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AAdvantage and US Airways Credit Cards Strategy for 2015

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Executive Advantage World Elite Mastercard

American Airlines is currently my domestic airline of choice, and given their merger with US Airways and the changing relationship with Citi and Barclaycard, they also offer a great variety of co-branded credit cards. Today Senior Points and Miles Contributor Jason Steele explains the strengths and weaknesses of the various cards on offer, and offers his suggestions for which ones are most worth having as we approach the new year.

American Airlines is a company in transition. While it digests US Airways, the airline is also shuffling its deck of affiliate credit cards. Now is a good time to review which American and US Airways cards are being offered, and how these products are going to change in the coming months.

For example, Citi just announced that some of the benefits offered by its AAdvantage cards are now extended to purchases at US Airways, such as double miles and 25% off in-flight food and beverage purchases. Read on to see what other changes are in store. (All cards listed below offer double miles on American and US Airways purchases, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere, unless noted otherwise.)

Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard

This is the top of the line Citi AAdvantage card, which became very popular earlier this year when it was offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 miles after spending $10,000, along with a $200 statement credit. While the current sign-up bonus is just half of that, so is the minimum spending requirement, making it much easier for most people to meet.

In addition to Admirals Club and US Airways lounge membership, the card has a more generous checked baggage fee waiver, which applies to the cardholder and up to eight traveling companions. Another major plus is the chance to earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles.

  • Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening. New terms specify, “American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles not available if you have had a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive MasterCard® opened or closed in the past 18 months.”
  • 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying miles when cardholders spend $40,000 miles in a calendar year.
  • Benefits include: Admirals Club and US Airways Club membership (including access for two guests or immediate family), Checked baggage fee waiver for cardholders and up to 8 companions, Priority check-in, 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, reduced mileage awards (by 7,500 miles).
  • Annual fee: $450.
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The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select now offers 2 Admirals Club passes with a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus.

Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®

This is the second tier card in the Citi AAdvantage lineup. Like the Executive card, is has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles, but a minimum spending requirement of just $3,000. What’s better is that the annual fee is just $95, and is waived the first year.

  • Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles and two Admirals Club passes after meeting a $3,000 minimum spending requirement within 3 months of account opening.
  • Benefits include: Checked baggage fee waiver and Group 1 boarding for cardholders and up to 4 companions on the same reservation, $100 flight discount coupon after spending $30,000 in a year, 10% mileage rebate up to 10,000 miles per calendar year. 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, reduced mileage awards (by 7,500 miles).
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first 12 months).
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The business version of the Platinum Select also offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®

This is the only AAdvantage business card currently being offered, but it’s very compelling. Unlike all other AAdvantage cards, it also offers double miles on office supplies, telecommunications, and car rentals, and comes with a $99 domestic companion ticket once cardholders spend $30,000 in a calendar year.

  • Current sign-up bonus: For a limited time, earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Benefits include: Checked baggage fee waiver you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation and Group 1 boarding for cardholders and up to 4 companions on the same reservation, $99 companion certificate for travel in the continental United States each year when spending $30,000 or more, 25% discount for in-flight food and beverage purchases, reduced mileage awards (by 7,500 miles).
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first 12 months).
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The AAdvantage Gold card comes with fewer benefits than the others.

Citi AAdvantage Gold

This card has an annual fee of just $50, but comes with far fewer benefits than the Platinum cards.

  • Current sign-up bonus: 25,000 miles after meeting a $750 minimum spending requirement within 3 months of account opening.
  • Benefits include: 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, reduced mileage awards (by 5,000 miles).
  • Annual fee: $50 (waived for the first 12 months).
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The Bronze card is the Citi AAdvantage entry level product, with no annual fee, but a poor earning rate.

Citi AAdvantage Bronze

This little known card is the entry level product, which comes with no annual fee. I was offered it (along with a few bonus miles) as a retention offer when the annual fee came due on my AAdvantage Platinum card.

  • Current sign-up bonus: 5,000 miles after first purchase.
  • Earn one mile for every two dollars spent on all purchases, including from American and US Airways.
  • Benefits include: 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases.
  • Annual fee: $0
The Citi Executive AAdvantage card now has a premium competitor
The Citi Executive AAdvantage card now has a premium competitor

Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard

Barclaycard is the exclusive provider of US Airways cards, but they will no longer be offering those cards to new applicants in 2015. Nevertheless, it appears to be aggressively pursuing new AAdvantage customers, whom it can retain later.

The Aviator Silver card appears to offer all of the benefits of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, but with elite qualifying miles, no foreign transaction fees, a companion certificate, and a baggage waiver for eight companions.

  • Current sign-up bonus: None at this time, as it’s only being offered to existing Barclaycard US Airways Premier World MasterCard holders.
  • Earn 3x miles on US Airways and American flights.
  • Earn 2x miles on hotel and car rental purchases.
  • 5,000 elite qualifying miles for each $20,000 spent, with a maximum of 10,000 miles.
  • Benefits include: Checked baggage fee waiver for cardholders and up to 8 companions, priority boarding, $99 companion certificate for up to two people traveling in the continental United States each year when spending $30,000 or more and renewing the card, 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, 10% mileage rebate on redeemed miles, with a max rebate of 10,000 miles per year.
  • Annual fee: $195, first billed on the cardholder’s anniversary date in 2015

Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red

This is the direct replacement for the Barclaycard US Airways World MasterCard, but with the same benefits as the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card.

  • Current sign-up bonus: None at this time, current Barclaycard US Airways World MasterCard holders will automatically become AAdvantage Aviator Red holders after the frequent flyer programs merge.
  • Benefits include: Checked baggage fee waiver for cardholders and up to 4 companions, priority boarding, $100 flight discount coupon when spending $30,000 in a year, 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, 10% mileage rebate on redeemed miles, with a max rebate of 10,000 miles per year.
  • Annual fee: $89, first billed on the cardholder’s anniversary date in 2015.
Apply for the US Airways Mastercard while you still can.
The US Airways Premier World MasterCard is only available until 2015.

Barclaycard US Airways Premier World MasterCard

This offer is still available, and it appears that cardholders will be converted to the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red card (above) in 2015. The sign-up bonus is very generous for an offer with no minimum spending requirement.

  • Current sign-up bonus: 40,000 miles after first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee.
  • Benefits include: Checked baggage fee waiver for cardholders and up to 4 companions on US Airways flights, Zone 2 priority boarding on US Airways flights, $99 companion certificate for up to two people traveling in the continental United States.
  • Annual fee: $89

US Airways Dividend Miles Business Card

This card is currently available to new applicants, but its future is uncertain.

  • Current sign-up bonus: 25,000 miles after first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee.
  • Benefits include: Checked baggage fee waiver for cardholders and up to 4 companions on US Airways flights, and a complimentary club day pass good at any domestic US Airways or Admirals club locations.
  • Annual fee: $89

Recommendations

First, it’s hard to recommend the Citi AAdvantage Gold or Bronze cards, since they sacrifice so many benefits of the Platinum cards, which are worth far more than the difference in annual fees.

Those interested in earning the maximum number of miles with the sign-up bonus can apply for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and the two Barclaycard US Airways cards and receive as many as 140,000 miles. According to the integration timeline that American Airlines has outlined, you should be able to combine your miles in the second quarter of 2015. In particular, the CitiBusiness Platinum card is especially attractive to American and US Airways flyers with its offer for double miles on office supplies and telecommunications. You could get 5x points for those purchases with the Chase Ink Plus card, but American and US Airways are not of Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.

For those interested in earning elite status in 2015, getting the US Airways Premier World MasterCard now should give you the opportunity to transition to the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard, and hold that card instead of (or in addition to) the Citi AAdvantage Executive card, with the combined potential to earn 20,000 elite qualifying miles next year, and possibly in future years.

As is often the case with airline mergers, travelers have a brief period in which they can earn benefits from multiple credit card programs. This is one of those times, making it an opportune moment to pick up one or more of these cards.