I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
You get an airline credit card for the signup bonus and for the benefits of having the card. In general you do not put spending on an airline credit card.
If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve you earn 3 points per dollar on airline spend and those miles transfer to your choice of several airlines. Want United miles? Both Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card have points that transfer to United — or to other airlines.
If you want American miles, the American credit cards aren’t the ones that earn the most AAdvantage miles. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express earns faster for your spending because when you transfer 20,000 points to miles you earn 5000 bonus miles (leaving aside the regularly-occurring transfer bonus American seems to offer), meaning a minimum earn of 1.25 miles per dollar.
If you want Delta miles, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card isn’t going to earn as many SkyMiles as a ‘generic’ American Express card will.
American Express Membership Rewards cards transfer to Delta miles as well as other programs and earn points faster because of category bonuses. Even the no annual fee Amex Everyday will earn a minimum of 1.2 points per dollar (when you use it 20 times in a month) that transfer to Delta or elsewhere.
There are two exceptions to this rule: If you need to spend money on a credit card to help out with revenue requirements for earning elite status, and… Southwest Airlines.
The signup bonuses and ongoing spend count towards the requirements for a Southwest Airlines companion pass.
Arguably the single best benefit in all of travel is the Southwest Companion Pass which is earned after 110,000 points in a year – and credit card points (including signup bonus points) count. Your designated companion can fly with you for just taxes regardless of whether you’re traveling on a paid fare or points.
And now is the perfect time to earn a companion pass, the beginning of the year, since you’ll earn the pass for the remainder of the current year and the entire next year.
So you spend money on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card because you want to earn a companion pass, something transferable points cards don’t help you achieve.