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Please note: the offers mentioned below are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.

Summary: Are you someone who spends a lot of time in the sky as a frequent flyer and are thus on the hunt for the best airline credit card out there? The one that offers you the best mix of perks and miles? Applying for an airline’s corresponding co-branded credit card is definitely a smart move, and as I’m new to the world of travel rewards myself I’ve definitely got my eye on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. However, some benefits can apply well beyond travel on a particular carrier, especially when you consider each airline’s partners and redemption perks, and in the post below we’ll dive into some of the best airline cards available right now.

Our favorite airline cards for 2019, grouped by category

If you’re a Southwest Airlines fanatic, a regular Southwest flyer or occasional flyer, you need one of these:

Delta Airlines flyers, whether regular, elite or occasional flyers:

Honorable mentions:

Here’s a quick guide on each of those cards in the respective categories:

The Southwest cards

Image Source: Ross D Franklin/AP/Shutterstock

Annual fee: $149

Welcome bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 with the card in the first three months of card ownership

Rewards: 2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

Other key details: Southwest fanatics, this is the card for you. With this card, you can quickly rack up Rapid Rewards points along with other great Southwest-specific benefits. You’ll get a $75 annual travel credit on Southwest purchases, in addition to earning tier-qualifying points (TQPs) when you hit annual spending requirements which will help you work toward A-List status. Additionally, you’ll get four upgraded boardings you can use each year. It’s got the highest annual fee of Southwest’s personal credit cards, but you get what you pay for. Southwest fans will definitely be rewarded with this one.

Annual fee: $99

Welcome bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 with the card in the first three months of card ownership

Rewards: 2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

Other key details: This card does something you don’t often see with a mid-tier airline card, in that it offers an easy way to earn status-qualifying points or miles through card spending. This is the card for regular Southwest flyers – who take more trips than one or two a year but who aren’t die-hard, constant Southwest travelers. You’ll earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on this card, up to $100,000 annually, to help get you to A-List status. Plus, you’re getting the same bonus value as Southwest’s higher-tier Southwest Priority card, and 6,000 Rapid Rewards points every year after your account anniversary.

Annual fee: $69

Welcome bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 with the card in the first three months of card ownership

Rewards: 2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

Other key details: If you’re an occasional Southwest flyer and/or just starting out in the Rapid Rewards program, this is the card you’ll want in your wallet. That 40,000-point welcome bonus offer is the same as the other two Southwest consumer cards, plus you get a nice 3,000-point bonus each year after your account anniversary. With a $69 annual fee, this card is a great low-cost way to rack up points when you fly Southwest. Moreover, the fall is a great time to apply for a Southwest card and earn a Companion Pass by the end of this year so you can enjoy it throughout 2020.

The Delta cards

Image Source: Jed Leicester/Shutterstock

Annual fee: $195 ($250 if the card application is received on or after January 30, 2020)

Welcome bonus: 75,000 bonus miles (plus 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles, or MQMs) after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of card ownership (Offer expires October 30, 2019). Additionally, make a Delta-related purchase with this card within the first three months of card ownership and you’ll receive a $100 statement credit.

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Other key details: Regular Delta flyers will find a solid amount of value with this card, despite the fact that it’s not the top-tier card in the airline’s card portfolio. Among the benefits, you can earn 10,000 MQMs when you spend $25,000 in a year, and another 10,000 MQMs if you spend $50,000 in a year. Note: The benefits of this card will undergo some changes as of January 30, 2020.

Annual fee: $450 ($550 if the card application is received on or after January 30, 2020)

Welcome bonus: 75,000 bonus miles (plus 10,000 MQMs) after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of card ownership (Offer expires October 30, 2019).

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Other key details: This card is Delta’s most expensive, with a high annual fee that you can see above is already set to get even higher soon. However, some new benefits are on the way come January 30, 2020. Also, this card provides perks like free Sky Club lounge membership that lets you bring up to two guests for $29 per person per visit, as well as a free checked bag and priority boarding for up to nine travelers on the same reservation as the owner of the card. You’ll also save 20% on in-flight purchases, in addition to enjoying no foreign transaction fees. Regular Delta flyers will also enjoy other comforts, like the domestic first-class, Delta Comfort+ or domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate you’ll get each year when you renew the card.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus miles when you use the card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of card ownership (Offer expires October 30, 2019). You’ll also get a $50 statement credit after making a Delta-related purchase with the card within the first three months of card ownership.

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Other key details: Of the three cards in Delta’s lineup, this one is the most affordable. Perks include a free checked bag, no foreign transaction fees, priority boarding and saving 20% on in-flight purchases. If you’re an occasional Delta flyer, not necessarily a fanatic about sticking with the airline as much as possible, definitely take a look at this card.

The honorable mentions

Image Source: Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points once you spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months of card ownership

Rewards: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining

Other key details: Are you new to the world of earning travel rewards on credit cards? If so, definitely consider checking out Chase Sapphire Preferred. The annual fee is not too onerous, it’s got strong bonus categories and transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Points earned with this card are transferrable to United, Southwest, and a whopping seven other airlines

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus50,000 United MileagePlus miles once you spend $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account. You can also score an additional 50,000 miles after spending a total of $25,000 within the first six months of opening your account

Rewards: 2x miles on United purchases and at gas stations, office supply stores and restaurants

Other key details: This is the first time it’s been possible to earn 100,000 bonus miles with this particular United card (50,000 + 50,000), so it’s definitely worth considering for that reason alone — provided your business expenses can hit the $25,000 spending requirement, of course.

Annual fee: $90

Welcome bonus60,000 miles once you spend $2,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account. After that, you can earn an additional 5,000 miles when you add two authorized users — and then earn another 15,000 miles once you spend a total of $25,000 within your anniversary year

Rewards: Earn 3 miles for every dollar spent directly with Virgin Atlantic and 1.5 miles for every dollar on all other purchases

Other key details: Here’s one of the best things about this card: When you include the main sign-up bonus, as well as the anniversary bonus and the bonus for adding authorized users, you can earn up to 80,000 bonus miles within your first year of owning the card. Not too shabby! While that’s 10,000 miles less than the highest offer spotted with this card, the spending to get the miles we mentioned is extremely favorable to the account owner. Plus, there are plenty of cards that stop offering bonus miles altogether after the three-month welcome period, so it’s nice to see that’s not the case here.

Annual fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Welcome bonus70,000 miles after spending $4,000 within the first four months of card ownership

Rewards: 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and on telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations. You’ll earn 1 mile per dollar on everything else

Other key details: This is the card to own if you and your employees frequently fly on American Airlines for business. Among the benefits of this card, which will help you earn higher miles on business-friendly categories: A first bag checked free for you as well as up to four companions on the same reservation. Additionally, you can earn an American Airlines companion certificate for a domestic main cabin flight after spending $30,000 each card membership year you renew — however, your account must remain open at least 45 days after your anniversary date.