3 Great Credit Cards for Economy Class Flyers

Dec 3, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

While traveling in premium class sounds amazing, it might not be the most realistic option for individuals or families. Premium class fares can be quite expensive, and the cost for economy fares is much more affordable — making cash back or flexible currency a great option for booking your travels.

If you are an economy flyer, here are three credit cards you should consider.

The best credit cards for economy class flyers

1. Ultimate flexibility: Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

You know what they say: Cash is king. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a simple cash back card that works great for someone who flies economy.

While the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer lacks a welcome bonus, it offers 2% cash back: 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. This makes it a great option for those who want great rewards while not worrying about award redemption rules. Best of all, it has a $0 annual fee.

Since this card earns cash back, you can purchase any airfare, then redeem your rewards for a statement credit against your airfare charge. There’s no need to worry about airline blackout dates or airline program restrictions.

Additionally, you can move your rewards to Citi ThankYou points, then transfer them to one of Citi’s different transfer partners. So, there is additional flexibility with your rewards. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a fantastic option for someone who wants the freedom to book travel their way and avoid paying an annual fee.

2. The free agent who wants options: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is another option that offers great value and flexibility for the economy flyer.

To start, it has a solid welcome bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.

The Capital One Purchase Eraser can be used for travel purchases within the last 90 days. So, if you happen to be short on miles for an award flight, you can redeem miles at a later date and still save on travel. Or, you could utilize transfer rewards to one of Capital One’s airline transfer partners. This adds additional flexibility to your Capital One miles.

Earning Capital One miles is extremely easy because the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2x miles on all purchases, plus 5x miles on rental cars and hotels booked through Capital One Travel. You’ll also receive a $100 TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee credit every four years, increasing the speed at which you can move through security and immigration.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s annual fee is $95. With solid earning rates and a generous welcome offer, it’s a great option for economy flyers who would like a card with extra benefits and easy redemption options but a lower annual fee.

3. Premium benefits: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Flying economy doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things — and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® certainly gives you access to elevated benefits.

First up is the welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 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®. — and potentially worth even more if used for premium travel through one of Chase's transfer partners.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® will earn 5x points on air travel and 10x points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

You’ll also receive Priority Pass lounge access for yourself and up to two guests, which includes Priority Pass restaurants. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also includes a $100 TSA Precheck or Global Entry credit every four years. Additionally, you receive great travel protection benefits, like trip delay reimbursement that kicks in after delays of six hours. All of these make traveling in economy class a bit more comfortable.

A very useful benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the ability to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for 1.5 cents per point through their travel portal. For an economy flyer, this can be a good use of points, especially since you’ll earn redeemable miles for those flights as well.

Other ways to spend less on flights

Price-conscious flyers who only want to pay for barebones amenities are already well on their way to being thrifty travelers. Here are some more tips for lessening the costs of your airfare:

  • Join an airline loyalty program. Learn how to get started with frequent flyer programs so that you can begin earning miles for free flights in the future.

  • Avoid paying unnecessary fees. Airline fees may not be fair, but they're out there and can ding you unexpectedly as you book a flight. Learn how to shop smart so that you can avoid any unnecessary airline fees.

  • Book your tickets at the right time. Data from the travel app Hopper indicates travelers should buy their flight at least three weeks prior to departure before the price jumps. Beyond getting the timing right, there are specific tools that can also help you book with confidence.

The bottom line

The best card for you comes down to the annual fee you are willing to pay and the amount of benefits you’d like. With these cards, you can earn plenty of rewards and make your economy flight even cheaper and more comfortable.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.