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It’s no secret that flying in first class is a completely different experience than flying in coach. What you may not realize is that some credit cards make it easy to achieve first-class travel more often. If you enjoy the finer things in life, make sure you use one of the best credit cards for first-class travel.

Emirates_Boeing_777-200LR_First_Class_Suite credit cards for first class travel
Use one of the best credit cards for first-class travel and fly in an infamous Emirates Boeing 777-200LR First Class Suite. Photo by Pyonko Omeyama on Flickr

Best Credit Cards for First Class Travel

The information for the Citi Premier℠ Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Platinum Card from American Express

If you fly often, the Platinum Card® from American Express deserves a spot in your wallet. Firstly, you earn 5x Membership Rewards on flights booked directly from the airline or on AmexTravel. Most airline credit cards only award 2x points on flight bookings.

You can then transfer your points to over a dozen airline loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. Redeeming your points for first-class travel usually gives you the highest redemption values of up to 6 cents each. Some of the best airlines include Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Flying Blue, and Delta.

Other premium air travel benefits of the American Express Platinum include:

  • Annual $200 airline fee credit
  • Airport lounge access including Centurion, Priority Pass, and Delta Sky Club
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Some people may prequalify for a special welcome offer worth 100,00 bonus points through CardMatch™. This bonus can be worth at least $1,000 in award flights. It can also be enough to fly in the swanky Singapore Suites from New York to Frankfurt.

Business Platinum Card from American Express

Travel for business often? The Business Platinum Card® from American Express gives you 35% points back (up to 500,000 per year) when you book business or first class through Amex Travel. This redemption bonus makes each point worth 1.35 cents each. However, you may still find more value in transferring your points to a 1:1 travel partner.

Like the personal Amex Platinum, the Amex Business Platinum card comes with annual travel credits, airport lounge access, and other air and hotel perks. This is also one of the strongest and most lavish credit cards available to the public — literally! Made of metal, it is one of the best metal credit cards that doesn’t require an invitation in order to apply.

Another business perk you may appreciate is a Dell Small Business statement credit. To get the credit, cardholders must enroll to get up to $200 in annual Dell statement credits (cardholders get up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. Dell purchases – terms apply).

New cardholders can earn 75k bonus points as well. To earn the 75k, you’ll have to spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. The annual fee is $595 (See Rates & Fees).

Learn more: Best Amex business credit cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points on all dining purchases around the globe. Other premium benefits include an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. The Chase Sapphire Reserve also earns 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.

Your points are worth 1.5 cents each when booking award travel on the Chase travel portal. You can also transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to airlines and hotels including United, Southwest, British Airways, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines. There are no foreign transaction fees either, making this one of the best credit cards for international travel.

Also, the Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits update includes new ridesharing and food delivery perks.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card gives you 2x miles per $1 spent on every purchase (Uber Eats purchases earns 5x miles per $1 spent through January 31, 2021). Earning double miles can help you earn a small fortune of miles quickly. Your redemption options include redeeming miles for a travel statement credit and booking upcoming flights for one cent each.

The best option can be transferring your Capital One miles to hotel and airline partners including Avianca, Emirates, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines. You also get a fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

New Venture Rewards cardholders can earn a 100k mile bonus by spending $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Learn more: Rewards Credit Cards

Along with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture Rewards is considered one of the best travel credit cards. Learn more in our comparison of the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture review.

Singapore Airlines’ Suites

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card can give you an annual companion first-class travel certificate. You get a domestic first-class, Comfort+, or main cabin round-trip certificate each card renewal. Your companion fees and taxes won’t exceed $75.

Other air travel benefits include:

  • Complimentary access to the Centurion and Delta Sky Club lounges (additional fee for companions) when flying on a Delta flight
  • Free first checked bag for you and up to 8 companions
  • Upgrade Priority (when available)
  • 20% in-flight purchase savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets
  • Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Your purchases earn up to 3x SkyMiles per $1 spent on Delta purchases. Plus, earning MQMs can make it easier to achieve airline elite status. You can earn 15,000 MQMs after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, up to four times per year (getting you closer to Medallion Status). MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.

Learn more: Best Delta Air Lines credit cards

British Airways Visa Signature Card

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a top contender for international first-class travel.

First, you can get up to $200 statement credit (max 3 times per year, up to $600) when booking an award flight to London using British Airways and paying the necessary fees. Making at least $30,000 in annual card purchases gives you a Travel Together Ticket. You only pay the fees and taxes for your companion’s seat when you book an award seat in any cabin class.

New cardmembers can earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening.

All purchases earn up to 3 Avios per $1 spent. In addition to earning Avios on every card purchase, you can transfer points at 1:1 ratio with a Chase Sapphire or American Express Membership Rewards credit card.

Learn more: Best miles credit cards

Citi Premier Card

The Citi Premier℠ Card is another great option if you’re comfortable transferring points to a frequent flyer program. You earn triple ThankYou points on travel and gas stations, double points on dining and entertainment, and 1x point for everything else.

This is also one of the best Citi credit cards available.

Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when booking award flights at ThankYou.com. The better option can be transferring your ThankYou points to the various airline partners. Most of these airlines are international carriers including:

  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • FlyingBlue
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Avianca LifeMiles lets you book award flights on Star Alliance partners including United and Lufthansa. When flying Lufthansa, you can avoid the fuel surcharges that you pay when booking directly from Lufthansa. However, make sure award space is available before you transfer points. Otherwise, you may need to settle for flying coach on a different airline to use your miles.

The Citi Premier can be a good Chase Sapphire Preferred alternative if you’re breaking the Chase 5/24 rule. Learn more in our Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Citi Premier comparison.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Another excellent business credit card is the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. This is the business version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and also one of the best small business credit cards for travel rewards.

You earn 3x Ultimates Rewards on the first $150,000 in combined annual purchases for:

  • Travel
  • Shipping
  • Search engine and social media advertising
  • Internet, cable, and phone services

All remaining purchases earn 1 point per $1.

Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when booking award travel on the Chase travel portal. You also have access to the 1:1 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. This card also has a handsome signup bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points by spending $15,000 in the first 3 months.

Learn more: Best Chase business credit cards

Summary of Best Credit Cards for First Class Travel

The quickest way to book first-class travel more often is to transfer your points directly to the airline. Some credit cards offer fringe benefits like travel credits and airport lounge access that can improve your travel experience.

FAQs

What credit card gives the best travel rewards?

The best travel rewards can be a little different for each person as we all have different travel habits. That said the Platinum Card from American Express offers the most travel benefits. You get complimentary airport lounge access to several networks, airline fee credits, Uber credits, and free Global Entry to name a few perks.

For other travelers, redemption bonuses and a wide portfolio of 1:1 transfer partners can be more valuable. In that case, you might consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when booking award travel directly through Chase. Transfer partners include United, British Airways, Emirates, Flying Blue, and Singapore Airlines. These airlines offer some of the best first-class redemptions.

Which airline has the best first class?

The best first-class experience overall can be Singapore Airlines. While they may not offer the best experience for every destination, you have lots of booking options. You should focus first on flying the Singapore Suites class which gives you a private room with a dedicated bed. One of the most affordable routes is from New York to Frankfurt starting at 86,000 miles.

Singapore Airlines also lets you redeem KrisFlyer miles on Star Alliance partners, Alaska Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. You have plenty of options, to say the least.

Finally, Singapore Airlines partners with most of the best credit card reward programs to transfer points. Chances are you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One miles directly to your KrisFlyer account.

Is it worth flying first class?

First-class travel is expensive but the experience can be well worth it. Instead of paying cash for tickets, you may decide to wait and book a first-class flight with points. The main reason why is that each point can be worth as much as 6 cents each for first class but closer to 2 cents each for main cabin flights.

You should pay attention to the additional fees and fuel surcharges as well. Domestic airlines including United, Delta, and American are less likely to charge add-on fees. But international airlines like Lufthansa or British Airways are more likely to. It’s possible to avoid these fees by booking flights through Avianca LifeMiles which is an American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou transfer partner.

Also, flying first class can be better when you have a long international flight. Not only do you get to spend more hours in luxury but the award flight cost may not be that more expensive than a short-haul domestic flight.

For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

Josh Patoka
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