Which Credit Card Is Best For Airline Tickets?

Filed Under: American Express, Chase
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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.

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:

  • Which card offers the most 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. So with that in mind, let’s talk about the all-around best cards for purchasing your airline tickets.

The Best Personal Credit Cards For Purchasing Airline Tickets As Of May 2020

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 my perceived value of the points offered, and then for those that are tied, will order them by the travel protection offered. 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 tickets: 8.5% (5x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: (Rates & Fees)
Restrictions to be aware of: the 5x points only applies to airfare purchases made directly with airlines, so bookings through travel agencies may not qualify
Travel protection: this card now offers trip cancelation and interruption coverage, as well as trip delay coverage; learn all about the coverage here

Currently, I consider this to be the single best personal card for airfare purchases, as you can earn 5x Membership Rewards points while also getting great travel coverage.

Read a review of the Amex Platinum Card.

2. Citi Prestige Card

Reward for airline tickets: 8.5% (5x ThankYou points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $495
Foreign transaction fees: none
Restrictions to be aware of: the 5x points apply to all airfare purchases, including airfare purchased through travel agencies
Travel protection: none

In the past this was my go-to card for airfare purchases, but unfortunately, the card no longer offers travel protection, so I’m not using it anymore for those purposes.

Read a review of the Citi Prestige Card.

3. Chase Sapphire Reserve® 

Reward for airline tickets: 5.1% (3x Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $550
Foreign transaction fees: none
Restrictions to be aware of: The card offers 3x points on all travel purchases
Travel protection: this card offers exceptional travel coverage, including coverage for delayed bags, lost luggage, trip cancelation and interruption, as well as for trip delays

This is an extremely well-rounded card for airfare purchases, thanks to the 3x points combined with the excellent travel protection.

Read a review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

4. American Express® Green Card

Reward for airline tickets: 5.1% (3x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: (Rates & Fees)
Restrictions to be aware of: the card offers 3x points on all travel purchases
Travel protection: this card now offers trip delay coverage; learn all about the coverage here

3x points on airfare purchases, along with trip delay coverage, is pretty solid.

Read a review of the Amex Green Card.

5. American Express® Gold Card

Reward for airline tickets: 5.1% (3x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: (Rates & Fees)
Restrictions to be aware of: the 3x points only applies to airfare purchases made directly with airlines, so bookings through travel agencies may not qualify
Travel protection: this card now offers trip delay coverage; learn all about the coverage here

3x points on airfare purchases, along with trip delay coverage, is pretty solid.

Read a review of the Amex Gold Card.

6. Citi Premier℠ Card

Reward for airline tickets: 5.1% (3x ThankYou points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Restrictions to be aware of: the card offers 3x points on all travel purchases
Travel protection: none

This used to be a good card for airfare purchases, though given the lack of travel protection, this would no longer be my go-to card.

Read a review of the Citi Premier Card.

7. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for airline tickets: 3.4% (2x Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Restrictions to be aware of: The card offers 2x points on all travel purchases
Travel protection: this card offers good travel coverage, including coverage for delayed bags, lost luggage, trip cancelation and interruption, as well as for trip delays

This card strikes an excellent balance between offering bonus points on travel, and also offering great travel coverage.

Read a review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

8. Citi® Double Cash Card

Reward for airline tickets: 3.4% (2x ThankYou points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $0
Foreign transaction fees: 3%
Restrictions to be aware of: The card doesn’t actually offer bonus points on airfare, though it does offer 2x points on all purchases, and those points can be converted into ThankYou points in conjunction with a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige
Travel protection: none

While this card isn’t specifically that great for airfare, it offers an excellent return on all spending, and that would include on airfare. However, ideally, I’d have a more rewarding card for airfare purchases.

Read a review of the Citi Double Cash.

9. The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Reward for airline tickets: 3% (2x World of Hyatt points, which I value at 1.5 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Restrictions to be aware of: the 2x points only applies to airfare purchases made directly with airlines, so bookings through travel agencies may not qualify
Travel protection: this card offers good travel coverage, including coverage for delayed bags, lost luggage, trip cancelation and interruption, as well as for trip delays

This is an especially good card 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 Hyatt Credit Card.

Earn up to 5x points on airfare purchases

The Best Business Credit Cards For Purchasing Airline Tickets As Of May 2020

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 these categories is more limited.

So here are the best business cards to consider for your airline ticket purchases:

1. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Reward for airline tickets: 5.1% (3x Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Foreign transaction fees: none
Restrictions to be aware of: The card offers 3x points on all travel purchases, though you’re capped at earning 3x points on up to $150,000 of spending per account year in bonus categories
Travel protection: this card offers good travel coverage, including coverage for trip cancelation and interruption, as well as for trip delays

This is the most well rounded business card out there, as it has a reasonable annual fee, huge welcome bonus, 3x points on all travel purchases, and also has good travel protection.

Read a review of the Ink Business Preferred Card.

2. American Express® Business Gold Card

Reward for airline tickets: 6.8% (4x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee:
Foreign transaction fees:
Restrictions to be aware of: you earn 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
Travel protection: this card now offers trip delay coverage; learn all about the coverage here

I wouldn’t get this card solely for the bonus offered on airfare purchases, but this is a good card to use for those purchases if you have the card anyway, assuming it’s one of your top two spending categories.

Read a review of the Amex Business Gold Card.

3. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Reward for airline tickets: 8.5% (5x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction fees: (Rates & Fees)
Restrictions to be aware of: the major restriction here is that you only earn 5x points on flights booked directly through Amex Travel
Travel protection: this card now offers trip cancelation and interruption coverage, as well as trip delay coverage; learn all about the coverage here

While the travel coverage on this card is good, the catch is that you only earn 5x points on flights booked through Amex Travel, and I consider that to be a major restriction.

Read a review of the Amex Business Platinum Card.

Travel protection can help in the event of irregular operations

Best Airfare Credit Card 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 , American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. Given Amex and Delta removed the redeemable miles boost on all spend from the Platinum and Reserve Delta cards, people who are spending on those cards for status boosts anyway may be well served by putting Delta spend on those cards. You get 3x Delta miles, travel protections and you make progress towards the 25K/30K thresholds.

  2. If you buy an upgrade to status for AA or Delta, does any cc give you a bonus or count it as an airline (i.e., for the AMEX credit) fee?

  3. I also prefer my Amex Platinum for airfare purchases. With all of the refreshes Amex made in 2019 with the Gold, Platinum, and even Green….I’m curious if Chase is going to respond. I’d love to see some updates to the CSR on spending earn. What I don’t want to see is an increased annual fee connected to other benefits (such as food delivery or otherwise) that really equate to you pre-paying for those services.

  4. I only fly American, i spend enough on air to get my EQD’s for EXP trice over – I only use my AA Citi Executive Card. I’m sure I’m not maximizing my rewards here, but by what margin? Is it enough to justify a different card? I can skip the club membership since the travel would get me in anyway. Is it easy to downgrade the Citi card to avoid two big fee cards?

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