Best Credit Cards For Buying Airline Tickets

Best Credit Cards For Buying Airline Tickets

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Using the right credit card for airfare purchases can help you rack up points quickly, especially if you’re anything like me, and spend a lot on air travel (at least in the long run).

Over the years a lot has changed regarding the best credit cards to use for airfare purchases, so in this post I wanted to take a closer look at that. There are a couple of key things to consider when deciding which card to use for buying airline tickets:

  • Which card offers the best return on spending (either in terms of cash back, or based on your valuation of points) for airfare purchases?
  • Which card offers the best travel protection for airfare purchases?

Ideally you’ll find a card that ticks both of those boxes. With that in mind, let’s talk about the all-around best cards for purchasing your airline tickets.

Best personal cards for buying airline tickets August 2022

Below I’ll talk about what I consider to be the best personal cards for airline ticket purchases. With each card I’ll note the rewards points offered, how much I value those points, and the travel protection offered, if any.

I’ll be sorting these cards based on a combination of my perceived value of the points offered plus the travel protection offered, if any. Some cards also offer extra bonus points when you book through a credit card portal, so I’ll note when that’s the case (that has its pros and cons).

Everyone will have to decide for themselves how much they value the travel protection in comparison to the rewards points offered.

1. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Reward for airline spending: 5x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 8.5%)
Card annual fee: $695 (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: none (Rates & Fees)
Travel protection: trip cancelation and interruption coverage, trip delay coverage

The Amex Platinum is the best card for airfare purchases, between the 5x points and the travel protection.

Read a review of the Amex Platinum, apply for the Amex Platinum.

2. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Reward for airline spending: 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Card annual fee: $550
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: trip cancelation and interruption coverage, trip delay coverage, delayed and lost luggage coverage

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a well-rounded card for airfare purchases, thanks to the 3x points combined with the excellent travel protection. Furthermore, note that you can earn 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Travel portal.

Read a review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

3. American Express® Green Card

Reward for airline spending: 3x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Card annual fee: $150
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: trip delay coverage

The Amex Green offers 3x points on airfare purchases, along with trip delay coverage, so it’s a good option for those looking to earn Amex points for airfare, without springing for the Amex Platinum.

Read a review of the Amex Green Card, apply for the Amex Green.

4. American Express® Gold Card

Reward for airline spending: 3x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Card annual fee: $250 (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: none (Rates & Fees)
Travel protection: trip delay coverage

Much like the Amex Green, the Amex Gold offers 3x points on airfare purchases, along with trip delay coverage.

Read a review of the Amex Gold, apply for the Amex Gold.

5. Citi Premier® Card

Reward for airline spending: 3x Citi ThankYou points (which I value at 5.1%)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: none

While the Citi Premier offers a solid return on airfare spending, unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any travel protection.

Read a review of the Citi Premier, apply for the Citi Premier.

6. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for airline spending: 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 3.4%)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: trip cancelation and interruption coverage, trip delay coverage, delayed and lost luggage coverage

The Chase Sapphire Preferred strikes an excellent balance between offering bonus points on travel, and also offering great travel coverage. The card also offers 10% anniversary bonus points, calculated from base spending. Furthermore, note that you can earn 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Travel portal.

Read a review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, apply for the Sapphire Preferred.

7. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Reward for airline spending: 2x Capital One Venture miles (which I value at 3.4%)
Card annual fee: $395
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: trip cancelation and interruption coverage, trip delay coverage, lost luggage coverage

The Capital One Venture X offers 2x Venture miles on all purchases, so this isn’t even a bonus category, but rather just a very well rounded return on spending, along with great travel coverage. Furthermore, if you book through Capital One Travel, then you can earn 5x miles on airfare purchases. Don’t be alarmed by the annual fee, as the card offers a $300 annual Capital One Travel credit plus 10,000 bonus anniversary miles.

Read a review of the Capital One Venture Xapply for the Capital One Venture X.

8. World Of Hyatt Credit Card

Reward for airline spending: 2x World of Hyatt points (which I value at 3%)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: trip cancelation and interruption coverage, trip delay coverage, delayed and lost luggage coverage

The World of Hyatt Card is an especially good option for Hyatt loyalists, given the spending thresholds on this card, which can earn you bonus elite nights, an additional Category 1-4 free night certificate, and more.

Read a review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card, apply for the World of Hyatt Card.

Earn up to 5x points on airfare purchases

Best business cards for buying airline tickets August 2022

As you can see, there are many great personal cards for earning bonuses and getting travel protection on airfare purchases. Meanwhile, the number of business cards offering bonuses in this category is more limited.

Below are the best business cards to consider for your airline ticket purchases.

1. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Reward for airline spending: Up to 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: trip cancelation and interruption coverage, trip delay coverage, delayed and lost luggage coverage

The Ink Business Preferred offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases every anniversary year on travel (including airline tickets), shipping purchases, internet, cable, and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. When you combine the 3x points and travel coverage, this is an excellent card for airfare spending.

Read a review of the Ink Business Preferred, apply for the Ink Business Preferred.

2. American Express® Business Gold Card

Reward for airline spending: Up to 4x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 6.8%)
Card annual fee: $295 (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: none (Rates & Fees)
Travel protection: trip delay coverage

The Amex Business Gold offers 4x points in the two categories in which you spend the most each billing cycle, and airfare is among those, with a maximum limit of $150,000 of spending per calendar year (and then 1x). While this card potentially offers a better return than the Ink Preferred, I still prefer the Ink Preferred, given the superior travel protection, and also that the bonus category around it isn’t quite as restrictive.

Read a review of the Amex Business Gold, apply for the Amex Business Gold.

3. Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Reward for airline spending: 2x Capital One Spark miles (which I value at 3.4%)
Card annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Foreign transaction fees: none
Travel protection: lost luggage coverage

The Capital One Spark Miles offers 2x Spark miles on all purchases, so this isn’t even a bonus category, but rather just a very well rounded return on spending.

Read a review of the Spark Miles for Businessapply for the Spark Miles for Business.

Travel protection can help in the event of irregular operations

How do airline credit cards compare?

The above credit cards offer a great rewards structure regardless of which airline you fly, but how does the return on spending compare for airline co-branded credit cards? Just for comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the rewards structures of some of the best airline cards, based on my valuation of points:

In each cases those are the co-branded cards with the best return on airfare spending for each airline. In some cases those returns are competitive, though personally I’d rather earn transferable points currencies.

Some airline credit cards offer a competitive return on spending

Bottom line

When deciding on the credit card to use for airline ticket purchases, consider both the card that offers the most valuable rewards, as well as the card that offers the best travel protection. My top picks for airline ticket purchases are the:

Of course, for many it won’t be worth picking up a card just because it offers a good return on airfare purchases, so you should balance the above advice with your current card portfolio. For example, I’d say the Chase Sapphire Reserve® strikes a good balance between offering a good return on airfare spending, while also having great protection.

What card do you use for airline ticket purchases?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Business Gold Card (Rates & Fees), American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).

Conversations (5)
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  1. GSBEWR Guest

    Ben: what your analysis does not mention about the co-branded credit cards for the airlines is that buying tickets with those cards also include free checked bags. (Due to some tools I always carry, I HAVE to check them.) And the higher-end cards will also include Priority Access and access to the clubs. And I will take the airline's club over third-party ones any day of the week, mainly because you have access to the...

    Ben: what your analysis does not mention about the co-branded credit cards for the airlines is that buying tickets with those cards also include free checked bags. (Due to some tools I always carry, I HAVE to check them.) And the higher-end cards will also include Priority Access and access to the clubs. And I will take the airline's club over third-party ones any day of the week, mainly because you have access to the airline's CSRs, which is very beneficial when there are IRROPS, which has been a constant issue lately. Instead of having to leave the club and find a CSR, you have one right there.

  2. AndyG Guest

    It’s 5X points if you use CSR or Freedom unlimited when you book through Chase travel portal powered by Expedia.

  3. Andrei Guest

    What about Citi Prestige?

  4. Levi Member

    Hilton Aspire is 7x (3.5% at the customary 0.5cpp) on airfare.

    Flying Blue's credit card is also 3x on SkyTeam airlines (I can't think of another airline card that offers bonus miles on alliance partners).

  5. Steve Diamond

    Would love an updated comparison of the cancel/delay coverage of the CSR vs the Platinum.

    I have always preferred using my CSR over the platinum for the added protections which have become incredibly more important during covid and especially now with all the airline cancelations. Does the CSR have better protection than the platinum im not even sure anymore with all the recent card changes hence why i think this would be an excellent topic...

    Would love an updated comparison of the cancel/delay coverage of the CSR vs the Platinum.

    I have always preferred using my CSR over the platinum for the added protections which have become incredibly more important during covid and especially now with all the airline cancelations. Does the CSR have better protection than the platinum im not even sure anymore with all the recent card changes hence why i think this would be an excellent topic to cover now that airlines have cancelled over 1,000 Flights for 11th straight day

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Steve Diamond

Would love an updated comparison of the cancel/delay coverage of the CSR vs the Platinum. I have always preferred using my CSR over the platinum for the added protections which have become incredibly more important during covid and especially now with all the airline cancelations. Does the CSR have better protection than the platinum im not even sure anymore with all the recent card changes hence why i think this would be an excellent topic to cover now that airlines have cancelled over 1,000 Flights for 11th straight day

1
GSBEWR Guest

Ben: what your analysis does not mention about the co-branded credit cards for the airlines is that buying tickets with those cards also include free checked bags. (Due to some tools I always carry, I HAVE to check them.) And the higher-end cards will also include Priority Access and access to the clubs. And I will take the airline's club over third-party ones any day of the week, mainly because you have access to the airline's CSRs, which is very beneficial when there are IRROPS, which has been a constant issue lately. Instead of having to leave the club and find a CSR, you have one right there.

0
AndyG Guest

It’s 5X points if you use CSR or Freedom unlimited when you book through Chase travel portal powered by Expedia.

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