The Many Flavors of Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator
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Now that the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs have merged, the US Airways Premier World Mastercard is getting a makeover. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele explores the new options for cardholders, and explains why keeping at least one account open might be a good idea.
The US Airways Dividend Miles program had a good run, but now it joins Northwest WorldPerks and Continental OnePass in the dustbin of frequent flyer programs. However, the program does live on in at least one significant way: those who still hold the US Airways Premier World Mastercard from Barclaycard are now being offered one of four different American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator cards.
Today I’ll look at these options for current Dividend Miles cardholders to see what each one offers, and what other factors might influence your decision to keep your account open or close it.
The Four Flavors Of Aviator
The new Aviator card will come in four different varieties, each one at a different price point. All four cards share some common features, including EMV smart chip compatibility, which will increase the chance of acceptance by the next generation of credit card terminals already in use around the world. Also, it’s important to note that these cards are only being offered to existing US Airways Premier cardholders, as Citi remains the exclusive provider of American Airlines AAdvantage cards to new applicants.
AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard — No Annual Fee
This entry level card is one of the few frequent flyer cards that has no annual fee. It offers one mile per Dollar spent on all purchases, including those from US Airways and American Airlines. The only other benefit to travelers is a 25% discount on in-flight food, beverage and headset purchases. But since this card has no annual fee, there is nothing to lose by opting for it.
AAdvantage Aviator Blue Mastercard — $49 Annual Fee
The Aviator Blue card represents just a slight improvement over the standard (colorless) Aviator, as it offers 2x miles per Dollar spent on US Airways and American Airlines purchases. In addition, it has no foreign transaction fees, which is nice to see in a card at this price point.
AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard — $89 Annual Fee
The Aviator Red card is the closest match to the legacy US Airways card. In addition to the benefits of the Aviator Blue card, it offers the first checked bag free for cardholders and up to four traveling companions. Cardholders also receive Zone 2 boarding privileges, which is probably just good enough to help you avoid having to gate check your carry-on. Another benefit is access to American Airlines AAdvantage reduced mileage awards, which are now much more valuable since American dropped its telephone booking fee.
This card also has the 10% rebate of redeemed miles (up to 10,000 annually) that’s offered by many of the Citi AAdvantage cards, as well as the $100 flight discount coupon for spending $30,000 within your cardmember year.
AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard — $195 Annual Fee
This top-of-the-line card features 3x miles for US Airways and American Airlines purchases, and double miles for hotel and rental car purchases. In addition, travelers get bumped up to Zone 1 boarding for flights operated by American Airlines, but curiously must board with Zone 2 on US Airways flights (while they exist). The baggage fee waiver also extends to up to eight traveling companions.
Other benefits include 5,000 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) for each $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 EQMs per year)· You can also earn a companion certificate each cardholder year when you spend $30,000 or more, which offers one or two additional tickets for $99 (plus taxes and fees) on a paid flight operated by American Airlines. Finally, this card also offers a $100 statement credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry. In fact, you can receive the credit once every five years (which is how long your Global Entry membership lasts), so you can use it for a new application or renewal.
And one more..
There is also a Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, which is referenced at Barclayard’s site. It’s most similar to the Aviator Red card, although the business card’s annual fee has not yet been disclosed. The key difference is that it offers 2x miles for purchases from office supply stores, telecommunications providers, and on car rentals. On the other hand, this card only offers a 5% annual mileage discount on redeemed miles, versus the 10% discount on Aviator Red and Silver.
Which card should you get?
Existing US Airways Premier cardholders are being converted to either the Aviator Red or Silver cards, though you could easily request a downgrade or upgrade. These four cards are not available to new applicants, so it makes sense to preserve your access to this program by sticking with one of them.
At the very least, you have little to lose by choosing the standard (colorless) Aviator card with no annual fee. By keeping the account, you leave the door open to upgrade later to one of the higher-end cards if you have a use for them down the line. You also maintain your line of credit, which has the added benefit of preserving your debt to credit ratio (for a given amount of debt), while continuing to build your credit history by increasing the average age of your accounts.
The AAdvantage Aviator Blue Mastercard is probably the weakest of the four, as you only get the 2x miles for AA/US purchases, the 25% discount on in-flight purchases, and the foreign transaction fee waiver. I’d rather use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points, but I suppose this card could make sense if you prefer AAdvantage miles and purchase enough tickets to justify the 2x, but not enough to justify the $195 annual fee for the 3x bonus on Aviator Silver.
I think the Aviator Red card is the best fit for most cardholders, with its valuable baggage fee waivers, 10% mileage rebate, and priority boarding privileges. Nevertheless, frequent travelers should not discount the Aviator Silver, as it offers 3x miles on AA/US tickets, 2x on hotel and car rentals, and the chance to earn invaluable EQMs. Even if you already have Global Entry, you can still use the $100 application fee credit for your renewal, or to gift it to a friend, family member, or co-worker.
Barclaycard is unable to acquire new American Airlines credit card accounts, but it’s going all out to retain existing cardholders by offering a broad array of choices. My recommendation for existing US Airways Premier cardholders is to keep your options open by retaining an account with one of these cards, even if only for the credit score benefits and to qualify for retention and other offers in the future. In addition, keep in mind that you can have one of these cards in addition to Citi’s co-branded American Airlines cards (like the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard), much like there are Hilton Honors cards offered by both Citi and American Express.
Which AAdvantage Aviator card are you planning to keep, if any?