Choosing the Best Credit Card for American Airlines Flyers

Apr 5, 2019

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Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 miles with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard or 70,000 miles with the  CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

When it comes to earning American Airlines AAdvantage miles, there are plenty of credit card options from multiple issuers. Today, I’ll look at what’s available for AA frequent flyers looking to bolster their miles, benefits and elite status, and recommend what I think is your best choice.

Citi

Citi is the main issuer of AAdvantage cards with multiple cards available for new sign-ups. The bank is known to offer increased sign-up bonuses on a relatively regular basis and the ability to open multiple accounts with the same type of card. Before going into further detail, here’s a comparison of the available Citi AAdvantage cards:

Card Annual Fee Sign-Up Bonus No Foreign Fees Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free on Domestic itineraries Boarding Reduced Mileage Awards
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card $0 10,000 and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in three months 3% fee 2x on AA and at grocery stores N/A N/A N/A
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard $99 (waived the first year) 60,000 after spending $3,000 in three months 2x on AA, gas stations, restaurants You and 4 Companions Preferred 7,500 miles
CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard $99 (waived the first year) 70,000 after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first four months 2x AA/ telecom/ rental car/gas stations You and 4 Companions Preferred 7,500 miles
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 50,000 after spending $5,000 in three months  2x AA You and 8 Companions Priority 7,500 miles
Citi / AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard $50 (waived the first year) 25,000 after spending $750 in three months 1x all purchases 5,000 miles

With the basics laid out above, let’s take a closer look at each card.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

This card was launched in mid-2018 and rounds out Citi’s American Airlines card lineup as the no-fee, entry-level option. It’s light on benefits, but it does earn 2x miles at grocery stores — equal to a 2.8% return based on TPG’s valuations — as well as on AA purchases. It’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three months.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

The primary personal Citi AAdvantage card currently comes with a 60,000-mile bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. With a much lower annual fee and lower minimum spending requirement than the Executive card, it’s a great card for the casual AA flyer who isn’t invested in earning elite status. You also receive access to American’s reduced mileage awards, giving you a 7,500-mile discount on round-trip awards for certain routes in North America. Check out our full card review here.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

The additional spending category bonuses on this business card make it an attractive option, and it currently also features a 70,000-mile bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first four months. It also comes with a $99 companion certificate after you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year and keep the account open for at least 45 days after the anniversary date. Top off the perks with access to reduced mileage awards and a reasonable annual fee, and this is a solid business card.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

This card is offering a bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. The Executive card comes with a full Admirals Club membership, while authorized users get access privileges to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. Unfortunately, starting Nov. 1, 2019 you’ll be required to show a same-day boarding pass for American or a partner airline in order to gain access to these lounges.

When traveling on a domestic American flight, you receive your first checked bag free for you and up to eight traveling companions, as well as priority check-in, airport screening and boarding privileges. So it’s a lot like having elite status, but without the first-class upgrades. You also get a 25% savings on inflight purchases, which isn’t even an elite status benefit. But if elite status is important to you, the Executive Card offers 10,000 elite-qualifying miles when you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year. See our full card review here.

The Executive card provides an Admirals Club Membership. (Photo by Tony Mecia for TPG)
The Executive card provides an Admirals Club Membership. (Photo of CLT Admirals Club by Tony Mecia for TPG)

Barclaycard

Barclaycard introduced a line-up of five Aviator cards when the US Airways Premier World Mastercard was discontinued in 2015. Only the Aviator Red and Business cards are currently accepting new applicants, but you may be able to obtain the other versions by upgrading or downgrading the Aviator Red. Here’s a comparison of the Barclaycard Aviator cards and their benefits:

Aviator Card Annual Fee 25% Inflight Discount No Foreign Fees Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free on Domestic Itineraries
Preferred Boarding Reduced Mileage Awards
Aviator $0 1x AA (0.5x all other purchases)
Blue $49 2x AA 5,000 miles
Red $95 ($99 starting May 1, 2019) 2x AA You and 4 Companions 7,500 miles
Silver $195 ($199 starting May 1, 2019) 3x AA, 2x hotel/rental car You and 8 Companions 7,500 miles
Business $95 2x AA/office supply/telecom/rental car You and 4 Companions 7,500 miles

These cards have seen various changes recently, including the reduction of elite status earning potential. Now, the Red and Silver version will see additional positive and negative changes implemented on May 1, 2019, including the loss of the 10% rebate on all redeemed Advantage miles. The Red and Silver versions will both add statement credits for inflight Wi-Fi purchases starting on May 1. In particular, the Silver card will reimburse $50 in Wi-Fi every anniversary year on American Airlines operated flights and the Red version will reimburse $25 every anniversary year. Plus, the the Silver version is also adding a $25 per day statement credit for food and beverage on American Airlines operated flights.

If you don’t believe the annual fee is worth the benefits on your Aviator, consider downgrading to the no-fee version instead of outright canceling. This is good for credit score purposes, receiving pre-qualified offers in the future and leaving yourself at least one avenue open to earn AA miles without an additional cost.

Bottom Line

Which card is “best” really comes down to whether you fly American often enough to justify a higher annual fee. For most occasional AA flyers, the Aviator Red or the AAdvantage Platinum Select card will be the way to go. Both cards provide a sizable sign-up bonus to boost your account from the beginning, and some nice ancillary perks like your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries.

The Aviator Red and Platinum Select cards have their differences though. The Platinum Select waives the annual fee for the first year and provides bonus earning at restaurants and gas stations (as well as on AA purchases) while the Aviator Red will soon feature a Wi-Fi statement credit and only requires one purchase and payment of the annual fee to earn the sign-up bonus.

Featured artwork by TPG


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with the best current cards for AA flyers, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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