Best Credit Cards for Star Alliance Airlines

Good choices include airline-branded cards and general travel credit cards that allow you to transfer points or miles to Star Alliance carriers.
Jul 1, 2022

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If you're loyal to one or more Star Alliance airlines, such as United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines or All Nippon Airways (ANA), it can make sense to carry a credit card that offers rewards and perks you can use within that airline partnership.

Good choices include airline-branded cards from Star Alliance carriers and general travel credit cards that allow you to transfer points or miles to airlines in the network.

Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, here are strong contenders for U.S. travelers who mainly book flights within the Star Alliance, including 26 airlines flying to more than 1,300 destinations in 195 countries.

  • Aegean Airlines.

  • Air Canada.

  • Air China.

  • Air India.

  • Air New Zealand.

  • All Nippon Airways (ANA).

  • Asiana Airlines.

  • Austrian Airlines.

  • Avianca.

  • Brussels Airlines.

  • Copa Airlines.

  • Croatia Airlines.

  • EgyptAir.

  • Ethiopian Airlines.

  • Eva Air.

  • Lot Polish Airlines.

  • Lufthansa.

  • Scandinavian Airlines.

  • Shenzhen Airlines.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • South African Airways.

  • Swiss Airlines.

  • TAP Air Portugal.

  • Thai Airways.

  • Turkish Airlines.

  • United Airlines.

United℠ Explorer Card

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card
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Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Rewards:

  • 2 MileagePlus miles per dollar spent on purchases from United.

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on dining.

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on hotel accommodations purchased directly with the hotel.

  • 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Why we like it for Star Alliance: United Airlines is by far the largest member of the Star Alliance and will be the most relevant airline for most Americans, whether flying to U.S. destinations or abroad. The United℠ Explorer Card has an annual fee, but one you can quickly make up for with such perks as:

  • First checked bag free for you and a companion on your reservation.

  • Two United Club one-time-use passes per year.

  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck statement credit every four years.

Honorable mention goes to the United Quest℠ Card, which amps up the perks for an annual fee of $250.

Aeroplan® Credit Card

Aeroplan Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 70,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Ongoing rewards:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on groceries.

  • 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services.)

  • 3 points per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Air Canada.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

  • 500 bonus points for every $2,000 spent in a calendar month (up to a maximum of 1,500 points per month).

Why we like it for Star Alliance: Food purchases — groceries and restaurants — are especially lucrative bonus categories because the typical household spends so much money there. And a big plus: Aeroplan points are very valuable. NerdWallet values Air Canada points at about 1.9 cents, although the value can vary based on redemption options. Points can be redeemed for flights with Air Canada or one its 45 airline partners, which include those in the Star Alliance network. You also get:

  • Automatic 25K status through the first full calendar year after opening your account. This gives you perks like priority check-in, priority boarding and upgrades.

  • First checked bag free on Air Canada flights for you and up to nine other passengers on the same reservation.

  • Statement credit of up to $100 every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Rewards:

  • 5 points per dollar spent on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout.)

  • 3 points per dollar spent on select streaming services.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on online grocery purchases (not including Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).

  • 2 points per dollar spent on travel not purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases.

  • Through March 2025: 5 points per $1 spent on Lyft.

Why we like it for Star Alliance: This is a general-purpose travel card, making it more flexible than airline-branded cards. Although you won't be able to transfer points directly to all Star Alliance carriers, you'll have a couple of important ones in United Airlines and Air Canada (as well as Singapore Airlines). A downside is you won't get free checked bags or early boarding like you do with many airline credit cards.

If you want cushier perks, consider the higher-tier Chase Sapphire Reserve® with an annual fee of $550.

American Express® Gold Card

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Credit Card
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Annual fee: $250.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Rewards:

  • 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants, including those made through third-party processors like Square and Toast.

  • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year.

  • 3 points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.

  • Terms apply, (see rates and fees).

Why we like it for Star Alliance: This recommendation applies to all American Express rewards cards that earn Membership Rewards® Points, but we like the American Express® Gold Card for its useful bonus rewards categories. Star Alliance transfer partners for Membership Rewards include Air Canada, ANA, Avianca and Singapore Airlines. The luxury card pick from American Express would be The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Citi Premier® Card

Citibank ThankYou Premier Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Rewards:

  • 3 ThankYou points per dollar spent on air travel and hotels.

  • 3 points per dollar spent at supermarkets.

  • 3 points per dollar spent at gas stations.

  • 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Why we like it for Star Alliance: This card's Star Alliance partners aren't quite as common for typical American flyers. For example, partners are Avianca, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines. But we like its ultra-useful bonus rewards categories and its $100 annual hotel savings benefit. (Terms apply.)

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: 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.

Rewards:

  • 5 miles per $1 spent on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel.

  • 2 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Why we like it for Star Alliance: Star Alliance transfer partners include Air Canada, Avianca, Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines and TAP Air Portugal. This card gives you access to those partners while otherwise being a simpler credit card, with just two rewards rates to remember. That’s unusual in the world of travel credit cards. Again, you have an upgrade choice in the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card with an annual fee of $395. It’s especially worthwhile if you’ll book travel through Capital One.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases.

Rewards:

  • 6 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.

  • 3 points per $1 spent spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations and dining (up to $6,000 in combined purchases each year; 2 points per $1 spent thereafter).

  • 2 points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

Why we like it for Star Alliance: The twist here is a hotel credit card that gives you access not only to such Star Alliance partners as United Airlines, ANA and Turkish Airlines, but also many other airlines. They include the other largest U.S. carriers, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The downside is that transfer rates are weak, a 3:1 rate, meaning you exchange 3 hotel points for 1 airline mile. Two upsides, though: Marriott adds 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points you transfer to airline miles. And with United, you get a 10% bonus for transferring. The upgrade choice is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card with an annual fee of $450, see rates and fees.


To view rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, see this page. To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, see this page.

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