Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Jan 21, 2020

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Whether you’re an avid or occasional American Airlines flyer, there are plenty of credit cards from multiple issuers that help you earn points and enhance your flying experience. Let’s look at ways AAdvantage frequent and infrequent flyers can bolster their miles, benefits and elite status.

The best overall card for American Airlines flyers is the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. For a $99 annual fee (waived the first year), you get a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. That should be enough to get you at least one or two round-trip tickets within the U.S. However, you may be able to find better deals as AA continues to experiment with dynamic pricing. You earn 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, along with gas stations and restaurants. You also get a free checked bag for yourself and four travel companions and a $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more on purchases during your card year and renew your card.

In This Post

Best American Airlines credit cards of 2020

Citi is the main issuer of AAdvantage cards and has multiple cards available for new sign-ups. The bank is known to offer increased sign-up bonuses on a relatively regular basis. It also allows you to open multiple accounts with the same type of card. Here’s a comparison of the available Citi AAdvantage credit cards:

Comparing American Airlines credit cards offers

cREDIT Card Annual Fee Sign-Up Bonus Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free on Domestic itineraries
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card $0 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months 2x AA miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores 0
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard $99 (waived the first 12 months) 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases the first three months of account opening. 2x AA miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants You and four companions
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® $99 (waived the first 12 months) 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first four months of account opening 2x AA miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases/telecom/rental car/gas stations You and four companions
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months  2x AA miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases You and eight companions

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

Those are the basics. Let’s take a closer look at each Citi card.

Best American Airlines credit cards

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Annual fee: $0

Sign-up offer: 10,000 AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three months of account opening

Reasons to get it: This card was launched in mid-2018 and rounds out Citi’s American Airlines card lineup as the no-annual-fee, entry-level option. It’s light on benefits, but offers the following in addition to the current welcome bonus:

  • 2x AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores — equal to a 2.8% return based on TPG valuations
  • 1x AAdvantage mile on all other purchases
  • 25% savings on food and beverages on AA inflight purchases made with the MileUp card

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Sign-up offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $2,500 in the first three months of account opening

Reasons to get it: With a lower annual fee and lower minimum spending requirement than the Executive World Elite card, it’s the best card for the casual AA flyer who isn’t invested in earning elite status. In addition to the current sign-up bonus, you also receive:

  • 2x AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on restaurants, gas stations and eligible AA purchases
  • Access to American’s reduced mileage awards, giving you a 7,500-mile discount on round-trip awards for certain routes in North America
  • First bag checked free on domestic AA itineraries for yourself and up to four companions on the same reservation
  • $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card year and renew your card

Check out our full card review here.

CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

Annual fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Sign-up offer: 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening

Reasons to get it: The additional spending category bonuses on this business card make it an attractive option, along with the lucrative sign-up bonus. Other perks include:

  • $99 companion certificate after you spend $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year and renew the card (account must remain open for at least 45 days after the anniversary date)
  • Access to reduced mileage awards
  • 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $450

Sign-up offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months

Reasons to get it: In addition to the sign-up offer, the card comes with:

Having this card is a lot like having elite status, but without the first-class upgrades. You also get a 25% savings on inflight purchases, which isn’t even an elite status benefit. If elite status is important to you, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive card offers 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) when you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year.

See our full card review here.

The Executive card provides an Admirals Club Membership. (Photo by Tony Mecia for TPG)

The Executive card provides an Admirals Club membership. (Photo of CLT Admirals Club by Tony Mecia for TPG)

Barclaycard American Airlines Credit Cards

Barclaycard introduced a lineup of five Aviator cards when the US Airways Premier World Mastercard was discontinued in 2015. Only the Aviator Red and Business cards are currently accepting new applicants, but you may be able to obtain the other versions by upgrading or downgrading the Aviator Red. Here’s a comparison of the Barclaycard Aviator cards and their benefits, all of which also come with a 25% inflight discount:

Aviator Card Annual Fee Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free on Domestic Itineraries
Reduced Mileage Awards
Aviator $0 1x AAdvantage mile (0.5x all other purchases) 0 None
Blue $49 2x AAdvantage miles 0 5,000 miles
Red $99 2x AAdvantage miles You and four companions 7,500 miles
Silver $199 3x AAdvantage miles; 2x on hotels/rental cars You and eight companions 7,500 miles
Business $95 2x AAdvantage miles on office supplies/telecom/rental cars You and four companions 7,500 miles

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard, AAdvantage Aviator Blue Mastercard, AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard, AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard and 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.

These cards have seen various changes recently, including the reduction of elite-status earning potential. The Red and Silver versions saw additional positive and negative changes implemented in May 2019, including loss of the 10% rebate on all redeemed AAdvantage miles. The Red also no longer has a way for cardholders to earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs).

The Red and Silver versions have added statement credits for inflight Wi-Fi purchases. The Silver card will reimburse $50 in Wi-Fi charges every anniversary year on American Airlines-operated flights and the Red version will reimburse $25 every anniversary year. The Silver version is adding a $25-per-day statement credit for food and beverage on American Airlines-operated flights.

If you don’t think the annual fee is worth the benefits on your Aviator, downgrade to the no-annual-fee version instead of canceling. This is good for credit score purposes, receiving pre-qualified offers in the future and leaving yourself at least one way to earn AAdvantage miles without an additional cost.

Transferable points-earning cards

You’ll earn American AAdvantage miles anytime you fly with a paid ticket, calculated on the base price of your ticket minus taxes and fees. The amount of miles you earn also varies based on your AAdvantage elite status.

If you want to earn transferable points, pay for your ticket with a general travel card that earns American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points. Consider the following cards, some of which carry generous travel protections compared to the Barclays or Citi cobranded American Airlines cards.

Citi Prestige Card

Annual fee: $495

Sign-up offer: 50,000 Citi ThankYou Points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening

Reasons to get it: Although it’s not an AA-cobranded card, the Citi Prestige is a premium card worth considering if you are an American flyer and want to collect transferable points. In addition to the sign-up offer, this card earns 5x Citi ThankYou Points per dollar spent on air travel and restaurants; 3x points per dollar spent on hotels and cruise lines, and 1x point per dollar spent on everything else. You’ll get a fourth night free on paid hotel stays, although that perk is now capped at two bookings per year. Bookings must be made through ThankYou.com.

Citi ThankYou Points can be transferred to Oneworld partners such as Cathay Pacific and Qantas or American partner Etihad for booking American-operated award flights. You’ll also have lounge access through the Priority Pass Select membership that is provided as a cardmember benefit. However, the big downside is that Citi discontinued most of Prestige’s excellent travel protections as part of a more sweeping refresh to the card made in September 2019 — while still keeping the card’s $495 annual fee. See TPG‘s full card review for more details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Annual fee: $95

Sign-up offer: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after new cardholders spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening

Reasons to get it: This card offers double points on all travel and dining purchases (not just American tickets), which is 1 point per dollar less than the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it comes with a much lower annual fee and the points can be transferred to United as well as nine other airline and three hotel programs. You can also book flights and other travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, earning a value of 1.25 cents each for your points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also features primary rental car insurance and some travel and purchase protection benefits. See TPG‘s full card review for more details.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $550

Sign-up offer: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

Reasons to get it: Chase Ultimate Rewards points don’t transfer to American, but this card is a great choice if you’re eyeing future award travel with a diverse group of airline partners. Or, if you prefer the simplicity of cash fares, redeem your points for 1.5 cents of value for airfare, hotels, car rentals or cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

The Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on all travel (excluding its $300 travel credit) and dining purchases, and 1x point per dollar spent on everything else. If you spend a lot in these two categories you could be ready to book a flight in no time. The card’s $550 annual fee is offset by a $300 annual travel credit that is automatically applied to any eligible purchases — from airfare to hotel stays to sightseeing tours. You get lounge access through Priority Pass Select membership, plus excellent travel protections if you put the airfare or the taxes and fees on award flights on your card. See TPG’s full card review for more details.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

Sign-up offer: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases within three months of account opening

Reasons to get it: This business card is extremely popular among award travel enthusiasts, as it offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in certain categories like travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites. Earn 1x point elsewhere. There are no foreign transaction fees.

You can book flights and other travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and get a value of 1.25 cents each for your points. So, you may get better value by transferring your points to British Airways or Iberia if you want to use your Ultimate Rewards points to book an American-operated flight. See TPGs full card review for more details.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Welcome bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after new cardholders spend $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. You may be targeted for a 100,000-point bonus offer through CardMatch (offer subject to change at anytime).

Reasons to get it: Although the Membership Rewards points earned by this card can’t be transferred to American, they can be transferred to Oneworld partners British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific or American partner Etihad. You can use points in any of these programs to book award tickets on American-operated flights.

The Platinum Card earns 5x Membership Rewards points on all flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, as well as prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. Other cardholder benefits include a $200 annual statement credit toward incidental airline fees (though not airfare), monthly Uber credits, biannual Saks credits, Marriott elite status, Hilton elite status, Centurion Lounge accessPriority Pass Select membership and much more.

See TPG’s full card review for more details.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Who should get an American Airlines credit card?

I wouldn’t recommend building your entire points-earning strategy around an American Airlines cobranded credit card, but if you frequently fly with AA, you can save a lot of money with some of these perks. Perhaps the most valuable is the free checked bags. All Citi AAdvantage cards (except for the no-annual-fee MileUp card) offer free checked bags for yourself and four companions, but the premium Executive World Elite card extends that perk to eight companions. Use this perk just a few times each year and you’ll more than recoup the cost of your annual fee.

I like to think of airline credit cards as offering “elite-lite” perks, things like priority boarding and free checked bags that are similar to the benefits you might receive if you have elite status. If you frequently fly with American, but not enough (or don’t spend enough) to earn AAdvantage elite status, these credit card perks become even more valuable.

How much are AAdvantage miles worth?

In The Points Guy himself in his latest monthly valuation series, pegs American Airlines AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents a piece. American is the only major U.S. airline which has not fully adopted dynamic award pricing. However, the carrier is already experimenting with dynamic pricing with its rapidly expanding economy web special deals. AAdvantage miles are worth slightly more than United (1.3 cents) and Delta (1.2 cents), partly because of the value you get redeeming them for Oneworld partner awards. For just 70,000 miles, you can fly Cathay Pacific’s excellent business class to anywhere in Asia, or you can fly Iberia business class to Europe for 57,500 miles and avoid some of the nasty fuel surcharges that British Airways is known for.

If you primarily use your miles for domestic AA flights, you might struggle to get a higher value. That’s because domestic AA awards are the testing ground for the new dynamic pricing scheme, which will try and match the award cost of a ticket with its cost in dollars. Still, we’ve seen a number of insane deals come out, including flights to Australia for just 5,000 miles each way, so there’s definitely still some value to be had with flight on American metal.

Bottom line

Deciding which card is “best” really comes down to whether you fly American often enough to justify a higher annual fee and whether you have enough other spending to focus on earning transferable points on some of the general travel cards.

For most occasional AA flyers, the Aviator Red or the AAdvantage Platinum Select card will be the way to go. Both cards provide a sizeable sign-up bonus to boost your account from the beginning and some nice perks like your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries.

Even if I were a diehard AA loyalist, I would probably pay for The Platinum Card from American Express so I can earn 5x Membership Reward points on AA ticket purchases and get Priority Pass access. The good news is you can’t really go wrong with any of the above cards as long as you choose the one that meets your needs.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.

Featured image by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images.


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.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

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

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
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Regular APR
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Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.