You may be surprised that I didn't lead off this series with the best credit cards for flights, but if you're following along here and you're new at this, you probably don't buy too many flights.
There are so many different ways to earn points and miles that flights wind up being very low on the list of importance. However, when you do book flights, especially for more than one person, you need to make sure you're maximizing your earnings. (If you're tired of me repeating the phrase "maximizing" then get over it because THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT)
You will see below that I don't include any co-branded airline credit cards. That is because airlines are really based on your personal preference. If you want to earn AA miles, use a co-branded AA card. It's pretty simple.
That does not mean, though, that it's always the best idea to use a co-branded card. Sure, you'll be maxing your miles earned but that assumes your goal is to amass miles and not transferrable points (which is a fine strategy) and there are some benefits that come with certain co-branded cards, but as always you need to weight the entire value proposition.
The cards below are only transferrable point cards as that's the general focus of this website. We also will skip the "what" and the "how do we maximize" portion because flights are pretty cut and dry. You fly, you get points. I don't have any tricks for this one.
Let's get to it:
Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 fee): 3x points on Airfare
-The Reserve makes its return to the list for its three points per dollar on airfare. But the fun doesn't stop there. Remember, the card comes with an annual $300 travel credit. That means if you book a flight that's $400, you get a credit on your bill for $300 meaning your annual fee is only $150. The Reserve also comes with trip cancellation protection in some situations up to $10,000 which can be massively important if disaster strikes. Current signup offer is for 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $4,000 in 3 months!
Citi Prestige ($450 fee): 3x points on Airfare
-Another premium card with an airfare credit to help offset the annual fee, the Prestige will earn you triple points when you book a plane ticket. You earn an annual $250 statement credit on airfare purchases while also getting industry leading protection for cancelled or delayed flights. When paying for any portion of a flight (including mileage tickets when you just pay taxes) Citi will reimburse expenses incurred due to delays, lost luggage, etc... Current signup bonus offers 40,000 points after spending $4,000 in 3 months.
Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 fee, waived the first year): 2x points on Airfare
-If you're feeling a case of deja vu from the Dining installment of this series, you're not crazy. Dining and airfare bonuses usually go hand in hand. The Preferred will earn you double points on airfare and similar travel protection you get with the Reserve card. Current signup bonus offers 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in 3 months.
Citi Premier ($95 fee, waived the first year): 3x points on Airfare
-Although there is no current signup bonus on the Premier, it comes with the same 3 point per dollar earning structure the Prestige does without the hefty annual fee. The trip protection is not quite as good as the Prestige, but if all not concerned with a signup bonus, this card is one of the strongest in terms of earnings structures out there.
Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card ($450 fee): 1 point on Airfare
-You probably think I'm a lunatic, don't you? A hypocrite, perhaps? "Oh, here's Mr. MileageMayhem always talking about maximizing your points and he's going to recommend I only earn one point per dollar on airfare? I hope he stubs his toe on a metal table leg." Fair. BUT, the Chase Ritz Visa Infinite offers access to Visa Infinite's airline discount website. This will automatically knock $100 off of any airline itinerary for between two and five people. That means, if I book a flight for my fiance and me to Nashville (real life examples people KEEP UP) I could save $100 immediately. The best part is that in the airline's system it still thinks I paid full price so I earn MORE miles for FREE. No, I'd rather not go from 3 points per dollar to 1 point per dollar, but if it means saving $100 I'll take that all day. This is also the easiest way to lower the annual fee.
American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card ($195 fee, waived the first year): 3x points on Airfare
-I <3 the Gold Card. Continuously one of the most underrated cards on the market, you'll earn triple points on flights, in addition to double points at restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores. Current signup offer is for 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in 3 months. Long live the GOLD!
As you can see, there are several amazing options for booking airfare. Make sure you look at all aspects of the booking process to make the best decision for which card to use.