Airline vs. Travel Credit Cards – Which One Is the Smart Financial Choice?

travel and airline rewards credit card comparison

The type of credit card you choose for travel is significant. It can help you save a lot of money and get good deals while you travel. There are two options to choose from – airline credit cards and travel credit cards. The ideal card for you depends on several factors. Here is a breakdown of features for each card to help you decide between the airline vs. travel credit card debacle. 

The Fundamental Difference in Purpose in Airline Vs. Travel Credit Cards 

Travel rewards credit cards provide rewards specifically tailored for travelers. You gain points or miles, which you can redeem to cover travel-specific expenses. On the other hand, airline credit cards are co-branded for a specific airline. They provide rewards to travelers who are loyal to that branded airline on the card. 

Reward Variations 

Travel credit cards are for you if you are looking for a broad reward category as a frequent traveler. The points or miles earned are not airline specific. They include regular travel activities like booking a flight, renting a car, booking a hotel. Some travel cards will reward additional categories like dining (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card). 

Conversely, airline credit cards reward travelers for using the products and services of the co-branded airline. The consumer has options under the reward system and enjoys some flexibility in the award-redemption opportunities. Most of these cards give minimal rewards for every day purchases, but offer attractive multiples (ie. Earn 3x points on flight purchases) on bookings and inflight purchases.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offer additional ways to earn rewards points.

American Express is a advertiser.

Deviation in Benefits 

You can also settle the airline vs. travel credit card debate by looking at the advantages of having either type of card. Airline credit cards excel in travel perks. All these rewards elevate you to elite status when traveling with that specific airline. 

You get: 

  • Free access to the airport lounge
  • In-flight discounts
  • Waived foreign transaction fees
  • Priority boarding
  • Complementary checked bags 
  • Potential status upgrades

As for travel credit cards, rewards are in the form of subsidized expenditures while traveling because you earn points for most of your travel expenses. You also get to enjoy big introductory offers as points or cash backs. The caveat lies in choosing versatile travel credit cards with numerous carriers in various travel industry sectors to enjoy plenty of cost cuts. Our recommended travel credit cards were also chosen due to their superior travel booking portals. Chase, American Express, and Capital One offer travel booking and travel tools to help cardholders find the best rates and earn more points by using their systems. Additionally, most will let you use your airline and hotel loyalty accounts to earn points with your favorite carriers and hospitality brands.

Disadvantages in the Airline Vs. Travel Credit Cards 

The primary limitation of airline credit cards is you must use the specific airline to enjoy the benefits. There are little to no cash backs. You can also only redeem your rewards for flights. 

Many of the top tier travel rewards credit cards come with a higher annual fee than airline cards. This is typically offset by the additional benefits that travel rewards cards offer. Capital One’s Venture X Rewards Credit Card has a $395 annual fee, but the additional perks like unlimited 10x miles on hotels and rental cars and 5x miles on airlines booked through Capital One Travel make it worth it for the avid traveler.

Choose the Credit Card That Suits Your Life Style 

Air travel is hectic and expensive. If you are a frequent flyer, you may want to save a coin or two while enjoying some comfort. You can opt for airline credit cards if you prioritize comfort and are loyal to one airline. Remember, the perks are only available when using that specific airline. 

Go for the travel airline if you want to enjoy rewards that reduce most of your travel expenses. The benefits in this category go beyond the airline and are as good as the carrier options available on your card. Therefore, choose your cards wisely.

Compare Airline and Travel Rewards Cards

If you’re in the market for a new airline or travel rewards card, you can compare them easily today.



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