Airline credit cards are my favorite way to earn airline miles for free flights. Free flights are awesome, but that is not the only reason to have an airline credit card in your wallet. The best airline credit cards for free flights also provide free checked bags, priority boarding, discounts in flight, and so much more.
6 reasons to have an airline credit card
Beyond earning miles for free flights, the best airline credit cards provide many other benefits. Benefits vary from bank to bank and many airline credit cards offer multiple versions of their credit card to fit your budget.
Here are six reasons why you should have an airline credit card:
- Free checked bags for you and your companions
- Priority boarding
- Discounts in-flight
- Airport lounge access
- Annual companion pass
- Accelerated elite status
Not every airline credit card offers the benefits listed above. When selecting an airline credit card, you have to balance the benefits you want versus the annual fee charged by the bank.
Let’s go a bit deeper into a few of the benefits.
Free checked bags
Checked bags are getting more expensive every year. Some airlines now charge $35 per bag per person in each direction. This means that a family of four could pay $280 in checked bag fees on their next round trip flight.
Most airline credit cards provide one free checked bag for the cardholder and travel companions booked on the same reservation. The benefits of each airline credit card are different and you may be limited in the number of travel companions who are covered by this perk.
You are supposed to pay for your ticket with the airline credit card to receive the benefit. However, I’ve seen instances where travelers have received free checked bags even if they pay for their flight with another credit card.
Waiting in the terminal to board the plane is a waste of time. And, if you need to put something in the overhead bing, getting on the plane early is very important.
Airline credit cards that offer priority boarding can help you skip the line and board early, even if you bought a cheap ticket. You’ll still board after people with top-tier elite status, but you won’t be the last one either.
Prices on food and drink while flying tend to be higher than normal because you’re a captive audience for a few hours. If you buy food or drinks while flying, the best airline credit cards offer discounts of 25% to 50% on these purchases. This discount can make prices much more reasonable.
Airport lounge access
One of my favorite parts of flying is before we ever leave the ground. Instead of waiting in the terminal before your flight, enjoy complimentary drinks, snacks, WiFi, and more in an airport lounge.
Alaska, American, Delta, and United all have their own airport lounges dedicated to their passengers and those of their partner airlines. These lounges are reserved for elite customers, international premium class passengers, and airport club members. Some airport lounges allow you to purchase a day pass.
My favorite way to access these lounges is through the benefits of my airline credit cards. It is easier than becoming an elite member and usually cheaper than buying an airport lounge membership.
Annual companion pass
Companion passes allow travelers to bring a companion with them for free or a nominal fee. This is one of the best benefits around because of how much money you can save.
Alaska Airlines gives cardholders an annual companion pass every year just for having the credit card and paying the annual fee.
Other airlines require you to meet certain spending levels to earn the companion pass. Examples include Southwest, American, Delta, and British Airways.
Accelerated elite status
Earning elite status comes with numerous benefits, including the potential for upgrades on your flights. Becoming an elite member of an airline’s loyalty program takes a lot of time and money to fly the required number of miles. With the best airline credit cards you can accelerate your path to elite status based on your spending every year. This makes a lot of sense for business owners and big spenders that put a lot of money on their credit cards on a regular basis.
The best airline credit cards for free flights
These are the best airline credit cards for free flights. Do your research and find the card that fits your budget while offering the benefits that are valuable to you. It is ok to pay an annual fee if the savings and benefits are worth more than the annual fee.