The many flavors of Barclays’ AAdvantage Aviator credit cards

Feb 15, 2020

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American Airlines is among the few companies that offer cobranded credit cards through two different banks. Citi has a line of AAdvantage credit cards, but American also offers five cards with Barclays under the AAdvantage Aviator name. Even though some of these cards aren’t available to new applicants, there’s still a pathway to get them — and some offer compelling value propositions, especially for frequent American travelers.

Today we’ll take a look at all your Aviator credit card options from American Airlines and Barclays.

In This Post

The five flavors Of Aviator

American Airlines passenger jets parked at their gates on a rainy morning at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
All of American’s Aviator cards can offer some solid value on American flights. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

The Aviator cards currently come in five different varieties, including four consumer cards and one for small-business owners.

AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard — No annual fee

This entry-level product is one of the few airline cards with no annual fee. It offers 1x mile per dollar spent on purchases from American Airlines and a paltry a half a mile per dollar spent elsewhere (you earn 1 mile for every $2 spent). The only other benefit to travelers is a 25% discount on inflight food, beverage and headset purchases. Since this card has no annual fee and there’s no application available for new accounts, it seems to exist only to be offered to existing AAdvantage Aviator cardholders who are thinking of closing an account because of an annual fee. Barclays is then likely to offer this card through a product change.

This card could be valuable for its 25% discount on inflight purchases, but it would be a poor choice for any other purchase because of its extremely low mileage earning rate.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Blue Mastercard® — $49 annual fee

The Aviator Blue card represents a slight improvement over the standard Aviator. It offers 2x miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1x mile per dollar spent elsewhere. There’s a $49 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees. All of this makes for a product much like a standard airline credit card just a few years ago. But now you should expect to earn double points on some other purchases, such as hotels or restaurants, not just airline purchases. On the other hand, most entry-level airline cards now have annual fees in the $95-$99 range. The Aviator Blue also offers a 25% savings on inflight purchases. But this card isn’t available to new applicants, so again, it is just a choice for existing cardholders when they are considering a product change.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard — $99 annual fee

(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Aviator Red card is one of two Aviator cards that are currently offered to new applicants. You can earn 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making just a single purchase within 90 days and paying its $99 annual fee. Also, you can earn an introductory Companion Certificate good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after you make your first purchase and pay the $99 annual fee in the first 90 days.

Like the Aviator Blue card, it offers 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Also like the Blue card, you receive a 25% savings on inflight purchases. In addition, you can earn an Anniversary Companion Certificate each account anniversary year, which is good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees). However, you can only receive this certificate after spending $20,000 on purchases in that year, and your account has to remain open for 45 days after your account anniversary date. So if you were thinking about cancelling the card right after you received the certificate, they are way ahead of you.

This card also offers an optional program called Flight Cents. This allows you to round up your purchases to dollar amounts between $1 and $500. The added amount will be used to purchase additional AAdvantage miles for two cents each. Considering that TPG’s current monthly valuations peg American Airlines AAdvantage miles at just 1.4 cents, I don’t see much value to cardholders here. Thankfully, this program is completely optional.

Valuable benefits include your first bag checked for free for yourself and up to four companions on the same reservation. Preferred boarding is also included as are travel and shopping discounts through the World Elite Mastercard program. You also get up to $25 in statement credits toward inflight Wi-Fi charges on American Airlines-operated flights.

This card has a $99 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

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

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
The Aviator Silver card offers a statement credit for the Global Entry application fee. (Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard — $195 annual fee

This top-of-the-line card features 3x miles for American Airlines purchases and double miles for hotel and rental car purchases. You can only apply for it by request if you already have the Aviator Red card. Like the Aviator Red card, it also offers the optional Flight Cents benefit, effectively allowing your to purchase miles at 2 cents each. In addition, it offers numerous travel benefits including:

  • Upgraded boarding. Travelers receive preferred boarding for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation for flights operated by American Airlines. You also receive a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to eight others on the same reservation.
  • Elite qualifying miles. You earn 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) for each $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 EQMs per year).· You also earn 3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $50,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
  • Companion certificate for two. You earn one certificate each cardholder year when you spend $30,000 or more. This certificate offers one or two additional tickets for $99 (plus taxes and fees) on paid flights operated by American Airlines.
  • Global Entry credit. Receive a $100 statement credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry. You can receive the credit once every five years (which is how long your Global Entry membership lasts), so you can use it for a new application or renewal.
  • Free inflight food and beverages. You receive up to $25 per day in statement credits toward inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights.
  • Wi-Fi statement credits.You get up to $50 in statement credits toward inflight Wi-Fi charges on American Airlines-operated flights.

Related reading: Should you upgrade from the AAdvantage Aviator Red to the AAdvantage Aviator Silver?

AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard – $95 annual fee

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

The Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard — the other Aviator card available to new applicants and one of the few Barclays cards for small-business owners — is most similar to the Aviator Red card. New applicants can earn up to 75,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. You receive 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days, and another 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card.

It offers 2x miles on both American Airlines purchases and spending at eligible office supply, telecom and car rental merchants. You earn just 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases, but it also features a 5% mileage bonus earned every year after your account anniversary date, based on the total number of miles earned using your card.

Benefits include:

  • Anniversary Companion Certificate. Receive one each account anniversary year, good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees), after spending $20,000 on purchases in that year.
  • Free checked bag. This benefit is valid for yourself and up to four companions on the same reservation.
  • Preferred boarding. Again, this benefit applies to both yourself and up to four companions on the same reservation.
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars. Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 on purchases each calendar year.
  • Inflight savings. Receive 25% inflight savings as a statement credit on food and beverages when you use your card on American Airlines-operated flights.

Which card should you get?

If you don’t already have one of these cards, your choice is between the Aviator Red and the Aviator Business Mastercard. The business card offers the 5% bonus, elite qualifying dollars and potentially a better sign-up bonus.

But once you have the Aviator Red card, you could potentially upgrade to the Silver card, which is full of valuable benefits. Instead of a 25% discount on inflight purchases, you’ll receive a 100% discount on up to $25 in purchases per day. And the annual Companion Certificate is good for up to two people. And when you consider the 5% annual mileage bonus, the ability to earn elite qualifying miles and elite qualifying dollar, and the Wi-Fi and Global Entry credits, this card is easily worth $96 more than the Aviator Red. Even if you already have Global Entry, you can use the $100 application fee credit for your renewal or gift it to a friend, family member or co-worker.

But if you aren’t a regular AA flyer, you have little to lose by downgrading to the standard (colorless) Aviator card with no annual fee. By keeping the account, you leave the door open to upgrade later to one of the higher-end cards if you need it. You also maintain your line of credit, which preserves your debt-to-credit ratio (for a given amount of debt) while continuing to build your credit history by increasing the average age of your accounts.

The AAdvantage Aviator Blue Mastercard isn’t terribly attractive for spending, as you only get the 2x miles for AA purchases, the 25% discount on inflight purchases and the foreign transaction fee waiver.

As a fan of transferable point currencies, I’d rather use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel purchases (including American flights), but I suppose the Aviator Red card could make sense if you prefer AAdvantage miles and purchase enough tickets to justify the 2x rewards but don’t fly American enough to justify the $195 annual fee for the Aviator Silver and all of its benefits.

Bottom line

The standard no-fee Aviator and the Aviator Blue aren’t very useful to most cardholders, but the Aviator Red and Small Business cards are competitive entry-level products. And once you have an Aviator Red card, you can potentially upgrade it to the Aviator Silver, which is an exceptional offer for frequent AA flyers. However, there are many other top credit cards out there for airfare purchases, so be sure to carefully consider which would be the best fit for your wallet.

Additional reading:

Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy

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