The Chase Airline Credit Card Everyone Needs

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With generous sign-up bonuses, category bonuses, and recurring travel benefits, Chase has some of the best travel rewards credit cards out there. In addition to one of the best bank currencies out there, Chase has an impressive line of airline and hotel credit card partners. Their hotel credit card lineup is much more extensive than their airline cards, but there are still some great options to choose from. So which Chase airline credit card is the best? Below is a breakdown based on currency value, sign-up bonus, earning rate, annual spending bonus, recurring travel benefits, and annual fee:

 

Currency Value

Southwest Rapid Rewards – 1.4 cents/mile

United – 1.4 cents/miles – 1 cent/mile

British Airways – 1 cent/mile

When it comes to currency value, Southwest and United are tied. However, Southwest points can’t be used for premium cabins or international flights (outside of the Caribbean and Mexico), so this round goes to United Mileage Plus.

 

Sign-up Bonus

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card

  • 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

United MileagePlus Explorer card

  • 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • 5,000 bonus miles after you add the first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.

United MileagePlus Club card

  • $100 statement credit after your first purchase

British Airways Visa Signature card

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

The British Airways Visa Signature card has the highest sign-up bonus, but it quickly loses its appeal when we consider British Airways’ inflated award chart, massive fuel surcharges on international flights, and lower currency value. The United MileagePlus Explorer card also normally has a higher sign-up bonus than a mere 30,000 miles (check your inbox for a targeted offer), so the winner here is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card. Not only is the 40,000 point sign-up bonus higher than that of the United MileagePlus Explorer card, at 1.4 cents per point, it’s valued higher than the bonus on the British Airways Visa Signature Card. As an added bonus, the sign-up bonus from this card counts towards the Southwest Companion Pass!

 

Earning Rate

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card

  • 2X points on Southwest purchases
  • 1X point on all other purchases

United MileagePlus Explorer card

  • 2 miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

United MileagePlus Club card

  • 2 miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
  • 5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.

British Airways Visa Signature card

  • 3 Avios per $1 spent on British Airways purchases.
  • 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Taking currency value into account, the card offering the highest earning rate is the United MileagePlus Club card. United MileagePlus miles are valuable on their own, but earning them at a rate of 1.5 miles per $1 on everyday spend is a huge advantage of this card.

 

Annual (Spending) Bonus

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card

  • Receive 6,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn 1,500 TQP for each $10,000 in purchases up to $100,000 in purchases annually which equal 15,000 TQP.

United MileagePlus Explorer card

  • Receive 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 on purchases on your Card each calendar year.

United MileagePlus Club card – N/A

British Airways Visa Signature card

  • Earn a Travel Together Ticket after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.

The best annual bonus really depends on personal preference, but I give this round to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card. That’s because cardholders don’t have to spend anything to earn 6,000 bonus points in a year. With Southwest offering a fare-based award program, 6,000 points is enough for a one-way flight between the Bay Area and Cancun, or three short-haul one-way flights (i.e. between Sacramento and Los Angeles). T

 

Annual Fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card – $99

United MileagePlus Explorer card – $95 (waived the first year)

United MileagePlus Club card – $450

British Airways Visa Signature card – $95

The  United MileagePlus Explorer and British Airways Visa Signature cards have the lowest annual fees at $95, but the MileagePlus Explorer card waives it during the first year, so we’ll pick it as the winner in this category. Of course, we can’t evaluate annual fees without considering the travel benefits that accompany them…

 

Travel Benefits

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card

  • $0 change fee

United MileagePlus Explorer card

  • First checked bag free for primary cardholder and a traveling companion on the same reservation.
  • Priority Boarding
  • 2 United Club passes each year.
  • The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection program: Room upgrades, complimentary daily breakfast for two, early check-in, late checkout and other amenities at more than 900 luxury hotels and resorts worldwide.

United MileagePlus Club card

  • Free first and second checked bag for cardholder and a companion traveling on the same reservation.
  • United Club Membership (worth of up to $550 per year)
  • Premier Access travel services for cardholder and companions traveling on the same reservation: Priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage handling privileges.
  • No close-in award booking fees on United tickets.
  • Hyatt Platinum status

British Airways Visa Signature card – N/A

This is another case where personal preference comes into play. The United MileagePlus Club card probably offers the most extensive list of travel benefits (and a higher annual fee to boot). The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card advertises two free checked bags and a $0 change fee, but these benefits are available to all Rapid Rewards members, regardless of whether they have the card or not. The United MileagePlus Explorer card on the other hand, offers the best benefits in exchange for the $95 annual fee.

Ultimately, the best Chase airline credit card comes down to personal preference. Based on the above criteria and my evaluations, it really comes down to the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. However, considering the current low sign-up bonus on the Explorer card and the fact that the Southwest Rapid Rewards card gets you closer to a companion pass, I pick the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card as the best Chase airline credit card.

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