What’s the Best Card if I Travel a Lot and Only Fly AA?

Jul 5, 2015

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TPG reader Robbie tweeted me to ask about the best card for a unique situation:

@thepointsguy – “Should I get SPG Amex, Citi Premier or Sapphire Preferred? I travel a lot for work and fly AA exclusively, but don’t have a preferred hotel chain.”

This is an interesting question, because these three cards have unique benefits.

If you’re only flying American Airlines and you want a credit card that helps you rack up AAdvantage miles, your best bet is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. It’s the only one of the three cards you mentioned that will allow you to transfer points to American Airlines. Plus, you get 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 points from SPG.

Even though the SPG Amex doesn’t have bonus categories (other than 2x points on Starwood stays), you’re effectively earning 1.25 AA miles for every dollar spent thanks to the transfer bonus. That’s better than the actual co-branded AAdvantage cards in most cases.

American Airlines
The Starwood Amex can help you earn American Airlines miles faster than most of the co-branded AAdvantage cards.

If you want to use your points to buy American Airlines revenue flights, then the Citi Premier® Card is your best bet. As a cardholder, you can redeem Citi ThankYou points for 1.25 cents apiece toward any flight on American Airlines (or any other airline for that matter).

If you’re spending a lot, the Citi Prestige Card might also make sense. Not only do you get access to Admirals Clubs, but also you get a $250 air travel credit each year, which can be used on airfare. Prestige gives you even better options for redeeming, as points can be used at 1.33 cents apiece toward most airfare, or 1.6 cents apiece toward American Airlines and US Airways flights. Again, fares purchased through the ThankYou Travel Center count as revenue flights, so the Citi cards are good options if you’re hoping to maintain elite status. If you have Executive Platinum status, you can use your systemwides to upgrade on these flights just like normal.

In general, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is great for travel because you earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel expenses, and Chase has some pretty strong transfer partners. British Airways is a Oneworld transfer partner, so if you’re flying AAdvantage MileSAAver awards (which is getting harder and harder these days), you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to BA and book flights on American Airlines that way, as some of those short-haul redemptions offer amazing value. BA is also a Starwood transfer partner, so depending on your spending patterns, the SPG Amex is also a good option if you want to book AAdvantage flights that way.

In general, I think your best bet is going to be Starwood if you want to boost your AAdvantage miles, and either of the ThankYou Rewards cards if you want to buy American Airlines revenue flights with your points.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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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