Choosing the Best Credit Card for American Airlines Flyers

Jan 28, 2019

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When it comes to earning American Airlines AAdvantage miles, there are plenty of credit card options from multiple issuers. Today, I’ll look at what’s available for AA frequent flyers looking to bolster their miles, benefits and elite status, and recommend what I think is your best choice.

Citi

Citi is the main issuer of AAdvantage cards with multiple cards available for new sign-ups. The bank is known to offer increased sign-up bonuses on a relatively regular basis and the ability to open multiple accounts with the same type of card. Before going into further detail, here’s a comparison of the available Citi AAdvantage cards:

Card Annual Fee Sign-Up Bonus No Foreign Fees Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free Priority Boarding Reduced Mileage Awards
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card $0 10,000 and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in three months 3% fee 2x on eligible AA purchases and at grocery stores N/A N/A N/A
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®* $99 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. 2x on eligible AA purchases, gas stations, restaurants 4 Companions 7,500 miles
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® $99 (waived the first year) 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. 2x AA/ telecom/ rental car/gas stations 4 Companions 7,500 miles
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® $450 50,000 after spending $5,000 in three months  2x AA 8 Companions 7,500 miles

With the basics laid out above, let’s take a closer look at each card.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and 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.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

This card was launched in mid-2018 and rounds out Citi’s American Airlines card lineup as the no-fee, entry-level option. It’s light on benefits, but it does earn 2x miles at grocery stores — equal to a 2.8% return based on TPG’s valuations — as well as on eligible AA purchases. It’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

The primary personal Citi AAdvantage card currently comes with a 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. With a much lower annual fee and lower minimum spending requirement than the Executive card, it’s a great card for the casual AA flyer who isn’t invested in earning elite status.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

The additional spending category bonuses on this business card make it an attractive option, and it currently also features a bonus of 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. It also comes with a $99 companion certificate after you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year and renew the card (account must remain open at least 45 days after account anniversary date). Top off the perks with access to reduced mileage awards and a reasonable annual fee, and this is a solid business card.

Many of the Citi AAdvantage cards offer perks free checked bags, priority boarding and a discount for in-flight purchases. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)
Many of the Citi AAdvantage cards offer perks free checked bags, priority boarding and a discount for in-flight purchases. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

This card is offering a bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of cardmembership. You also receive access to American’s reduced mileage awards, giving you a 7,500-mile discount on round-trip awards for certain routes in North America. You earn 2x miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

The Executive card comes with an actual Admirals Club membership, so you can get in regardless of which airline you happen to be flying when you travel — and authorized users get membership too. You can also access Oneworld and certain other lounges. Membership entitles you to unlimited complimentary admission to Admirals Club lounges for yourself and two guests, or your entire immediate family.

When traveling on a domestic American flight, you receive your first checked bag free for you and up to eight traveling companions, as well as priority check-in, airport screening and boarding privileges. So it’s a lot like having elite status, but without the first-class upgrades. You also get a 25% savings on in-flight purchases, which isn’t even an elite status benefit.

But if elite status is important to you, the Executive Card offers 10,000 elite-qualifying miles when you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year.

Barclays

Barclaycard has put in work to maintain its US Airways Premier World Mastercard customers with its lineup of Aviator cards. Including the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, there are five different Aviator products. Unfortunately, most of these aren’t open to new applicants, though you can currently sign up for the Aviator Red Card.

US Airways Premier cardholders were automatically converted over to one of the Aviator products, most likely the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard. TPG Senior Points & Miles contributor Jason Steele recommended keeping the Aviator Red card for its valuable baggage fee waivers, 10% mileage rebate and priority boarding privileges. Here’s a comparison of the Barclaycard Aviator benefits:

Aviator Card Annual Fee 25% In-Flight Discount No Foreign Fees Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free Priority Boarding Reduced Mileage Awards Redeem Miles Rebate
Aviator $0 1x AA (0.5x all other purchases)
Blue $49 2x AA
Red $95 2x AA 4 Companions 10%
Silver $195 3x AA, 2x hotel/rental car 8 Companions 10%
Business $89 (waived the first year) 2x AA/office supply/telecom/rental car 4 Companions  5%

In addition to the above benefits, the Silver card offers 5,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) for each $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 EQMs per year)· You can also earn a companion certificate each cardholder year when you spend $30,000 or more, which offers up to two additional tickets for $99 (plus taxes and fees) on a paid flight operated by American Airlines. Finally, this card also offers a $100 statement credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry.

If you were converted to an Aviator card you don’t like, or don’t believe the annual fee is worth the benefits, consider downgrading to the no-fee version instead of outright canceling. This is good for credit score purposes, receiving pre-qualified offers in the future and leaving yourself at least one avenue open to earn AA miles without an additional cost.

Ranking Methodology: 

Which card is “best” really comes down to whether you fly American often enough to justify a higher annual fee, and whether you had a US Airways card that converted to an Aviator card.

I collect AAdvantage miles to redeem on Oneworld partners, I’m not too concerned with earning EQMs, and because I now have an Aviator Red card, I have access to reduced mileage awards and 10% of my redeemed miles refunded.

If you’re only an occasional AA flyer, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is the way to go. You get a sizable sign-up bonus to boost your account from the beginning, and some nice ancillary perks like a free checked bag. Tack on a waived annual fee for the first year, and it’s an all-around solid offer.

Featured photo by Shutterstock.com


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with the best current cards for AA flyers, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.

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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