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With so many great travel rewards credit cards available, it can be difficult to decide which is the best option for your airline spending. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele shares five solid picks for American Airlines flyers, all of which offer great benefits and earn valuable rewards.
Now that the US Airways acquisition is history, there are many more American Airlines flyers than there were just a year ago. In today’s post, I’ll take a look at the best credit card options for those who regularly fly American, with the goal of helping you earn the most valuable rewards and benefits for every dollar spent.
1. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
This card is a strong choice for booking American Airlines flights, as it offers 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar for all flights booked directly from airlines. Although Membership Rewards points can’t be transferred directly to the AAdvantage program, you can transfer the points to British Airways, Iberia, Hawaiian and Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program, all of which partner with American for award redemptions.
Other benefits include a $100 annual statement credit toward airline fees, which works the same way as the $200 credit with The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can apply this fee credit toward many incidental airline costs, such as checked bags fees, change fees, lounge access and in-flight purchases. Note that airfare itself is excluded from this benefit. For more information how to use this credit, see TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert’s post, Maximizing the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card in 2016.
The current bonus for this card is 25,000 points after you spend $2,000 within three months of account opening, however you may find a better offer via the CardMatch tool or by visiting Amex’s site directly. There’s a $195 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
2. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard is a fantastic choice for American Airlines flyers for several reasons. First, it currently offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. It also offers some solid perks for traveling on American, including preferred priority boarding, 25% savings on in-flight purchases, and your first bag checked free for you and up to four companions on the same reservation.
Cardholders earn 2x miles on all AA purchases. In addition, cardholders receive access to reduced mileage awards. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
If you’re looking to go all the way and get the card that offers the most American Airlines benefits, this is it. Cardholders immediately enjoy nearly all of the privileges of having elite status, including priority check-in, boarding, and airport screening (where available) when flying on American.
The biggest benefit is Admirals Club membership and it’s not just for the primary cardholder, but for all authorized cardholders as well. This allows each authorized cardholder to enter with their immediate family members or up to two guests. Finally, the authorized cardholder can receive statement credits toward the application fee for either the Global Entry program ($100) or the TSA’s PreCheck program ($85).
Like most airline cards, this card only offers 2x miles for airline purchases on AA, but it does offer 10,000 elite-qualifying miles when you spend $40,000 within a calendar year. This card currently offers new applicants 50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
4. Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige Card is a good alternative to the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, especially for travelers who already hold elite status. It offers 3x ThankYou points for all airline and hotel purchases, 2x points for dining and entertainment charges and 1x on everything else. The Citi Prestige is also a good alternative to the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card because it offers Admirals Club access when you fly on American, plus Priority Pass Select lounge access for you and immediate family or up to two guests.
Points can be redeemed for 1.6 cents each toward American Airlines flights, which are revenue tickets that count toward elite status and are eligible for upgrades. These points are also worth 1.33 cents toward airfare purchased from other carriers using Citi’s travel center. You can also transfer points to 12 different airlines (plus Hilton HHonors), although Virgin America is the only North American transfer partner.
Another standout feature of this card is a $250 annual air travel credit that applies to any airline charges — including airline tickets — and a $100 fee credit toward Global Entry or Precheck applications. Finally, a great non-airline benefit is that when you book hotels through Citi’s travel agent, this card offers a complimentary 4th night free, which can be extremely valuable.
Currently, successful applicants earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees. For more information on the benefits of this card, see this post, Maximizing Benefits with the Citi Prestige Card in 2016.
The Citi Premier is worth considering as an alternative to a non-premium airline card like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard. It currently offers new applicants 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. It also features 3x rewards on travel purchases including not just airfare, but gas, hotels, cruises, car rentals, travel agency purchases and more. You’ll also get 2x points at restaurants and on entertainment charges, and 1x elsewhere.
As with the Citi Prestige Card, points can be transferred to airline partners and the Hilton Honors program. With the Citi Premier Card, points are worth 1.25 cents each toward airfare, hotels, cruises and car rentals booked through Citi’s ThankYou Travel Center. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Choosing the Best Card for You
The card that makes the most sense for you depends on your travel preferences and which benefits you value the most. For example, due to perks like priority boarding and a free checked bag, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard is a good option for those who fly American often, but not enough to earn elite status. More frequent American flyers might want to consider buying up to the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard for its additional perks, including a generous lounge-access policy and the ability to earn an additional 10,000 elite qualifying miles.
Meanwhile, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi Premier Card are ideal for those who regularly fly American as well as other carriers. Also take into account their non-airline benefits, such as the 4th Night Free perk on the Citi Prestige Card, when deciding which makes the most sense for you.
Depending on the benefits you’re after, it’s also worth considering holding more than one of the cards listed here. For example, the benefits of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard and the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard are available even when you don’t use those cards to purchase your ticket. So you could buy your ticket with an Amex Premier Rewards Gold or a Citi Premier card and still enjoy priority boarding and free checked bags as an AAdvantage cardholder.
Finally, those who hold American Airlines Aviator cards, which are no longer available to new applicants, can leverage some benefits not available through other cards. For instance, the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard offers 3x miles on American Airlines purchases.
By carefully examining these cards, you can choose the ones that offer the most rewards and benefits when flying American Airlines.
What’s your favorite card for flying American Airlines?
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