The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

10 Best Credit Cards for Free Flights

10 Best Credit Cards for Free Flights

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Posted: March 19, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time trying to save up for your next vacation — only to spend a good chunk of your budget simply flying to and from your destination. Thankfully, the best credit cards for free flights can change your entire itinerary.

These cards can provide cardholders with tremendous travel discounts, free accommodations, and a supercharged boost to airline loyalty points or miles. These kinds of perks can get you on your way to your next vacation much faster.

But not every travel card and co-branded airline card operates the same. We’re here to break down the differences so you can optimize your spending power and get the most out of your credit card.

Travel Cards | Airline Cards | FAQs

Best Travel Cards for Free Flights

The cards below can help you earn free flights on your own terms because they aren’t connected to a specific airline or travel provider.

You can use these cards to redeem your earned points or miles to reimburse past travel expenses or decrease the cost of future expenses. In many cases, you can earn free flights or other perks.

And, since you aren’t tied to an airline, you most likely won’t have the same restrictions, blackout dates, or other limitations branded cards can bring.

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ leading travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

With the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you can earn an unlimited 2X miles on every dollar charged to the card. Those miles never expire and you can redeem them to cover past travel-related expenses.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Discover it® Miles card remains one of the most flexible travel cards on the market because it doesn’t force airline restrictions or blackout dates on its cardholders. You simply earn miles for every $1 you charge to your card and redeem those rewards to help cover some — or all — of your recent travel-related expenses.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 15+ leading travel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card offers rewards similar to those offered by its Venture® sibling, but without the annual fee. With this card, you can earn an unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase and use those miles to cover a host of travel-related expenses that you charge to the card.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • Chase is not an affiliate partner with CardRates and does not review editorial content on our site
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows you to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for free or discounted flights, rental cars, hotel accommodations, and several other travel-related charges.

And, since points have 25% more value when you redeem them for airfare through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you can likely get that free flight much faster than you think.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the account
  • Earn 5X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel℠ using a Spark Miles card
  • Transfer your miles to 10+ leading travel loyalty programs like JetBlue™, Air Canada, and Emirates™
  • Redeem your miles instantly for any travel-related purchases, from flights and hotels to ride-sharing services
  • Fly through security with one statement credit for either the $85 TSA Pre✔® application fee or the $100 Global Entry application fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business helps ease the financial burden associated with business travel by allowing cardholders to earn up to 5X miles per dollar on every purchase they make. You can redeem those miles as statement credits or transfer them to more than 10 popular travel loyalty programs.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Chase is not an affiliate partner with CardRates and does not review editorial content on our site
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

Don’t let this card’s $550 annual fee scare you off. If you’re looking for free flights, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has you covered.

Not only will you earn 3X points on travel-related purchases, but all cardholders receive a $300 annual travel credit, a statement credit to reimburse your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fees, and access to more than 1,000 premium airport lounges across the globe. That’s how you travel in high style for low cost.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the account
  • Earn a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles – equal to $200 in travel – once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel℠ using a Spark Miles Select card
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.49% - 22.49% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Transfer your miles to 10+ leading travel loyalty programs like JetBlue™, Air Canada, and Emirates™
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
14.49% - 22.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

With the Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business, you can get closer to your next free flight by saving your unlimited 1.5X miles earned for every $1 charged to the card. You can redeem those miles to offset the cost of a flight, hotel stay, rental car, or any other travel-related expense.

Once your flight touches down, you can also take advantage of 5X miles earned on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel℠.

Best Airline Cards for Free Flights

If you have an airline that you’re loyal to, you may think it’s a no-brainer to add that company’s branded credit card to your wallet. After all, you can maximize loyalty points and earn price breaks, free checked bags, and other valuable add-ons that make your trip easier and less expensive.

Here are our choices for the top airline-branded cards for earning free flights.

8. Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card from American Express

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card from American Express lets cardholders take up to $50 off the cost of their flight for every 5,000 rewards miles redeemed. With enough miles, you can pay for your entire flight with the rewards you earn.

And, earning those rewards is easier than ever since you can now accrue 2X miles at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and purchases through Delta. Cardholders also receive a free first checked bag and a $100 Delta flight credit when they spend at least $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year.

9. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

New Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® member can earn up to 2X AAdvantage® miles on every purchase they make. Those rewards can help pay for a flight through American Airlines. The card charges a $99 annual fee that is waived the first year.

Cardholders also receive a free first checked bag, preferred boarding, and a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases when using their card.

10. UnitedSM Explorer Card

United ℠ Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card from Chase lets cardholders earn up to 2X miles for every $1 charged to the card. And, if you spend at least $3,000 on purchases during your first three months with the card, you’ll get 60,000 bonus miles — which can help pay for your next flight outright.

All cardholders also receive a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck® fees, as well as 25% back as a statement credit for purchases onboard United-operated flights.

What is the Best Credit Card for Airline Miles?

The cards above can help you earn travel credits for your next flight or give a boost to your frequent-flyer miles account. But not every card packs the same perks.

Here are our choices for the best cards in some popular travel-related categories.

Highest Ongoing Rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Cardholders earn 2X miles for every $1 spent, which can add up quickly to compensate all, or part, of a travel-related expense. If you save up enough rewards, you can pay for entire flights, hotel stays, rental cars, or other charges that can bog down a trip.

Since Capital One doesn’t partner with a specific airline for its Venture-branded credit cards, you’ll have the freedom to redeem your rewards for any flight at any time.

Best Airline Miles Signup Bonus: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase continually offers some of the best signup bonuses in the credit card industry, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve® may be among its most attractive deals.

New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending at least $4,000 on purchases during their first three months with the card. That represents as much as $750 toward your next flight when you redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Best Business Card for Airline Miles: Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business 

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Business travel can weigh down your bottom line quickly — but with the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, you can get moving without going into the red.

All cardholders earn 2X miles per $1 on every purchase and up to 5X miles with specific travel-related special offers. You can redeem your miles as statement credits to cover previous travel-related expenses or transfer them to more than 10 of the world’s leading travel loyalty programs.

Best for Delta Loyalists: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card from American Express

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta is one of the most popular airlines in the world, and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card from American Express makes it easy to earn free flights through the carrier.

Cardholders can earn up to 2X points on their purchases and redeem their rewards for flights and onboard purchases through Delta. You’ll also get your first checked bag for free, and a $100 flight credit when you spend at least $10,000 in purchases during a calendar year.

How Can I Travel with a Credit Card for Free?

Travel rewards credit cards have increased in popularity as card issuers have upped the rewards and perks associated with these cards.

With just about all of these cards, you earn either miles or points for every $1 you charge to your card. The number of points you earn will vary by the card type, as will the way you redeem your rewards.

For example, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Discover it® Miles card aren’t associated with a specific airline. This means you can redeem your miles for statement credits that essentially erase all, or part, of a recent travel-related expense.

That means you can pay yourself back for a flight, rental car, hotel stay, or other approved expense.

Other cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, work on a dedicated platform (in this case, Chase Ultimate Rewards®) where you can redeem your rewards for anything you’d like. Options range from flights to electronics, cash back, and gift cards.

Rewards points have varying values, based on what you redeem them for. As an example, you will get more value when you redeem your points for travel accommodations than if you opt for cash back.

Chart Comparing Values of Common Credit Card Rewards Points

Every card allows you to redeem your rewards online through the issuer’s website or via the card’s mobile application. In most cases, the redemption process takes a matter of minutes and you can use your rewards instantly.

Is it Worth Getting an Airline Credit Card?

This depends on how frequently you fly and whether you have a preferred airline.

Regardless of how often you find yourself in the friendly skies, a travel rewards credit card makes a great addition to any wallet.

A non-branded card will allow you to redeem your rewards not only for flights, but for hotel stays, rental cars, ride-sharing services, and other travel-related expenses. This allows you to use your rewards even if you aren’t flying.

An airline-branded card, though, may limit how you use your rewards. Not only are you stuck with flights only through the specific carrier listed on the card, but you may also face blackout dates and other restrictions.

Still, you can find good utility with one of these cards if you’re loyal to a specific airline. That’s because the cards often provide other perks — such as a free checked bag and discounts on in-flight food, beverage, and WiFi purchases.

That savings can add up if you live a jet-set lifestyle — be it for business or pleasure.

Fly the Friendly Skies for Free

Flying can be an enjoyable experience. Paying for the flight? Not so much.

If you often find yourself blowing a good chunk of your travel budget on getting to and from your preferred destination, you should consider one of the best credit cards for free flights. Not only will these cards help you save money on your travel-related expenses, but they can also help you earn enough rewards to fly for free. It doesn’t get much better than that.