AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard review

Apr 12, 2020

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The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard is a well rounded option for frequent AA flyers with a top-notch sign-up bonus of up to 75,000 miles. While the card isn’t the most rewarding for ongoing spending, perks like the first checked bag free, annual companion certificate and 5% annual bonus on miles earned with the card make the Aviator Business Mastercard a coflimmpelling choice.
Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

American Airlines is one of the only major travel companies to have credit cards issued by two different banks, Citi and Barclays. While this can create some confusion, competition is almost always a good thing for the consumer, as it causes banks to lower fees and raise bonuses to win over some of the market. The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercardis a perfect example of this, as it currently offers the largest sign-up bonus of any American Airlines credit card. Read on to see why you should strongly consider adding this card to your wallet.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

In This Post

Who is this card for?

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

With a tiered bonus of up to 75,000 American Airlines miles and a manageably low spending requirement, the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard is a great choice for anyone looking to boost their AAdvantage account balance. If you fly even semi-regularly with American, the first checked bag free on eligible flights should help you offset the card’s $95 annual fee.

This card is also a great choice for people who currently have or recently have had an American Airlines credit card issued by Citi, and who aren’t eligible to earn a welcome bonus on a new Citi card. In that case, switching from a Citi AA card to an Aviator card is a great way to keep earning valuable welcome bonuses while you let your application clock with Citi reset.

Related reading: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

A sign-up bonus worth more than $1,000

(Photo by Zach Griff)
The miles offered by the card’s sign-up bonus are enough to cover a Mile SAAver coach fare to Asia. (Photo by Zach Griff)

The sign-up bonus alone is enough reason for most people to strongly consider adding the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard to their wallets. Based on TPG’s valuations, the 75,000-mile bonus is worth an impressive $1,050.

The bonus is broken down into two tiers, with new applicants earning the first 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in in the first 90 days, which is one of the lowest spending requirements we’ve seen from any credit card. You can earn the last 10,000 miles by adding an employee card (for free) and having that person make any purchase during the first 90 days.

While we’re currently seeing elevated sign-up offers on a couple of the Citi AA credit cards, none of them reach quite as high as a 75,000-mile bonus and all require much larger amounts of spending. Barclays scores high points here for both the value of the bonus and the ease with which it can be earned.

Main benefits

You shouldn’t expect a long list of perks on an entry-level credit card that only carries a $95 annual fee, but there are still a few nice perks on the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard worth highlighting:

  • First checked bag free: You and up to four companions will receive a first checked bag free when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines
  • Annual companion certificateEvery year that you spend at least $30,000 on eligible purchases, you’ll receive a companion certificate good for one companion on a round-trip domestic itinerary. Just pay $99 plus applicable taxes and fees.
  • 5% AAdvantage milage bonus: Every year upon account renewal, you’ll receive a 5% bonus on all miles earned from qualifying purchases on your card (not including your welcome bonus)
  • 25% inflight savings: Enjoy a 25% discount on inflight purchases when you pay with your Aviator card.
  • Earn bonus Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs): You can earn $3,000 bonus EQDs towards AA elite status by spending $25,000 on your card in a single calendar year.
  • Complimentary employee cards
  • No foreign transaction fees

Earning

This is a card you’ll want to keep open for its perks, not for its bonus categories. Like many airline credit cards, the earning rates are fairly weak. Aviator business cardholders earn at the following rates:

  • 2x miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 2x miles per dollar spent at eligible office supply, telecom and car rental merchants
  • 1x everywhere else

TPG values American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each, which means you’re looking at a pretty mediocre 1.4-2.8% return on spending. For travel purchases you’d come out ahead using a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all travel purchases, not just limited to a single airline. The good news is that you don’t need to use your Aviator to pay for a flight in order to get a free checked bag, so you can keep the card open, enjoy the benefit and book your travel on a more rewarding card.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

Redeeming

While AAdvantage offers a number of low-value redemption options, you’ll almost always come out ahead redeeming your miles for free flights. American now uses a quasi dynamic award pricing system, in the form of its “web specials” discounts, meaning it’s hard to know exactly how many miles an award flight will cost until you search for your specific dates. If you’re flexible, it’s possible to find short-haul domestic flights for as low as 5,000 miles each way in economy, meaning you could potentially stretch the bonus into 15 one-way awards.

Cathay business class on a A350-1000. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Cathay business class on a A350-1000. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Some of the best values in the American award chart happen to be the only flights that still use fixed pricing, namely partner awards. 75,000 miles is more than enough for a one-way business class ticket on Cathay Pacific to anywhere in Asia, and it’s just shy of the 80,000 miles you’d need to fly JAL first class to Tokyo.

Which cards compete with the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard

The Aviator’s most direct competition comes from the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, which is currently offering a limited time bonus of 65,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first four months of account opening. The card offers similar perks and bonus categories, but its main advantage is that its $99 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Another great competitor is the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, which beats the Aviator in nearly every category. The Ink Preferred is currently offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, worth $2,000 based on TPG’s valuations. The card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on your first $150,000 combined in the following categories each account anniversary year:

  • Travel
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines

Not only is that a higher multiplier, but Ultimate Rewards points are worth much more than AAdvantage miles because of the flexibility that comes from Chase’s incredible network of hotel and airline transfer partners. If you don’t want to bother searching for award space, you can also redeem your points directly through the Chase portal with a 25% bonus, making them worth 1.25 cents each.

Bottom line

Whether this is the first AA card you’re considering or a necessary pivot after exhausting all your options with Citi, the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard offers a very compelling value proposition. With a massive welcome bonus, low spending threshold and some small but solid travel benefits, this is a great choice for even casual AA flyers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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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