The 5 Best Airline Miles Rewards Credit Cards

By Mark Di Vincenzo. May 7th 2016

As the following numbers show, some of the largest airlines in the United States make it really hard to use their frequent flier miles. Travelers who try to use frequent flier miles to book a flight with American Airlines are successful 45.7 percent of the time, according to a recent analysis. US Airways and Delta customers book the flights they want with their frequent flier miles only 33.6 percent and 27.1 percent of the time, respectively.

As most airlines continue to struggle financially, industry analysts say the airlines will place more restrictions on frequent flier miles, making it even harder to use them. With that possibility looming, consumers are turning to credit cards that offer airline mile bonus points because the best ones have no travel restrictions. Here are five of them.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Features:This card gives you 40,000 bonus points worth $500 in travel credit – and redeemable for two flights – when you spend just $3,000 during the first three months. Card holders receive two points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The points are not capped and do not expire and can be redeemed for tickets for any airline and hotel, and there are no travel restrictions or blackout dates when you redeem points for travel. There is a $95 annual fee, but it is waived in the first year. Card holders receive 20 percent off airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when they book through Ultimate Rewards. If that’s not enough to convince you, the card offers a 7 percent annual dividend on all new points.

APR: 15.24 percent

Bottom Line: Many of the folks who rate airline miles rewards cards say this one is the best.

United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card

Features: Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, there is a $95 annual fee, which is waived during the first year, and card holders can earn as many as 40,000 bonus miles as well as two miles for each $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United and one mile per $1 spent on everything else. Points don’t expire and there is no limit on how many you can accumulate. When you fly United, the first checked bag is free – a $25 value – and you enjoy priority boarding privileges and two day passes a year to the United Club, a $100 value.

APR: 15.24 percent

Bottom Line: Another one of the best airline miles rewards cards.

British Airways Visa Signature

Features: This card offers amazing introductory offers – anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 bonus points depending on when you apply. If you get 100,000 points, they can be redeemed for two round-trip flights to Europe, and the card has no foreign transaction fee so you won’t pay those fees in Europe or anywhere else you travel outside the United States. If you buy a British Airways flight with this card, you will earn 2.5 bonus points for each dollar you spend and when you make any other purchase with this card you will earn 1.25 points per dollar. Big spenders – those who spend $30,000 a year -- will earn a complimentary airline ticket that can be used for two years after it is issued. This card has a $95 annual fee, which, unlike other cards, is not waived in the first year.

APR: 15.24 percent

Bottom Line: This card offers the best introductory offers, making it one of the most popular cards.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Features: This card offers two bonus miles for every dollar spent on any purchase, and the miles can be used for any airline with no blackout dates and for any other travel expense. There are no limits on bonus miles and they won’t expire. This card charges a $59 annual fee which is waived for the first year. Like the British Airways card, there are no foreign transaction fees.

APR: 13.96 percent to 20.9 percent

Bottom Line: A very good card, which Money Magazine calls the "most rewarding card if you crave free airline flights."

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card

Features: Card holders receive 25,000 bonus points after they make one purchase with the card. They also earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines and 1 point per $1 for every other purchase. Like the other cards on this list, the points don’t expire, there is no limit to the points you can earn and they can be redeemed on any airline, hotel, vacation package, cruise or car rental. The card, which charges users $69 a year, gives users 3,000 points on their card anniversary dates.

APR: 15.24 percent

Bottom Line: Another very good card which lets customers rack up airline points quickly.

If you are in the market for an airline rewards credit card, give these credit cards a good look before making a final decision.

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