3 Reasons to Get an Airline Credit Card Even if You're Not a Frequent Flyer

I just recently got started with travel rewards credit cards, and I already opened a Chase Trifecta. I’m excited about traveling, and I want to do more to explore this fun new way of life. So even though I’m not a frequent flyer, I’m strongly considering applying for an airline credit card in 2024.

Is it worth getting an airline credit card, even if you only fly a few times per year? If you plan ahead, pay your bills on time, and get enough value from the card, it can be worth having one (or more) of the best airline credit cards in your wallet.

Here are a few good reasons to get an airline credit card, even if you don’t fly often.

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1. You like the airline and its routes

Are you a fan of Southwest Airlines, or Delta Air Lines? Or when you book a flight, do you tend to fly through a big hub for United Airlines or American Airlines more often?

Even if you’re not a frequent flyer, if you have a regular airline that you tend to use, it can be worth getting that airline’s credit card. For example, I have recently had good experiences flying to Europe from the U.S. Midwest on Delta Air Lines through Atlanta. If I had to choose a regular flight route, I’d rather fly through Atlanta more often (instead of through Chicago — Atlanta tends to have better weather and warmer winters). Based on how I travel, this could make a Delta Air Lines card worth getting.

2. You want to get thousands of bonus miles

Some of the best airline cards have welcome offers with tens of thousands of bonus frequent flyer miles! For example, the best Delta cards offer 40,000-60,000 bonus miles. Terms apply: you have to meet the minimum spending requirements to earn those bonus miles, and some of the best airline cards also charge annual fees.

If you can cash in on a generous welcome offer for a new airline credit card, that’s like getting a cheap/nearly “free” plane ticket. Keep in mind: award travel airline tickets are not “free,” because you still have to pay some cash to cover taxes and fees. But using frequent flyer miles to buy plane tickets can make the cost much cheaper.

3. You’re open to receiving extra perks and benefits

Airlines have recently announced higher fees for checked bags. Some airline credit cards let you have a free checked bag, just for being a cardholder. I am 6’3″ and so I like to have extra leg room on the plane; if I can check my carryon bag and then stow my laptop (personal item) in the overhead bin, that’s more leg room for me! Many cards also allow free checked bags for a certain number of companions on the same reservation.

Other examples of easy-to-get perks from airline credit cards include airport lounge passes and in-flight discounts on purchases.

The future of the airline industry is likely to be more rewarding for airline credit card customers, no matter how often they fly. American Airlines recently announced that it’s re-thinking its credit cards and trying to offer better value for its AAdvantage® program. This is a sign that airlines are likely going to make extra efforts to reward frequent flyers and give people incentives to spend more money on premium seats.

Bottom line

Getting the best credit cards can help you get the best experiences from airlines in the years ahead. If you only fly once or twice a year, finding the cheapest ticket on any airline is a valid travel strategy. But if you want more consistency and perks like free checked bags and free airport lounge access, applying for an airline credit card can help you unlock a higher-quality air travel experience — without much extra effort or extra costs.

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