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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.
The Best American Airlines Credit Cards of 2019:
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp: Best for no annual fee
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Best for occasional American Airlines flyers
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Best for Admirals Club access
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 on Domestic itineraries||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 AA and at grocery stores||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard||$99 (waived the first year)||50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.||✓||2x on AA, gas stations, restaurants||You and 4 Companions||Preferred||7,500 miles|
|CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard||$99 (waived the first year)||60,000 after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months||✓||2x AA/ telecom/ rental car/gas stations||You and 4 Companions||Preferred||7,500 miles|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||$450||50,000 after spending $5,000 in three months||✓||2x AA||You and 8 Companions||Priority||7,500 miles|
With the basics laid out above, let’s take a closer look at each 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
- It’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three month
The primary personal Citi AAdvantage card currently comes with a 50,000 American AAdvantage mile bonus after spending $2,500 in the first 3 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.
The additional spending category bonuses on this business card make it an attractive option, and it currently also features a 60,000-mile bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Other perks include:
- $99 companion certificate after you spend $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
- Earn 2x miles on AA purchases, at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations
This card is offering a bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. The Executive card comes with:
- Full Admirals Club membership, while authorized users get access privileges to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. Unfortunately, starting Nov. 1, 2019 you’ll be required to show a same-day boarding pass for American or a partner airline in order to gain access to these lounges.
- First checked bag free for you and up to eight traveling companions when traveling on a domestic American flight
- Priority check-in, airport screening and boarding privileges
So 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.
Barclaycard introduced a line-up 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)|
|Blue||$49||✓||✓||2x AA||5,000 miles|
|Red||$95 ($99 starting May 1, 2019)||✓||✓||2x AA||You and 4 Companions||✓||7,500 miles|
|Silver||$195 ($199 starting May 1, 2019)||✓||✓||3x AA, 2x hotel/rental car||You and 8 Companions||✓||7,500 miles|
|Business||$95||✓||✓||2x AA/office supply/telecom/rental car||You and 4 Companions||✓||7,500 miles|
These cards have seen various changes recently, including the reduction of elite status earning potential. Now, the Red and Silver version will see additional positive and negative changes implemented on May 1, 2019, including the loss of the 10% rebate on all redeemed Advantage miles. The Red and Silver versions will both add statement credits for inflight Wi-Fi purchases starting on May 1. In particular, 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. Plus, the 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-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.
Which card is “best” really comes down to whether you fly American often enough to justify a higher annual fee. For most occasional AA flyers, the Aviator Red or the AAdvantage Platinum Select card will be the way to go. Both cards provide a sizable 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.
The Aviator Red and Platinum Select cards have their differences though. The Platinum Select waives the annual fee for the first year and provides bonus earning at restaurants and gas stations (as well as on AA purchases) while the Aviator Red will soon feature a Wi-Fi statement credit and only requires one purchase and payment of the annual fee to earn the sign-up bonus.
Featured artwork by TPG
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.
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If you're a frequent American flyer but don't have status, additional perks that come with this card like first free checked bag on domestic AA itineraries, preferred boarding on American flights can be extremely valuable.
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
- Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
- No Foreign Transaction Fees*
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
- Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
- Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*