Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)

Current welcome bonus: This is one of the most lucrative welcome bonuses on the credit card market today. After spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership, you’ll earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points.

How to spend the welcome bonus: This hefty bonus is transferable to other airline and hotel loyalty programs (AmEx has a long list of partners including British Airways, Emirates, Hilton, Marriott, Qantas, Radisson and Virgin Atlantic among others) or can be used to directly purchase $1,000 worth of travel via the Membership Rewards portal.

Learn more about the American Express Platinum card.

Why we love it: We don’t love the low value of Delta SkyMiles, since you sometimes need double, triple, or quadruple the miles compared to what other airlines charge for mileage tickets. But, we do love the opportunity to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status by meeting certain spend thresholds. If it’s Delta elite status you’re after, this is a must-have for your wallet.

How it earns miles: You’ll earn three SkyMiles for every dollar you spend on Delta flights, two miles on dining and supermarket purchases, and one mile on everything else. After spending $10,000 on the card, you will earn 10,000 bonus MQMs, and another 10,000 MQMs after reaching $20,000 in annual spend. That’s helpful since it only takes 25,000 MQMs to reach entry-level Silver Medallion status.

Additional perks: A free checked bag when flying Delta is one of the perks, as is a statement credit to offset the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership (enrollment required, terms apply). Another popular benefit is a companion certificate that allows cardholders to bring along a fellow flier for free (plus tax).

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Current welcome bonus: You can earn 75,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 MQMs toward elite status after spending $3,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

How to spend the welcome bonus: Delta prices its award tickets at sometimes exorbitant rates, but there are still some good deals from time to time. A recent award fare sale priced economy class tickets to Europe at 34,000 miles round-trip. Most of the year, however, the mileage cost of award flights on Delta and its partners can be rather inflated compared to other airlines, which means those 75,000 miles will definitely come in handy, no matter where you want to fly.

Learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express card.

Look for award fare sales to get the most out of your Delta miles. 

Courtesy Delta Airlines

Why we love it: Alaska Airlines is the only major domestic airline to award miles based on distance flown rather than how much you spend on a ticket. This makes it easier to rack up Alaska miles, even on cheap tickets. In March, Alaska joined the OneWorld alliance, but the carrier also has a long roster of other international airline partners where you can earn and redeem miles. The low annual fee and plethora of benefits deliver great value.