Should you get an airline credit card or a travel rewards card?

Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles that we think our readers will find useful. We earn commission from affiliate partners on many offers, but not all offers on Select are from affiliate partners.

Subscribe to the Select newsletter!

Our top picks delivered to your inbox. Shopping recommendations that help you improve your life, delivered weekly. Register here.

Airline Credit Cards vs. Travel Rewards Credit Cards

These two categories of credit cards may seem interchangeable, but they are actually quite different.

An airline credit card is a co-branded credit card for a specific airline, and its rewards can only be redeemed with that airline and its airline alliance partners. For example, the miles you earn with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express card can only be redeemed with Delta or its SkyTeam airline alliance partners, such as Air France or Aeroméxico.

Although airline credit cards are less flexible in terms of rewards redemption opportunities, they offer benefits aimed at those who are loyal to a particular airline, including access to the airline’s lounge , free checked baggage, waived foreign transaction fees and benefits designed to help you earn elite status faster.

For example, if you have the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, you have access to Delta Sky Club® lounges and free checked baggage when you fly with Delta.

A travel rewards credit card, on the other hand, is not tied to a specific travel brand, so points earned are transferable and can be redeemed for all types of travel booked directly through the travel portal. the card or by transferring points to any number of hotel or airline partners.

For example, the Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card allows you to earn Capital One miles, which can be redeemed through the Capital One travel portal for various travel purchases, including flights, rental cars and hotels. You can also choose to transfer your Capital One miles to one of its many airline and hotel partners.

3 Questions to Ask When Choosing Between an Airline Credit Card or a Travel Rewards Card

Both types of credit cards offer great opportunities to save money on an upcoming trip, and one isn’t inherently better than the other. Everyone has different needs, travel habits and preferences, so it’s best to analyze your travel style and find what works best for you.

To get started, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. How do you usually travel?

If you tend to fly more than three times a year, an airline credit card may be a good choice, especially if you live in a city that serves as a hub for a particular airline. Delta has a hub in Atlanta, for example, so a co-branded credit card like the The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card would probably be a good addition.

If your travel style varies – a mix of cruises, road trips, train rides, etc. – a travel rewards credit card may be a better fit for you, as you’ll be able to earn and redeem points for more than just a single airline ticket.

2. Do you have an expensive trip in your future?

With a particularly expensive trip, you can work backwards to see which credit card would be best.

If you’re planning to travel across Europe in the next few months, for example, and you plan to fly with more than one airline, use other modes of transportation, and stay at multiple hotels, consider to transferable points earned through travel rewards cards such as Amex Membership. Rewards® Points or Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points. These can be redeemed through the cards’ respective travel portals or transferred to dozens of airline and hotel partners.

On the other hand, if United Airlines flies everywhere you want to go and you’re staying with friends, the United Club℠ Infinite card is a great choice because you can earn United miles, access the United Club lounge, and have luggage registered free for your travels.

3. What is your budget for an annual subscription?

Keep in mind that many airline credit cards and travel rewards cards come with annual fees. Some cards offer pretty solid benefits for fees under $100, but for cards that let you earn more points and miles and offer a wide variety of benefits, annual fees can reach nearly $700.

While paying an annual fee isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important to remember to stick to your budget and not pay for a new card when you can’t maximize all of its benefits.

The best airline credit cards

The best credit cards with travel rewards

At the end of the line

When deciding between an airline credit card or a travel rewards credit card, ask yourself the three questions above to narrow down the best choice for your travel needs.

As long as you earn the welcome bonus, make the most of your card’s benefits and stick to your budget, either type of credit card can enhance your travels while saving you money on flights and more expenses.

Check out Select’s in-depth coverage at personal finance, technology and tools, The well-being and more, and follow us on Facebook, instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For American Express® Gold Card rates and fees, Click here.

For American Express Platinum Card® rates and fees, Click here.

For Discover it® Miles rates and fees, Click here.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card information was independently collected by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. map before publication.

Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, criticisms or recommendations expressed in this article are those of Select’s editorial staff alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

Comments are closed.