- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — Best for travel insurance
- Citi Premier® Card — Best for temporary transfer to AA
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® — Best for Admirals Club access
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — Best for lounge access
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card — Best for avoiding annual fees
- 5X Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 3X Earn 3X points on dining.
- 2X Earn 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Why we chose it
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most popular travel rewards credit card on the market. Offering an excellent return on travel and dining purchases, the card packs a ton of value that easily offsets its $95 annual fee. Cardholders can redeem points at 1.25 cents each for travel booked through Chase or transfer points to one of Chase’s 14 valuable airline and hotel partners.
- 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
- 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
- 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Why we chose it
The Citi Premier is a transferable points card, but for a limited-time only you can transfer your ThankYou points to AAdvantage miles at a 1:1 rate (until Nov. 13, 2021).
- 2X 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- 1X 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases
Why we chose it
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is the best for those who fly American Airlines and want Admirals Club lounge access. It also gives you helps you earn and maintain elite status and comes with priority perks.
- 10X Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Why we chose it
The Amex Platinum is unmatched when it comes to travel perks and benefits. If lounge access, hotel elite status and annual statement credits are important to you, this card is well worth the high annual fee.
- 2X Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services
- 2X Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- 1X Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
Why we chose it
The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card is perfect for beginners who are loyal to the carrier. With no annual fee, it’s a great way to earn status and miles with American faster.
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
With 850+ mainline aircraft in its fleet flying to more than 350 destinations in 50 countries, American Airlines is the largest carrier in the world.
Heck, the name “America” is even in the airline’s name, so if you live in the U.S., the odds are high you’ve at least occasionally found yourself flying on American Airlines. Of course, right now, American — along with most carriers — have had to alter their routes substantially throughout the pandemic. But when normal returns, so will many of American’s routes.
Whether you’re an avid or occasional American Airlines flyer, it can be a good idea to strategize about having a credit card that makes flying cheaper, easier or more rewarding. While 2020 was anything but normal, some temporary changes made cobranded credit cards more rewarding than ever.
Looking forward to the normal days when we again take to the sky, let’s consider ways frequent and infrequent American flyers can bolster their miles, enjoy benefits and even get closer to elite status with the right card(s).
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Best American Airlines credit cards of 2021
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® – Best for occasional American flyers
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® – Best for small-business owners
- Citi Premier® Card – Best for temporary transfer
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard – Best for easy-to-earn sign-up bonus
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® – Best for Admirals Club access
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – Best for travel insurance
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®– Best for frequent travelers
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – Best for lounge access
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card – Best for avoiding annual fees
IN THIS POST
Best American Airlines cobranded credit cards
If you’re in the market for an American Airlines-issued credit card, you’ve got choices. Due to the US Airways and American Airlines merger in 2013, there are still two different banks that issue American Airlines credit cards: Citi and Barclays. This means you have more choices as an American Airlines flyer than you would as say, a United Airlines flyer, since all United credit cards are issued by Chase.
Here’s a comparison of the available Citi- and Barclays-issued American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards currently available for new sign-ups:
|Credit Card||Welcome bonus||Annual fee||Earning capabilities|
|American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card||10,000 American miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$0||2 miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1x elsewhere|
|AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®||60,000 bonus miles and a $99 companion ticket awarded after you make a single purchase within the first 90 days of card opening||$99||2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1x elsewhere|
|Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard||50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases the first three months of account opening.||$99 (waived the first 12 months)||2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1x elsewhere|
|AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard||65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. Additional 10,000 miles when an employee card is used for a purchase.||$95||2 American Airlines miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, office supply stores, telecom expenses and car rentals, 1x elsewhere|
|CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®||65,000 American Airlines bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first four months of account opening.||$99 (waived the first 12 months)||2 American Airlines miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, telecom, cable, satellite, car rentals and gas stations, 1x elsewhere|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$450||2 American Airlines miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1x elsewhere|
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, Citi AAdvantage Business Platinum Select, AAdvantage Aviator Red and the AAdvantage Aviator Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Note that these are the cards available for new customer sign-ups, but some other Barclays-issued American Airlines cards may only be available for current Aviator cardholders. Note: Bonus valuation is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
Those are the basics. Now here’s a closer look at the best American Airlines cobranded credit cards and what type of American Airlines flyers they serve best.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $2,500 in the first three months of account opening
Bonus valuation: $700
Annual fee: $99 (waived the first 12 months)
Benefits: In addition to the current sign-up bonus, you also receive:
- 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on restaurants, gas stations and on eligible American Airlines purchases
- First bag checked free on domestic AA itineraries for yourself and up to four companions on the same reservation
- $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card year and renew your card
Who should get it: With a lower annual fee and minimum spending requirement than some of the higher-tier American Airlines cards, such as the Executive World Elite card, it’s the best card for the casual American Airlines flyer who isn’t invested in earning elite status, but wants a better experience when flying American.
For more information, read our AAdvantage Platinum Select card review.
Sign-up bonus: 10,000 AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three months of account opening
Bonus valuation: $190
Annual fee: $0
Benefits: This card rounds out Citi’s American Airlines card lineup as the no-annual-fee, entry-level option. It’s light on benefits but offers the following in addition to the current sign-up bonus:
- 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases — equal to a 2.8% return based on TPG valuations
- 1x on all other purchases
- 25% savings on food and beverages on AA inflight purchases made with the MileUp card
Who should get it: This card is good for those who want to earn American Airlines miles but absolutely don’t want an annual fee and also don’t fly American Airlines with regularity, so don’t care about waived check bag fees.
For more information, read our AAdvantage MileUp card review.
Sign-up bonus: 80,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within the first three months of card opening
Bonus valuation: $1,360
Annual fee: $95
Benefits: While the Citi Premier card offers a great 3x return on lots of bonus categories, one that stands out is air travel — perfect if you’re purchasing American Airlines tickets (or on other airlines) with cash. Why it’s particularly enticing now is that American Airlines is a temporary transfer partner of the Citi ThankYou program until Nov. 13, 2021, so you can transfer your Citi ThankYou points at a 1:1 rate over to AAdvantage.
Who should get it: The Citi Premier is a great travel rewards card, but AA as a temporary transfer partner means the 80k sign-up bonus translates into 80k AAdvantage miles. You should apply if you’re looking to top off your AA balance, so be sure to take advantage of this transfer partner while you can.
For more information, read our Citi Premier review.
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus miles and a $99 companion ticket awarded after you make a purchase within the first 90 days of card opening
Bonus valuation: $840
Annual fee: $99
Benefits: This Barclays-issued card offers an annual $25 annual statement credits on inflight Wi-Fi purchases, an annual $99 companion ticket after you spend $20,000 on the card, waived check bag fees for the cardholder and up to four on the American Airlines reservation and a 25% statement credit for eligible onboard AA purchases. The category bonuses are fairly standard:
- 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- 1x on all other purchases
Who should get it: The AAdvantage Aviator Red card is a fantastic option for those who want a big sign-up bonus that can be earned after buying something as small as a pack of chewing gum. The perks are solid for the occasional American Airlines flyer.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. Earn an additional 10,000 miles when an employee card is used for a purchase.
Bonus valuation: $910 to $1,050
Annual fee: $95
Benefits: The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard offers benefits that improve the business traveler experience:
- Free checked bags for you and up to four people on the same American Airlines reservation
- Annual $99 companion voucher awarded after $30,000 in spending
- Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 on purchases each calendar year
- 5% bonus on American Airlines miles earned on the card each year
- 2 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on eligible office supply stores, telecom expenses and car rentals, and 1x elsewhere
Who should get it: This small business card is good for frequent American Airlines travelers who want an extra push toward elite status or a chance to earn a companion certificate each year with their small business spending. The 5% annual bonus on miles earned on the card also boosts the effective earning rate above other options on this list.
Sign-up bonus: 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening
Bonus valuation: $910
Annual fee: $99 (waived the first 12 months)
Benefits: The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard offers fewer benefits than the Barclay Aviator Business Mastercard, but small business owners will still find them valuable:
- $99 companion certificate after you spend $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year and renew the card (account must remain open for at least 45 days after the anniversary date)
- 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations, and 1x miles elsewhere
Who should get it: The additional spending category bonuses on this small business card make it an attractive option for small business owners who want to earn extra American miles on various charges.
For more information, read our CitiBusiness AAdvantage card review.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening.
Bonus valuation: $700
Annual fee: $450
Benefits: In addition to the sign-up bonus, the card comes with the following perks:
- Full Admirals Club membership, including access privileges for authorized users to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. You are required to show a same-day boarding pass for American or a partner airline to use these lounges.
- First checked bag free for yourself and up to eight traveling companions when traveling on a domestic American Airlines flight
- Priority check-in, airport screening and boarding privileges
- 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
Who should get it: This is a card for American Airlines elite flyers — or those who fly American a lot but just not quite enough for a meaningful status level. Having this card is a lot like having elite status — without the first class upgrades. If earning AAdvantage elite status is important to you, the Executive card offers 10,000 EQMs when you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year to help get to that next threshold faster.
For more information, read our AAdvantage Executive card review.
Good cards for buying American Airlines tickets
You’ll earn American AAdvantage miles just about anytime you fly with a paid ticket, calculated on the base price of your ticket minus taxes and fees. The amount of miles you earn also varies based on your AAdvantage elite status. And while it can make a whole lot of sense to have and use an American Airlines cobranded credit card for your American ticket purchases, there are also situations where other credit cards may be an even better choice.
For example, if you want to earn more flexible rewards, you could pay for your American Airlines ticket with a card that earns American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Rewards Points. Consider the following cards for your American Airlines tickets, some of which carry generous built-in travel protections compared to some of the Barclays or Citi cobranded American Airlines cards.
|CREDIT CARD||WELCOME OFFER/SIGN-UP BONUS||ANNUAL FEE||EARNING CAPABILITIES|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$550||10x on hotels, car rentals and Chase Dining purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal, 5x on flights booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal, 3x points on all other travel and dining, 1x on everything else|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.||$95||5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, 3x points on select streaming services, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2x points on all other travel, 1x point on all other purchases|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||100,000 Membership Rewards points after new cardholders spend $6,000 on purchases within six months of account opening. Terms apply.||$695 (see rates & fees)||5 points per dollar spent on airfare booked through Amex or directly with the airlines on up to $500,000 per calendar year and on prepaid hotels booked directly with Amex, 1x elsewhere. Terms apply.|
Let’s take a closer look at these alternate options to see how well they’d work for an American traveler.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Bonus valuation: $1,000 according to TPG valuations
Annual fee: $550
Benefits: Chase Ultimate Rewards points don’t transfer to American Airlines, but you can actually use them to book American-operated flights via Ultimate Rewards transfer partners such as British Airways, starting at 7,500 Avios points each way. This card is a great choice if you’re eyeing future award travel with a diverse group of airline partners. Or if you prefer the simplicity of cash fares. You can redeem your points for 1.5 cents each for airfare, hotels, car rentals or cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
The Sapphire Reserve earns 3x on all other travel purchases (excluding its $300 travel credit) and dining purchases and 1x on everything else. If you spend a lot in these two categories, you could be ready to book an award flight in no time.
The card also awards 10x on Lyft. Its $550 annual fee is offset by a $300 annual travel credit that is automatically applied to any eligible purchases — from airfare to hotel stays to sightseeing tours. You get lounge access through Priority Pass Select membership, plus excellent travel protections if you put the airfare or the taxes and fees on award flights on your card. Chase has also added limited-time benefits related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s an example of how using a card like this to book a flight resulted in Chase picking up the tab for a $1,000 last-minute hotel when flights were canceled.
For more information, read our Sapphire Reserve card review.
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Bonus valuation: $1,200 according to TPG valuations
Annual fee: $95
Benefits: This card offers 2x on all other travel and 3x on dining purchases (not just American tickets) at a reasonable annual fee. The Ultimate Rewards points earned can be transferred to United, British Airways, Southwest Airlines, and several other airline and hotel programs.
You can also book flights and other travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a value of 1.25 cents per point. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also features primary rental car insurance and some travel and purchase protection benefits.
For more information, read our Sapphire Preferred card review.
Welcome offer: 100,000 Membership Rewards points after new cardholders spend $6,000 on purchases within six months of card membership. You may be targeted for a 125,000-point bonus offer through CardMatch (offer subject to change at any time).
Bonus valuation: $2,000
Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)
Benefits: Although the Membership Rewards points earned by this card can’t be transferred to American, they can be transferred to Oneworld partners — such as British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific — along with Etihad Guest, one of American’s non-alliance partners. You can use points transferred to any of these programs to book award tickets on American-operated flights.
The Platinum Card earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on all flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), as well as prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Other cardholder benefits include an up to $200 annual statement credit toward incidental airline fees (although not airfare), monthly Uber credits, biannual Saks credits, Marriott elite status, Hilton elite status, Centurion Lounge access, Priority Pass Select membership and much more. Enrollment required for select card benefits.For more information, read our Amex Platinum card review.
Who should get an American Airlines credit card?
I wouldn’t recommend building your entire points-earning strategy around an American Airlines cobranded credit card since having all your eggs (er, miles) in one basket is very limiting. American moved to dynamic pricing on award tickets, which has made some awards more affordable but others extremely expensive.
However, if you fly even a few times a year with American, you can save a lot of money with some of the perks provided by the cobranded cards. Perhaps the most valuable is the free checked bags. Many American Airlines cobranded cards offer free checked bags for four or even eight additional people on the reservation, making it a money saver for the whole family.
I like to think of airline credit cards as offering “elite-lite” perks, such as priority boarding and lounge access, similar to the benefits you might receive if you have elite status. If you frequently travel with American but don’t fly enough (or don’t spend enough) to earn AAdvantage elite status, these credit card perks become even more valuable. Of course, a couple of the cards can also help you earn elite status faster via bonuses you get for spending certain amounts on the cards each year.
Related: How to avoid checked bag fees
How much are AAdvantage miles worth?
In TPG’s latest monthly valuation, American Airlines AAdvantage miles are pegged at 1.4 cents each. The carrier has been rapidly expanding economy web special deals utilizing miles, which can be a steal when they line up with your needs. AAdvantage miles are worth slightly more than United (1.3 cents) and Delta (1.2 cents), partly because of the value you get redeeming them for Oneworld partner awards.
For just 70,000 miles, you can fly Cathay Pacific’s excellent business class to anywhere in Asia. You can also fly Iberia business class to Europe for 57,500 miles and avoid some of the nasty fuel surcharges that British Airways is known for.
Bear in mind that some American cobranded cards also offer discounted awards to select rotating destinations. TPG Editor Nick Ewen took advantage of this for a round-trip flight to New Mexico, dropping the price of his three award tickets from 25,000 miles to just 17,500 miles. If you live near an airport that regularly appears on this rotating list of cities eligible for these discounts, having an American Airlines card could make a lot of sense.
Can you have more than one American Airlines credit card?
Yes! That was easy.
Thankfully, unlike the very complex rules with Marriott credit cards that are issued by both American Express and Chase (also a result of a merger, in that case between SPG and Marriott), having a Citi American Airlines card doesn’t automatically impact your eligibility from getting a Barclays-issued American Airlines card, and vice versa.
Additionally, you can theoretically have more than one Citi-issued American Airlines card if you wish. For example, if you have the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard but decided you also wanted to get the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard for its lounge access (and bonus miles), nothing is stopping you from having both. However, it’s important to note that you can’t get a sign-up bonus on a new card if you previously received one on that same card within the previous 48 months.
As always, read the fine print in the terms and conditions carefully, but there are ways to have more than one American Airlines branded card if you wish.
When travel is more normal, deciding which card American Airlines credit card is best comes down to how often you fly the carrier, how much you value lounge access, whether you need help achieving elite status and what other cards you have in your wallet.
For most occasional American Airlines flyers, the Aviator Red is the way to go. The card provides a sizable 60,000-mile sign-up bonus after you hit the spending requirements to boost your account from the beginning and some nice perks like your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries.
For those who want Admirals Club access, you may prefer the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, while if you have a small business, the answer on which is best will be different.
Then there’s also option B: Get a more flexible travel credit card. For example, The Platinum Card from American Express awards 5 points per dollar spent on American Airlines ticket purchases (made directly with the airline) and includes Priority Pass access. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is another great choice for travelers who want some built-in travel protections and bonus points without being locked into earning miles with American Airlines.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.