Airline Credit Cards vs. Travel Rewards Cards

Comparing two different ways to earn your next trip

If you’re interested in travel—and trying to stretch the dollars you spend on trips—you may be wondering whether you’re better off with an airline credit card or a travel rewards credit card. Though they can both get you back in the window seat (and often help you avoid foreign transaction fees), there are some key differences to consider when making your decision.

One Airline vs. Multiple Options

The first thing to think about is how you travel. If you usually fly with the same carrier, an airline credit card would earn you miles to use with your favorite airline and its partners. On the other hand, a travel rewards card gives you the flexibility to use points or miles on a range of different airlines. This can help make flight schedules more accommodating and get you in and out of more airports.

Earnings on Travel vs. Earning All Purchases

Next, look at what you charge to your credit card. If you travel frequently, most airline credit cards offer a higher rewards earn rate for travel spending, like booking a ticket or in-flight purchases. But if more of your charges come from everyday items (like restaurants, gas, groceries, the occasional pumpkin latte), a travel rewards card might earn you more points or miles with a flat rate of rewards across all categories.

Free Checked Bags vs. Other Travel Rewards

Finally, figure out which other perks matter the most to you. With airline credit cards, these extras are usually focused on the part of your trip that gets you from point A to point B, like free checked bags, priority boarding and seat upgrades. Some even offer lounge access. The points or miles you earn with a travel rewards card can often be used more broadly to upgrade the other aspects of your trip, such as hotels, rental cars and taxis. Because travel cards offer the flexibility of more choices, you can book what you want, exactly when you want it.

Either Way, You Win

When it comes to an airline credit card vs. a travel rewards card, it’s up to you to choose the option that works for you. Both cards have distinct advantages, so you should pick the program that best matches your travel style.

We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.