Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Sep 20, 2019

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Whether you’re an avid or occasional American Airlines flyer, there are plenty of credit cards from multiple issuers that can help you maximize your purchase and make your flying experience is as comfortable as possible. Today, I’ll look at what’s available for both AA frequent and infrequent flyers looking to bolster their AA miles, benefits and elite status and recommend what I think is your best choice.

The best American Airlines credit cards of 2019

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 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 credit cards:

Citi American Airlines Credit Cards Comparison

cREDIT Card Annual Fee Sign-Up Bonus No Foreign Fees Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free on Domestic itineraries Boarding Reduced Mileage Awards
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card $0 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in three months 3% fee 2x on AA and at grocery stores 0 No No
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® $99 (waived the first year) 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months of account opening. 2x on AA, gas stations, restaurants You and four companions Preferred 7,500 miles
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® $99 (waived the first year) 70,000 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 You and four companions Preferred 7,500 miles
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® $450 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in three months  2x AA You and eight companions Priority 7,500 miles

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

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 it does offer the following:

  • 2x miles at grocery stores — equal to a 2.8% return based on TPG’s valuations — as well as on AA purchases
  • A current welcome 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 bonus of 50,000 American AAdvantage 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 the best card for the casual AA flyer who isn’t invested in earning elite status. 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
  • First bag checked free on domestic AA itineraries for you and up to four companions on the same reservation
  • $125 American Airlines discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card year and you renew your card

Check out our full card review here.

CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

The additional spending category bonuses on this business card make it an attractive option, and it currently also features 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. Other perks include:

  • $99 companion certificate after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year and keep the account open for at least 45 days after the anniversary date
  • Access to reduced mileage awards
  • 2x miles on AA purchases, at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations

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. (There is a higher 60,000-mile offer available in Admirals Clubs.) The executive card carries a $450 annual fee and 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. 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. 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.)

Citi Prestige® Card

Although it’s not an AA-cobranded card, the Prestige is a premium card worth considering if you are an American flyer but want to collect transferable points. The card is offering 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening and carries a $495 annual fee. This card earns 5 Citi ThankYou points per dollar spent on air travel and dining, as well as 3 points per dollar spent on hotels and cruise lines, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. You’ll get a fourth night free on paid hotel stays, although starting this September you’ll be capped at two bookings per year and bookings will need to be made through ThankYou.com instead of through the concierge.

Citi ThankYou points can be transferred to Oneworld partners like 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 the the Citi Prestige’s excellent travel protections are being discontinued as of Sept. 22, 2019. See TPG‘s full card review for more details.

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:

Aviator Card Annual Fee 25% Inflight Discount No Foreign Fees Spend Bonus 1st Bag Checked Free on Domestic Itineraries
Preferred Boarding Reduced Mileage Awards
Aviator $0 1x AA (0.5x all other purchases) 0 No None
Blue $49 2x AA 0 No 5,000 miles
Red $99 2x AA You and four companions 7,500 miles
Silver $199 3x AA, 2x hotel/rental car You and eight companions 7,500 miles
Business $95 2x AA/office supply/telecom/rental car You and four companions 7,500 miles

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 on May 1, 2019, including the loss of the 10% rebate on all redeemed Advantage 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 every anniversary year on American Airlines-operated flights and the Red version will reimburse $25 every anniversary year. The Silver version is also adding a $25-per-day statement credit for food and beverage on American Airlines-operated flights.

If you don’t believe the annual fee is worth the benefits on your Aviator, consider downgrading to the no annual 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 way to earn AA miles without an additional cost.

Transferable points-earning cards

You’ll earn American AAdvantage miles anytime you fly with a paid ticket, according to 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 also want to earn transferable points, you can choose to pay for your ticket with a general travel card that earns American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or the Citi ThankYou points I discussed above. Consider these cards, some of which carry generous travel protections compared to the Barclays or Citi cobranded American cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Annual Fee: $95

Sign-up Offer: The current sign-up bonus is 60,000 points after new applicants 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 solid 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: $450

Sign-Up Offer: 50,000 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 can be 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, you can 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 1 point per dollar on everything else), so if you spend a lot in these two categories you could be ready to book a flight in no time. The card does have a high ($450) annual fee, but that’s offset by a $300 annual travel credit that will automatically be applied to any eligible purchases — from airfare to hotel stays to sightseeing tours. You’ll get lounge access through Priority Pass Select membership, plus the card’s excellent travel protections will cover you when 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/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Annual Fee: $95

Sign-Up Offer: 80,000 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 your 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 points elsewhere. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card, and 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 TPG‘s full card review for more details.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual Fee: $550 (see rates & fees)

Welcome Bonus: 60,000 points after new cardholders spend $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Keep in mind that 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 and Cathay Pacific or American partner Etihad. You can then 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 from 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 actual 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.

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 earnin 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 ancillary perks like your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries.

Even if I were a die-hard 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.

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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