Everyone has the dream: fly around-the-world, regardless of cost, and maybe even sleep soundly in a 35,000-feet-in-the-sky bedroom. If you were raking in the money, wouldn't it be the first thing you'd do? Lucky for us, there's another way: frequent flyer miles. Today we outline the 5 best airline credit cards currently available in 2015 - and your approval chances for each of them.
Note that clicking card images will send you to an application page. Also note that approval odds are not supported by the banks discussed, and are based my experience, reader input and this approval database.
#1: Chase Ink Business
It is a sign of the airline miles times that the #1 deal currently available is not tied to a single airline, but many. Offering 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points - transferable to behemoth airlines like United, British Airways and Southwest - through March 2 with $5,000 spend in three months, the Chase Ink Business credit card is far and away the best deal currently on the market. And, while it is a business card, approval chances are good for even the smallest of businesses (i.e. making as little as $500 a year).
Even better news is the $95 annual fee is waived the first year, if applied for physically in a branch. Other benefits are superb: 5X point bonus at cell phone, internet and other categories, 2X point bonus at gas and hotel, no foreign transaction fees and more. Perhaps the only downside is your approval chances are harder than most: aim to have a 700+ credit score, at least $75,000 per year in income and a small business in order to get this card.
#2 Citi American Airlines Platinum
Since introducing the first frequent flyer program in 1979, American Airlines has been a pioneer in award travel, routinely offering miles flights at far superior rates than it's competitors. Despite having financial difficulty in recent years, the merger with US Airways is short-term good news for frequent flyers, as it means American miles are able to be earned on multiple fronts. Which, of course, means more travel options for you.
The Citi American Airlines Platinum is the best of such options: 50,000 bonus miles are available with $3,000 spend in 3 months and the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Other benefits are excellent, especially for American loyalists: free checked bag, priority boarding and more. For a chance at approval, I recommend having at least a 650+ credit score and $60,000 per year in income.
#3 Barclays Arrival Plus
As I currently go around the world, this is the card in my wallet - a strong indication of the value I believe the card offers. Similar to the Chase Ink card listed #1, the Barclays Arrival Plus offers points rather than miles tied to one airline. But, unlike it's counterpart, Arrival points are not transferable to major airlines. That's the bad news. But the good news - and why the card is listed at #3 - is points can be redeemed at a 100-point-to-dollar ratio for a wide variety of travel purchases, from purchasing airline tickets or hotel stays to even train or bus tickets.
Not sold yet? To make the deal even sweeter, you receive 2 points per dollar spent and a 10% bonus on point redemptions: what equates to 2.2% return, much higher than most other rewards cards on a nominal basis. Other benefits are unique, above and beyond the competition: free TripIt Pro membership, free FICO score tracking, no foreign transaction fees and more. Barclays is a hard approval - try to have a 720+ credit score and $70,000 or more in income - but is known to be easier on first-time Barclays applicants.
#4 Chase United Business
The second Chase card on our list is a brand new deal and, like the Chase Ink, may not last long. The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card has been an annual staple on lists like these, but the recent bonus bump from 30,000 to a now 50,000 mile offer makes the card a no-brainer. This fact is only amplified knowing the same $3,000 spend in 3 months gets the extra miles and that an under-$1,000-per-year business is eligible.
As you'd expect, the rest of the card details are excellent. A $95 annual fee is waived the first year and 10,000 additional bonus miles are granted after spending $25,000 in a year, a somewhat unique value proposition. The 2 miles per dollar spent at United also extends to gas, restaurants and office supply stores, and airline benefits like a free checked bag, 2 lounge passes and priority boarding are included. Finally, don't forget no foreign transaction fees - practically a staple these days, but huge for traveling. Similar to the Chase Ink, a credit score of 700+, $75,000+ in income and a small business will mean the airline miles are likely yours.
#5 Chase Sapphire Preferred
Are you recognizing a theme here? Chase, the largest credit card bank by spending, has the largest selection of rewards cards available. But with that selection, quality doesn't suffer: the Chase Sapphire Preferred has been a top choice of cardholders since it was released. The standard offer of 40,000 points with $4,000 spend in 3 months is still available today, with a $95 fee that is waived the first year.
Like the Chase Ink, this card earns Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred elsewhere or even redeemed through their proprietary travel system (typically less valuable). No foreign transaction fees, 2x bonus at restaurants and travel purchases and an additional 5,000 points for adding an authorized user highlight the benefits. The metallic card design also exudes class and is a big sticking point for cardholders. Like the other Chase cards, aim for a 700+ credit score and over $75,000 in income to have a good chance at approval.
As a personal cardholder of each of these credit cards, I can attest to the value they provide. From very real airline benefits - like waived checked baggage fees, lounge passes and priority boarding - to the flexibility of cheap travel using miles, these five credit cards offer considerable value and are the best 2015 has to offer (so far).
Don't see an offer you like? Take a peak at my best credit card deals page, which houses dozens of credit cards by category, including options for cash-back, hotel stays and even to help build your credit score.