Choosing the Best Citi Card for American Airlines Flyers

Jul 11, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi / AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard, CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MastercardCiti AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

American Airlines and its AAdvantage program have seen some devaluations over the last year or so — first with the switch to a revenue-based system for earning redeemable miles and status and, more recently, a disappointing lack of saver award availability. That said, the carrier is still a top choice for many travelers, especially those who score premium-cabin seats on one of AA’s retrofitted aircraft.

No matter your reason for choosing to bank miles with the AAdvantage program, holding one or more of the airline’s co-branded Citi credit cards can help you earn your next award flight on AA metal or on a Oneworld partner, such as Qatar Airways. Below, let’s take a closer look at the four cards to see which make the most sense for you. For info on picking the best American-branded Aviator option available through Barclaycard, see Richard Kerr’s post on Choosing the Best Card for American Flyers.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months and 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 total in the first twelve months.

Annual fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Benefits: Preferred boarding, a first bag checked free on domestic AA itineraries for you and four companions on the same reservation, 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, gas stations, and restaurants. Plus, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

Reasons to get it: This is a good pick if you want a card that offers some elite-style benefits (like a free checked bag and priority boarding) and could use a healthy sum of American miles — since you’ll currently earn 50,000 with the card’s elevated sign-up bonus. Plus, the annual fee’s waived for the first 12 months, so you have so time to test-drive the card to see how much you utilize its benefits before having to pony up $99.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

Business class on AA's A321T.
70,000 miles is enough to book a round-trip transcon flight in business class.

Sign-up bonus: 70,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $4,000 in the first four months

Annual fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Benefits: Almost identical to those offered on the personal Citi AAdvantage Platinum card — including the free checked bag, preferred boarding, 25% off in-flight purchases and more. With the business card, however, in addition to earning 2 miles per dollar on AA purchases, you’ll also earn 2x rewards on telecommunications expenses and at car rental merchants and gas stations.

Reasons to get it: Like the personal version of the AAdvantage Platinum card, the business flavor is currently offering an increased sign-up bonus, which is enough to book one round-trip business-class award within the US. It’s not necessarily the most rewarding card for these bonus categories, but the business version does offer the added benefit of 2x miles on telecommunications and car rentals, in addition to 2x on American Airlines spending.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months

Annual fee: $450

Benefits: Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder and authorized users; priority check-in, screening and early boarding; a statement credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every five years;  25% off in-flight purchases; 10,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year; 2x miles on American Airlines purchases; no foreign transaction fees.

Reasons to get it: This card comes with a steep annual fee, but it’s the only Citi co-branded option that offers you two decidedly premium AA perks: Admirals Club access and the ability to earn EQMs toward AAdvantage elite status. If you frequently travel through airports with an Admirals Club location, that first benefit can be pretty valuable; a one-day pass costs $59, and an individual membership goes for $550 (or $500 if you’re renewing), which is more than the card’s annual fee. Plus, the Admirals Club membership extends to authorized users as well. With the policy of two free guests per cardholder, you could get as many as 33 people into a lounge for free from just one account — not too shabby!

Citi AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard

Sign-up bonus: 25,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $750 in the first three months

Annual fee: $50 (waived for the first 12 months)

Benefits: Earn 1x miles on all purchases, get a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, save up to 5,000 miles with Reduced Mileage awards.

Reasons to get it: This card’s benefits list is on the short side compared to other options mentioned above, but if you want to avoid paying a substantial annual fee, it could make sense. You’ll earn 25,000 miles as a sign-up bonus after spending just $750 in the first three months, and the $50 fee is waived for the first year. While you won’t earn 2x miles on American Airlines purchases or get elite-style perks like priority boarding and a free checked bag, you do get access to Reduced Mileage awards and can save on in-flight purchases.

Bottom Line

Citi’s lineup of American Airlines cards may not offer the most amazing return on AA purchases — The Platinum Card from American Express currently takes the cake with 5x points on airfare — but these cards offer some valuable perks, from a 10% mileage rebate and a free checked bag on domestic flights on the personal and business Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select cards to Admirals Club access and the ability to earn EQMs on the Citi AAdvantage Executive. The best option for you, of course, depends on your travel patterns and whether or not you’re willing to shell out $450 for an airline credit card.

Which of these four cards would you pick, and why?

Featured image courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

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