Best Credit Cards for Earning Airline Loyalty Program Points in 2024


Best Credit Cards for Earning Airline Loyalty Program Points in 2024

Introduction to Airline Loyalty Programs and Their Benefits

In recent years, airline loyalty programs have become a cornerstone for frequent travelers. These programs allow customers to accumulate points or miles each time they fly, which can later be redeemed for free flights, upgrades, and various other perks. The convenience of traveling frequently without draining your bank account makes these loyalty programs highly appealing. But the benefits don’t end with just the travelers; airlines also win by encouraging brand loyalty and repeat business from their customers.

Airline loyalty programs are not limited to just frequent fliers. Even occasional travelers can accrue significant benefits, especially when these programs are combined with credit cards that offer additional points for everyday spending. Many credit cards on the market today are specifically designed to help customers earn more points or miles, making it easier to reach those coveted reward thresholds.

Moreover, these programs often come with elite status levels that bring even more advantages. Benefits may include priority boarding, free checked bags, access to exclusive lounges, and more. Having elite status can make the overall travel experience significantly more pleasant and efficient, from the moment you arrive at the airport to when you reach your destination.

For the beginner, navigating these airline loyalty programs can be daunting, but the return on investment is well worth the effort. This article will guide you through the best credit cards for earning airline loyalty points, how to maximize these points, and whether or not an airline loyalty program credit card is right for you.

Overview of Credit Cards That Partner With Airline Loyalty Programs

Airline credit cards are a popular choice for many travelers looking to make the most out of their spending. These cards are generally offered in partnership between a financial institution and an airline. The primary allure of these cards is that they allow you to accumulate airline loyalty points or miles at a faster rate compared to other methods of earning.

Several major airlines have their own co-branded credit cards. For example, Delta Air Lines offers the Delta SkyMiles credit cards in partnership with American Express. Similarly, United Airlines has the United MileagePlus credit cards with Chase, and American Airlines partners with Citi to offer the AAdvantage credit cards. Each of these cards provides varying levels of benefits, ranging from sign-up bonuses to additional points per dollar spent on specific categories like dining and travel.

Apart from co-branded cards, there are also general travel credit cards that allow you to transfer points to various airline loyalty programs. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the American Express Membership Rewards cards give users the flexibility to move their earned points to multiple airline programs, making them a versatile choice for those who travel with different carriers.

When choosing a credit card that partners with an airline loyalty program, it’s important to consider which airline you fly with most frequently. This can greatly impact how quickly you accumulate points and how you can use them effectively. Each card may offer different features such as bonus points on specific types of purchases, access to airport lounges, or fee waivers for checked bags, so it’s worth comparing these factors carefully.

Criteria for Selecting the Best Credit Cards for Airline Points

If you’re in the market for a credit card designed to help you rack up airline loyalty points, knowing what to look for is crucial. Various cards offer different perks, rates, and bonuses, so having a set criteria can help you make the best decision.

Sign-up Bonuses

Sign-up bonuses are one of the most attractive features of airline credit cards. Many cards offer substantial bonuses, sometimes ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 points or miles, just for meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first few months. For frequent travelers, this can expedite the accumulation of points that can be redeemed for free flights and other perks.

Earning Rates

Another critical factor is the rate at which you earn points. Some cards offer higher earning rates on specific categories like dining, groceries, or travel. For instance, a card might offer 3X points on airline purchases and 2X points on dining, which can significantly speed up the accumulation of points.

Annual Fees and Foreign Transaction Fees

While some cards come with no annual fees, others can charge fees upwards of $95 to $550 or more. It’s essential to weigh the benefits against the cost to see if the card is worth the investment. Additionally, if you frequently travel internationally, looking out for cards that waive foreign transaction fees can save you a significant amount of money.

Special Features

Lastly, many airline credit cards come with additional perks like complimentary lounge access, priority boarding, free checked bags, and travel insurance. These features can add substantial value, making your travel experience more comfortable and stress-free.

Comparison of Top Credit Cards for Earning Airline Loyalty Points

Choosing the best credit card for earning airline loyalty points can be complicated. Here’s a comprehensive comparison of some of the top cards in 2024 to help make your decision easier.

Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus Earning Rate Annual Fee Special Features
Chase Sapphire Preferred 60,000 points 2X on travel & dining, 1X on others $95 Transfer points to multiple airlines, travel protection
Delta SkyMiles Gold 70,000 miles 2X on dining & groceries, 1X on others $99 First checked bag free, priority boarding
United Explorer Card 60,000 miles 2X on dining & hotels, 1X on others $95 Two United Club passes, free checked bag
American Express Platinum 100,000 points 5X on flights, 1X on others $695 Access to Centurion Lounges, $200 airline fee credit

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card is highly versatile with a balanced offering. The ability to transfer points to multiple airlines makes it ideal for travelers who don’t limit themselves to one carrier.

Delta SkyMiles Gold

A great card for those who frequently fly with Delta. The benefits like a free first checked bag and priority boarding can make your travel experience smoother and more cost-effective.

United Explorer Card

Perfect for United Airlines loyalists, this card offers substantial perks including two United Club passes annually and a free checked bag, among other benefits.

American Express Platinum

While it comes with a hefty annual fee, the American Express Platinum card is packed with features, such as extensive lounge access and an airline fee credit, making it worthwhile for frequent flyers.

How to Maximize Points with Airline Credit Cards

Maximizing the benefits of an airline credit card requires strategic planning and careful spending. Here are some practical tips to get the most out of your card.

Plan Your Spending

The first step to maximize your points is to align your spending with the card’s bonus categories. If your card offers 3X points on dining, make sure to use it whenever you eat out. Similarly, use your card for travel-related purchases if those earn higher points.

Take Advantage of Sign-Up Bonuses

Meeting the spending requirement to earn a sign-up bonus can give you a substantial point boost. Plan your larger purchases to coincide with this period to meet the minimum spend without extra effort.

Utilize Airline Partnerships

Some airline credit cards offer additional points when you use them for purchases with partner companies. These partnerships often include hotels, dining establishments, and car rental services, offering another avenue to rack up points quickly.

Monitor Promotional Offers

Many airline credit cards run limited-time promotions that offer additional points for specific activities, such as booking a flight, dining at select restaurants, or shopping through the card’s online portal. Keeping an eye on these promos can help you accumulate points faster.

Understanding the Conversion Rates from Credit Card Points to Airline Miles

Understanding how your credit card points convert into airline miles is crucial to maximizing your rewards. Different credit cards and loyalty programs have varying conversion rates, and being aware of these can make a significant difference.

Direct Transfer Cards

Some credit cards allow direct transfer of points to various airline loyalty programs. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to airlines like United, Southwest, and British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. Similarly, American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Delta, JetBlue, and other airline partners, usually at a 1:1 ratio.

Fixed-Value Points

Certain cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards provide fixed-value points that you can use towards travel purchases. For instance, 1,000 points may equate to $10 worth of travel, regardless of the partner airline or hotel.

Variable Conversion Rates

Beware of cards where the conversion rates can vary depending on the airline or the specific flight. For example, converting Hilton Honors points to airline miles might have a different ratio for each airline. Checking these rates before converting will ensure that you get the best value for your points.

Transfer Fees and Charges

Some loyalty programs may charge fees for transferring points to airline miles. Always read the fine print to understand any potential costs associated with point conversions.

The Impact of Your Credit Score on Credit Card Eligibility

Applying for a new airline credit card? Your credit score plays a crucial role in whether you’ll be approved. Here’s how your credit score impacts your eligibility and what you can do to improve it.

Importance of a Good Credit Score

Most premium airline credit cards require an excellent credit score, generally above 700. Your credit score reflects your creditworthiness and affects not only your approval odds but also the credit limits and interest rates you’ll receive.

Rate of Approval

Higher credit scores usually translate to better approval rates. If your score is under 700, you may find it challenging to qualify for top-tier cards that offer the most valuable perks. In this case, you might consider improving your credit score before applying.

Ways to Improve Your Score

Improving your credit score involves several steps:

  • Pay off existing debt: Lowering your debt can boost your credit score.
  • Make timely payments: Consistently meeting payment deadlines can greatly improve your score.
  • Limit new credit inquiries: Multiple credit applications within a short period can negatively impact your score.

Pre-qualification Tools

Many credit card issuers offer pre-qualification tools online. These tools provide a quick check to see if you might be approved, saving you from a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Tips for Managing Multiple Airline Credit Cards

Managing several airline credit cards can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s entirely possible with some strategic planning. Here are some tips to help you manage multiple cards effectively.

Keep Track of Rewards and Expiry Dates

Always keep track of your points, miles, and their expiry dates. Use apps or spreadsheets to organize this information so you can maximize your rewards before they expire.

Automate Payments

Setting up automatic payments can help ensure you don’t miss any payment deadlines. Missing a payment can not only lead to late fees but also adversely affect your credit score.

Diversify Your Spending

Make sure you’re using each card in its optimal spending categories. If one card offers more points on dining and another on travel, use them accordingly to maximize your points.

Stay Aware of Fees

Multiple cards mean multiple annual fees. Make sure the benefits you’re receiving offset these costs. If a card is not providing enough value, it might be worth considering canceling or downgrading it.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Airline Credit Cards

Even seasoned travelers can sometimes make mistakes with their airline credit cards. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.

Ignoring Annual Fees

One of the most common mistakes is not calculating whether the annual fee is worth the benefits you’re receiving. Always weigh the costs and benefits to ensure that you’re getting good value.

Not Meeting Minimum Spend Requirements

Failing to meet the minimum spend requirement for a sign-up bonus can mean missing out on a substantial number of points. Plan your spending to ensure you meet this requirement without unnecessary purchases.

Not Using Perks and Benefits

Many airline credit cards offer valuable perks like lounge access, travel insurance, and more. Not taking advantage of these benefits is akin to leaving money on the table.

Paying Interest on Balances

Carrying a balance on your credit card can quickly negate the value of any rewards earned. Try to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.

Strategies to Combine Credit Card Rewards with Airline Sales and Promotions

One of the best ways to maximize your airline loyalty points is to combine your credit card rewards with airline sales and promotions. Here’s how you can do it effectively.

Plan Ahead

Airlines often announce sales well in advance. Planning your travel and aligning it with these sales can help you get more value from your points. Set alerts for your preferred airlines to stay informed about upcoming deals.

Utilize Companion Tickets

Some airline credit cards offer companion tickets as part of their benefits. Combining these with sales can result in massive savings, allowing you to travel with a partner for less.

Use Points for Upgrades During Sales

During sales and promotions, upgrading your seat might require fewer points. Use your accrued points to move from economy to business class during these promotional periods for a better travel experience.

Layer Additional Discounts

If you have access to airline-specific discount codes or offers through your credit card, use them in conjunction with sales and promotions. This layered approach can multiply your savings.

Conclusion: Is an Airline Loyalty Program Credit Card Right for You?

Deciding whether an airline loyalty program credit card is right for you depends on several factors. The benefits can be substantial, but only if they align with your travel habits and financial situation.

Benefits Analysis

First, consider the advantages that come with the card. Sign-up bonuses, additional points on specific categories, and various travel perks can make a significant difference in your travel experience. However, these benefits are only worthwhile if you travel frequently enough to take advantage of them.

Financial Considerations

Annual and foreign transaction fees should also play a role in your decision. If the benefits outweigh these costs, an airline credit card can be a valuable tool. Conversely, if the fees are too high relative to the benefits you receive, it might be better to look for a lower-cost option or a different rewards card.

Personal Travel Habits

Lastly, consider your personal travel habits. If you are loyal to a specific airline and frequently fly with them, a co-branded credit card can offer the best value. On the other hand, if you prefer to fly with multiple airlines, a general travel rewards card might offer more flexibility.

In conclusion, an airline loyalty program credit card can be a powerful asset for frequent travelers. However, it’s essential to carefully evaluate your options and consider your spending habits to make the most informed decision.


  • Airline Loyalty Programs: These programs allow you to accumulate points or miles by flying, which can be used for free flights, upgrades, and other perks.
  • Partner Credit Cards: Many credit cards, like those from Delta, United, and American, partner with airlines to offer additional points and features.
  • Criteria: Look for cards with strong sign-up bonuses, good point-earning rates, reasonable annual fees, and special travel-related perks.
  • Top Cards: Examples include Chase Sapphire Preferred, Delta SkyMiles Gold, United Explorer Card, and American Express Platinum.
  • Maximization Tips: Align your spending with bonus categories, take advantage of promotional offers, and monitor your points and expiry dates.
  • Conversion Rates: Understand how your card points translate into airline miles and be aware of any conversion fees.
  • Credit Score: Your credit score affects your eligibility for premium cards. Improve it to increase your odds of approval.
  • Managing Multiple Cards: Use tools to track points, automate payments, and stay on top of annual fees.
  • Common Mistakes: Avoid ignoring fees, not meeting minimum spending requirements, or carrying a balance.
  • Combining Rewards and Sales: Plan travel during sales, use companion tickets, and layer discounts for maximum savings.


What is an airline credit card?

An airline credit card is a credit card that allows you to earn airline-specific points or miles for purchases, which can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, and other perks.

How can I maximize my airline credit card rewards?

You can maximize rewards by aligning spending with bonus categories, meeting sign-up bonus requirements, and combining points with airline sales and promotions.

Do I need a high credit score to get an airline credit card?

Most premium airline credit cards require a good to excellent credit score, typically above 700, for approval.

Are the annual fees on airline credit cards worth it?

The annual fee can be worth it if you make frequent use of the card’s benefits, such as earning points, enjoying travel perks, and accessing airport lounges.

Can I transfer points between different airline loyalty programs?

Some cards allow points to be transferred between multiple airline programs, but the conversion rates and options depend on the card.

Do airline loyalty points expire?

Yes, airline loyalty points can expire if there is no activity on your account for a certain period. It’s essential to keep track of expiry dates and use your points timely.

What are the risks of having multiple airline credit cards?

Managing multiple cards can get complicated. There are risks of missing payments, incurring unnecessary annual fees, and the potential negative impact on your credit score.

Is it better to have a co-branded airline card or a general travel rewards card?

It depends on your travel habits. A co-branded card is better if you’re loyal to a specific airline, while a general travel rewards card offers more flexibility for multiple airline programs.


  1. Chase. Ultimate Rewards Program Overview. Retrieved from:
  2. American Express. Membership Rewards Program Terms. Retrieved from:
  3. NerdWallet. Best Airline Credit Cards of October 2023. Retrieved from:
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