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Airline cards or
travel rewards CREDIT
CARDS?

Choosing between an airline co-branded credit card and a general travel rewards credit card may not be that easy as you could think at first. There are a number of best airline credit cards that may be good for others but will not work for you simply because you are not loyal to that airline. For example, if you do not fly Southwest, there is no sense in having a Southwest Airlines Credit Card. Everything's much simpler with travel rewards credit cards. They all work, even if you do not travel. The trick is to choose the right credit card for you. Here you can see some popular travel cards below.

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Experts are not recommending getting a new co-branded airline credit card now.

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our choice

Rating 5.0
on Citi's secure website
Rating 3.0
Offer is not available on Credit-Land.com
Rating 4.4
on Citi's secure website
Rating 4.2
on Citi's secure website
Rating 4.7
on Citi's secure website
REWARDS
Rewards bonus
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.2
Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
No
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Rewards on everyday purchases
Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Purchases
1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.2
Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
-
Earn 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases
Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
Rewards expiration
Points do not expire*
Points don't expire.2
No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
18 months from your last activity date*
Miles expire after 18 months from your last activity date*
18 months from your last activity date*
Your cash rewards balance will expire if you have not earned any cash back from purchases or payments for 12 months*
Miles expire after 18 months from your last activity date*
Fly any airline
Any Airline
Southwest Airlines Only
Any Airline
American Airlines and Partners
American Airlines and Partners
American Airlines and Partners Only
Any Airline
American Airlines and Partners
RATES AND FEES
Intro APR on purchases
0% (15 months on Purchases)
N/A2
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Regular APR
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
15.99% - 22.99% Variable2
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Annual fee
$0
$992
$95
$99, waived for first 12 months
$0
$99, waived for first 12 months
$0
$450
Foreign transaction fee
3%
None2
0%
0%
3%
0%
3%
0%

More about
top travel CREDIT CARD
2020

Citi Rewards+ Card apply
on Citi's secure website
Rating 5.0

GREAT BONUS OFFER

Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com

GOOD REWARDS

  • The Citi Rewards+SM Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.

Expert's opinion

This card is a part of the ThankYou Rewards program, which means there are multiple options to redeem points, including travel redemptions and points transfers to participating loyalty programs. And since the card has no annual fee and a bonus offer, it will be rather easy to accumulate rewards without losing them on fees. The rewards categories are supermarkets and gas stations, which earn 2X points for the first $6,000 per year. All other purchases earn unlimited 1X points.

Excellent Credit

Why travel cards are
more flexible THAN AIRLINE
CO-BRANDED CARDS?

Earn Rewards
REWARDS EARNING

While airline credit cards offer bigger rewards on airfare, they basically limit you to specific airline purchases. Take Southwest credit cards from Chase as an example, the cards allow to earn additional points on Southwest purchases and on some partner purchases, all other purchases earn basic 1 point per $1. You can use Chase Southwest credit card login to track your points, but basically, you will have to fly Southwest a lot to earn an award ticket. As for travel rewards credit cards, even if they limit you to a travel category, they do not limit you to a specific airline. Travel category usually includes airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, travel packages, and gas purchases. Also, there are travel credit cards that give equal rewards on all purchases - an ideal option for those who do not travel often or want to maximize rewards on everyday spendings.

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apply on Citi's secure website
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
Redeem Rewards for Travel
NO REDEMPTION LIMITATIONS

An airline credit card won't allow you to redeem miles the way you want, any way you slice it. Basically, you will be limited to award ticket redemptions from the issuing airline. More than that, airlines usually limit the number of award seats and impose blackout dates which makes it rather hard to use earned miles. For example, if you are a Southwest frequent flyer, you will need to use Southwest login to see available points and rewards options. Travel rewards credit cards work differently. Since they are not tied to any airline, you have the freedom to redeem earned miles with any airline, any time through credit card account. There are no limits or blackout dates. The only requirement is you should buy your airline ticket using your travel rewards credit card.

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apply on Citi's secure website

You can redeem ThankYou® Points for things like gift cards or for travel rewards*

Low Fees Credit Cards
LOWER FEES

We all know that airline credit cards may have frequent flyer perks like priority boarding, free checked bag, or complimentary access to airline lounges. However, all those perks and benefits do not come for free. Most likely the airline card, that offers some or all of those perks, will have a high annual fee. If you use all benefits an airline credit card has, then it may be worth paying the annual fee. If not, then you may want a cheaper option, which can be a travel rewards credit card. Such a card may not offer you a free first checked bag, but at the same time, it won't charge you high annual fee. Many travel credit cards come without annual fees at all. In addition to low fees, best travel credit cards may come with 0% intro APR allowing you to save on interest payments.

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apply on Citi's secure website

Annual Fee: $0

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

questions ABOUT
TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS

I have a Southwest Airlines credit card but my Southwest points expired! I’ve been saving for a family trip, I’ve accrued almost 200,000 on Rapid Rewards, which is more than enough for us. I was hoping to redeem those miles this year for a trip to Italy, but I was taken aback when I learned that my miles expired! How could this happen to me?!

Judging from what you are telling, you haven't been flying Southwest for quite a while. Southwest's policy is that your miles expire after 24 months of inactivity. "Inactivity" in Southwest's terms is a little different...

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I have a Southwest credit card which I haven't used for quite a long time but it has some lingering points on it. So I decided to redeem those points and close the card but I wasn't able to do so! What should I do? How can I use those points?

There can be two reasons you cannot redeem your miles. The first is you are trying to redeem Southwest points for a travel after the date your miles are due to expire. Since you haven't used your card for a while, we...

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I read a Southwest credit card review and it sounded great to have a Southwest Rewards credit card. I often fly Southwest, but I also choose other airlines frequently. It’s not very convenient for me to have a separate credit card for each airline, so I’m thinking if it’ll be enough to have only a Southwest Airlines credit card?

Certainly, when you acquire a credit card for travel, you want it to be versatile and convenient for any needs. Unfortunately, airlines want you to be loyal and only grant you rewards when you fly that one airline....

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See all questions

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comments ABOUT
TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS

† With current restrictions and uncertainty about future travel, co-branded airline credit cards with perks like lounge access, upgrades, free checked bag, priority boarding, rewards for airfare, and other travel benefits won't be of great use to you now. General-purpose travel cards that are not tied to any airline and offer rewards on all purchases, including elevated rewards in select categories, are a better choice in the age of social distancing.

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