The biggest AA bonus just got bigger: AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard

Sep 2, 2021

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The AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard is a well-rounded option for frequent AA flyers with a top-notch sign-up bonus of up to 80,000 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 it a compelling 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. It causes banks to lower fees and raise bonuses to win over some of the market share. The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard is a perfect example of this, as it currently offers the largest sign-up bonus of any cobranded 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: Best American Airlines credit cards

In This Post

Who is this card for?

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

With a large bonus 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: 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 80,000-mile bonus is worth an impressive $1,120.

The bonus is awarded in two tiers:

  • 50,000 miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • 30,000 additional miles after spending a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 12 months

This is a very reasonable spending requirement for such a large American Airlines bonus.

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 economy itinerary. Just pay $99 plus applicable taxes and fees
  • 5% AAdvantage mileage 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 calendar year
  • Free 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:

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar spent at eligible office supply merchants, telecommunications merchants and car rental merchants
  • 1 mile per dollar spent 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 Citi Premier® Card instead, which offers 3 Citi ThankYou points per dollar on some travel-related purchases such as air travel, hotels and gas stations.

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: Citi Premier credit card review

Redeeming

While AAdvantage offers several low-value redemption options, you’ll almost always come out ahead redeeming your miles for free flights. American uses a quasi dynamic award pricing system in the form of its American Web Specials awards,” 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 this 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 with American Airlines are on its Oneworld partners, such as Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines. For example, 80,000 miles is more than enough for a one-way business class ticket on Cathay Pacific to anywhere in Asia or a JAL first class flight to Tokyo. That flight retails for well over $10,000 one-way.

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 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 Citi Premier, which beats the Aviator in nearly every category. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Citi ThankYou points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That bonus is worth $1,020 based on TPG’s valuations. The card earns 3x ThankYou points per dollar on the following:

Not only is that a higher multiplier than the AAdvantage Aviator Business, but ThankYou points are worth more than AAdvantage miles because of the flexibility that comes from Citi’s network of airline transfer partners.

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 World Elite Business Mastercard offers a very compelling value proposition. With an elevated welcome bonus, low minimum spend threshold and some small but solid travel benefits, this is a great choice for even casual AA flyers.

Additional reporting by Joseph Hostetler.

Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy

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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