Credit cards with priority boarding: Save time and hassle when you fly

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  • Getting an earlier boarding position means you’ll have a better shot at scoring coveted overhead bin space and more time to prepare and wipe down your seat area.
  • Many co-branded airline cards include priority or preferred boarding as a perk, in addition to other benefits like free checked bags and inflight discounts.
  • Another option is to pay for priority boarding using a travel rewards credit card that offers statement credits for airline or travel purchases.
  • Read Business Insider’s guide to the best airline credit cards.

We’ve all been there — standing in the back of the line at the gate for a long-haul flight, assigned seat 50A with boarding group Z.  By the time you finally manage to struggle to your seat, there’s no room left in the overhead bins, your carry-on bag is whisked away to the baggage hold, and the plane pushes back before you have a second to get settled in. It’s an unpleasant way to start any journey.

Whether you’re looking to save on checked bag fees by getting first dibs on storage space in the cabin or want a little time to sanitize your seat area and settle in, getting an earlier boarding position is valuable enough that airlines will charge you for it. However, most airlines also offer a credit card that provides priority boarding, and if they don’t there are plenty of credit cards that’ll reimburse you for priority boarding fees.

If you travel frequently, it’s worth considering a credit card that will get you on the plane sooner or help you avoid paying out of pocket for the privilege. 

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

It’s worth noting that priority boarding isn’t the only reason to get an airline credit card. Many offer other perks like a free checked bag, discounts on inflight purchases, or a fast-track to elite status.

Annual Fee

$99, waived for first 12 months

Regular APR

15.99% – 24.99% variable

Featured Reward

50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
    • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
    • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
    • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees
    • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
    • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
    • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% – 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
    Pros
    • Bonus categories help you earn miles on everyday purchases
    • Fee checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights
    Cons
    • $125 American Airlines flight discount is nice, but you need to spend $20,000 in a cardmember year to earn it

    Read Our Review
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    American Airlines flyers have even more reason to worry about their boarding position these days. The airline recently announced all non-elite members of its AAdvantage frequent flyer program would board in Group 6, ahead of non-members in economy class and basic economy.

    That makes certain American Airlines credit cards issued by Citi and Barclays even more valuable — on American Airlines and American Eagle flights, cardholders will board before the crowd of Group 6 passengers. You don’t need to pay for your flight with the card, but it must have been opened (and your AAdvantage number attached to your reservation) at least seven days prior to departure. 

    Amerian Airlines personal cards

    • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Group 4 priority boarding for the primary cardholder and up to eight companions on the same reservation  — read our Citi AAdvantage Executive review
    • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Group 5 preferred boarding for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation — read our Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select review
    • Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Group 5 preferred boarding for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation
    • Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® (not open to new applicants): Group 5 preferred boarding for the primary cardholder and up to eight companions on the same reservation

    American Airlines small-business cards

    American Express offers several Delta credit cards that include Main Cabin 1 priority boarding on Delta and Delta Connection flights. The Main Cabin 1 group boards after passengers flying in premium cabins and most elite members, but before other economy class travelers or those flying in basic economy.  

    Primary cardholders who have their Delta SkyMiles number attached to their reservation get Main Cabin 1 boarding — even if they’re booked in basic economy — and there’s no requirement to use the card to pay for the ticket. Up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation will get the same bump in boarding position.

    Amex Delta personal cards

    Amex Delta small-business cards

    Annual Fee

    $95, waived first year

    Regular APR

    16.49% to 23.49% Variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open (plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months)

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • 60k bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.
    • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
    • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases
    • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ fee credit
    • 25% back on United inflight purchases
    • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
    • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
    • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash
    Pros
    • Annual fee is waived the first year
    • Earns bonus miles on several purchase categories, including restaurants
    • Includes an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
    • Gets you a free checked bag on United when you pay with the card
    Cons
    • Not the most rewarding card for most non-United travel purchases

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Four United credit cards from Chase offer priority boarding on United and United Express flights, and unlike the checked bag benefit on these cards, you do not have to use the card to pay for your ticket. Primary cardholders and companions on the same reservation board in Group 2, which is after premium-cabin passengers and Platinum or Gold elites.

    Group 2 also includes Silver elites and those who’ve purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding, and boards before Group 3 (basically everyone else in economy plus, economy, and basic economy). Note that your card needs to have been open for two weeks in order for priority boarding status to reflect on your reservation.

    Chase United personal cards

    Chase United small-business cards

    If you’re aren’t flying with one of the three US legacy airlines, don’t fret — there are still options for priority boarding, both domestic and international.

    Even if you don’t have a co-branded airline credit card, you can still enjoy priority boarding by paying for it with a credit card that offers annual travel credits. This can be especially helpful if you’re not loyal to one airline, as you can use your card to pay for priority boarding upgrades and be automatically reimbursed. These also have the added benefit of earning points on your purchases.

    Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

    Featured Reward

    75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
    • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
    • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
    • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $550 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott
    • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
    Cons
    • Bonus categories leave something to be desired
    • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Personal cards with travel credits

    Small-business cards with travel credits

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

    Get the latest Bank of America stock price here.

    For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here.

    For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please click here.

    For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here.

    For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

    For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

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