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TPG reader Andrew sent me a message on Facebook to ask about American Airlines co-branded cards:
“I have both the Citi AAdvantage card and the Aviator Red MasterCard. It seems redundant to hold both now that US Airways and American Airlines have merged. Which one should I keep?”
Earlier this year, Barclaycard began issuing AAdvantage Aviator cards as replacements for existing US Airways MasterCard accounts. The Aviator comes in a few different varieties, and while some cardholders upgraded to the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard, most others crossgraded to the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard.
The Aviator Red card turned out to be pretty similar to the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard, creating a dilemma for cardholders like Andrew. It made sense to hold both cards when they offered benefits on different airlines, but one is enough now that the US Airways and American Airlines merger process is mostly complete. The question is which one to keep.
Both cards offer flight benefits like a free checked bag and priority boarding, as well as a 25% discount on in-flight purchases. You’ll also get access to reduced mileage awards and a 10% rebate on miles redeemed each year (up to a total rebate of 10,000 miles annually). However, while the cards are similar, they’re not identical.
For starters, the Citi card has an annual fee of $95, while the Aviator is slightly less expensive at $89. For the moment, the Aviator has a leg up with no foreign transaction fees, though that advantage only lasts for another month, as Citi will begin waiving those fees in November for both the AAdvantage Platinum Select consumer card and the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard.
The biggest difference in benefits is the $100 American Airlines flight discount offered by the Aviator Red card, though you have to spend $30,000 in a cardmember year to get it. There are way more valuable spending bonuses you could focus on, and since neither card offers bonus categories beyond two miles per dollar on American Airlines, they’re not good candidates for everyday purchases.
I think the most important distinction is how these cards fit into your greater plan for earning travel rewards. Card issuers limit the total amount of credit they’ll extend to you, so it’s worth factoring in how much you have already with Citi and Barclays. Overall, I’d say Citi has a more impressive stable of cards and sign-up bonus offers, and closing your Citi AAdvantage account could help free up room for another card down the line. On the other hand, Barclays tends to be a little more stingy with its approvals, so if you were thinking of applying soon for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, you might go the other way.
One final consideration is that if you cancel the Citi card and later change your mind, you could still get it again. However, the Aviator cards are not available to new applicants, so once you close the account, it’s gone for good. With other factors being close to equal, that alone swings my vote in favor of keeping the Aviator Red MasterCard.
For more insights, check out Richard Kerr’s post on Choosing the Best Card for American Airlines Flyers.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com. While Citi announced some negative changes to this card back in July — including a lower sign-up bonus, the elimination of Admirals Club access and the end of the free rounds of golf benefit — one of its most valuable perks still remains, which is the 4th Night Free perk. This benefit alone can save you thousands of dollars a year if you use it to its full advantage.
While Citi announced some negative changes to this card back in July — including a lower sign-up bonus, the elimination of Admirals Club access and the end of the free rounds of golf benefit — one of its most valuable perks still remains, which is the 4th Night Free perk. This benefit alone can save you thousands of dollars a year if you use it to its full advantage.