Some of the first reward credit cards were frequent flyer cards offered in partnership with airlines, and to this day the chance to earn an award flight can be irresistible. For a long time, airline credit cards were all about earning these reward miles, and redeeming them for award flights. But in recent years, airline miles have become less valuable, and airline cards were becoming uncompetitive with other travel rewards credit cards.
To stay relevant, credit card issuers started working with their airline partners to offer more valuable travel perks and benefits, in addition to miles. For example, an airline credit card will usually come with a free checked bag, priority boarding and savings on in-flight food and beverages. Today, you might sign up for an airline credit card to earn the miles, but you might keep it to enjoy all of these travel benefits.
Here are some of the top airline credit cards offered:
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
This card currently offers new applicants 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. It also offers double miles not just on American Airlines purchases, but also at gas stations and restaurants. You can even earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount each cardmember year that you spend $20,000 or more in purchases and renew your card.
Benefits include your checking your first bag for free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for yourself and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation. You also receive preferred boarding on American Airlines flights and a 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on these flights. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
United flyers can earn 40,000 bonus miles and a $100 statement credit after spending $2,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. This card now offers double miles at restaurants and hotels as well as on United purchases. You earn one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. You also receive your first bag checked free for you and a companion when you use your card to purchase the ticket. Other benefits include priority boarding and two one-time passes to the United Club lounges each year on your account anniversary. This card has a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
This premium airline card has some amazing benefits. First, you can earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within your account’s first three months. You also receive 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year. However, it only offers double miles on American purchases and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere.
Benefits include a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to eight companions. You also receive priority check-in, priority airport screening (where available) and boarding privileges for you and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation. You even get a statement credit of up to $100 every five years for the application for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which includes PreCheck. Finally, you get a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverages. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
This card offers you plenty of rewards and benefits with an annual fee that falls between premium cards and mid-range products. First you can earn 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within three months. You also earn five miles per dollar on eligible purchases with your new card during your account’s first six months, up to 35,000 bonus miles (this offer expires 7/31/18). You even earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your account’s first three months.
Benefits include a free checked bag, priority boarding, and a 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases. You also receive a domestic, round-trip, economy class companion certificate each year on your account anniversary. This card offers double miles on Delta purchases and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. There’s a $195 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.