Air traffic is booming in the United States and the sky is populated with roughly 75,000 flights a day, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. But airlines’ fees and ticket prices aren’t cheap, as the U.S. Department of Transportation reports the average domestic fare is nearly $400 round-trip, a hefty sum for frequent fliers.

Whether you are traveling for business, visiting family or satisfying your nomadic nature, opening an airline credit card can help you earn miles and rewards, reduce fares and fees, and get cash back.

When choosing an airline credit card to meet your personal needs, consider opening a card that also allows you to earn rewards based on your current spending habits and fly on an airline you prefer. You should also be able to easily take advantage of rewards you plan to use, like companion fares, cash back, or hotel discounts, and the rewards earned should exceed the annual credit card fee. In short, you should weigh the benefits and find a card that helps you actually save money on travel expenses.

What other features make an airline credit card worthwhile? Ideally, it should offer the following:

A low annual fee

Regular flight availability with few blackout dates

Companion fares and discounts

Travel perks and partnership rewards, such as discounts at hotels, restaurants, retailers, or others

Airfare purchases earn at least two times the rewards

Earned miles or points for regular purchases like groceries or gasoline

A variety of reward options

Attractive sign-up offers

For those looking for an airline credit card with favorable terms, here are four that offer some of the best rewards and lowest costs:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard: Named one of the best credit cards of 2014-15 by Money Magazine, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard offers big rewards and flexibility. Cardholders earn double miles for every purchase and can apply them to airfare on any airline. Also, miles never expire.

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Signing promotion: 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more in the first 90 days

APR: Zero percent on balance transfers for 12 months (must be completed within the first 45 days), variable APR is 14.99 percent or 18.99 percent depending on creditworthiness

Chase Sapphire Preferred: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers double points on travel-related purchases and dining, and single miles for every dollar spent on other items, and miles never expire. If you’re loyal to Southwest or United Airlines, you’ll earn big rewards with the Chase Sapphire Preferred one-to-one point-to-mileage transfer policies. You can also get a 20 percent discount on airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when redeeming miles through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Signing promotion: 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 or more in the first 90 days; 5,000 bonus points when you add the first authorized user to the credit card account

APR: Variable APR is 15.99 percent

Gold Delta Skymiles American Express Card: Frequent Delta fliers save money on airline purchases, baggage checks and lounge access with their Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express Card, allowing them to enjoy cheaper amenities and streamlined travel. Cardholders earn double points on Delta purchases and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Members can also earn Cross Rewards with Starwood hotels when booking a Delta flight if they also hold a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Signing promotion: 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 or more in the first 90 days, plus a $50 credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first 90 days

APR: Variable APR is 15.24 percent to 19.24 percent

United Mileageplus Explorer Card: Frequent United fliers enjoy greater freedom with the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which grants them access to travel amenities and upgrades, airport perks and preferred seating at any time. Specifically, the first bag is checked free on every flight and card members enjoy priority boarding, room upgrades and complimentary amenities at participating hotels, and two free one-time passes to the United Club each year. United MileagePlus Explorer Card also comes with car rental insurance, travel accident insurance, and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Signing promotion: 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 or more in the first 90 days; 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 in net purchases per year; and 5,000 bonus miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 90 days

APR: Variable APR is 15.99 percent

Sarah Elliott writes for, a personal finance news and features site.

Read or Share this story: