Priority boarding isn't just for elite flyers — the right credit card can get you on the plane before the overhead bins fill up

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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.

Airline credit cards with priority boarding

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.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Citi Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

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

  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Group 5 preferred boarding for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation — read our CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select review
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®: Group 5 preferred boarding for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation

Delta credit 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

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Read our Delta SkyMiles Gold review
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card : Read our Delta SkyMiles Platinum review
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Read our Delta SkyMiles Reserve review

Amex Delta small-business cards

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

United℠ Explorer Card

Chase United℠ Explorer Card

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

  • United℠ Explorer Card: Read our United Explorer review
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card: Read our United Club Infinite review

Chase United small-business cards

  • United℠ Business Card: Read our United Business Card review
  • United℠ Club Business Card

Other airline credit 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.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Four upgraded boardings per year based on availability (Boarding spot A1-15A) — read our Southwest Priority card review
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Four upgraded boardings per year based on availability (Boarding spot A1-15A) — read our Southwest Performance Business Credit card review
  • Barclays Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®: Zone 2 boarding (group 4 of 6)
  • Bank of America Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®: Zone 2 boarding (group 3 of 6)
  • Synchrony Norwegian Reward World Mastercard®: Priority boarding
  • Synchrony Cathay Pacific Visa®: Complimentary Marco Polo Club Green status for the first year, which includes priority boarding for the member only

Credit cards with annual travel credits

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.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

American Express The Platinum Card® from American ExpressCiti Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit CardChase Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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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