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Before making the investment in a premium credit card for airline purchases, you need to make sure you’re picking the right one. All major airlines offer their own premium credit card. Each one has valuable benefits suited for a specific traveler. These benefits are often useful for both domestic and international travel. This guide will compare the benefits of several premium credit card options so you can make an informed decision.

premium credit card

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

For people who fly American Airlines, there is great value in the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®. This premium credit card provides benefits you love of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. Priority boarding, free checked bags, and a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverages are all included. Plus there is so much more which justifies the premium annual fee.

Admirals Club Lounge Access

My favorite benefit is that cardholders have access to more than 50 Admirals Club lounges around the world. You may bring immediate family members and children under age 18 or up to two guests into the lounge at no additional charge. Admirals Club members pay up to $650 per year for a single member, so they’ll love saving money with a credit card annual fee of just $450.

Currently, cardholders and authorized users have access to the Admirals Club lounges even if they aren’t flying on American Airlines. Beginning November 1, 2019, they will only have access to the lounge if they are flying American Airlines or one of their partner airlines. This same restriction will apply to Admirals Club memberships, so Admirals Club access will remain equal between the credit card and membership.

Earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)

Although you won’t earn any as part of your sign-up bonus, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases with the card year. The signup bonus comes with the ability to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Additional benefits

You’ll earn 2x miles for every dollar you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x miles everywhere else. Keep in mind that you will not earn 2x miles on dining or gas with the Executive card.

Other benefits of this premium credit card include:

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA itineraries for you and up to 8 travel companions
  • Preferred boarding on AA flights with Group 4
  • Priority check-in and airport screening (where available)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Add up to 10 authorized users at no additional charge

If earning Elite Qualifying Miles or having access to the Admirals Club is not a priority for you, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® with its $95 annual fee is a worthwhile alternative. Or, if you are looking for more versatility, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture each offer their own set of consumer travel perks.

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express provides excellent benefits if you like to fly Delta Air Lines. You’ll receive priority boarding, first checked bag free, and a 20% savings on in-flight food, beverage, and audio headsets purchases. This premium credit card also earns Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), complimentary Sky Club access, and a companion certificate.

Delta Sky Club lounge access

There are 45 Delta Sky Clubs around the world. Normal memberships are $545 per year. This offsets the annual fee of $450 (See rates & fees).

The Delta Sky Club lounge benefit is somewhat limited with the Delta Reserve Credit Card. First, you must be flying on a Delta or a partner flight. Then, only the cardholder will receive complimentary entrance to the Delta Sky Club lounge. You may bring two guests and children with you for $29 per person.

Earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)

Cardholders who are seeking status with Delta will love that this credit card offers MQMs two ways. You will receive 10,000 MQMs after meeting the minimum spend requirements. And you can earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000 in eligible purchases each calendar year.

Additional benefits of the Delta Reserve Card

When you fly, you will receive Priority Boarding with the Main Cabin 1 group. One bag can also be checked free for up to nine passengers per itinerary. With bag fees of $30 each way, that’s a savings of up to $540 per round trip flight.

One unique benefit of the Delta Reserve Card is that cardholders receive a companion pass once per year. It is good for one free round-trip First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin domestic US ticket with the purchase of a ticket.

Other benefits of the Delta Reserve Card include:

  • Upgrade priority over others in your Medallion Tier and fare class grouping
  • MQM Gifting to give Miles Boost MQMs to others
  • Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) Waiver

For travelers that aren’t concerned with Delta Sky Club access or earning MQMs, you’re better off applying for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. Remember that the Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders also receive access to the Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta.

Chase United MileagePlus Club Card

The Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card offers the best everyday earning rate of these premium credit card options for airline purchases. It earns 1.5 miles on every dollar spent, which is 50% more than the others.

United Club lounge access

United Club members have more than 45 locations around the world to choose from. Normal memberships range from $450 to $550 per person.

Cardholders can access the United Club with a same-day boarding pass. They can bring two guests or one adult and dependent children under the age of 21 years.

Additional benefits of the Chase United MileagePlus Club

The free checked bag benefit for this premium credit card is different than the others. It is better if you have a small party because you can get a total of four free checked bags for two people. However, if you are traveling with more than four people on the same itinerary, this benefit is worse than American or Delta’s co-branded airline credit cards.

Other benefits include:

  • Waived close-in booking fees on award tickets
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets
  • Hertz President’s Circle elite status
  • Hotel benefits with the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Primary rental car coverage

The Chase United℠ Explorer Card is a good alternative. It offers free checked bags and priority boarding, plus it gives cardholders two complimentary United Club lounge passes each year. If you fly United frequently, having one of their credit card options may be useful.

Which premium credit card is right for you?

If you’re a traveler chasing status, then it’s a no-brainer to apply for the co-branded credit card offered by your preferred airline. For the rest of us that are agnostic to which airline we fly, the choice isn’t always as clear.

Comparing Premium Airline Credit Card  Benefits

This chart breaks down the benefits offered from each premium airline credit card so you can pick one based on the perks that matter most to you.

Credit Card Amex Delta Reserve Chase United MileagePlus Club Citi AAdvantage Executive
Annual Fee $450 $450 Also $450
Sign-up bonus 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs 50,000 miles 50,000 miles
Minimum spend $3,000 within 3 months $3,000 within 3 months $5,000 within 3 months
Bonus categories 2x on Delta Earn 2x on United 2x on American
Standard earn rate 1x on all others 1.5x on all others 1x on all others
Elite qualifying miles 15,000 MQMs & 15,000 miles after $30,000 None 10,000 EQMs after $40,000
Checked bags First checked free for up to 9 passengers on same itinerary 1st and 2nd checked bag for cardholder and one companion First checked free for cardholder and up to 8 companions
Priority boarding Main Cabin 1 Group 2 Group 4
Lounge access – Flying on Delta or partner airline
– Primary cardholder is free
– Up to two guests and children under 21 years of age pay reduced rate of $29 each
– Flying on United or partner airline
– 2 adult guests or 1 adult & dependent children under 21 years of age
– Flying on any airline through Oct 31, 2019
– After Nov 1, 2019, must fly on American or partner airline
– 2 adult guests or 1 adult & dependent children under 18 years of age
In-flight discount 20% None 25%
Extras – Companion certificate after $30,000 spend
– MQD waiver
– No close-in booking fees
– Complimentary Premier Upgrades
– Hertz President’s Circle
– LHR Collection
– Up to 10 authorized users at no charge
– Authorized users also have lounge access
– Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit


My Personal Strategy for Using Premium Credit Card Options

I currently have the Citi AAdvantage Executive Platinum credit card because it provides access to the Admirals Club lounges no matter which airline I’m flying. When the entrance rules change in November 2019, the value will decline considerably.

Since I’m not focused on airline status, I may abandon premium airline credit cards and downgrade to the mid-tier airline cards or another travel credit card. They’ll provide most of the same benefits and then I’ll access the Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass lounges through other premium credit card options.

Do you have a premium credit card? What is your favorite benefit of your card?

For rates and fees of The Delta Reserve Credit Card, please click here.

The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, the Delta Reserve® Credit Card, the United MileagePlus® Club Card, and the United℠ Explorer Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Lee Huffman

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Which Premium Credit Card for Airline Purchases Is Right For You?
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