In a U.S. News and World Report survey, twenty percent of travel rewards cardholders reported that they pay more in interest on their purchases than they earn in miles. But if they had the best airline credit card, maybe they would be able to do a bit better.
For many, the best airline credit card will be one that you can use on any airline. After all, there are two different types of cards: cobranded cards for a specific airline, and travel rewards cards that provide users with a larger selection of airline carriers.
If you want to make the most of your miles and go on the trip of your dreams, keep reading to learn about the best cards being offered in 2018.
What is an Airline Credit Card?
Years ago, businesspeople would sign up for an airline credit card to earn miles while they were traveling for work that they could use in their leisure time. But as times continue to change, more miles have become necessary for booking a flight and the number of seats that are available for rewards members has declined.
Beyond the miles you can earn, the best airline credit cards offer additional perks like free checked bags, seat upgrades, priority boarding, and sometimes access to some sort of airport business lounge.
Flaws of Many Travel Cards
Airline credit cards aren’t beneficial for everyone. For many, the card will never earn as much as it has cost. In fact, in a U.S. News and World Report survey, seven percent of respondents claimed they don’t earn enough in rewards for them to offset the annual fee of their card.
In addition to those people, thirteen percent of respondents said that they carry a balance on their card from month to month. That means that they will end up paying more in interest than they could earn in rewards.
If you are planning on carrying a balance on your credit card, it doesn’t make sense for you to have a travel rewards card. While you may get one or two percent of your purchase refunded in rewards, you will be paying anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five percent interest on that transaction.
Another thing you should take into consideration when you are choosing the best airline credit card is that there are a lot of different ways to go about earning your rewards. Some cards allow you to earn miles on all your purchases, while others only reward those purchases that relate to travel.
You should also know if the card you are considering has any sort of redemption structure. Many will have cardholder tiers that require you to reach a certain amount of miles before you can use any towards a purchase. Be sure you read the fine print before you open an account.
Make sure that you also pay special attention to the wording regarding annual fees and promotional offer terms. You may find a card that offers introductory interest rates that could go up later and annual fees on travel cards can be significant.
The next thing you should notice is if there are any restrictions on your redemption. You should know what blackout dates there are, which flights you have access to, and what time of day you will be allowed to book your travel. You don’t want to be jumping through hoops later when you go to cash in your rewards.
Understanding How to Benefit from Airline Credit Cards
The more purchases you put on your airline credit card, the more miles you earn that you can redeem for free flights. In addition, many credit cards offer rewards for rental cars and hotels that they partner with.
When you find the best airline credit card, you will probably also be offered lucrative sign-up bonuses of extra points, more miles, or even automatic free flights. You should look and see what offers are available to you before you make a selection.
In addition, many credit cards offer discounts to their cardholders such as money off their in-flight purchases or money off their airfare when they book. Some cards may even offer companion fare discounts for friends of cardholders.
But that is just where the privileges start. The best airline credit card will also be able to help you get ahead with dedicated boarding times, seat upgrades, and complimentary snacks and drinks.
Airline credit cards are especially valuable to international travelers. They often waive foreign transaction fees that can pile up while you are on vacation. You may also be offered some sort of trip insurance through your status as a cardholder.
Considerations Before Opening an Account
Before you sign up for the best airline credit card you can find, you need to take into consideration how much money you actually spend on air travel. If you aren’t traveling frequently, or if you visit destinations that are served by different airlines, then you may find more satisfaction in another style of reward card.
In addition, you need to consider your credit score before filling out a request for a new card. If you have bad credit, you may not be able to qualify for the best airline credit card. Typically, they require scores of at least 670 for new account holders.
If you want to get the most out of your credit card, then you need to make sure that you can pay off your balance every month. A travel rewards card should be taken on when you are debt-free and ready to make payments. Otherwise, your interest payments will quickly outpace your rewards return.
How to Choose the Best Airline Credit Card
There are a few simple steps that can guide you to the best airline credit card for your particular needs.
First, you should consider which rewards program is right for you. Take into consideration how much you travel and on what airlines.
Next, you should calculate the earning potential of the card. How much are you currently spending on travel? And how much of that could you eliminate by using rewards?
Make sure that you pay attention to the redemption value of your miles. You may be surprised to find that one mile earned doesn’t equate to one mile traveled.
You also should factor in any introductory offers and sign-up bonuses, but if you are planning on using the card for many years, don’t focus on that too much. You may be able to save money in the first year and then see fees and charges sneak up on you down the road.
Make sure that you also pay attention to any annual fees the card carries and that you understand its travel benefits and how you can use them.
Best Airline Credit Card for 2018
Now that you understand a little bit more about this kind of credit card and what it can do for you, it’s time to pick a card. Here are the top cards for 2018 based on current offers.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card starts you off strong, with an introductory offer of 50,000 points if you can spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months. Those points translate to about $500 in statement credits or $620 if you cash them in through Chase’s travel portal.
The points can also be transferred to be used on United, Southwest, or Hyatt purchases. Potentially, that could make your points worth even more. Since you can select from either United or Southwest flights, you will also have a lot of options for booking when you go to redeem your points.
This card offers double points for every dollar you spend on travel or dining out anywhere in the world, and the $95 annual fee it carries is waived for new cardholders in their first year. That makes it one of the top travel cards out there.
Capital One Venture Card
If simplicity is something you’re looking for in the best airline credit card, then you would be very pleased with this one. It doesn’t force you to be loyal to a particular airline or hotel company.
Instead, you have the freedom to book with whatever app or website you like and your rewards will be able to go to any airline, hotel, or car rental company.
Capital One Venture cardholders also enjoy double miles on all of their purchases, they don’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees, and they don’t have any blackout dates for their travel.
New account holders can expect to earn 50,000 points once they have spent $3,000 on the card in the first three months. Then, they will earn two miles per dollar they spend from there on out.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards
For some, the best airline credit card may be the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. It is a nontraditional card offered primarily to Bank of America customers. It offers no foreign transaction or annual fees and is equipped with an EMV chip for security.
For people who currently bank with Bank of America, they will see a higher rewards rate based on the existing balance in their account. If their bank account has more than $50,000 in it, then they will be able to receive rewards rates of 2.25%-2.63%. This is in contrast to the card’s standard reward of 1.5% for every dollar spent.
In general, that means existing account holders can get an additional 10% more points on average than non-Bank of America customers who choose to open this card.
The BankAmericard does not have any blackout dates and allows you to book your travel with your preferred airline and your points will never expire.
It offers 20,000 bonus points for new cardholders who make at least $1,000 worth of purchases on the card in the first three months it has been open. That equates to about a $200 statement credit that you can use for travel purchases.
American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
What makes the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card a contender for best airline credit card of the year is its $100 annual airline fee credit. That means that cardholders receive $100 every year that can go towards baggage fees or other incidentals related to air travel.
You will also earn triple points for every dollar you spend with an airline. They even include a $75 hotel credit to sweeten the deal that comes with a free room upgrade when you arrive.
Amex PRG is best for travelers who spend a decent amount of money on airline purchases and are looking for a flexible card for their rewards.
The card gives you 25,000 points after you have spent $2,000 within your first three months of opening the account. You will also receive triple points for any flights that you choose to book directly with an airline.
In addition, you will get double points for any money spent at restaurants, gas states, or grocery stores in the United States and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
On the negative side, this card carries a $195 annual fee, which is fairly steep compared to other cards. It is also an American Express card, which isn’t always accepted wherever Visa and Mastercard are.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite is excellent for travelers that want to redeem their points for any travel purchase. It starts you off with 40,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first three months of being an account holder. That equates to a statement credit of $400.
You will also earn double points on every purchase you make and those points can be redeemed for travel, cash back, gift cards, as well as merchandise.
What makes this possibly the best airline credit card is, when you redeem your points, you won’t go back to a balance of zero points. You will be given 5% back to use on your next redemption and your miles never expire.
More Financial Offerings
Although finding the best airline credit card is appealing to many people, there are other ways to save money so that you can afford to go on more trips.
If you are looking for more options to make your dream vacation a reality, contact us today.