companion traveling on the same reservation. You’ll also get priority boarding, and two free United Club passes each year. Cardholders earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, hotels and restaurants, and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.
Apply now and earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2000 on the card in the first three months after opening the account, along with a $100 statement credit after your first purchase. You’ll also get 25% back on United in-flight purchases, and up to $100 statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee.
If you’re looking for other travel rewards credit cards, check out options here in Experian’s credit card marketplace.