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Odds are, if you’re a frequent flyer for one specific airline, then you’re loyal as a result of generally positive experiences. Rare flight delays or cancellations, responsible baggage handling, and low ticket prices are all reasons that would make you inclined to fly with only one airline.
These airline perks are also the criteria many airline ranking systems use to determine which airlines are the best of the best. The top five airlines of 2018, according to Money’s calculations, are Alaska, Hawaiian, Southwest, JetBlue, and Delta, in descending order. Because airline-loyal frequent flyers are most likely to be loyal to the best airlines, we’ve compiled a guide to choosing the very best business airline credit cards for each of the top five carriers of 2018.
Some of the best business airline credit cards might be a bit obvious—you don’t need us to tell you a card made by an airline will be a good card option for that very airline. However, many of the top airlines will offer multiple co-branded business credit cards to choose from, and even the most obvious choices deserve a highlight and an explanation.
Alaska Airlines tops off the list of the top performing US airlines of 2018. And the number one business credit card for the number one airlines is surprisingly not the Alaska Airlines business credit card. Even though this Bank of America® business credit card offers a welcome bonus and a companion pass, the worth of these perks won’t quite make up for the employee card fee that this option charges.
You’ll have to pay a base of $50 a year, plus $25 dollars per year, per employee card you attach to your account. And—besides free checked bags and a low-limit companion pass—the Alaska Airlines business credit card doesn’t offer enough airline-specific perks to justify its limited rewards program.
As a result, we suggest that you look into more general business travel cards if you’re an Alaska Airlines devotee. A travel card like the American Express Business Platinum will grant you a $200 credit toward incidental charges (like, let’s say, checked luggage) with an airline of your choice. Plus, it’ll allow you to earn a welcome offer of up to 100,000 points.
Granted, the Amex Business Platinum will cost an annual fee of $595, but you won’t have to pay an additional fee for attaching employee cards to your account. If you’re planning to attach eight or more employee cards to your account, then the Alaska Airlines business credit card will cost you just as much—if not more—than the Amex Business Platinum every year—and offer you a fraction of the value.
Learn More About the Amex Business Platinum
→TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): The highest performing US airline of 2018 disappoints with its business airline credit card. The Alaska Airlines namesake business credit card can’t stand up to more general business travel cards like the Amex Business Platinum.
Next of the top airlines—and their corresponding business credit cards—is Hawaiian Airlines and their co-branded Barclays business credit card, the Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard.
Unlike the Alaska Airlines business credit card, the Hawaiian Airlines business credit card offers substantial rewards to earn the title as the top card for its airline. This airline card offers one of the most generous travel rewards welcome offers on the market. You’ll just have to make your first purchase with the Hawaiian Airlines business card and—no matter how big or small this purchase is—you’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles.
Plus, for every year that you spend $100,000 or more with the card, you’ll earn another 40,000 bonus miles. Or, if you’re not such a big spender, you’ll still earn 20,000 miles each account anniversary if you’ve spent at least $50,000 over the previous year.
Finally, your Hawaiian Airlines business credit card will come with a one-time 50% off companion discount on a round trip ticket from North America to Hawaii.
Learn More About the Hawaiian Airlines Business Credit Card
→TL;DR: The Hawaiian Airlines business credit card offers one of the most generous travel rewards welcome bonuses on the market. You’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles simply for making your first purchase with the card.
Third in the top five US airlines of 2018, Southwest has also managed to produce one of the greatest airline-specific business credit cards on the market.
The Southwest business credit card is a Chase business credit card that offers 2x rewards not only for the purchases you make directly with Southwest, but also for purchases you make directly with Southwest’s hotel and rental car partners, which is pretty rare for an airline-specific card.
This card will also offer a 60,000-point welcome bonus if you just spend $3,000 in your first three months after opening your account, along with a 6,000-point account anniversary bonus every year you keep the card—no matter how much you spend.
The Southwest business credit card also offers the very best companion pass deal on the market: If you complete 100 one-way flights or earn 110,000 points in a year, you’ll get a free companion pass that’s good for the rest of the current calendar year and through the entire following calendar year.
Learn More About the Southwest Business Card
→TL;DR: Southwest offers one of the very best business airline credit cards on the market, and its companion pass deal is a game-changer.
Yet another top carrier that offers a stellar business airline credit card, JetBlue takes the number four spot of the best airlines of 2018.
The JetBlue business credit card, unlike many travel cards, will reward you extra for more than just your purchases with the airline. Though you will earn a whopping 6x rewards points for every dollar you spend on JetBlue purchases, you’ll also 2x points at restaurants and office supply stores.
This card also offers a welcome bonus along with account anniversary bonuses—you’ll earn 40,000 bonus points if you spend just $1,000 during your first 90 days with the card, plus 5,000 bonus points for every account anniversary you have with the card.
Finally, if you earn 15,000 flight points within a year, then you’ll qualify for TrueBlue Mosaic Status. That’ll open up travel perks like first and second free checked bags, early boarding, and even complimentary alcohol onboard.
Learn More About the JetBlue Business Credit Card
→TL;DR: The JetBlue business credit card offers a rewards program that offers elevated rates for typical business expenses, along with elevated rates for JetBlue purchases.
Finally, Delta Airlines rounds out the list of the top five airlines of 2018. Delta offers a long lineup of business airline credit cards, all of which are American Express business credit cards. But the Delta Platinum business credit card earns the title for the very best business credit card for Delta frequent flyers.
With the Delta Platinum business credit card, you’ll be able to earn a three-pronged welcome offer. For a limited time, if you spend $6,000 during your first three months after opening your account, you’ll earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles. Plus, once you make a Delta purchase, you’ll earn a $100 statement credit applied to your account.
You’ll also earn 2x rewards for every dollar you spend on Delta Purchases, along with priority boarding, accelerated Delta status, and free checked bags.
Though the Delta Reserve offers rewards that can get you even more than the Delta Platinum card, the Delta Reserve’s $450 annual fee allows the Delta Platinum—at $195 a year—to edge it out.
Learn More About the Delta Platinum
→TL;DR: The Delta Platinum business credit card offers the optimal balance between a more modest annual fee and lucrative Delta rewards points rates.
Though you might think of yourself as a devoted, airline-specific business traveler, there might be a better business credit card out there for you—especially if you ever waver in your travel habits.
Once you become a airline-specific business credit cardholder, you won’t be as inclined to hunt for the best flight deal available. The sunk cost for your business airline credit card’s annual fee might sway you toward lesser deals to fly your carrier of choice. As a result, your airline will be less inclined to compete for your business.
Plus, as we’ve seen with even the very best airline of 2018, Alaska Airlines, some business airline cards just aren’t that good—they tend to charge pricey annual fees, which can be hard to justify for the limited rewards that the cards offer.
If these caveats are changing your mind about business airline credit cards, then it’s time to consider your contingency plan—more general business travel rewards cards. Luckily, non-airline business travel cards make up some of the best business credit cards on the market overall.
Some top options for more general and more generous travel rewards include:
Learn More About the Best Business Travel Cards
Your biggest takeaway? Airline credit cards are only worth their limited rewards and high annual fees if you travel often and always on the same airline. Otherwise, consider pivoting your business travel credit card search to more general travel rewards cards.