Best credit cards for buying airline tickets

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Using the right credit card for buying airline tickets can help you accumulate points quickly, especially if you’re anything like me, and spend a lot of money on air travel (at least in the long run).

A lot has changed over the years regarding the best credit cards to use for buying airline tickets, so in this post I wanted to take a closer look. There are a few important things to consider when deciding which card to use for buying air tickets:

  • Which card offers the best return on spend (in terms of cash back, or based on your rating of points) on airfare purchases?
  • Which card offers the best travel protection for airline tickets?

Ideally, you’ll find a card that ticks both boxes. So let’s talk about the best tickets for buying airline tickets.

Best Personal Cards for Buying Airline Tickets January 2022

Below I will talk about what I consider to be the best personal cards for buying airline tickets. With each card I note the reward points offered, how much I value those points and any travel protection that is offered.

I sort these cards based on a combination of my perceived value of the points offered plus any travel protection offered. Some cards also offer extra bonus points when you book through a credit card portal, so I’ll note when that’s the case (that has its pros and cons).

Everyone will have to decide for themselves how much they value the travel protection compared to the reward points offered.

1. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Reward for airline expenses: 5x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 8.5%)
Annual cost card: $695 (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction costs: no (Rates & Costs)
Travel Protection: travel cancellation and interruption coverage, travel delay coverage

The Amex Platinum is the best card for buying airline tickets, between 5x points and the travel protection.

Read a review of the Amex Platinum, request the Amex Platinum.

2. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Reward for airline expenses: 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Annual cost card: $550
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: Travel Cancellation & Interruption Coverage, Travel Delay Coverage, Delayed & Lost Baggage Cover

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a well-rounded ticket for buying airline tickets, thanks to the 3x points combined with the excellent travel protection. In addition, keep in mind that you can earn 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Travel portal.

Read a review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, request the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

3. American Express® Green Card

Reward for airline expenses: 3x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Annual cost card: $150
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: travel delay coverage

The Amex Green offers 3x points on airfare purchases, along with travel delay coverage, so it’s a good option for those looking to earn Amex points on airfare, without jumping for the Amex Platinum.

Read a review of the Amex Green Card, apply for the Amex Green.

4. American Express® Gold Card

Reward for airline expenses: 3x Amex Membership Rewards Points (which I value at 5.1%)
Annual cost card: $250 (Rates & Fees)
Foreign transaction costs: none (Rates & Costs)
Travel Protection: travel delay coverage

Like the Amex Green, the Amex Gold offers 3x points on airfare, along with travel delay coverage.

Read a review of the Amex Gold, request the Amex Gold.

5. Citi Premier® Card

Reward for airline expenses: 3x Citi ThankYou points (which I value at 5.1%)
Annual cost card: $95
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: no

While the Citi Premier offers a solid return on airfare spend, unfortunately the card doesn’t offer travel protection.

Read a review of the Citi Premier, request the Citi Premier.

6. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for airline expenses: 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 3.4%)
Annual cost card: $95
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: Travel Cancellation & Interruption Coverage, Travel Delay Coverage, Delayed & Lost Baggage Cover

The Chase Sapphire Preferred strikes a great balance between offering bonus points for travel and providing great travel coverage. The card also offers 10% anniversary bonus points, calculated on the base spend. In addition, keep in mind that you can earn 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Travel portal.

Read a review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, apply for the Sapphire Preferred.

7. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Reward for airline expenses: 2x Capital One Venture miles (which I value at 3.4%)
Annual cost card: $395
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: Travel Cancellation & Interruption Cover, Travel Delay Cover, Lost Baggage Cover

The Capital One Venture X offers 2x Venture miles on all purchases so this isn’t even a bonus category but rather a very well rounded return on spend along with great travel coverage. In addition, if you book through Capital One Travel, you can earn 5x miles on airfare. Don’t be alarmed by the annual fee, as the card offers a $300 annual Capital One Travel credit plus 10,000 anniversary bonus miles.

Read a review of the Capital One Venture X, request the Capital One Venture X.

8. World Of Hyatt Credit Card

Reward for airline expenses: 2x World of Hyatt points (which I value at 3%)
Annual cost card: $95
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: Travel Cancellation & Interruption Coverage, Travel Delay Coverage, Delayed & Lost Baggage Cover

The World of Hyatt card is a particularly good option for Hyatt loyalists, given the spending thresholds on this card, which allow you to earn bonus elite nights, an additional category 1-4 free night certificate, and more.

Read a review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card, apply for the World of Hyatt Card.

Earn up to 5x points on airline tickets

Best Business Cards for Buying Airline Tickets January 2022

As you can see, there are many great personal cards to earn bonuses and get travel protection when buying airline tickets. Meanwhile, the number of business cards with bonuses in this category is more limited.

Below are the best business cards to consider when buying airline tickets.

1. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Reward for airline expenses: Up to 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 5.1%)
Annual cost card: $95
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: Travel Cancellation & Interruption Coverage, Travel Delay Coverage, Delayed & Lost Baggage Cover

The Ink Business Preferred offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent on combined purchases each anniversary year for travel (including airfare), shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and ad purchases made with social media sites and search engines. When you combine the 3x points and travel coverage, this is an excellent card for airfare spending.

Read a review of the Ink Business Preferred, sign up for the Ink Business Preferred.

2. American Express® Business Gold Card

Reward for airline expenses: Up to 4x Amex Membership Rewards points (which I value at 6.8%)
Annual cost card: $295 (Rates & Costs)
Foreign transaction costs: none (Rates & Costs)
Travel Protection: travel delay coverage

The Amex Business Gold offers 4x points in the two categories where you spend the most each billing cycle, and airline tickets are one of them, with a maximum limit of $150,000 in spending per calendar year (then 1x). While this card has the potential to offer better returns than the Ink Preferred, I still prefer the Ink Preferred for its superior travel protection and also because the bonus category around it isn’t as restrictive.

Read a review of the Amex Business Gold, apply for the Amex Business Gold.

3. Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Reward for airline expenses: 2x Capital One Spark miles (which I value at 3.4%)
Annual cost card: $95 excluding the first year
Foreign transaction costs: no
Travel Protection: Lost Baggage Cover

The Capital One Spark Miles offers 2x Spark Miles on all purchases so this isn’t even a bonus category but rather a very well rounded return on spend.

Read a review of the Spark Miles for Business, apply for the Spark Miles for Business.

Travel security can help with irregular operations

How do airline credit cards compare?

The above credit cards offer a great rewards structure no matter which airline you fly with, but how does the return on spend compare for co-branded airline credit cards? For comparison, let’s take a look at the reward structures of some of the best airline cards, based on my rating of points:

In each case, these are the co-branded cards with the best return on airfare spending for any airline. In some cases, those returns are competitive, although I personally would prefer to earn currencies with transferable points.

Some airline credit cards offer competitive returns on spend

What it comes down to:

When choosing the credit card to use for airfare purchases, consider both the card that offers the most valuable rewards and the card that offers the best travel protection. My top picks for buying airline tickets are:

Of course, for many it’s not worth buying a card just because it offers a good return on airfare, so you need to balance the above advice with your current card wallet. For example, I would say that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® strikes a good balance between providing a good return on airfare spending, while also offering good protection.

Which card do you use to buy airline tickets?

The following links will take you to the rates and fees for said American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Business Gold Card (Rates & Rates), American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Rates) and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Rates).

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