The 5 Best Airline Credit Cards for Earning Free Flights

Credit Card Introductory OfferAnnual FeeOur Thoughts 
Southwest Priority40,000 Points$149Best airline credit card due to the introductory offer and benefits for Southwest flyers. Also allows the opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Southwest Plus40,000 Points$69Second best airline credit card due to the introductory offer and low annual fee. Also allows the opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Southwest Premier40,000 Points$99Third best airline credit card due to the introductory offer for Southwest flyers. Also allows the opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Southwest Premier Business60,000 Points$99Best business airline credit card due to the introductory offer for Southwest flyers. Combined with one of the personal SW cards, it allows the opportunity to easily earn a Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
United Explorer Card40,000 Miles$95 (waived year 1)Good introductory offer for United flyers. It also comes with a few extra benefits and waives the annual fee in the first year.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

 

Most people who like to travel, use their credit card reward points towards flights. For this reason, we’d like to introduce you to the best airline credit cards that are available today. While it may be a better option most often, to have a travel rewards card that has transferrable points, there are still some great airline credit cards.

 

A benefit to having an airline credit card for your favorite airline is obviously the miles or points you’ll earn, but also the smaller benefits. Some of the best airline credit cards come with free checked baggage, discounts on purchases, lounge passes, and even statement credits for airline fees. They may not seem like much, but a few baggage fees waived adds up quickly. With the Southwest cards, it’s even possible to earn a Southwest Companion Pass through credit card points.

 

Let’s go ahead and get into the list of the 5 best airline credit cards.

 

1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

southwest rapid rewards priority card art

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

40,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months. Plus 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 in the first year.

$149 Annual Fee

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is the best of the personal Southwest credit cards and the best overall airline credit card available. It earns our top spot because of the large introductory offer and the valuable benefits it brings with it. The introductory offer counts towards Companion Pass status. Many people take advantage of both a personal and business Southwest credit card to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass for up to two years.

 

The Priority card does come with the highest annual fee of all the Southwest cards, but it also comes with benefits to outweigh the fee. For instance, it offers a statement credit that makes up for half the annual fee. In addition, on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll receive the largest sum of points, just for keeping the card.

 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the offerings of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card, our #1 option for best airline credit cards.

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You'll earn 40,000 points after spending $1000 in the first 3 months. Plus 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 in the first year.
REWARDS
You'll earn 2X points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals.
BENEFITS
$75 Southwest travel credit each year.
4 Upgraded boardings per year.
20% back on in-flight drinks and wi-fi.
Earn 7500 points on your cardmember anniversary.
All points from credit card count toward Companion Pass.
FEES
$149 annual fee.
No foreign transaction fees.
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
Southwest points are great because when they have a sale, their award chart goes on sale as well. By getting a personal and business Southwest card you can be well on your way to Companion Pass status.

 

The Pros

  • A large introductory offer
  • Points count towards Companion Pass status
  • Travel credit
  • Discounted drinks and wi-fi
  • Cardmember anniversary bonus points
  • No foreign transaction fees

 

The Potential Cons

 

Our Overall Thoughts on the Southwest Priority Card

Obviously, we like this card a lot, considering we have it as the best airline credit card. It has multiple great benefits and also gives you the potential to earn the most valuable offer in all of travel. The amazing Southwest Companion Pass. My wife and I have had the Companion Pass multiple times, and if used often, it can save thousands and thousands of dollars in travel expenses.

 

At Travel Freedom, we value this cards introductory offer at around $1000 towards travel. For more information on this card, you can read our full Southwest Priority review.

 

2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

southwest rapid rewards plus card art

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

40,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months. Plus 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 in the first year.

$69 Annual Fee

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card is our second best airline credit card because it has a very valuable introductory offer. Other than the intro offer it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, other than the annual fee is the lowest of the Southwest cards. It does, though, also count toward Companion Pass status. This is a big reason that it’s our second pick for the best airline credit card.

 

Also, the introductory offer alone can be worth many round trip flights on Southwest. Especially if you book your flights during Southwest sales, which are plentiful. When they have a sale, not only the paid flights get cheaper, but so do the award flights.

 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the offerings of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card, our #2 option for best airline credit cards.

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

LEARN HOW TO APPLY NOW >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You'll earn 40,000 points after spending $1000 in the first 3 months. Plus 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 in the first year.
REWARDS
You'll earn points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals.
BENEFITS
Earn 3000 points on your cardmember anniversary.
All points from credit card count toward Companion Pass.
FEES
$69 annual fee.
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
Southwest points are great because when they have a sale, their award chart goes on sale as well. By getting a personal and business Southwest card you can be well on your way to Companion Pass status.

 

The Pros

  • A large introductory offer, potentially worth multiple round trip flights
  • Low annual fee
  • Cardmember anniversary bonus points
  • Points count towards Companion Pass status

 

The Potential Cons

  • Has an annual fee
  • Has foreign transaction fees
  • Not many benefits other than the intro offer

 

Our Overall Thoughts on the Southwest Plus Card

If you’re looking to go for Companion Pass status, this is a great credit card to apply for. The introductory offer will get you a big chunk of the way there. It can be combined with the Southwest Premier Business card to reach status levels quicker. Even if you’re not going for a Companion Pass, the introductory offer is a very valuable one. It can earn you up to around $1000 worth of flights.

 

At Travel Freedom, we value the points from this cards introductory offer at around $1000 if redeemed as cash back. For more information on this card, you can read our full Southwest Plus review.

 

3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

southwest rapid rewards premier card art

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

40,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months. Plus 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 in the first year.

$99 Annual Fee

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

Much like the first two Southwest cards, this one also has a large introductory offer. It comes in third of our list of the best airline credit cards because while it has the same introductory offer as the other two personal cards, it Has a higher annual fee than the Plus card, and less benefits than the Priority card. It has no foreign transaction fees, but other than that it doesn’t offer much outside of the points.

 

The card is high on our list simply due to the introductory offer and its ability to be used towards earning Companion Pass status.

 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the offerings of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card, our #3 option for best airline credit cards.

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

LEARN HOW TO APPLY NOW >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You'll earn 40,000 points after spending $1000 in the first 3 months. Plus 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 in the first year.
REWARDS
You'll earn points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals.
BENEFITS
Earn 6000 points on your cardmember anniversary.
All points from credit card count toward Companion Pass.
FEES
$99 annual fee.
No foreign transaction fees.
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
Southwest points are great because when they have a sale, their award chart goes on sale as well. By getting a personal and business Southwest card you can be well on your way to Companion Pass status.

 

The Pros

  • A large introductory offer
  • Points count towards Companion Pass status
  • Cardmember anniversary bonus points
  • No foreign transaction fees

 

The Potential Cons

  • Has an annual fee.
  • Not many benefits other than the intro offer

 

Our Overall Thoughts on the Southwest Premier Card

If you’re looking to go for Companion Pass status, and have applied for the Plus or Priority cards in the past couple years, this is a great credit card to apply for instead. The introductory offer will get you a big chunk of the way there. It can be combined with the Southwest Premier Business card to reach status levels quicker. Even if you’re not going for a Companion Pass, the introductory offer is a very valuable one. It can earn you up to around $1000 worth of flights.

 

At Travel Freedom, we value this cards introductory offer at around $1000 of travel. For more information on this card, you can read our full Southwest Premier review.

 

4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business

southwest rapid rewards premier business card art

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business

60,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months

$99 Annual Fee

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

It’s the card we’ve all been waiting for. The one that can be paired with any of the personal Southwest cards in the same calendar year to earn a Southwest Companion Pass. It has a large introductory offer that counts towards Companion Pass status. The Southwest Premier Business credit card also has no foreign transaction fees, and you can get employee cards at no additional cost. That way all your employees, if you have them, will be earning you points.

 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the offerings of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business credit card, our #4 option for best airline credit cards.

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier

LEARN HOW TO APPLY NOW >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You'll earn 60,000 points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months.
REWARDS
You'll earn 2X points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals.
BENEFITS
Earn 6000 points on your cardmember anniversary.
All points from credit card count toward Companion Pass.
FEES
$99 annual fee.
No foreign transaction fees.
Employee cards at no additional cost.
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
Southwest points are great because when they have a sale, their award chart goes on sale as well. By getting a personal and business Southwest card you can be well on your way to Companion Pass status.

 

The Pros

  • A large introductory offer
  • Points count towards Companion Pass status
  • Cardmember anniversary bonus points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Additional employee cards at no additional cost

 

The Potential Cons

  • Has an annual fee.
  • Only earns 1X on non-category bonus spend.

 

Our Overall Thoughts on the Southwest Premier Business Card

 

 

At Travel Freedom, we value this cards introductory offer at around $1000 for travel. But, if you end up earning a Companion Pass, it can double the value of your points. For more information on this card, you can read our full Southwest Premier Business review.

 

Learn how you can combine any of the personal cards above (1-3) with the Southwest Business Premier card to earn a Southwest Companion Pass, which is valid for free companion flight tickets for up to two years.

 

5. United Explorer Card

united explorer card art

United Explorer Card

40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee (waived year 1)

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

Hey, we finally made it to a card that isn’t in conjunction with Southwest Airlines. The United Explorer Card is valuable if you fly on United Airlines frequently. It offers a substantial introductory offer that has the potential to be used for multiple round trip flights. The card also comes with a few nice perks, such as United Club lounge passes each year, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit, free checked bags, and priority boarding.

 

With all these benefits when flying United, the Explorer Card even waives the annual fee in the first year. Most of the cards that offer TSA PreCheck are premium cards with high annual fees, which makes it a nice surprise perk.

 

If you’re someone who flies United, this card could be a great addition to your wallet. Let’s take a closer look at the United Explorer Card, our #5 best airline credit card.

 

United Explorer Card

Introductory Offer:

You'll earn 40,000 miles after spending $2000 in the first 3 months.

Rewards:

You'll earn 2X miles on restaurants and hotel stays.

Benefits:

Free first checked bag for cardholder and one companion.

2 United Club Lounge passes per year.

Priority boarding.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee statement credit.

Annual Fee:

$95 (waived in year 1)

Our Thoughts:

If you fly United, this card may make sense for you. The introductory offer is enough miles for multiple round trip flights. That is if you can find award space...
LEARN MORE >>

 

The Pros

  • A good introductory offer
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • Airport lounge access
  • Free checked bags
  • Priority boarding
  • Annual fee waived year 1.

 

The Potential Cons

  • Has an annual fee after year one
  • Miles can only be used on United Airlines

 

Our Overall Thoughts on the United Explorer Card

While some of the transferrable points earning Chase credit cards may be better options to earn United miles, this card is also a good choice. Especially because on top of the introductory offer, it gives you extra perks that can add value to your flight experience.

 

At Travel Freedom, we value this cards introductory offer at over $500 for the base tier. If you can meet the second tier of the offer, it’s worth even more. For more information on this card, you can read our full United Explorer Card review.

 

*PS: There’s also a business version of this card. See our full review of the United Explorer Business Card.

 

The Best Airline Credit Cards

As you can see, there are many great airline credit cards available. These are the Travel Freedom top 5 airline credit card offers available right now. Any of them are great options if you’re looking to earn some free flights. They’re even better options if you can pick up a Southwest Companion pass for you and your travel partner. While transferrable points are our favorites usually, there are some real benefits to having airline cards as well. Good luck choosing the best airline credit card for yourself and enjoy your upcoming free flights!

 

Credit Card Introductory OfferAnnual FeeOur Thoughts 
Southwest Priority40,000 Points$149Best airline credit card due to the introductory offer and benefits for Southwest flyers. Also allows the opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Southwest Plus40,000 Points$69Second best airline credit card due to the introductory offer and low annual fee. Also allows the opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Southwest Premier40,000 Points$99Third best airline credit card due to the introductory offer for Southwest flyers. Also allows the opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Southwest Premier Business60,000 Points$99Best business airline credit card due to the introductory offer for Southwest flyers. Combined with one of the personal SW cards, it allows the opportunity to easily earn a Southwest Companion Pass.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
United Explorer Card40,000 Miles$95 (waived year 1)Good introductory offer for United flyers. It also comes with a few extra benefits and waives the annual fee in the first year.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
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