Earn 60k American Airlines miles with one purchase: Review of the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

Aug 5, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information.


AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard overview

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard is a solid choice for American Airlines flyers looking for elite-like perks and a strong welcome bonus. The modest $99 annual fee can easily be offset by perks like a first checked bag free and in-flight discounts. The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite 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. Card rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½

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

Over the past few years, American Airlines’ cobranded cards have seen some benefits cuts across the board. Citi slashed valuable travel protections and Barclays announced negative changes to its Aviator credit cards, such as higher annual fees and removing a redeemed-miles rebate. However, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard in particular still has a lot to offer travelers.

For a bit of backstory, American Airlines is rather unique in that it’s one of the only airlines to have credit cards issued by two different banks: Barclays and Citi. That means the issuers have to compete against each other for a share of the entry-level credit card market. This competition is great for consumers, because it often translates into higher sign-up bonuses and more lucrative perks. Here’s what sets the AAdvantage Aviator Red apart from the pack.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

Whether you are a loyal American Airlines customer or just an award traveler looking to diversify your points and miles portfolio, the AAdvantage Aviator Red has something for you. The card offers some nice perks when you fly American, including preferred boarding and your first checked bag free.

For those who are more interested in stocking up on American Airlines AAdvantage miles as part of a diverse points and miles strategy, the sign-up bonus and Flight Cents feature can help with that. Flight Cents allows cardholders to round up purchases to the nearest dollar and earn 1x AAdvantage mile for every 2 cents that are added, allowing them to earn even more miles on purchases (although you should do the math and see if this is a good deal for your needs).

(Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

If you plan on flying American (or its partners) regularly, you may get more out of a more premium card, such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. Its annual fee is $450, but it extends many more benefits for loyal American Airlines customers, including a Admirals Club membership and the opportunity to earn elite-qualifying miles based on spending.

Related: The best credit cards for American Airlines flyers

Sign-up bonus without a spending requirement

The Aviator Red is currently offering 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles to new cardholders. The best part? There isn’t a minimum spend requirement. So as long as you pay the $99 annual fee and make one purchase (even as small as a pack of chewing gum) within the first 90 days of account opening, you’ll earn the bonus miles.

TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents a pop, so the mileage bonus alone is worth up to $840. The card also offers an anniversary companion certificate (issued if you spend $20,000 in an cardmember year and keep your account open 45 days after your anniversary date) that is good for one guest. All you have to do is pay $99 plus taxes and fees. If you’re savvy using the companion certificate, the overall sign-up bonus could potentially be worth $1,200 or more. 

(Photo by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images)

Main benefits and perks

The Aviator Red Mastercard has a small list of perks that can nonetheless offer decent value when you fly American:

  • Anniversary companion certificate – Each year, you can earn a companion certificate ($99 fare plus taxes and fees) after you spend at least $20,000 on your card and keep it open for 45 days after your anniversary.
  • Inflight Wi-Fi credits – You’ll get up to $25 in statement credits annually for inflight Wi-Fi purchases.
  • Inflight savings – Receive a 25% discount in the form of a statement credit for inflight food and beverages purchases.
  • First checked bag free – You and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation will get your first checked bags free on American Airlines itineraries.
  • Preferred boarding – You and up to four traveling companions on the same reservation will be allowed to board after Priority and before the rest of economy on American Airlines-operated flights (which means you won’t have to worry about overhead bin space on those smaller planes).
  • Travel protections – Receive travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation and interruption coverage. Since Citi has cut these benefits across its cards (including the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®), these protections are even more valuable. The information for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite 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.     

How to earn miles

You’ll earn 2x miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases with this card, which is pretty standard across cobranded airline credit cards. It unfortunately doesn’t offer bonus earning opportunities in other categories, but it’s not usually a good idea to use a cobranded airline card on everyday expenses anyway. Most of the time, transferable points cards will offer a better return.

Another way to accumulate points faster with the Aviator Red is through its Flight Cents feature. You can elect to have your purchases rounded up to the nearest dollar. Then the money that is rounded up is used to purchase AAdvantage miles at a discounted rate. Typically, buying American miles is expensive (currently upwards of 3.2 cents per mile when you buy the lowest amount, 2,000 for $64.50 including taxes) unless you buy in serious bulk and take advantage of promotions. With the Flights Cents program, you’re essentially buying miles for 2 cents each, without having to buy 150,000 miles at a time.

Of course, buying miles generally isn’t ideal. It really only makes sense when you’re trying to top off your account balance for valuable redemptions like an international business- or first-class award. If that fits that bill, the Flight Cents program can help you out in a pinch.

How to redeem miles

You’re getting the most out of your American AAdvantage miles when you redeem them for award flights, specifically premium cabin partner bookings. However, that isn’t the only way to get serious value out of your AAdvantage miles. American Airlines has been trending towards fully dynamic pricing for a while now, so while it still publishes an award chart these days, it’s only really relevant on partner flights.

The 60,000-mile bonus alone is enough for a one-way business-class ticket on Japan Airlines to Japan or Korea. Budget travelers can also find domestic MileSAAver flights under 500 miles as low as 7,500 one-way (not including reduced mileage awards or economy web specials), so you could stretch that sign-up bonus out to four round-trip tickets at that price.

Keep in mind that American Airlines is also part of the Oneworld alliance, which means you can use your AAdvantage miles to book excellent award flights pretty much anywhere in the world. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have a diverse points and miles portfolio (and cobranded airline cards that can help you stock up miles), even if American Airlines isn’t your favorite U.S. carrier.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
American Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance, meaning you can book extremely valuable award flights — such as a business class seat with Cathay Pacific — with your AAdvantage miles. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Which cards compete with the Aviator Red?

The most direct competitor to the Aviator Red is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. The two cards are similar, both offering 2x miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and perks such as first checked bags free and preferred boarding. Both cards also charge a $99 annual fee.

Related: Credit card showdown: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select vs. AAdvantage Aviator Red

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select does earn additional rewards (2x) at restaurants and gas stations and currently waives its $99 annual fee the first 12 months, but the Aviator Red comes with better travel protections and the ability to earn a companion certificate. Plus, the Aviator Red has a much more attainable sign-up bonus since you have to spend $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening to earn 50,000 miles with the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select, whereas you can earn a full 60,000 with just a single purchase and paying the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days with the Aviator Red.

Related: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select card review

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

For those who are looking to get a bit more out of their cobranded AAdvantage card, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is a top-tier card that charges a $450 annual fee. You’ll receive full Admirals Club membership (which makes up for the annual fee alone when you take full advantage of it), plus perks such as priority check-in and boarding, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100) and the ability to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year.

The Citi®/ AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is an example of a World Elite Mastercard. (Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

The last card worth considering is the Citi Premier® Card. With a similar annual fee ($95), you’ll earn transferable Citi ThankYou points instead. Citi partners with 15+ airline loyalty programs, including American AAdvantage for a limited-time only (until Nov. 13, 2021).

The Citi Premier comes with an elevated 80,000-ThankYou point sign-up bonus after you meet the spending threshold of $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. That means you can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to American AAdvantage at a lucrative 1:1 rate if you take advantage of this temporary partnership. While you won’t get any American Airlines-specific perks with the Citi Premier, the appeal of earning fully fledged transferable points is a huge win as airlines continue to devalue their miles.

Related: Full review of the Citi Premier card

Bottom line

With a low annual fee and a very generous sign-up bonus, the Aviator Red doesn’t have to be your primary spending card in order to be worth it. The intro offer alone makes this card a serious contender. For those who do fly American often, it offers some nice day-of-travel benefits that should enhance your flight experience, too.

You also don’t have to be a loyal American Airlines customer to take advantage of this offer. It’s always advisable to keep a points/miles balance with multiple loyalty programs so you can take advantage of deals and discounts when they come up, no matter the airline. The Aviator Red offers an easy way to rack up some points without requiring thousands of dollars in spend upfront.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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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