Let’s be honest, flight prices have continued to rise every single year. And let’s not mention the fact that perks now cost a fortune, or are eliminated completely. However, there are ways to earn perks, as well as cut the cost of your travel (whether for business or pleasure). How? Airline credit cards. And in particular, the best airline credit card in 2021.
The Best Airline Credit Card in 2021
So, what is the ultimate card for airline travel? Based on points earned, as well as other perks like 2x the points, the airline card that’s the best option isn’t actually an airline credit card at all!
The Top Airline Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows you to earn multiple perks, especially while traveling. For one, you can get over 60,000 bonus points (or $750) just by spending $4,000 in three months. You also get 2x the points on travel and dining (worldwide) and 1x the points on all other purchases.
Other perks include:
- Unlimited deliveries, a $0 delivery fee, and reduced service fees on all orders over $12 for one year on qualifying food purchases with DoorDash (Must register the card by December 31, 2021)
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
- Trip delay and cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance, rental car coverage, and travel assistance
- 25% “boost” when redeeming points ($25 for $100 redeemed)
- Can also transfer points to airlines including Aer Lingus, Air France/KLM, British Airways, Emirates, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United, and Virgin Atlantic.
Basically, you can use this card for any airline, which makes it the best airline credit card in 2021. This way, you can earn your points, and redeem them for the airline that you love, or that’s cheapest at the time of your booking.
The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is $95 a year, and regular APR rates range from 15.99% to 22.99%.
Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards in 2021
Other Airline Credit Cards You May Love
Yes, we decided the best airline credit card in 2021 is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, but there are actual airline cards that you should be aware of too. If you’re loyal to a specific airline, these cards can be super beneficial.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card
The Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card is the best choice for you if you fly Delta. You can earn SkyMiles in multiple spending categories, including but not limited to: restaurants, supermarkets, Delta flight purchases, and more. As a cardholder, you’ll earn 2x the miles on Delta purchases and at restaurants. You’ll also receive 1x miles on all other eligible purchases.
Other perks include:
- Priority boarding, even on crowded flights
- First checked bag is free
- Extra overhead space for carry-ons
You can also use your miles on multiple airlines that are apart of the SkyTeam airline alliance. These include:
- Air Europa
- Air France
- China Airlines
- China Eastern
- Kenya Airways
- Korean Air
- Middle East Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
- & more
The annual fee for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card is $0 for the first year, and then $99 a year after that. APR rates will range from 15.74% to 24.74%.
United℠ Explorer Card
If you prefer to fly United, you can enroll in and grab the United℠ Explorer Card. This card offers 2 miles per $1 spent on hotel stays, in restaurants, and on all purchases made from United. You also earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Other perks include:
- $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee voucher.
- 40,000 bonus miles if you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
You can also use your miles on multiple airlines that are apart of the Star Alliance. These include:
- Aegean Airlines
- Air Canada
- Air New Zealand
- Copa Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- & more
The annual fee for the United℠ Explorer Card is $0 for the first year, and then $95 a year after that. APR rates will range from 16.49% to 23.49%.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Using the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card earns you the Southwest Companion Pass. With this pass, you can get free tickets for a flying companion. These tickets are included on all of your itineraries for a full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earn the pass. To keep the pass, you need to earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards miles in one year.
That’s where the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes in. When you sign up for this card, you can earn a 40,000 point sign-up bonus in your first year, if you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. That’s 1/3 of the way to a companion pass.
You’ll also get other perks with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, including:
- 6,000 points a year on your card holding anniversary
- Spend points on flights, hotel rooms, gift cards, and more
The only con with this card is that Southwest doesn’t really partner with any other airlines in order for you to travel internationally. On top of that, Southwest doesn’t do much travel outside of the US, so keep that in mind if that’s something you want to do.
The annual fee for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is $99 a year, and APR rates will range from 15.99% to 22.99%.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®
And of course, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard® is the best card for you if you prefer flying American Airlines. Right now, you can get 60,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days.
However, it is important to note that you’ll also have to pay the $99 annual fee as soon as you sign up for the card. But the 60,000 points could equal a round-trip domestic flight, which easily cancels out the $99 fee.
You’ll also get quite a few perks with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®, including:
- 2 miles for every dollar spent on American Airline purchases
- 1 mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases
- First checked bag for free for you and four companions (domestic flights only)
- A Companion Certificate that is good for one companion at $99 for a flight (plus applicable taxes and fees)
- Great travel coverage, including travel accident insurance, rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, and cancellation insurance
This card does seem to have some of the better perks out of the other airline cards mentioned, and of course, it also adds up when you throw in international travel as well.
AAdvantage MileUp℠ Mastercard®
Did you know American Airlines has multiple credit card options? While we won’t be mentioning every single one, I did want to add in this one as a second option. Why? Because it’s great for those who don’t really “like” using credit cards, and those who are new to travel hacking.
The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Mastercard® has no annual fee, and APR rates will range from 15.99% to 24.99%.
The best perks about this card are:
- 2x miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores
- 2x miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases (like tickets!)
- 1x miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases
- 25% savings on in-flight food and beverages (great if flying international and you need extra)
- No limit to mileage earnings
- The ability to add authorized users and earn miles based on their purchases
If you’re new to credit cards, this is a great card to start with. If you are looking to build credit with your spouse or significant other, this is a great way for both of you to do it. You can’t really go wrong with this card, and I love that you can earn extra points just by grocery shopping.
The Best Airline Credit Card Options in 2021
Overall, you can’t really go wrong with any of these cards. Of course, it will all depend on your loyalty to a company, and/or what you want out of your miles and travel. These cards are great options for a variety of reasons, and the perks all look good.
Which card would you choose?
AUTHOR Kimberly Studdard
Kim Studdard is a strategy consultant, product launch expert, and mastermind behind the www.theentrepremomer.com. When she isn't spending time with her daughter and husband, or crying over This Is Us, you'll find her teaching other mompreneurs how to scale their business without scaling their workload.