Before you go about selecting the best airline card for your needs, you need to determine if this is the right credit card for you. There are other credit card options, including general travel credit cards. These types of cards can give you rewards for travel without you having to choose a particular airline. Sometimes, they are easier to understand, as well.
However, many people go with an airline credit card for a variety of reasons.
Is It Right for You?
Do you always find yourself flying the same airline? If you prefer to fly with the same airline each time, regardless of deals and choice, then an airline card might be the best choice for you. Each time you fly with that airline, you earn points. As you build up your point base, you can use the points for things, such as discounts on upcoming flights, free flights, upgrades to better seating, and more.
Do you fly often? If you don’t tend to fly for vacations or other travel needs, an airline card might not be best for you because you won’t earn points/rewards if you don’t purchase airplane tickets. If you usually fly four or more times a year, an airline credit card could be a good choice for you.
Do you always check your bags? Most airlines charge you to check your luggage, though a select few offers one or two checked bags for free. Therefore, if you frequently travel by air and always have a large suitcase full of clothes, you may want to get an airline credit card. The best airline card is going to allow you a free checked bag for you and possibly a companion on the same itinerary.
If you look at the price of checked bags, you can easily save a lot of money by utilizing the free checked bag perk of your card.
An exception that proves the rule is Southwest Airlines. As of 2017, it did not charge anything for the first two bags that were checked. You can get an airline card through Southwest, but it won’t offer bag checking.
Choosing the Best Airline Card
With an airline card, you earn miles through the frequent flyer program of that carrier. The primary concern here isn’t with the features of the card, and many card offerings and perks are similar among the major carriers.
Instead, you need to determine if you’re going to always fly that particular airline. For example, if you are in Minneapolis or Atlanta, you are likely to fly Delta Air Lines. If you’re in San Francisco or Houston, you’re likely to fly United Airlines. Those in Charlotte or Miami may fly American Airlines most frequently.
If a particular carrier dominates the home airport or you already like one carrier better than others, your search is, essentially, complete. You should choose the airline you tend to fly most often so that you can earn and redeem miles without much effort.
The goal here is to earn enough points for a flight that you’re going to want/need when the time comes. You may also want those perks that your card offers, such as checked bags, to be utilized as often as possible. Doing this can help prevent you from having to take out a no credit check loan when you go on your beach vacation.
Once you have the right airline in mind, your next step is to find the best airline card within that airline. Most airline credit cards or other travel cards have at least two options – the basic and premium cards. It’s best to weigh the pros and cons of each card. Remember, you’re likely to have annual fees for the card and are likely to spend more on fees for a premium card. Still, they can be beneficial if you plan to use the premium perks often.
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