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The distinction between traveling in first class and coach is clear to anyone who’s experienced both, which our expert writers have many times. However, what isn’t as well-known is that there are credit cards that can make obtaining those coveted first-class tickets a breeze, allowing you to travel more frequently. For those who appreciate the more luxurious aspects of life, it’s important to take advantage of the best credit cards for first-class travel to fully enrich your flying experiences.
The Best Credit Cards for First-Class Travel in 2023
Here is a quick preview of some of the best credit cards for first-class travel in 2023. Note that many of these cards are not as hard to get as one might think. Here is the average credit score needed for travel credit cards if you want a better idea of what to expect.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- Citi Premier® Card
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
The Platinum Card from American Express
If you fly often, The Platinum Card® from American Express deserves a spot in your wallet.
Cardholders 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.
Cardholders can 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 they pay with the Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
Also, 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 Card.
Plus, American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
Other Platinum Card from American Express Benefits
There’s also a digital entertainment credit, making this card one of the best for streaming services. Cardholders can get up to $20 in statement credits each month when they pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
In addition to enjoying TSA PreCheck or Global Entry access, cardholders can also enjoy CLEAR perks. 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®.
The annual fee is $695 (See Rates & Fees) but can be offset with the perks, which are valued at over $1,400.
Welcome Bonus Offer
New The Platinum Card® from American Express cardmembers can earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $8,000 on purchases on their new Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Travel for business often? The Business Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com. Additionally, cardholders can get a 35% airline bonus when using their points to pay for all or part of a flight with a qualifying airline booked on amextravel.com, up to 500,000 bonus points annually.
Cardholders earn 1.5x points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases 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.
This redemption bonus makes each point worth 1.35 cents each. However, you may still find more value in transferring your points to a 1:1 travel partner.
Like the personal Amex Platinum, the Amex Business Platinum card comes with annual travel credits, airport lounge access (enrollment may be required), and other air and hotel perks. This is also one of the strongest and most lavish cards available to the public — literally! Made of metal, it is one of the best metal cards that doesn’t require an invitation in order to apply.
Additionally, 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.
Plus, get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees charged by your one selected, qualifying airline to your Card.
Cardholders can get up to $189 in statement credits per calendar year on your CLEAR® Plus Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when they use their Business Platinum Card®.
With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, with The American Express Global Lounge Collection®. You have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market as of 03/2023. Enrollment is required for some lounges.
This is one of the best American Express cards.
Welcome Bonus Offer
New The Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders have the opportunity to 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.
The annual fee is $695 (See Rates & Fees).
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on all dining purchases around the globe. Other premium benefits include an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Cardholders can earn unlimited:
- 10x total points on hotels and car rentals purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
- 10x total points on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards
- 5x total points on flights when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
- 3x points on other travel worldwide (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
- 3x points on other dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out
- 1x points for all remaining purchases
You will not receive rewards points on your first $300 in annual travel purchases as the annual travel statement credit reimburses these purchases.
New Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Your points are worth 1.5 cents each when booking award travel on the Chase travel portal. You can also transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to airlines and hotels including United, Southwest, British Airways, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines.
There are no foreign transaction fees either, making this one of the best credit cards for international travel.
The annual fee is $550.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card gives you 2x miles per $1 spent on every purchase. Earning double miles can help you earn a small fortune of miles quickly. Your redemption options include redeeming miles for a travel statement credit and booking upcoming flights for one cent each.
The best option can be transferring your Capital One miles to hotel and airline partners including Avianca, Emirates, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines. You also get a fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
However, if you are wanting to earn a few more miles on travel, the good news—earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel, with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a great card for frequent Delta flyers for a number of reasons. Cardholders can receive a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of their Card. Payment of the government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
Other air travel benefits include:
- Free first checked bag on Delta flights for you and up to 8 companions
- Upgrade Priority (when available)
- 20% in-flight purchase savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases
- Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
Enjoy Delta Sky Club® access at no cost and bring up to two guests or immediate family at a rate of $50 per person per visit. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 10 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.
Eligible 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.
Receive upgrade priority over other Medallion Members within the same Medallion level and fare class.
Your purchases earn 3x miles per $1 spent on eligible Delta purchases. All other eligible purchases earn 1x mile per $1 spent. Plus, earning MQMs can make it easier to achieve airline elite status. Cardholders can accelerate their path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost.
New Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases on their new Card in their first 6 months.
With Status Boost®, earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card through 12/31/23, up to four times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different from the miles you earn towards flights. Effective 1/1/24, this benefit will no longer be available, and there will be a new way to earn toward Medallion Status with the Card. Learn more at delta.com/skymilesprogramchanges.
The annual fee is $550, but there are no foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees).
Related: Best Delta Air Lines credit cards
British Airways Visa Signature Card
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a top contender for international first-class travel.
New British Airways Visa Signature® Card cardholders can earn 75,000 Avios after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Cardholders earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL. Cardholders also earn 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. Plus, earn 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Plus, new British Airways Visa Signature Card cardholders can get 10% off British Airways flights starting in the United States when they book through the website provided in the welcome materials.
This card has a $95 annual fee but doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.
Citi Premier Card
The information for the Citi Premier® Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Citi Premier® Card is another great option if you’re comfortable transferring points to a frequent flyer program. You earn triple ThankYou points on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants, and 1x point for everything else.
This is also one of the best Citi credit cards available.
You can transfer your ThankYou points to the various airline partners. Most of these airlines are international carriers including:
- Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Singapore Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Avianca LifeMiles lets you book award flights on Star Alliance partners including United and Lufthansa. When flying Lufthansa, you can avoid the fuel surcharges that you pay when booking directly from Lufthansa. However, make sure award space is available before you transfer points. Otherwise, you may need to settle for flying coach on a different airline to use your miles.
New Citi Premier® Card cardmembers can earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus is redeemable for $600 in gift cards or travel rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com. 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.
The Citi Premier can be a good Chase Sapphire Preferred alternative if you’re breaking the Chase 5/24 rule. Learn more in our Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Citi Premier comparison.
If this sounds like a good choice for you, check out the CardMatch™ tool, which is a free resource for finding personalized offers. It can help you determine if the Citi Premier is a card you can get. Additionally, you may be targeted for a higher signup bonus that isn’t available to the general public.
Learn More: CardMatch™
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Another excellent business credit card is the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. This is the business version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and also one of the best small business credit cards for travel rewards.
You earn 3x Ultimates Rewards on the first $150,000 in combined annual purchases for:
- Search engine and social media advertising
- Internet, cable, and phone services
All remaining purchases earn 1 point per $1.
Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when booking award travel on the Chase travel portal. You also have access to the 1:1 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.
New Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card cardholders can earn 100k bonus points after spending $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Related: Best Chase business credit cards
Summary of Best Credit Cards for First Class Travel
The quickest way to book first-class travel more often is to transfer your points directly to the airline. Some credit cards offer fringe benefits like travel credits and airport lounge access that can improve your travel experience.
What credit card gives the best travel rewards?
The best travel rewards can be a little different for each person as we all have different travel habits. That said The Platinum Card® from American Express offers the most travel benefits. You get complimentary airport lounge access to several networks, airline fee credits, and free Global Entry to name a few perks. Enrollment may be required.
For other travelers, redemption bonuses and a wide portfolio of 1:1 transfer partners can be more valuable. In that case, you might consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when booking award travel directly through Chase. Transfer partners include United, British Airways, Emirates, Flying Blue, and Singapore Airlines. These airlines offer some of the best first-class redemptions.
Which airline has the best first class?
The best first-class experience overall can be Singapore Airlines. While they may not offer the best experience for every destination, you have lots of booking options. You should focus first on flying the Singapore Suites class which gives you a private room with a dedicated bed. One of the most affordable routes is from New York to Frankfurt starting at 86,000 miles.
Singapore Airlines also lets you redeem KrisFlyer miles on Star Alliance partners, Alaska Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. You have plenty of options, to say the least.
Finally, Singapore Airlines partners with most of the best credit card reward programs to transfer points. Chances are you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One miles directly to your KrisFlyer account.
Is it worth flying first class?
First-class travel is expensive, but the experience can be well worth it. Instead of paying cash for tickets, you may decide to wait and book a first-class flight with points. The main reason why is that each point can be worth as much as 6 cents each for first class but closer to 2 cents each for main cabin flights.
You should pay attention to the additional fees and fuel surcharges as well. Domestic airlines including United, Delta, and American are less likely to charge add-on fees. But international airlines like Lufthansa or British Airways are more likely to. It’s possible to avoid these fees by booking flights through Avianca LifeMiles which is an American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou transfer partner.
Also, flying first class can be better when you have a long international flight. Not only do you get to spend more hours in luxury but the award flight cost may not be that more expensive than a short-haul domestic flight.
And for rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.