Comparison of Premium Airline Rewards Cards

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

Offers for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, United MileagePlus® Club Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express are not available through this site. All information has been independently collected by AwardWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Some offers may have expired. Please see our card marketplace for available offers.

Even if you fly just a few times each year, a co-brand airline credit card can provide perks and benefits with the partner airline and bonus points on ticket purchases, delivering extra value for cardholders and improving your travel experience. Premium airline rewards cards take this a step further, often including benefits only otherwise available to elite status members such as lounge access, in-flight discounts, travel credits, and in some cases, additional award inventory. In this post, we breakdown the welcome offers, earning potential, and feature benefits included with the premium co-brand cards for the big three legacy carriers, comparing the perks and miles on offer to help you decide if any of these cards provide enough value to justify holding over the long term.

Comparing the Best Premium Airline Rewards Cards

The new United card comes hot on the heels of Delta's recent overhaul of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. With so many recent changes to premium co-brand cards, it can be a challenge to pick the best card. There’s a big overlap between premium card perks and benefits, but individual policies vary and can have a significant impact on which card will provide the best long term value.

We’ve put together a summary of each card in the table below, followed by a deeper analysis of key features including lounge access policies, free checked baggage, and travel protection benefits below.

BenefitsCiti® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®United Club℠ Infinite CardDelta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Annual Fee$450$0 intro annual fee, then $525$550
Authorized User Fee$0$0$175
Welcome BonusEarn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus milesN/AEarn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs)
EQD/EQM10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 per calendar yearN/A15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to a maximum 60,000 MQMs
Category Bonus• 2x on American flights
• 1x on all other purchases
• 4x miles on United purchases
• 2x miles on dining
• 2x miles on all other travel
• 1x on all other purchase
• 3x on Delta purchases
• 1x on everything else
Lounge Access• Admirals Club (+ 2 guests or immediate family) (AU cardholders also get free access)• United Club (+ 2 guests or 1 adult and dependent children under 21 years of age)
• Star Alliance Lounges when traveling same-day on Star Alliance ticket
• Delta Sky Club® & international partner lounges when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed/operated flight
• 2X one-time guest passes for complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club
• The Centurion Lounge - When flying a same-day Delta-marketed/operated flight paid for with a U.S. issued American Express charge or credit Card
Elite StatusN/A• Hertz President's Circle® MembershipN/A
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck CreditEvery 5 yearsEvery 4 yearsEvery 4 years
Trip DelayAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit• 12 hours
• $500
• 6 hours
• $500
Baggage DelayAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit• 6 hours
• $100 day up to 3 days
Auto Rental CDWAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefitPrimary coverage up to retail value of vehicleSecondary up to $75K
Additional Perks & Benefits• Free first checked bag for cardholder and up to 8 companions
• 25% off in-flight purchases on AA
• Access to Reduced Mileage Awards
• Priority check-in, airport screening, and early boarding
• 1st and 2nd bag free for the primary cardholder and 1 companion
• Close in award fees waived
• Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets
• Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card
• First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 8 companions
• Priority boarding

United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Annual Fee$0 intro annual fee, then $525
Special Offer $0 intro annual fee, then $525
The United Club Infinite is the top-tier United co-brand card, and offers some great perks like United Club℠ membership, priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges. If your not an elite, holding this card means you'll be treated like one of United's most loyal and valuable customers. If you already hold MileagePlus Premier status, the card also grants access to Complementary Premier Upgrades on United flights.
  • $0 intro annual fee, then $525
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ Fee Credit
  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flight when you pay with your Club Card.
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

Welcome bonus

After launching with a substantial signup bonus in March 2020, the United Club Infinite has now dropped the traditional welcome offer of bonus miles and transitioned to an alternative special offer that waives the annual fee for the first year. While not as lucrative as the previous 100,000 bonus mile offer, you are essentially getting a full United Club membership free for the first year.

Earning Potential and Bonus Categories

Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. One of the drawbacks of the superseded MileagePlus Club Card was the low return on spending. Particularly when you factored in that you could get more United miles swiping an Ultimate Rewards earning card than you could with United co-brand cards. Thanks to the improved earning rate of 4X on United purchases, the new United Club Infinite is now the best card to earn MileagePlus miles when paying for United flights. It’s also the first co-brand airline card to offer bonus points on all travel purchases including those from other airlines.

Feature Benefits and Lounge Access Perks

The feature benefit of the United Club Infinite is United Club lounge access for the primary cardholder, plus 2 adults or 1 adult and dependent children under 21 years of age. United charges up to $650 for an annual United Club membership ($600/$550 for Platinum/1K members), so you are essentially getting a discounted lounge membership in addition to all the other perks and benefits.

Other benefits include free first and second checked bags ($30/$40 each way), up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Pre fee credit, the waiver of close-in award fees, expanded award inventory, and complimentary upgrades on award tickets.

You won’t pay a fee to add any additional cardholders, but they won’t get the lounge access benefits provided to the primary cardholder. The United Club Infinite offers some great travel protection benefits for a co-brand card including trip delay reimbursement, primary rental car insurance, and baggage delay coverage.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Annual Fee$550
Welcome Offer Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 1X miles on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.

Welcome bonus

Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. This is the standard offer for the card, so you're likely to find a better bonus if you're willing to be patient. If you’re trying to achieve elite status with Delta, the MQMs are a nice supplement to the redeemable miles on offer.

Earning Potential and Bonus Categories

Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Whereas the new United card tops the earning sheets for earning United miles, the same can’t be said for the Delta Reserve. Although it earns a solid 3X miles on Delta purchases, you can get a higher return of 5X points per dollar with the The Platinum Card® from American Express which you can then transfer to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

Feature Benefits and Lounge Access Benefits

One of the best benefits added during recent changes to the Delta Reserve was the addition of Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta flights paid for with an Amex credit or charge card. The new lounge access benefits supplement the existing Delta Sky Club access, providing more lounge options for cardholders when flying Delta.

You also receive a domestic round-trip companion certificate each year you renew the card, valid for Delta First Class, Comfort+, or Main Cabin flights. Plus, a free checked bag for you and up to 8 companions flying on the same itinerary, priority boarding, and Amex recently added a new trip delay policy to this card that kicks in after a delay of only 6 hours.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Annual Fee$450
Welcome Offer Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $6,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
The AA Executive Card card is by far the most cost effective way to gain access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. Even better, you can extend the benefit to up to 10 authorized users on your account at no additional cost. In addition, this card offers a free checked bag, on domestic AA flights, priority checkin and boarding, and a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Complimentary Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder
  • Complimentary Admirals Club membership for up to 10 authorized user accounts
  • No charge for authorized user accounts
  • Reduced Mileage Awards can save you 7,500 miles on roundtrip MileSAAver Awards
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights for you and up to 8 companions
  • Priority check-in, TSA screening lines, and boarding
  • 10,000 bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year

Welcome bonus

Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $6,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. While the 60,000 mile bonus on the AA Executive Card card isn't a huge offer by historical standards, you only pay a $450 annual fee for this card.

Earning Potential and Bonus Categories

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases. Again, the earning rates on the AA Executive Card are low in comparison to other airline cards, but 2X AAdvantage miles on American purchases is still the best return you’ll see if you are collecting AA miles, as American features no bank transfer partners.

Feature Benefits and Lounge Access Benefits

Similar to the cards above, the flagship benefit of the AA Executive Card is the complimentary Admirals Club membership you receive for holding the card. American charges up to $650 a year for Admirals Club if you don’t hold elite status, so obtaining it via the AA Executive Card offers a huge discount over purchasing a yearly membership. A unique benefit of this card is that authorized user (AU) accounts also gain Admirals Club access, and there is no fee for adding AU accounts!

Like the Delta Reserve, you’ll get a free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 8 companions traveling on the same ticket, 25% of in-flight purchases, access to AA Reduced Mileage Awards, priority check-in, airport screening, and early boarding.

Final Thoughts

The  60,000 point offer on the AA Executive Card is our current pick of the premium airline cards and is a great deal when you factor in the flexible lounge access benefits for AU cardholders without additional fees. Due to the high annual fees on premium airline cards, you also need to make the most of big-ticket benefits like lounge access and free checked bags. If you fly a legacy carrier more than a few times a year and can take full advantage of the benefits on offer, any of these three cards can provide outsized value.

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  • The United Infinite card is very strong. For a similar annual fee as the Delta Reserve, I find the Infinite to be much stronger.

    • @Robert – Agreed, and additionally, although it is to a degree “apples & oranges” in terms of the product, I have to say I’m somewhat surprised to see a better earner on UA spend than the CSR.

    • Any more insight on your conclusion?

    • I agree. Also it is important to highlight that UA miles are not expiring anymore which is a great plus from my point of view when we compare against other airlines.

  • says:

    Not so sure on the timing of this article. Maybe for future reference?

    • My thought as well, Ron. I personally won’t be flying as much for several months due to current circumstances so I cant make use for many of these cards’ benefits. I’m not even sure I could meet the minimum spend on them either.

      P.S. (for AwardWallet) — I’m not sure “wear” is the word you intended to use in this sentence; typo perhaps?: “While the 60,000 mile bonus on the AA Executive Card card doesn’t provide the same value as the 100K offers on the Delta and United cards, you only wear a $450 annual fee for this card.”

  • Great article, Jess! Some questions about these cards include:

    • Elite Status with Airlines—Do any of these cards offer automatic actual airlines elite status automatically, and not just “access”? The previous United Club card (Visa Signature version) awarded cardholders Premier Access benefits, but not an actual elite status.

    • Elite Status with Partners—Other than Hertz President’s Circle Membership shown in the “Elite Status” benefits row for the new United Infinite card, do any of these cards offer elite status with any airlines partners, like the Hyatt Discoverist status once offered by the previous United Club card (Visa Signature version)?

    • Annual Travel Credit—Do any of these cards have travel or airlines credit for cardholders, like other credit cards that charge higher premium fees?

    • Authorized Users—Are there fees for additional cards for authorized users? Which benefits are given to authorized users, including TSA/Global Entry application reimbursement and annual travel credit (if any)?

    • EDQ/EQM Waiver—After changing its elite status qualification requirements in 2019, United allows Chase United MileagePlus Cardmembers to earn PQPs through spending on specific cards.  (See and Can this change be reflected in your table, and how does the United Club card compare to the other premium airlines cards while considering this change?

    • 1. Elite Status – No, none of the cards offer elite status outright. But the Delta card comes with 20K MQMs as part of the bonus + the ability to earn more by reaching spending thresholds. Silver status is 25K MQMs, so you’d be close as long as you hit the MQD requirements. This post should help.
      2. I don’t know of any other statuses.
      3. No Travel credits.
      4. Authorized User fees are in the table in this post. I’m not sure if the AU also gets their own TSA/Global Entry
      5. Great suggestion. We’ll look into adding some updates on United elite status.

      • Chad Young says:

        I have the old Chase Continental Presidential Plus Mastercard that is now co-branded as United, but I guess is no longer offered. For me, the qualification miles are a big deal as I’ve had to use them several times in past Decembers to obtain the next “level” of status prior to year’s end…typically platinum.

        I get 1000 qualification miles for every $5000 spent on my current card…I put everything on the card, recurring bills (home security, cell, cable/internet, etc.) all the way down to a soda at the gas station, and just pay off those charges monthly to not incur interest, but pay for all without having to go to individual pay sites and/or my bank’s “bill pay” site.

        As a previous commenter said, travel is reduced this year, so qualification miles are even more important for me…100,000 miles is nice; however, I typically travel for work, so I’m not purchasing my own flights with the my card to get the 4x mileage benefit with this new card. Plus, my current card gives me the 2x on travel for my other travel expenses (hotel, car rental, etc.) – same as this new card. Furthermore, my annual fee is less, and I get very similar frequent flyer perks – which I end up already receiving due to my FF status. The one difference with FF status though – my current card gives me essentially the same lounge access and associated benefits as this new card would.

        Personally, I think this new card probably replaces my current Presidential Card sans the qualification miles and dupes you into thinking its a good deal with the one-time 100K miles. To me, this new card “hits” you long term with a higher annual fee and no longer provides a way to get qualification miles as a means for United to reduce those with FF status. This way other “real” FFs that spend actual United airline $$$ on actual United (and partner) flights can better benefit from those perks of first class upgrades, etc., without having to compete with those who “buy their way to status” using the card benefit of qualification miles at the top tiers (like me! LOL!!). As an example, remember when lounges were almost empty, or for sure, had space to choose where you wanted to sit?!?! Look at ’em now…I’m sure FFers are feel the same way…I remember when platinum would almost guarantee a domestic first class upgrade on “less traveled” days (i.e., middle of the week, Saturday, etc.), now you have to have 1K status, and that might not still be enough…

        HOWEVER, I can only use qualification miles to get up to platinum status, and I still have to fly enough to be within around 10K or less miles of reaching platinum status for me to use my accrued qualification miles for that year…hope all that made sense.

        • Hey Chad, thanks for sharing this. I agree 100% that you are better off with the Presidential Plus card. I was unaware of the 1,000 Qualification Miles awarded per $5,000 spent on the card—that isn’t even listed on the Chase website. definitely stick with your current card. It’s too bad this benefit isn’t available on any of the cards open to new applicants.

        • You have a really good legacy card but none of us have access to that. The old Club card didn’t offer any status miles so it’s not a loss to us in the new Club card for it not offering qualification miles either.

  • I have had the AAdvantage Executive card for several years. I really like the fact that I can give my family member AdmiralsClub access by giving them an authorized user card. I understand you can have 9 free authorized users. Of course, you do have to trust them with a credit card.

  • I like benefits from all of the cards. I just didn’t understand why on the higher cards AA and UA didn’t give extra miles for groceries but the card lower did. UA fixed that but AA is behind. Yes the access to their club is good but I guess Citi wants you to have at least two of their cards so you can benefit from 2x miles on something other than AA flights?
    I do like the new benefits of the UA card and makes it a contender in my book.

  • Should be useful in the future

  • The United card needs to add an EQD/EQM waiver, otherwise it is no match against the Citi and Amex cards.

  • Thanks for the detailed info! I am most interested in the Delta card.

    • Hold on people, these premium card offers will soon look like peanuts compared to what is going to be available out there.

      • @Pete – Good point! I would certainly expect to see some of the “highest ever” LTO offers (ex. DL) be extended, at the very least. Or better still, as you point out, perhaps be improved… 100k AA Exec, I’m looking for a return from you!

  • Will be interesting to see how things shake out months/year from now, post COVID-19.

  • A write-up on the BA card will be very much appreciated as well.

  • if the offers last for a while they may be worth considering but not right now.

  • I am a current MP Club Card holder and have two questions; first and most important, how does this compare to my current United MP Club Card and second, is there a reason to switch (if so, how) as it would be silly to hold both?


  • Any good recommendation on good cash back credit card?

  • Airline mileage is really devaluating more and more. Need to rethink when applying

    • Very good comparison, current situation will probably hold back people from signing into any new airline cards. At least this card gives 2 miles per dollar for dining.

  • Useful article and table for anyone looking for a new premium card. I would be interested in a side by side comparison that includes other premium travel cards even if they’re not specifically airline cards. Many of the benefits and fee structures seem pretty comparable between the 3 cards mentioned in the article and other cards like the Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, etc..

  • Seems pretty silly to get a travel card when people are barely allowed to leave the house for the foreseeable future

  • Can I get the bonus on this new card if I already have the United Explorer personal card?

  • 12 hour trip delay on the United card? For that AF it really should be 6. For me this list is a no-brainer as I live at a United hub. I’m still not sure this card is for me but glad to see Club access is given to an adult and dependant children under 21.

  • The AA card only makes sense if you need Admirals Club access. The other benefits seem to be the same as their standard cards with a much lower fee.

  • Nice comparison. Hope we see airlines back up and running to take advantage of these benefits.

  • Juan Ignacio says:

    In my opinion the best card is the UA, interesting benefits on Hertz.

  • I liked the Citi Executive Mastercard when it had a 100000 mile signup bonus. That was so sweet!

  • Good analysis but I’m waiting to see how the airline situation plays out before go with any more cards with them.

  • Harvey Kwan says:

    Taking a break from opening cards because of COVID.

  • onlyozzy says:

    I miss the AMEX Starwood SPG. That had the best transfer options and conditions. Whoever launches a product close to that will attract a huge customer base.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

**You may receive 5 bonus AAdvantage miles for leaving a comment (Details/FAQ)