Updated on Aug 16, 2019

Best Airline Cards of 2019

Earn your way toward a free trip more! Our picks for best airline credit cards help you travel with peace of mind.
Advertiser Disclosure

Independently researched content by us. Free financial advice for you. To do that, we may get compensation when you click on our partners’ products. Our lists consist of the best cards from our partners. Not all cards in the marketplace have been evaluated. View our full advertiser disclosure to learn more.

The best airline credit cards help you earn free flights, priority boarding, and access to exclusive airport lounges. Co-branded airline credit cards are a great option for anyone who travels often with a specific airline. We analyzed available airline credit cards and surface the very best below. Find your best match and apply today!

Best Airline Cards of 2019

  • Discover it® Miles – Best travel rewards for everyday spending
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – Best travel perks

  • Discover it® Miles APPLY NOW
    See Rates & Fees
    Best travel rewards for everyday spending Discover it® Miles
    Apply Now on Discover's secure website
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express APPLY NOW
    Partner Offer
    Best travel perks Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
    Apply Now on American Express's secure website
See Rates & Fees Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Best travel rewards for everyday spending

Discover it® Miles

Rewards Summary Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases
Annual Fee $0

Foreign Transaction Fee 0%
Current Offer First year mile-for-mile match
Travel perks Mile-for-mile rewards match
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 Miles per dollar on all purchases. .
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
  • Cash Advance APR: 27.24% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 10.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 14.24% - 25.24% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

You want to earn unlimited miles on everyday purchases without conditions or restrictions. It’s a great fit for anyone looking for flexibility when redeeming travel rewards.

How to use it
  • Buy everything with this card, especially in the first 12 months. You can earn 1.5x miles on every purchase, every day, with no restrictions. The more you spend, the more you’ll get back at the end of the year with Discover’s mile-for-mile match promotion.
  • Pay off any large purchases during the 14 month, 0% intro APR period to avoid interest payments (after that ongoing APR is 14.24% - 25.24% Variable).
  • Monitor your FICO® Credit Score for free online or on your monthly statements.
Consider this

The Discover it® Miles card isn’t an actual airline card despite offering some great opportunities to earn miles. As a result, you won’t get those great signup bonuses you can find with the other cards on this list. You also won’t be able to transfer these miles to airline or hotel loyalty programs. The upside is that there are no annual fees and it’s easy to earn miles without adjusting your spending strategy.

Why you'll love it

  • Great for everyday spending
  • No annual fees
  • 14 months of 0% intro APR to pay off a larger purchase over time and then the ongoing APR of 14.24% - 25.24% Variable

Start your application now Back to top
Partner Offer Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Best travel perks

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees
Rewards Summary 2x miles for eligible Delta purchases Terms apply
Annual Fee $95 (Waived first year)

Foreign Transaction Fee 0%
Current Offer 30,000 miles
Travel perks Starwood Crossover Rewards, priority boarding, and more
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on other purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 See Rates & Fees
  • Cash Advance APR: 27.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 17.74% - 26.74% Variable See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

You often travel with Delta. Frequent Delta fliers will find it easy to make up the $95 annual fee (waived first year) (See Rates & Fees) with baggage fee savings alone. Plus, you’ll get great perks including in-flight discounts, free bag check, and priority boarding.

How to use it
  • Use this card to buy Delta airfare and to take advantage of promotional point purchases from partners.
  • Pair this card with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (currently unavailable) to pool your points.
  • Enjoy free bag check, priority boarding, seat upgrades, and other in-flight perks when you fly with Delta.
Consider this

The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year and is a pretty standard rate compared to other cards. While that may turn some people off to the card, it more than makes up for it with travel perks like free bag check, priority boarding, and seat upgrades. Not to mention you can pool your points for some Starwoods Crossover Rewards.

Why you'll love it

  • Earn 2X miles for eligible Delta-related purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees)
  • Pair this card with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (currently unavailable) to pool points

Start your application now Back to top

The Best Airline Cards of 2019: Summed Up

Best for... Credit Card
Travel Rewards For Everyday Spending
Discover it® Miles See Rates & Fees
Discover it® Miles
Apply Now
Travel Perks
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express Partner Offer
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now

What is a mile on a credit card?

A “mile” on a credit card is a unit of currency used in the card’s rewards program. Each mile is worth a set amount that you earn based on the number of actual miles you fly or the amount you spend on your credit card. These “miles” are then redeemed to buy airline tickets, often for free or at extremely reduced prices. Airline miles may also be referred to as frequent flyer miles or travel points and rewards.

What’s the difference between credit card rewards and miles?

The main difference is how you earn and use the rewards vs. miles. In general, credit card rewards can be earned based on the dollar amount spent on a wide variety of everyday purchases — from groceries to gas to dining and more, including travel. These rewards are then redeemed for cash back, a statement credit, travel rewards, and more, depending on the card. Airline miles are usually earned through a frequent flyer program with a specific airline, or through an airline credit card that offers rewards miles. With frequent flyer programs, you’ll earn miles for each flight you take and then redeem them for a free flight after accumulating enough miles. An airline credit card operates similarly to the best cash back credit cards or best rewards credit cards. With an airline credit card, you’ll earn rewards based on the dollar amount spent on certain purchases that can later be redeemed for travel rewards, such as a free flight or hotel stay.

Getting the most out of your airline credit cards

Which card (or card combination) offers the best deal overall? Here’s a look at some pros and cons and potential strategies for maximizing your travel rewards:

Rewards rates

An airline card affiliated with a particular carrier may reserve its most generous rewards rate for purchases made directly from that airline. You might see a return of 2-3 points (or miles) for every dollar spent on airline tickets, while the rates for other purchases are commonly 1 point per $1. Other cards are sometimes more generous with rates for everyday purchases. What about cards that aren’t affiliated with specific airline brands but still offer rewards points for travel purchases? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one example, offering 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1X point on all other purchases. Here’s a recap of the rewards rates for purchases offered by our top airline credit cards:

Card Rewards rates
Discover it® Miles
    • 1.5X Miles on all purchases
 
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
    • 2X miles on eligible Delta purchases
    • 1X miles on eligible other purchases
 
As you can see, not all airline cards have one-dimensional rewards programs. As for which type of card offers your ideal rewards rate, a great deal depends on your spending habits and goals.

Annual fees

Looking at the five cards profiled on this page, you see a bit of variation on annual fees: If an annual fee (or lack of one) is your central concern in choosing a credit card, remember that many cards have generous rewards programs that can offset the cost of the fee. A lot depends on how frequently you plan to use the card and earn rewards.

Current offers

For a quick comparison of current offers, here’s a similar rundown of our top cards: Some intro bonuses are more generous than others, and some easier to obtain than others. One way to approach a large bonus with a correspondingly large spending requirement could be to put a long-awaited big purchase on the card early on. This strategy is most advisable when the card also has a 0% introductory APR so you can avoid interest while paying off that big-ticket item. Here’s one thing to note about the Discover it® Miles: Although the card doesn’t have a signup bonus like the others on this list, it does offer to automatically match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder. As with any type of credit card, it’s best to think about the value of the signup bonus and whether your spending habits make it easily attainable.

Secondary perks

As you might expect, benefits such as free checked luggage and priority boarding are often central to airline/travel cards and not offered by more general rewards cards.

For rates and fees of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, please click here.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.