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Best credit cards for oneworld alliance flights

Whether you’re a frequent oneworld flyer or just fly occasionally, these cards will help you stretch your miles even farther – and help you fly in style

Summary

American Airlines and British Airways are just two of the most popular oneworld alliance airline members. And these are the best credit cards to fly oneworld alliance flights.

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Who doesn’t want to squeeze every last perk out of their credit card rewards?

One angle you might not have considered: airline alliances.

By recognizing what alliance your favorite carriers belong to – and which cards give you the most bang for the buck in that group – you’re less likely to leave money (or travel perks), on the table.

If you frequently fly American Airlines, you may already be familiar with its own alliance, oneworld.

Founded in 1999, oneworld currently includes 13 airline members:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airway
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

Also worth noting: The alliance is building a network of oneworld lounges across the globe in major and secondary hub airports, says James Larounis, travel industry analyst and founder of TheForwardCabin.com.

Want to make the most of points, rewards and miles the next time you travel via the oneworld alliance? Here are some of the best cards to use.

See related: Best airline credit cards

Best cards for oneworld travelers

Best cards for occasional oneworld travelers

Only fly a few times a year? Look into the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, recommends Benet Wilson, credit card editor at The Points Guy.

It has a $99 annual fee and you’ll earn 60,000 bonus miles if you make one purchase within the first 90 days.

“If I went to the store and bought a Snickers bar, I would get the points,” says Wilson. “And the points are enough to get you some free travel.”

Plus, you can also get a companion certificate good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees), after making your first purchase, she adds.

The Aviator Red will earn you 2 miles for every dollar you spend with American Airlines and one miler per dollar on everything else.

You also get a few perks that make your trip easier:

  • Priority boarding.
  • Free checked bag for you and four traveling companions.
  • 25 percent off in-flight food and drinks.
  • $25 back as statement credits on in-flight Wi-Fi purchases.

Aviator Red is Larounis’s pick, too. “For someone who’s not going to fly a ton, the bonus 60,000 miles are perfect to take two people” on a domestic flight, he adds.

If you’re just starting out or if money is tight, consider the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, Wilson says.

  • No annual fee.
  • 10,000-mile sign-up bonus, plus a $50 statement credit, if you spend $500 in the first three months.
  • 2 miles per dollar at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar on everything else.
  • 25 percent discount on in-flight food and drinks.

Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred

But Lee Huffman, travel blogger and founder of the travel site BaldThoughts.com, would go a different route.

The occasional oneworld traveler “is not trying to earn status – they’re not on that treadmill.”

Instead, Huffman recommends the credit card version of a good utility infielder. A couple of cards that are versatile with plenty to offer: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

“Now you’re earning points that can be used for anything,” he says.

Here’s what each card offers:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit).
  • 1 point per dollar spent on general purchases.
  • 50,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
  • $300 annual travel credit (applies to most travel purchases).
  • Priority Pass Select membership.
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every 4 years.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • 50 percent bonus when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 2 points per dollar spent travel and restaurants.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on general purchases
  • 60,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • 25 percent bonus when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

“I’m for not having all your points with one airline,” says Huffman. Because the occasional traveler is “not flying enough to earn loyalty. And mid-tier status with an airline is the same as having no status.”

Plus, both cards allow you to transfer points to British Airways and Iberia, two oneworld members.

Transferring points to British Airways can be particularly convenient for U.S. travelers as you can book American Airlines flights through British Airways.

See related: Which American Airlines credit card should you get?

Best cards for frequent oneworld travelers

If you’re in the skies often, you might want a card that offers a little more in the way of conveniences and comfort.

Wilson’s pick: the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

“There is a $450 fee and people tend to freak out about it,” Wilson admits. “But you also get an Admirals Club lounge membership, and those start at $450.”

In addition to free food, drinks, Wi-Fi and a comfortable place to sit, lounges are also staffed with agents who can assist if you have travel glitches or need to rebook on the fly.

Larounis agrees. “For someone who flies a lot, lounge access is a no-brainer.” And access to a dedicated agent in the lounge – without having to leave and get into a line “20 [people] deep,” is even more valuable, Larounis says.

You also get:

  • Priority screening in addition to priority boarding.
  • Global Entry/TSA Precheck credits (up to $100/five years).
  • 25 percent discount on in-flight food and drinks.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Free checked bag for you and up to eight traveling companions. The checked bags alone are probably worth about $60/per person round trip, Wilson calculates.
  • 50,000-mile sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 in the first three months. “If you’re a heavy traveler, that $5,000 shouldn’t be a heavy lift,” Wilson adds.

If you’re traveling for business, you should also consider The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, Huffman says. In addition to earning 5 points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels through amextravel.com, it also gives a 35 percent rebate when you cash in miles for airfare on a preselected airline. The annual fee is $595.

However, travel blogger John Perri, founder of JohntheWanderer.com, would also look at the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Chase Sapphire Reserve “earns points on airfare at a slightly higher amount and you get lounge access with Priority Pass,” he explains.

And American Express Platinum “has so many transfer partners, plus you also get access to American Express Centurion lounges.”

Also, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points earned on your Platinum card to three oneworld partners: British Airways, Iberia and Qantas.

Best all-around cards for oneworld travelers

For best all-around, the AAdvantage Aviator Red is Wilson’s pick. “Not everyone wants all the bells and whistles,” she says. Or the higher fees that tend to go with them.

Perri would consider the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard primarily because it gives users access to American Airlines’ Admirals Club lounges.

“The best all-around pick is not going to be an American Airlines card,” Huffman says.

Along with the Platinum Card from American Express, he’d also urge flyers to consider the Citi Prestige card – either card earns five times the miles on flights. “With that, you can earn far more points than with the other cards.”

While you don’t get free checked bags or preferred boarding, both cards let you transfer miles to other airlines and hotels. Plus, both cards can get you lounge access through Priority Pass.

However, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points earned on the Prestige card to only two oneworld partners, both of them international – Malaysia Airlines and Qantas.

Also, look at the distances you frequently travel, says Huffman. One card that’s great for shorter domestic flights is British Airways Visa Signature Card. “It’s really awesome for direct flights” because the airline bases fares on distance rather than demand, he says.

British Airways Visa Signature currently offers:

  • 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases.
  • 1 Avios per dollar spent on general purchases.
  • 50,000 Avios if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months.
  • 50,000 additional Avios if you spend $20,000 in the first year.
  • Earn a Travel Together Ticket (companion ticket) for two years each year you make $30,000 in purchases.
  • $95 annual fee.

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Published: July 17, 2019

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