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The 12+ Best Credit Cards for Flight Upgrades [2024]

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Christine Krzyszton

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Once you’ve experienced sitting in the front of the plane, it can be difficult to settle for less. While the experience has certainly changed, there’s no doubt that making your journey in a business or first class seat is a more desirable way to fly.

It’s common to assume that if you want to be sure you’ll be sitting in a business or first class seat that you must purchase those premium seats. Fortunately, there are several ways to secure premium seating without paying top dollar … and that’s the direction we’re heading today in this article.

We’re going to look at how you might utilize credit card features and benefits to secure upgraded airline seating. We’ll start by looking at cards that allow you to use rewards points to upgrade your flight, cards that give you a rebate when purchasing flights with points, cards that allow you to secure premium flights by transferring rewards to travel partners, and cards that elevate your place in line for complimentary upgrades.

Sit back and join us as we explore several options available via travel rewards credit cards for securing that highly desirable airline upgrade.

The Best Credit Cards for Airline Upgrades — Overview

If you’re seeking an upgraded airline experience, travel rewards cards can help make it happen. Here’s a summary of the options we’ll be covering in our article for using travel rewards cards for upgraded flights.

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CardWelcome Offer and Annual FeeAirline Upgraded Seating
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Earn 80,000 points after spending $8,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Annual fee of $695 (rates & fees)
  • Redeem Membership Rewards points to bid on flight upgrades
  • Use points at the rate of 1 cent each to purchase premium flights via AmexTravel.com
  • Transfer points to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
  • Access to over 1,400 worldwide lounges, including Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass (upon enrollment), and more
American Express® Gold Card
  • Earn 60,000 points when you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Annual fee of $250 (rates & fees)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Earn 120,000 points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual fee of $695 (rates & fees)
  • Use points to bid on flight upgrades
  • Use points at the rate of 1 cent each to purchase premium flights via AmexTravel.com and receive a 35% point rebate
  • Transfer points to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
  • Access to over 1,400 worldwide lounges, including Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass (upon enrollment), and more
American Express® Business Gold Card
  • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual fee of $375 (rates & fees)
  • Use points to bid on flight upgrades
  • Use points at the rate of 1 cent each to purchase flights via AmexTravel.com
  • Transfer points to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual fee of $550
  • Use points for 50% more value to purchase travel via the Chase travel portal
  • Transfer points to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
  • Use the $300 travel credit toward a flight upgrade
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual fee of $95
  • Use points for 25% more value to purchase travel via the Chase travel portal
  • Transfer points to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • Earn 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual fee of $395 (rates & fees)
  • Transfer Capital One miles to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
  • Use Capital One Venture X card $300 travel credit toward a flight upgrade via Capital One Travel
Citi Premier® Card
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024.
  • Annual fee of $95
  • Transfer Citi ThankYou Points to airline partners and redeem them for premium award flights
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • Earn 60,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Annual fee of $650 (rates & fees)
  • Cardholders receive complimentary upgrades ahead of travelers in their elite status group who do not have the Delta Reserve card (or business version)
  • Cardholders who complete the MQD waiver annual spending requirements in a calendar year receive upgrade priority over those travelers who have not
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
  • Earn 75,000 miles after spending $10,000 in purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Annual fee of $650 (rates & fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Annual fee of $350 (rates & fees)
  • Cardholders who complete the MQD waiver annual spending requirements receive upgrade priority over those travelers who have not done so
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
  • Earn 65,000 miles after spending $6,000 in purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Annual fee of $350 (rates & fees)
United℠ Explorer Card
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual fee of $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • United-branded cards that charge an annual fee offer cardholders (who have elite status with United MileagePlus) complimentary seating upgrades on award flights

The Best Card for Upgrading With Points

If your flight is booked with any of American Express’ airline upgrade partners, you may be able to use Membership Rewards earned on your American Express card for flight upgrades.

The Platinum Card® from American Express (Top Pick)

BEST LOUNGE ACCESS
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

The Platinum Card® from American Express

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
80,000 points
$1,760
$695
See Pay Over Time APR
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits like best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.

Pros

  • The best airport lounge access out of any card (by far) — enjoy access to over 1,400 worldwide lounges, including the luxurious Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Plaza Premium Lounges, and many more!
  • 5x points per dollar spent on flights purchased directly with the airline or with AmexTravel.com (up to $500,000 per year)
  • 5x points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com
  • Annual and monthly statement credits upon enrollment (airline credit, Uber Cash credit, Saks Fifth Avenue credit, streaming credit, prepaid hotel credit on eligible stays, Walmart+ credit, CLEAR credit, and Equinox credit)
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit
  • Access to American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
  • Access to Amex International Airline Program
  • No foreign transaction fees (rates and fees)

Cons

  • $695 annual fee (rates and fees)
  • Airline credit does not cover airfare (only incidentals like checked bags)
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership (subject to auto-renewal) with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card®. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Up Benefits are excluded.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back in statement credits per calendar year on an Equinox membership, or an Equinox club membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required. Visit https://platinum.equinox.com/ to enroll.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR Plus at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Platinum Card®. Learn more.
  • $100 Global Entry Credit: Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® (through a TSA official enrollment provider) application fee, when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $300 SoulCycle At-Home Bike Credit: Get a $300 statement credit for the purchase of a SoulCycle at-home bike with your Platinum Card®. An Equinox+ subscription is required to purchase a SoulCycle at-home bike and access SoulCycle content. Must charge full price of bike in one transaction. Shipping available in the contiguous U.S. only. Enrollment Required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

American Express Membership Rewards

Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 125k (or 150k) points with the Amex Platinum. The current public offer is 80,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

Amex Platinum cardholders have the option to utilize Membership Rewards points to bid for upgrades on flights booked with several airline upgrade partners.

How To Use the Card To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

To use the Upgrade With Points option, log in to your online Amex card account and click on Rewards, then Membership Rewards Home. You’ll then see the Book or Upgrade Travel option and be able to bid for an upgrade.

Why We Like the Card Overall

Earning valuable Membership Rewards is just the beginning of the long list of premium benefits you’ll find on the Amex Platinum card. The card has become the gold standard for travel rewards cards with its complimentary worldwide lounge access to over 1,400 additional airport lounge locations, including Centurion Lounges.

With hundreds of dollars in statement credits each year, travel insurance protection, and shopping benefits, the card offers tons of value for its members.

Additional Amex Cards With the Upgrade With Points Feature

The Upgrade with Points feature available on the Amex Platinum card is also available on several additional American Express cards. Here is just a sampling of some of the more popular cards offering this option.

To find out if your specific American Express card has Upgrade with Points availability, login to your online Amex card account, select Rewards, then Membership Rewards Home. If you see the Book or Upgrade Travel option, your card is eligible.

For more information on using Membership Rewards to Upgrade with Points, check out this step-by-step tutorial with everything you need to know.

Bottom Line: Using Membership Rewards points to upgrade your flight may not be the best value for your points as the most you can expect to receive is about 1 cent per point. However, having a variety of redemption options is always a positive.

The Best Cards for Purchasing Premium Flights With Points

You may have heard this common word of advice: “If you want to be sure to fly in first class, buy first class.” Fortunately, instead of shelling out a lot of cash, there are options for using your rewards points to secure a business or first class ticket.

Here are some of the best cards that allow you to earn flexible rewards points that can be used to purchase business and first class flights that can upgrade your flight experience.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

OUR BEST OFFER
The Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

This card is ideal for business travelers who enjoy luxury travel and are looking for a card loaded with benefits!

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

This card is ideal for business travelers who enjoy luxury travel and are looking for a card loaded with benefits!
Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
120,000 points
$2,640
$695
19.49% - 28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium travel rewards card tailored toward business owners who are frequent travelers with a high number of annual expenses.

When you factor in the large number of perks that the card offers like the best airport lounge access at over 1,400 lounges, along with tons of annual credits, it’s easy to see why this card can is a top option for frequent traveling business owners.

Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 170,000 points with the Amex Business Platinum. The current public offer is 120,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

Pros

  • 5x Membership Rewards points per $1 on flights and prepaid hotels at Amex Travel
  • Up to $200 annual airline fee credit on your selected qualifying airline
  • Statement credits on select purchases with your card
  • 35% airline bonus when using Pay With Points (up to 1,000,000 bonus points per calendar year)
  • Access to over 1,400 worldwide airport lounges as part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards points (1.5 points per $1) on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more (cap applies)
  • Access to Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program

Cons

  • High annual fee of $695 (rates and fees)
  • Airline fee credit does not cover airfare, only incidentals like checked bags
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on AmexTravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on each eligible purchase at US construction material, hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers, and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees charged by your one selected, qualifying airline to your Card.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Use your card and get up to $189 in statement credits per calendar year on your CLEAR® Plus Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Business Platinum Card®.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market as of 03/2023.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 19.49% - 28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

American Express Membership Rewards

Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 170,000 points with the Amex Business Platinum. The current public offer is 120,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

The Amex Business Platinum card is one of the best cards to use when redeeming points for premium airline flights.

How To Use the Card To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

When you redeem Membership Rewards points via AmexTravel.com with your Amex Business Platinum card, you will receive a Flight Bonus benefit that rebates 35% of the points used to purchase a business or first class flight. You can also receive a 35% point rebate when purchasing any flight via AmexTravel.com that is on your pre-selected airline of choice.

Just as an example, if you were to use 100,000 Membership Rewards points to purchase a business or first class flight, you would receive 35,000 points back into your account in the form of a rebate.

Flights must be purchased with the Pay with Points option and there is a limit of 500,000 rebated points each year.

American Express® Business Gold Card

BEST FOR BONUSES
American Express® Business Gold CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

American Express® Business Gold Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Get 4x points in 2 select categories where your business spends the most each month (on your first $150,000 spent each year).

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

American Express® Business Gold Card

Get 4x points in 2 select categories where your business spends the most each month (on your first $150,000 spent each year).
Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership
70,000 points
$1,540
$375
19.49% - 28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The American Express® Business Gold Card is excellent at racking up rewards for your business spend.

The card earns a whopping 4x points per $1 in the 2 categories (from a list of 6) that your business spends the most money on each month. With no need to opt-in or preselect your categories, so you can focus on what matters most — running your business.

Pros

  • 4x points per dollar spent on your 2 highest purchase categories each month up to $150,000 each calendar year in purchases; categories include:
    • NEW! Transit purchases including trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, and subways
    • NEW! U.S. purchases made from electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers
    • NEW! Monthly wireless telephone service charges made directly from a wireless telephone service provider in the U.S.
    • U.S. purchases at gas stations
    • U.S. purchases at restaurants, including takeout and delivery
    • Purchases at U.S. media providers for advertising in select media (online such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, plus TV and radio)
  • 3x points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com using your Business Gold Card
  • Access to Amex’s The Hotel Collection
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty protection
  • Trip delay insurance
  • Car rental insurance
  • Cell phone insurance

Cons

  • $375 annual fee (rates and fees)
  • No elite travel benefits like airport lounge access or elite status
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.*
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points on the 2 categories where your business spends the most each billing cycle from 6 eligible categories. While your top 2 categories may change, you will earn 4X points on the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these categories each calendar year (then 1X thereafter). Only the top 2 categories each billing cycle will count towards the $150,000 cap.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com using your Business Gold Card.
  • Earn up to $20 in statement credits monthly after you use the Business Gold Card for eligible U.S. purchases at FedEx, Grubhub, and Office Supply Stores. This can be an annual savings of up to $240. Enrollment required.
  • Get $12.95 back in statement credits each month when you pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership (subject to auto-renewal) with your Business Gold Card. $12.95 plus applicable taxes.
  • Your Card – Your Choice. Choose from Gold or Rose Gold.
  • *Terms Apply

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 19.49% - 28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

American Express Membership Rewards

Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 110,000 points with the Amex Business Gold card! The current public offer is 70,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

How To Use the Card To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

The Amex Business Gold card earns Membership Rewards points that can be redeemed through the Upgrade with Points feature. You also have the option to purchase your flight with points via AmexTravel.com at a rate of 1 cent each.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel.
60,000 points
$1,200
$550
22.49%-29.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros

  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
  • 5x points on airfare booked through Chase TravelSM
  • 3x points on all other travel and dining purchases; 1x point on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access
  • TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or NEXUS credit
  • Access to Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection
  • Rental car elite status with National and Avis

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 22.49%-29.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Not all business or first class flights purchased with Ultimate Rewards points offer bottom-line good value, but there are a couple of sweet spots.

How To Use the Card To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

Purchasing premium flights with Ultimate Rewards points earned on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card is not always the best value for your points. A $6,000 business class flight, for example, would cost you 400,000 Ultimate Rewards points, even with the 50% bonus you receive for booking your flights via the Chase Travel portal.

However, there are situations where your Ultimate Rewards points can receive good value when booking a premium flight. For example, if you find an inexpensive business or first class ticket, you can secure it with points and receive excellent value. You may also find value when booking domestic first class tickets.

Another option for upgrading your flight is to utilize the card’s $300 annual statement credit for travel purchases. You can use a combination of points and cash to purchase a flight upgrade and the cash portion, paid with your card, will trigger the travel statement credit. You can also purchase a flight upgrade directly with the airline to trigger the credit.

Bottom Line: When you use Ultimate Rewards points to purchase flights via the Chase travel portal, you’ll receive 50% more in value for your points. Purchasing an expensive business or first class flight may not provide good value, however. You’ll want to use this option only for well-priced domestic first class or inexpensive international business and first class flights to receive the best value. Ultimate Rewards points may receive greater value for business and first class flights when transferred to airline frequent flyer programs and used to purchase award tickets. 

The Best Cards for Transferring to Airline Partners

One of the best potential values for your rewards points may be realized by transferring the points to airline partners and subsequently redeem those miles for business or first class award flights.

There are several rewards programs that allow you to transfer points to airline frequent flyer programs. Let’s look at a few travel rewards cards that earn this type of transferable points.

American Express® Gold Card

BEST FOR DINING
American Express® Gold CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

American Express® Gold Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

American Express® Gold Card

This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
60,000 points
$1,320
$250
See Pay Over Time APR
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The American Express® Gold Card is a game-changer.

With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.

There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are several other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.

Pros

  • 4x points per dollar at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 4x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases; and 1x thereafter
  • 3x points per dollar on flights purchased directly from airlines or at Amex Travel
  • Up to $120 annual dining credit: up to $10 monthly statement credit when you pay with the Amex Gold card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations
  • Up to $120 in annual Uber Cash: get $10 monthly in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. when you add your Gold Card to your Uber account
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)
  • Access to Amex’s The Hotel Collection
  • Access to American Express transfer partners

Cons

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

American Express Membership Rewards

The Amex Gold card earns flexible Membership Rewards points that can be used to purchase premium flights via AmexTravel.com or transferred to airline partners for potentially greater value when redeeming for award flights via a frequent flyer program.

How To Use the Card To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

Membership Rewards in your account can be transferred to several airline frequent flyer programs, most at a ratio of 1:1. You can then use the miles to purchase award flights with the respective airline and its partners.

Transferring rewards to the American Express transfer partners is one of the best ways to receive top value for your rewards points, especially for business and first class tickets.

Several Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards points (we mentioned a few earlier in this article) also allow you to transfer points to airline partners.

To find out if your card has this benefit, log in to your online Amex card account, click on Rewards, then Transfer Points. A list of current transfer partners will appear.

Hot Tip: Watch for bonus offers where Membership Rewards points may be transferred at a ratio better than 1:1. An example of a past transfer bonus includes a 30% bonus when transferring points to Virgin Atlantic, and a 25% bonus when transferring to Air France. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

POPULAR FIRST CARD
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
60,000 points
$1,200
$95
21.49%-28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.

Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.

Pros

  • 5x points on all travel booked via the Chase Travel portal
  • 5x points on select Peloton purchases over $150 (through March 31, 2025)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2025)
  • 3x points on dining purchases, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel worldwide
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through the Chase Travel portal
  • 6 months of complimentary Instacart+ (activate by July 31, 2024), plus up to $15 in statement credits each quarter through July 2024
  • Excellent travel and car rental insurance
  • 10% annual bonus points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs like United MileagePlus and World of Hyatt

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No elite benefits like airport lounge access or hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 21.49%-28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

How To Use the Card To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of our favorite travel rewards cards. It earns flexible Ultimate Rewards points that have multiple redemption options and it comes with a long list of travel insurance benefits.

One of the most valuable ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points via any premium Chase travel rewards card is to transfer, at a ratio of 1:1, to one of the several Chase airline partners. Once transferred, you can use the miles to purchase business or first class flights.

Additionally, you can redeem Chase Sapphire Preferred card Ultimate Rewards points via the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents each. As mentioned previously, redeeming points via the travel portal for international business or first class tickets may not deliver good value due to the relative pricing of such flights. However, domestic first class or inexpensive business and first class flights may be worthwhile.

Hot Tip: Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred between Chase cards. Points earned on no-annual-fee Chase cards, for example, can be transferred to premium Chase cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and Chase Sapphire Preferred card to be redeemed for up to 50% more value when used for travel via the Chase travel portal. Check out our comparison of these 2 premium Chase cards

Capital One Miles Cards

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.

Learn More(at Capital One's secure site)

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
75,000 miles
$1,350
$395
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-840)

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is the premium Capital One travel rewards card on the block.

Points and miles fans will be surprised to see that the Capital One Venture X card packs quite the punch when it comes to bookings made through Capital One, all while offering the lowest annual fee among premium credit cards.

Depending on your travel goals and preferences, the Capital One Venture X card could very well end up being your go-to card in your wallet.

 

Pros

  • 10x miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars purchased through Capital One Travel
  • 5x miles per $1 on flights purchased through Capital One Travel
  • 2x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit on bookings made through Capital One Travel
  • Unlimited complimentary access for cardholder and 2 guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • 10,000 bonus miles awarded on your account anniversary each year
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • Add authorized users for no additional annual fee (rates & fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees (rates & fees)

 

Cons

  • $395 annual fee (rates & fees)
  • Does not offer bonus categories for flights or hotel purchases made directly with the airline or hotel group, the preferred booking method for those looking to earn elite status

 

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

 

Popular Capital One Miles cards such as the Capital One Venture X card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offer simple flat-rate earning structures yet give cardholders several flexible redemption options. We compare the best Capital One credit cards in this article.

How To Use Capital One Cards To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

Capital One’s airline transfer partners mostly have a transfer ratio of 1:1, so there is great value found when transferring rewards and then purchasing premium flights with miles.

Log into your Capital One card online account and on the homepage select Transfer Miles. You’ll then see the list of transfer partners.

Because Capital One miles can be a good option for securing upgraded flights, we’ve done some legwork and put together a list of suggestions for receiving the best value for your Capital One transfers.

The $300 annual travel credit on the Capital One Venture X card is also a good resource for securing a flight upgrade. You’ll need to make the purchase via Capital One Travel to trigger the statement credit. Additionally, the cash portion, when combining miles and cash to pay for an upgrade or first class ticket, is also an option for triggering the $300 travel credit.

Citi ThankYou Rewards Cards

Citi Premier® Card

Citi Premier® Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Frequent flyers will enjoy 3x ThankYou Points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, and hotels.

Learn More(at our partner's secure site)

Citi Premier® Card

Frequent flyers will enjoy 3x ThankYou Points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, and hotels.
Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024.
60,000 points
$960
$95
21.24% - 29.24% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent option for anyone looking for an all-around travel rewards credit card. The card helps you earn points fast with great 3x bonus categories such as restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotels. Plus, it offers access to airline and hotel transfer partners, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and has a reasonable annual fee!

Pros

  • 3x points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotel purchases
  • Access to Citi transfer partners
  • Annual hotel credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024.
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 60,000 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards redeemable for $600 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 21.24% - 29.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Citi ThankYou Rewards

When your Citi ThankYou Rewards credit card earns ThankYou Points, you can find value in transferring those points to airline partners for the purpose of purchasing a business or first class award ticket.

How To Use Citi Cards To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

Citi’s airline partners all offer a transfer ratio of 1:1 if you hold a premium card such as the Citi Premier card. Transfers can be made by logging in to your online Citi card account, selecting Travel, then Transfer Points.

For step-by-step instructions on how to transfer ThankYou Points and which transfer options offer the best value, you’ll want to access these informative articles.

Hot Tip: In addition to the option of transferring rewards points to airline frequent flyer programs for purchasing premium award tickets, many airlines allow you to upgrade paid flights or even award flights using miles. Terms apply, but it’s wise to compare the 2 options. Additionally, consider that there may be taxes and fees that apply when using miles to purchase award tickets via a frequent flyer program. 

The Best Cards for Complimentary Upgraded Seating

Yes, there are actually cards that can give you an advantage for securing a complimentary upgraded airline seat!

Select Delta-branded Credit Cards

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Delta loyalists will love the fast track to Delta elite status, lounge access, baggage benefits, and upgrade priority with the Delta Reserve card.

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Delta loyalists will love the fast track to Delta elite status, lounge access, baggage benefits, and upgrade priority with the Delta Reserve card.
Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
60,000 Bonus Miles
$720
$650
20.99%-29.99% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a stellar option for frequent travelers who always fly with Delta thanks to its MQD Headstart towards status boost, lounge access, annual companion certificate, and many other great benefits.

Here is a full look at everything the Delta Reserve card can offer to you to help you decide whether the card deserves a place in your wallet.

Pros

  • 3x SkyMiles per $1 on Delta purchases
  • 1x SkyMile per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights.
  • Receive $2,500 MQM each year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Receive a Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+®, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights to select destinations each year after renewal.
  • $240 Resy Credit: Earn up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases upon enrollment.
  • $120 Rideshare Credit: Earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers upon enrollment.
  • Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • $200 Delta Stays Statement Credit: Earn up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit annually on eligible prepaid Delta Stays bookings on delta.com.
  • Access to Complimentary Upgrades and Upgrade Priority
  • Free checked bag
  • 20% back on inflight purchases

Cons

  • $650 annual fee (rates & fees)
  • No bonus categories other than Delta purchases
  • Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club® and bring up to two guests or immediate family members at a rate of $50 per person per visit when flying Delta. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 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.
  • Receive four Delta Sky Club® One-Time Guest Passes each year when you fly together on Delta. After that, you may bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge when you book a Delta flight with your Reserve Card.
  • Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $10 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card in a calendar year and get a boost toward achieving elevated Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Receive a Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+®, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • $240 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • $120 Rideshare Credit: You can earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • With your Card receive upgrade priority over other Medallion Members within the same Medallion level and fare class.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $650 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 20.99%-29.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Delta SkyMiles Airline Loyalty Program

The Delta Reserve card, along with the Delta Reserve Business card, offers a unique advantage when it comes to securing complimentary upgraded seating on Delta flights.

How To Use the Cards To Upgrade Your Airline Experience

Simply having the Delta Reserve card will increase your chances of an upgraded seat. Complimentary upgrades are distributed based on several factors and in order of importance:

  • Medallion elite status
  • Fare class purchased
  • Delta Reserve cardmembers 
  • Delta corporate travelers
  • Delta SkyMiles cardholders who have met the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) Waiver in the current calendar year
  • Date and time of upgrade request (the tiebreaker)

Let’s look at an example of how the Delta Reserve card works for securing upgrades. If, for example, 2 separate travelers each have Diamond Medallion status and each has a K-class ticket, the traveler with the Delta Reserve card will get the upgrade over the traveler who does not have the card.

Cardholders who have the Delta Reserve card, Delta Reserve Business card, Delta Platinum card, or Delta Platinum Business card will also have a complimentary upgrade advantage after meeting the current year Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) waiver requirement of $25,000 spent on the card in a calendar year.

To learn more about how to upgrade on Delta Air Lines, we have the lowdown on how the process works and tips for making it happen.

With elevated earnings, airline-centric benefits, a faster path to elite status, and an advantage when it comes to complimentary seat upgrades, premium Delta-branded cards make sense for the Delta loyalist.

We share more information on the best cards for Delta flyers in our comprehensive overview.

Select United-branded Credit Cards

United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

With priority boarding privileges, no foreign transaction fees and more, MileagePlus members will definitely enjoy their partnered card.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

United℠ Explorer Card

With priority boarding privileges, no foreign transaction fees and more, MileagePlus members will definitely enjoy their partnered card.
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
50,000 bonus miles
$600
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
21.99% - 28.99% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

You travel United all the time, but you have heard that there could be ways to make your travel experiences even better, including priority boarding, free bags, and more miles.

You should consider the United℠ Explorer Card, because this card does all that and more!

Pros

  • 2x miles per $1 on United purchases, dining purchases (including delivery services), and hotel stays
  • 1x mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • First checked bag free for you and up to 1 traveling companion
  • 25% statement credit on United inflight purchases
  • Priority boarding
  • Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS statement credit
  • 2 United Club 1-time passes each year
  • Premier upgrades on award tickets
  • Travel and purchase protections

Cons

  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee
  • Does not earn transferable rewards
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS fee credit
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your Explorer Card
  • Free first checked bag - a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip. Terms Apply.
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 21.99% - 28.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

United MileagePlus Frequent Flyer Program

Very few credit cards offer any upgraded seating benefits for airline flights. United-branded credit cards that charge an annual fee, such as the United Explorer card, are the exception. MileagePlus Premier elite members who hold these United-branded credit cards qualify for complimentary upgrades on award flights.

For a more in-depth look at the best cards for United flyers, and information on the best ways to upgrade your seating on United flights, you’ll want to review our articles on these topics.

Bottom Line: The Delta Reserve card and the business version of the card offer cardmembers an advantage over other Delta elites for receiving complimentary upgrades. Cardmembers who have either of those cards or the Delta Platinum card can meet minimum spending requirements for the annual MQD waivers and also have a complimentary upgrade advantage. United-branded cards that charge an annual fee offer cardmembers that are elite members complimentary upgrades on award flights. 

Final Thoughts

There are so many options for securing a seat in the front of the plane with points earned on a premium travel rewards card. In addition, some of the best airline credit cards give you an advantage for securing complimentary upgrades.

If you frequent a particular airline or function as a free agent using whichever airline has the best price and schedule, travel rewards cards could offer an upgraded airline experience in either situation.

Whether it’s securing an upgrade on an existing flight, purchasing a business or first class flight with points, transferring points to airline partners, or gaining an advantage for a complimentary upgrade, chances are there’s a card that can help you obtain that elusive seat up front.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which airline credit cards have free upgrades?

Normally, airline-branded credit cards do not offer free seat upgrades. A few cards, such as the premium Delta Reserve cards, give the cardholder priority over those who do not have the card.

Additionally, some United-branded cards offer the opportunity for cardholders who are Premier members to receive upgrades on United award flights.

Which is the best credit card for airline upgrades?

While no card can guarantee you a complimentary seat upgrade, cards that earn flexible currencies, such as Membership Rewards points, Ultimate Rewards points, Capital One miles, or ThankYou Points, can be used to purchase business or first class airline tickets.

Some Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards may also offer the opportunity to use points to bid for seat upgrades with the Upgrade with Points feature.

A few airline credit cards, as mentioned previously, help elevate your chances for a complimentary upgrade.

How does Upgrade with Points work?

Premium Amex cards offer an option to upgrade flights on Amex’s airline partners using Membership Rewards points.

If your flight is with one of the participating airline partners, you will be able to bid for an upgrade using this Upgrade with Points feature.

Do airline miles expire?

Yes, most airline miles expire. The length of time varies by airline frequent flyer program but generally, most points do not expire if there has been recent earning or redemption activity in your account. Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus miles, however, do not expire.

If you are planning to transfer rewards points to frequent flyer programs to purchase award flights, be sure the flights you want are available before making the transfer, and initiate the request promptly.

Once points are transferred to the airline, the transaction cannot be reversed.

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About Christine Krzyszton

Christine ran her own business developing and managing insurance and financial services. This stoked a passion for points and miles and she now has over 2 dozen credit cards and creates in-depth, detailed content for UP.

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