What Is the Best Credit Card for Airline Miles?

If you’re a frequent traveler, chances are you’ve signed up with just about every frequent flyer program available. After all, accruing miles not only gets you free flights, drinks, checked bags and more, but also a chance to upgrade seats and speed through security. (Learn more about how frequent flyer programs work on this One Minute Travel Tip.)

But if you want to take your frequent flier game to the next level, you can sign up for a credit card that offers travel perks; there are plenty of programs available both through specific airlines and banks. Many of these programs offer enticing signup bonuses ahead of busy travel seasons (think summer and the holidays), so act while the iron is hot.

Of course, picking out the best card is tough – each card has advantages for different types of travelers. For example, the best credit card for a Delta loyalist is not necessarily the best card for someone who only flies once or twice a year. With that in mind, we took at look at what’s out there and came up with the ideal card for what you value the most.

Best credit cards for airline loyalists

Continental Airlines OnePass Plus card [apply here]Travel deals when you use your Continental Airlines card

  • One mile for every dollar spent on regular purchases, two miles for every dollar spent on Continental or United tickets
  • Priority boarding
  • Two annual Presidents Club Day Passes
  • First checked bag free
  • Special guest privileges through the luxury hotel and resort collection
  • Earn an additional 5,000 bonus miles when you add an authorized user to your account and use the card, both within two months of opening your account
  • Use miles for car rentals and hotel stays
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Points don’t expire

APR: 10.99 percent

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Signing bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus miles after first use, and 10,000 annually (after spending $25,000)

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus credit card [apply here]Southwest Airlines offers rewards and travel points

    • Two points for every dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases, and Southwest Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. One point for every dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Points can be redeemed for international travel to more than 800 destinations on 500+ carriers
  • Use points for car rentals and hotel stays
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Points don’t expire

APR: 14.24 percent

Annual fee: $69

Signing bonus: 25,000 points plus 3,000 points on your first anniversary

Best credit cards for the occasional traveler

Escape by Discover [apply here]Great deals with Discover card for travel

  • Earn two miles for every dollar spent and four miles for every dollar spent shopping on their online mall – ShopDiscover.
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Miles don’t expire
  • Miles can be redeemed for flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages and cash
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions
  • Fly on any airline
  • Travel insurance benefits include car rental, lost or damaged luggage, travel delay and trip cancellation

APR: 10.99 to 16.99 percent

Annual fee: $60

Signing bonus: For the first 25 months you have the card, you can earn an additional 1,000 miles a month as long as you use the card; that adds up to an extra 25,000 miles.

Capital One Venture Rewards [apply here]Capital One Venture Card earns miles that never expire

Details:

  • Rated as Money magazine’s “Best Rewards Card if you aim to rack up airline miles”
  • Earn two miles for every dollar spent on every purchase every day
  • Redeem your miles for any travel expense
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Miles don’t expire
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions
  • Fly on any airline
  • No foreign transaction fees

APR: 11.9 to 19.9 percent

Annual fee: $59 (waived the first year)

Signing bonus: 25,000 Capital One No Hassle Miles when you spend $1,000 within the first three months.

Best credit card with no annual fee

Chase Sapphire Card [apply here]Chase Sapphire earns best rewards on travel

  • Earn two points for every dollar spent on dining, flights and hotels, 10 points for purchases online at the Ultimate Rewards mall, and one point per dollar on all other purchases
  • No limit to the number of points you can earn
  • Points don’t expire
  • Points can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, merchandise and cash back
  • Travel insurance benefits include car rental, lost or damaged luggage, travel delay and trip cancellation
  • 24/7 real-person customer service

APR: 15.24

Annual fee: None

Signing bonus: Earn 25,000 points for spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Best credit card for the international traveler

Platinum Card from AmEx [apply here]American Express Platinum card earn rewards, points and perks

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual $200 credit toward incidentals on your favorite airline
  • Complimentary access to airline lounges through Priority Pass
  • $100 credit toward Global Entry program
  • 20 percent Membership Rewards bonus on travel purchases
  • Exclusive upgrades and amenities at fine hotels and resorts worldwide
  • Complimentary companion airfare with purchase of qualifying first- or business-class international ticket

APR: N/A

Annual fee: $450

Signing bonus: Earn 25,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

 

 

 

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Published: February 16, 2012