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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

The best airline credit cards of 2020

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The best airline credit cards of 2020

Meghan HunterThe best airline credit cards of 2020Million Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Fasten your seatbelts. We’ve compiled a list of the top credit card offers to consider right now for award flights to help you ring in a new year of travel. If you’re loyal to a particular airline, you can do well by opening an airline credit card that rewards you for your business with a more comfortable travel experience and extra miles for your next award trip. You get perks like free checked bags and priority boarding, along with benefits specific to each card.

Best airline miles credit cards of 2020

Comparing airline credit card offers

Airline Credit CardsIntro BonusBest PerkAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your accountThe ability to transfer points to valuable hotel and airline partners.$95
The Platinum Card® from American Express60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Terms Apply.The ability to transfer points to valuable travel partners.$550 annual fee (see rates & fees)
United℠ Explorer CardFor a limited time, earn up to 65,000 bonus miles; 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open. If you have this card, you'll receive access to more award seats than folks without the card!$95 annual fee, waived the first year
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card50,000 Venture miles (worth $500 in travel) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.Best card for rewards that are easiest to redeem.$95, waived for first 12 months.
CitiBusiness® / Advantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
You’ll get your first bag checked for free on domestic itineraries for you and up to four traveling companions plus preferred boarding$99, waived for first 12 months
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card40,000 Alaska Airlines miles, plus Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening account. (Only available to those who haven't had the card before)Each year you’re a cardmember, you’ll get a companion fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22), that’s valid on all Alaska Airlines flights with no blackout dates.$75
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express30,000 bonus miles after you spend $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.Free checked bag for you and up to 8 travel companions on the same reservation$95, waived for the first year. See (rates and fees)
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.Priority boarding and a free checked bag for you and up to 8 travel companions on the same reservation$195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) See (rates and fees)

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Card
70,000 Southwest points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account openingThe points you earn DO count toward the Southwest Companion Pass $199
Plan your next adventure with the best airline credit cards. (Photo courtesy of BABAROGA/Shutterstock)

Comparing best airline miles credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Bonus

When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.

Ongoing earnings

Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders get:

  • 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining
  • 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all other purchases

Benefits

You’ll also get perks like:

  • Primary car rental insurance: Covers damage from theft or collision to your rental car when you pay for the rental with your card.
  • Trip delay reimbursement: Get up to $500 back per ticket on meals and lodging when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay.
  • Extended warranty protection: Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by a year on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Baggage delay insurance: Reimburses you for purchases like toiletries and clothing during baggage delays longer than six hours by a passenger carrier, up to $100 a day for five days.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

The $95 annual fee is definitely worth it because when you earn the welcome bonus, that’s $600 cash or $750 in travel (with no blackout dates) or over $1,000 in award travel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the #1 card we recommend for beginners in the miles-and-points hobby. The sign-up bonus is worth $750 in travel when you book through the Chase travel portal and you can get even more value by transferring the points you earn to airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, Southwest and United Airlines.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Bonus

With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account.

Ongoing earnings

  • 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare (booked either directly with the airline or through Amex Travel)
  • 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel
  • 1x Membership Rewards point per dollar on everything else
  • Terms apply

The 5x Membership Rewards points you’ll earn on flights booked directly with the airlines and on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel is the highest earning rate for flights of any credit card.

Benefits

With the Amex Platinum, you’ll also get perks like:

  • Up to $200 in Uber credits annually
  • Up to $200 annual airline-fee credit
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • Airport lounge access
  • Elite car rental status with Avis, Executive status with National Car Rental and Gold Plus Rewards with Hertz
  • Free Hilton Honors and Marriott Gold elite status (free breakfast and upgrades when available)
  • Terms apply

For information on lounges at your home airport or favorite airport, check out this post on how to find Amex Platinum airport lounges.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

The card has a $550 annual fee, which is not waived (see rates and fees). If you use the perks and credits, you’ll easily come out ahead and find the annual fee worth it.

Amex Platinum bottom line

The Amex Platinum is useful for anyone looking to earn a nice stash of Amex Membership Rewards points, especially if you can make the most of the card’s perks. You’ll find our full review of the Amex Platinum card here.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

Bonus offer

You’ll earn up to 65,000 bonus miles — 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open. The 40,000 United Airlines miles are easily good for a round-trip coach ticket within the U.S. as those tickets start at only 25,000 United Airlines miles.

Ongoing earnings

  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • 1 United Airlines mile per dollar spent on everything else

Cool perks

The Chase United Explorer Card enhances your travel experience in multiple ways with a variety of benefits and perks.

The card comes with priority boarding and two one-time United Club lounge passes per cardmember year. Plus, you’ll get a $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, which is a huge timesaver at U.S. airport security checkpoints. Everyone on the MMS team has either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (you can read about TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry here).

One of my favorite benefits of the card is that you receive access to more award seats than travelers who don’t have the card. In other words, if you go online to book a seat, you may see plenty of options where others see none.

Another gem of a perk is primary car rental insurance when you charge the entire rental to the card. You can decline paying $15 a day to the car rental agency because the Chase United Explorer card will cover you for free.

The card also comes with trip-delay insurance. When your travel is delayed 12+ hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for expenses like meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Free checked bag 

You’ll get your first bag checked for free on domestic itineraries for you and a companion when you use the card to pay for your ticket.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

Absolutely. If you take two round-trip flights per year with checked bags, you’ll save money by keeping this card. And the lounge passes are valuable too. Plus, if you use the $100 credit to pay for Global Entry, you’ll come out ahead of the $95 annual fee right from the start.

Chase United Explorer bottom line

The Chase United Explorer has so many meaningful benefits that it would make sense for almost anyone. Here’s our full review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus

You can earn 50,000 Venture miles (worth $500 in travel) by applying for the Capital One Venture card and spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.

The card has a straightforward rewards program, which means the miles are easy to redeem. All you have to do is pay for travel expenses (such as airfare, hotel stays and parking) with your credit card. Then, log into your account and erase the charge by redeeming your miles.

The Capital One Venture is perhaps the best credit card for points that you can use for nearly anything related to travel. Check out this post with outside-the-box ways to redeem Venture miles, like Costco travel packages.

Ongoing earnings

In addition to the card’s valuable welcome bonus, you’ll get:

  • 2x Venture miles per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (up to $100)

Cool perks

The Venture card comes with perks like Visa Signature Benefits, including:

  • Rental car insurance: Secondary protection for damage from collision or theft
  • Travel accident insurance: Up to $250,000 insurance for accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech or hearing
  • Lost luggage insurance: Up to $3,000 per trip, provided the luggage was lost from theft or misdirection by the airline, cruise line, etc.

Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees.

Is the Capital One Venture card worth the annual fee?

This card has a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. That’s an excellent deal for a card with a good welcome offer and benefits like reimbursement of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, so it’s certainly worth it.

Capital One Venture bottom line

This is a great travel credit card. The miles are easy to use and it reimburses you with a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, which saves time at airport.

Bonus offer

Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of opening the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select.

The introductory bonus alone is enough for a round-trip coach saver ticket to Europe. (Photo by S.Borisov/Shutterstock)

Ongoing earnings

  • 2 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 2 American Airlines miles per dollar spent at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations
  • 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent on other purchases

Cool perks

With the card’s benefits, you’ll receive preferred boarding. Also, when you fly American Airlines, you get a 25% savings on inflight food, drinks and Wi-Fi purchased with the card. This is also a good card to take abroad because it has no foreign transaction fees.

Free checked bag 

Yes. You’ll get your first bag checked for free on domestic itineraries for you and up to four traveling companions. Checked bags cost $30 each way, so if you travel with a family, this could mean hundreds of dollars in savings, even if you take only a few trips each year.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

This is a toughie. If you fly American Airlines regularly, you’ll easily make up the $99 annual fee with the free checked-bag benefit. The fee is waived for the first 12 months, so it’s absolutely a no-brainer for the first year.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard bottom line

Early boarding is handy. Free checked bags can save you lots of money. The welcome bonus of 65,000 American Airlines miles is more than enough for a free round-trip coach flight to Europe. If you’re an American Airlines regular, this card is hard to beat.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Bonus offer

You’ll earn 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles and a Companion Fare (from $121 — $99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Alaska Airlines miles are some of the most valuable around. Thanks to partnerships with many excellent international airlines, you can use your miles to fly almost anywhere in the world. Plus, domestic award flights on Alaska Airlines start at only 5,000 miles each way in coach.

Ongoing earnings

  • 3 Alaska Airlines miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases
  • 1 Alaska Airlines mile per dollar on everything else

Benefits

You’ll get your first bag checked for free for you and up to six traveling companions. Alaska Airlines charges $30 per checked bag, so a single round-trip flight almost negates the $75 annual fee. Plus, each year you’re a cardmember, you’ll get a Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22), valid on all Alaska Airlines flights with no blackout dates. That perk alone can save hundreds of dollars, without even accounting for the card’s other benefits and perks.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

The $75 annual fee is on the lower end of what we see for airline credit cards. Alaska Airlines miles are tough to earn, so getting 3x miles on Alaska Airlines flights is an easy way to rack ’em up. If you use the annual Companion Fare, it’s a no-brainer to keep the card, even with the annual fee.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card bottom line

Folks who live on the West Coast will get tons of value from this card. Because Alaska Airlines has such diverse airline partners, earning miles with this card is a good idea for just about everyone. You can read our review of the card here.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Bonus offer

Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first three months and up to a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first three months.

Ongoing earnings

  • 2 miles per $1 spent with Delta
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else

Cool perks

If you use your card on certain inflight purchases, you’ll receive a credit of 20% off the original purchase price on your Amex statement within six to eight weeks after the transaction is posted to your account. In addition, Amex Gold Delta SkyMiles cardholders receive complimentary priority boarding for the cardmember and up to eight additional people flying on the same itinerary, making the benefits of the card especially useful for frequent Delta flyers.

Free checked bag 

With the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the primary cardholder and up to eight others traveling on the same reservation will enjoy one free checked bag each. With baggage fees starting at $30 per bag, this could add up to some serious savings.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

For an annual fee of $95 (see rates and fees) that’s waived for the first year, it’s easy to come out ahead of the annual fee. The welcome bonus is easily worth at least $600. That’s not including the value you’ll get from the card’s other perks. At a minimum, it’s worth trying for the first year to see if it’s right for you.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express bottom line

With an annual fee of $95 that’s waived for the first year and a welcome bonus potentially worth hundreds of dollars, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is definitely worth considering. Here’s our review.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Bonus offer

Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first three months.

Ongoing earnings

  • 2x Delta miles per dollar spent on Delta, including flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club membership or passes, Delta Vacations packages, upgrades and inflight purchases
  • 1 Delta mile per dollar spent on everything else

Cool perks

This card comes with a number of valuable perks, including the fact that you and up to eight passengers on your reservation can board your flight when Zone 1 Priority Boarding is called.

Plus, upon renewal of the card each year, Amex Delta Platinum cardholders are granted a companion certificate. With it, travelers can add a friend to their domestic Delta reservation for only the price of taxes and fees. The companion certificate covers one round-trip companion ticket in coach.

Free checked bag? 

As an Amex Delta Platinum cardholder, you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation will get your first checked bag for free.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

The card’s $195 annual fee ($250 if application is received on or after Jan. 30, 2020) (see rates and fees) is not waived the first year. But it’s easy to offset the fee with the perks you’ll get from this card. The welcome bonus alone is worth at least $750 when you use Pay With Miles.

Amex Delta Platinum Credit Card bottom line

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express is a great option for folks who frequently travel with Delta. If you value Delta miles and Delta elite status and can use money-saving perks like the annual companion certificate and free checked bag, this card is well worth the $195 annual fee. Be sure to check out our Platinum Delta Amex review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card

Bonus offer

The Southwest Performance Business Card comes with a welcome bonus of 70,000 Southwest points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. That’s worth approximately $1,050 in travel with Southwest, because the value of Southwest points is about 1.5 cents each.

Ongoing earnings

  • 3x Southwest points per dollar on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car purchases
  • 2x Southwest points per dollar on social media and search advertising
  • 2x Southwest points per dollar on internet, cable and phone service
  • 1x Southwest point per dollar on everything else
  • 9,000 Southwest points each cardmember anniversary

Cool perks

The Southwest Performance Business Card comes with a number of different benefits like a statement credit of up to $100 every four years toward the application fee for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. You’ll also receive four upgraded boarding certificates each year and up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits (worth $8 each) with the card each year.

Free checked bag?

Everyone on a Southwest flight gets two free checked bags.

Is the card worth the annual fee?

The value of the welcome offer alone is enough to offset the card’s $199 annual fee, so there’s no doubt this card is worth it.

Southwest Performance Business card bottom line

We highly recommend the new Southwest Performance Business Card, not just for the card’s welcome bonus of 70,000 Southwest points (worth ~$1,050 in airfare) after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account but for the card’s great benefits too. The intro bonus alone will get you well on your way to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. You can read our full review of the Southwest Performance business card here.

If you have a small business, you can turn operating expenses into Southwest award flights. (Photo by NextNewMedia/Shutterstock)

How we choose the best airline credit cards

Credit card introductory bonuses are the fastest way to earn big travel rewards without spending a lot of money. Here are the factors we consider:

Bonus offer: Credit card companies offer card bonuses to lure new customers because that’s how they make money — from customers using their cards.

Minimum spending requirement: To earn an introductory bonus on most credit cards you must spend a certain amount on your new card within a certain timeframe. The best offers have reasonable spending requirements or offer a huge reward if the minimum spending requirements are larger.

Ongoing bonus opportunities: We prefer airline credit cards that offer ongoing earnings, even after you earn the initial big welcome bonus.

Benefits: Airline credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees and expanded award availability are some of our favorites.

Which airline credit cards are the best?

Our favorite airline credit cards right now are:

What’s your favorite airline credit card?

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For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please clichere. 

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Delta Skymiles Card, please clichere. 

For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Platinum Skymiles Card, please click here.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on other purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 roundtrip for a family of four.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on your Delta flights, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee ($250 if application received on or after 1/30/2020).
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Anyone else find it odd they left Delta off completely? It appears they only promoted cards they get a commission for.

Interesting how when they recycled this piece, Oct 5, it had write ups for the Delta Gold, with the recently increased offer, and Delta Platinum with older no miles offer in the write up but an apply now with recently increased 75k offer.

For both Alaska Airlines (personal and business) credit cards, the article’s chart says “Only available to those who haven’t had the card before”.

Since when the Bank of America added this restriction? Isn’t this a typo?

I can understand value for people with no status on an airline (free bag, priority boarding etc) but I have decided airline cards are worthless (outside of initial bonus). First of all I am lifetime Platinum on American and lifetime Gold on Delta so checked bags, seat selection and priority boarding are covered. I had the Citibank executive card since it included Admirals Club access (annual Admirals Club fee alone covered cost of the card). However now retired and not living on airlines so cancelled that and got Barclays Red card. However also have Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum so get more value booking flights on those cards. Therefore cancelling Barclays card before next renewal. I do have both Hilton and Marriott cards (lifetime Titanium and Hilton golf w both Amex Platinum and Hilton Amex). I still don’t put much on these cards outside of stays at their hotel (gas on Hilton Amex is an exception) but the free night annually and ability to earned a lot of bonus points make them valuable IMHO

Given the competition I really don’t see how most airline cards can compete, especially if you have lifetime status.

CitiBusiness has a long memory. I filed bankruptcy 25 years ago in which I included a this card’s balance. I applied for this card 5 years ago and was rejected for that reason. Anyone have any ideas on how to qualify for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage card?

I would call and ask for a reconsideration. Or just straight out ask what can you do to qualify for another Citi card.

They might require payment of the debt or something like that, but that might be the only option if it was 25 years ago and they’re using it as a reason to turn you down.

United MileAgePlus is offering an 85% bonus when purchasing miles. Purchase 94,000 miles get 79,900 bonus miles for a total of 173,900 miles for $3220. This seems like a good deal. Comments?

Thanks, Bryan

Nicolas Florez

I love, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card cause there are no black out days. Also it gives a lot of points!!!

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