Top Credit Cards for Each US Airline

Credit cards are a very lucrative market for points and miles that can take you around the world and back. With so many different credit card options available out there, what are the top cards you should be carrying with you for each of your preferred airlines? 

American Airlines

American Airlines is probably the trickiest of the 3 major domestic carriers to pinpoint a credit card with. Since American still doesn't have a partner to transfer points over from a credit card, this means you either need to use their own co-branded credit cards, which aren't great, or use Citi's cards and deal with non-transferable points. This is a difficult one to answer, but I'd have to go with the Citi Premier card.

If you grab the Premier card, the points earning is the best out on the market right now. 3x points for Gas and Travel including hotels, parking, and a whole manner of things in between. 2x points are earned on things like restaurants and entertainment. 1x points for everything else outside of those bonus categories.

Since these points are not transferable, you've got to spend them through the Citi travel portal if you want to use them for American Airlines flights. If the premier card is the only one you have, these can be redeemed for 1.3 cents per points. If you happen to have the Citi Prestige card as well, you get a better rate at 1.6 centers per point. The additional bonus here is that if you purchase tickets this way, they still count as revenue tickets and earn flight miles with American, even though you used points instead of money.

Delta Airlines

Delta can be a bit tricky too, but my choice may not be the one you expect here. Amex Membership Rewards are the currency you want in this case as they are transferable to Delta at the ideal 1:1 ratio. The Everyday Preferred card is the lower end tier of the Amex cards available with the lowest annual fee.

So why choose this card? Simple, the bonus categories make this ideal for all of those everyday expenses that wouldn't earn you bonuses on other cards. On this card if you make 30 transactions a month, you get an additional 50% bonus on all your points including the 3x groceries bonus and 2x gas station bonus. So once you hit that bonus threshold, you get 1.5x points on everyday expenses, 3x points on gas stations, and 4.5x bonus on grocery stores.

Do keep in mind though that the bonuses on grocery stores is capped at $6000 per year, but if you get the 50% bonus and spend all $6000, that is equal to 27,000 membership points a year. This card really is one of the best all around spend cards period.

United Airlines

On United's side, the best would likely be the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but I'm not as bullish on this card as everyone else seems to be. Really the best thing about this card is the primary car insurance when renting a car. Other than that the bonus categories don't overwhelm and aren't well fleshed out. 2x bonus on restaurants and travel which can be had with other cards that have more fleshed out bonus categories.

If you are a United flyer though, this is the card to have for transferable points to United. While the bonus categories aren't great, they are decent and not to be completely dismissed. 

Final Choice

So out of the three, which one is the best? Hard question, but right now I'd say the Everyday Preferred because of how versatile it is. If you're going with one single card, that is the one I'd choose. Be sure to grab the one that fits your flying habits if you only have one card in your wallet. If you fly American Airlines all the time, points on Delta may not be as helpful to you. Review all of your options though as there are many great cards out there that give different benefits for different situations, choose the one that fits you the best.