Having airline status is like a VIP pass for your travels – with perks like lounge access, seat upgrades, free bags, and even companion tickets.
Back in the day, you can only earn elite status on a certain airline by flying and spending. But guess what? Things have changed. Nowadays, some credit cards are throwing in elite status as a bonus, or at least an easy path to earn status.
If you’re planning to earn elite status this year, here are some of the best credit cards for airline elite status.
Best for Low Annual Fees: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
1. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Best for FIrst Class Companion Tickets
- 3X SkyMiles on Delta Air Lines Purchases
- First Checked Bag Free
- Airport Lounge Access
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit
- 20% Statement Credit on Delta In-Flight Purchases
- $550 Annual Fee and No Foreign Transaction Fees (Rates & Fees)
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (review) earns 3x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and comes with complimentary Delta Sky Club* and The Centurion Lounge access, making it a stellar choice for frequent Delta flyers.
For a $550 annual fee, this premium card offers excellent Delta-specific perks such as free first checked bag, 20% back on in-flight purchases, upgrade priority, and an annual companion certificate that gets you a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate upon renewing your card every year.
* Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 10 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
Why we picked this card: The Delta Reserve card comes with premium travel perks and benefits such as lounge access to Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges, priority boarding, first-class companion tickets, and complimentary TSA Precheck and Global Entry memberships.
It’s mainly for consumers who want a luxurious flying experience.
However, one of its main selling points is its status boost that allows you to earn up to 60,000 MQMs if you can spend a total of $120,000 per calendar year. It also allows you to waive your MQD requirements for Gold or Platinum status by spending $25,000 in a calendar year.
This means that cardholders spend their way towards Delta Medallion Gold status without having to take a single flight on Delta.
Reaching Gold status the traditional way normally requires 50,000 MQMs and $8,000 MQDs which requires a lot of flying.
2. United Club℠ Infinite Card
Best for United Club Access
- 4X Miles on United Purchases
- 2X Miles on Dining, Travel, Transit, and Rideshare
- United Club Airport Lounge Access
- IHG Platinum and Avis President’s Club Elite Status
- Free First and Second Checked Bags
- Primary Rental Car Insurance
- Trip Delay and Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
- $525 Annual Fee
You can also bring two adults or one adult and dependent children under 21 years of age as guests.
The card also offers 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, 2 miles per dollar spent on travel and dining, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Plus, you and one companion can get your first and second checked bags free on United-operated flights when you buy the tickets with your card.
Why we picked this card:
The United Club Infinite card gives cardholders bonus Premier Qualifying Points towards reaching United Premier status. You’ll earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 spent on the card, up to 8,000 PQPs in a calendar year.
Maximizing the bonus PQPs gets you Premier Silver status which requires 5,000 PQPs or a boost towards Premier Gold status which requires 10,000 PQPs.
Additionally, we like the United Infinite Card because it also comes with a complimentary IHG Platinum and Avis President’s Club elite status, giving cardholders more travel perks and benefits.
3. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Best for Low Annual Fees
- 2x Miles for American Airlines, Gas Stations, and Restaurants purchases.
- Free Checked Bag and Preferred Boarding
- 25% In-Flight Savings on Food and Drinks
- $99 Annual Fee, Waived for First 12 Months
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is a good option for American Airlines flyers because it offers a free first checked bag on domestic flights for you and up to 4 travel companions on the same reservation, plus preferred boarding on American Airlines flights.
Plus, you earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar at restaurants, gas stations, and on American Airlines.
The AAdvantage Platinum card can also help you earn AAdvantage elite status because every dollar spent on the card equals one Loyalty Point.
Why we picked this card:
The AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard offers one of the most convenient and cheapest ways to earn AAdvantage elite status.
With a cheap annual fee of $99, cardholders can just spend their way towards elite status by earning unlimited Loyalty points through restaurant and gas station purchases. You’re not required to take a single flight and spend money on United Airlines.
4. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Best for Elite Status & Companion Pass Eligibility
- $75 Annual Southwest Travel Credit
- 7,500 Points on Every Cardmember Anniversary
- 3X Points on Southwest Purchases
- 2X Points on Ridesharing, Local Transit, Internet, Cable, Phone, and Select Streaming
- 4 Upgraded Boardings Per Year
- 25% Savings on In-Flight Purchases
- $149 Annual Fee
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (review) is the best rewards card for Southwest flyers, earning 3x points on Southwest purchases and 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, ridesharing, local transit, internet, cable, phone, and streaming services.
At $149 per year, this travel card offers a host of great perks to offset the cost, including a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 7,500 bonus points each account anniversary, 4 upgraded boardings, and a 25% in-flight savings.
The Southwest Priority card also comes with lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, secondary rental car insurance, purchase protection, and an extended warranty.
5. Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Best for Admirals Club Lounge Access
- Admirals Club Lounge Membership
- Free Checked Bag (for you and 8 travel companions)
- Priority Boarding and Priority Check-In
- Global Entry / TSA Pre-Check Credit
- $595 Annual Fee
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is a good option for frequent American Airlines travelers since it offers an Admirals Club membership, free checked bags, priority boarding, and priority check-in on American Airlines.
6. Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Best for Main Cabin Companion Tickets
For a $250 annual fee, getting this card unlocks valuable flying benefits, including a first checked bag free that saves you up to $60 per person on a round-trip Delta flight, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, and 20% savings as statement credit on in-flight food and beverages.
7. JetBlue Plus Card
Best for JetBlue Mosaic Status
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases and paying the annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days, with the JetBlue Plus Card.
- 6x Points on JetBlue Purchases
- Free First Checked Bags for You and 3 Companions
- 5,000 Points Every Account Anniversary
- 50% In-Flight Savings
- $100 Annual Vacation Credit
- $99 Annual Fee
The Barclays JetBlue Plus earns 6x TrueBlue points on JetBlue flights and 2x points on dining and groceries, so it’s easy to accrue points faster for award flights if you’re a JetBlue loyalist.
Even if you’re an occasional traveler, you’ll likely benefit from the free checked bags for you and three companions, 5,000 TrueBlue points every anniversary, a $100 vacation credit, 50% in-flight savings on food and alcoholic beverages, and a 10% points rebate when using your TrueBlue points – all for $99 per year.