Which Credit Cards Should You Charge Airfare To?

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As much as we love to tout free travel in this hobby, paying for airfare and hotels is unavoidable sometimes. You may not have enough miles, a great mistake fare can pop up, or maybe you’re still mileage running. In any case, paying for airfare isn’t so bad because lots of credit cards offer bonus points for airfare purchases. So which credit card should you charge airfare to? Below is an overview of credit cards that offer bonus points for airfare purchases, followed by an analysis of which option is best:

The Platinum Card from American Express

  • 5 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

  • 3 points per $1 for flights booked directly with airlines

 

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

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$0 first year
$195 after first year
25,000 Membership Rewards®
After you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership
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Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
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$0 first year
$195 after first year
25,000 Membership Rewards®
After you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership
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Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 3 points per $1 on travel
  • $300 travel credit annually

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

  • 3 points per $1 on travel

Citi Prestige Card

  • 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Hotels

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

  • 3 points per $1: Choose from four categories, including airfare purchased directly from the airline

The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

  • 2 points per $1 on airfare booked through Amex Travel website
  • 5 points per $1 on purchases over $5,000

Chase Hyatt Credit Card

  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline

Chase Marriott Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit
  • $100 Airline Ticket Discount
    • Your card saves you $100 on the total cost of between 2 and 5 qualifying round-trip, domestic coach airline tickets purchases on the same itinerary.*

The Platinum Card from American Express offers the most points on airfare booked directly with American Express Travel. The flexible use of Membership Rewards points make this a solid option for airfare spending. Even when it comes to point valuation, the Platinum Card from American Express offers the most value for airfare spending since points are worth around 1.65 cents each.

But what if the Membership Rewards program isn’t your cup of tea? Or the card’s $450 annual fee is out of your budget? Then it’s best to move on to another flexible rewards credit card. Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred cards earn 3 points per $1 on travel spending. With Ultimate Rewards points being valued at 1.7 cents each, that’s not a bad return on your airfare spending. The Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred cards are also much better options than charging airfare to the Hyatt, Marriott, or Ritz Carlton credit cards. That’s because cardholders earn 1 more point per $1 and that extra point can be transferred to all three programs at a 1:1 ratio.

The Sapphire Reserve also has the added advantage of $300 worth of annual travel credits, meaning you can charge airfare to this card and then get up to $300 back (assuming you haven’t already redeemed this annual credit for other travel purchases)!

What about the Citi Prestige, you ask? The Citi Prestige offers a solid 3 points per $1 earned on travel and Citi ThankYou points are valued at 1.55 cents/point. That’s slightly less than the valuation of Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points. Also, some of the key Citi transfer partners are also partners with Membership Rewards and/or Ultimate Rewards (Singapore Krisflyer, JetBlue, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, etc.). So if you plan on transferring your points to any programs that overlap with Membership Rewards, you’re getting shortchanged by charging airfare to the Citi Prestige card rather than the Platinum Card from American Express.

It ultimately comes down to personal preference, but when it comes to airfare, your best bet is to charge is to the Platinum Card from American Express. You’ll earn 5 points per $1 and these points can be transferred to a large selection of airline partners. If the list doesn’t appeal to you, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred cards are solid secondary options.
I’d love your take on this: Which credit card do you prefer to charge airfare to?

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