Credit card showdown: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select vs. AAdvantage Aviator Red

Apr 17, 2021

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American Airlines flyers have plenty of cobranded credit cards to choose from. For no annual fee, there’s the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card. Higher in the lineup, there’s the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® with a $99 annual fee (waived the first 12 months) and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard, which costs $199 per year (you can only receive this card if you already have the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard). At the premium end, there’s the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which costs $450 per year and includes Admirals Club access for the primary cardholder, authorized users and guests.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select and the Aviator Red cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In the middle of the range are competing cards from Barclays and Citi. The Aviator Red card includes interesting benefits such as an annual statement credit for inflight food and beverage purchases, as well as the possibility of earning a companion certificate through spending — plus a generous 60,000 sign-up bonus after making a single purchase.

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The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum card allows cardholders to rack up miles faster on everyday purchases with non-airline bonus categories.

Both cards offer similar sign-up bonuses (although Barclays currently has a 10,000-mile edge) and travel benefits and charge the same annual fee: $99. However, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum card waives the annual fee in the first year of card membership. We’ll put both cards head-to-head to see which one is right for you.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

In This Post

Comparing cards

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the cards and a snapshot of their benefits.

Card AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Annual fee $99 $99 (waived the first 12 months)
Sign-up bonus 60K miles after a single purchase made in the first 90 days and payment of $99 annual fee 50K miles after spending $2,500 within the first 3 months
Earning 2x miles on eligible AA purchases

1x on everything else

2x miles on eligible AA purchases, restaurants and gas stations

1x on everything else

Travel benefits First checked bag free for up to five passengers

Preferred boarding

First checked bag free for up to five passengers

Preferred boarding

Travel discounts 25% off inflight food and beverages

Reduced mileage awards

25% off inflight food and beverages

Reduced mileage awards

Spending benefit Companion certificate for $99 (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20K in a year, renewing the card and keeping it open for at least 45 days after account anniversary $125 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20K or more in a card year and renewing the card
Travel protections Car rental and cellphone protection None
Other benefits World Elite Mastercard perks; no foreign exchange fees;  Flight Cents extra mileage World Elite Mastercard perks; no foreign exchange fees

 

Let’s take a detailed look at the two products and their key differences and discuss which one is better for whom.

Annual fee

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Both cards charge an annual fee of $99. But you don’t pay an annual fee in your first year of having the card with Citi as it’s waived for cardholders.

Winner:The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select

Sign-up bonus

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select is currently offering 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Based on our most recent valuations, this is worth around $700.

The Aviator Red offers 60,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days — even something as small as a Snickers candy bar — and paying the $99 annual fee. This bonus is worth around $840.

Winner: Earning 60,000 miles for a single purchase and a $99 fee makes the Aviator Red a clear winner.

When dining out, be sure to use a card with a bonus for restaurant purchases. Photo by Matheus Frade on Unsplash.
The Citi card offers category bonuses on dining and gas. (Photo by Matheus Frade on Unsplash.)

Earning

The cards have significantly different earning rates. The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select racks up 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and at restaurants and gas stations. It earns 1x on everything else.

The Aviator Red only earns 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x on everything else.

Winner: The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select takes home the trophy for earning, thanks to two bonus spending categories where cardholders can rack up thousands of extra miles per year.

American Airlines travel benefits

The two cards offer similar slates of inflight benefits. Both include a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for the cardholder and up to four companions traveling with them on the same reservation.

Both cards also confer priority boarding privileges and a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases, as well as access to reduced mileage awards.

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Winner: Again, this is a tie.

Spending benefits

Use the Aviator Red or the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum companion certificate to book a seat on American Airlines. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you spend $20,000 or more on purchases during a card membership year and renew your Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select, you can earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount. The discount is redeemable toward the base airfare and directly associated taxes, fees and charges on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines and its subsidiaries.

The Aviator Red rewards cardholders who spend $20,000 or more on purchases in a cardmember year and pay their annual fee with a companion certificate for $99 (plus taxes and fees). It’s good toward a round-trip domestic economy ticket on American Airlines and its subsidiaries within the 48 contiguous United States. Residents of Alaska and Hawaii can travel to or from their states.

Although you can apply the Citi card’s $125 discount to more flights, since there’s no class or regional restriction to it, you can potentially reap much more value from the Aviator Red’s benefit by redeeming it for an expensive fare.

The Aviator Red also participates in Barclays’ Flight Cents program. This essentially allows you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar and earn miles at a rate of 2 cents apiece. The example Barclays gives is: If you buy a coffee for $3.10 and opt into Flight Cents, you will be charged $4 for the purchase. For the extra 90 cents, you will receive 45 bonus AAdvantage miles. The maximum amount you can round up each statement period is $500, which would yield 25,000 bonus miles, though you can adjust your own Flight Cents ceiling threshold.

For 2021 only, the Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement for achieving AAdvantage Gold, Platinum or Platinum Pro will be waived if you spend $30,000 on a Citi / AAdvantage card this year.

Winner: With flight prices at very low levels, we think the EQD waiver for 2021 on Citi / AAdvantage cards gives the Platinum Select card the nod for now.  Because the Aviator Red companion certificate has a higher potential value and offers the ability to opt into Flight Cents to purchase miles at a discount, the Aviator Red wins out here in the long run.

Business class on American Airlines Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Image courtesy of American Airlines.
The Aviator Red’s Flight Cents benefit might be just the way to acquire AAdvantage miles cheaply. (Image courtesy of American Airlines)

Other benefits

Both cards waive foreign transaction fees and offer a range of World Elite Mastercard benefits. Those include access to the World Elite Concierge, a $5 monthly Lyft credit if you take three or more rides, $1,000 in yearly cellphone coverage ($800 max per claim, two claims per year), global emergency services, a $5 reward for every $20 spent on Fandango movie tickets or at-home purchases, exclusive golf offers and experiences with the PGA Tour with Priceless Golf and a free ShopRunner membership where you receive two-day shipping and free return shipping at more than a hundred online retailers.

Unfortunately, Citi slashed the travel benefits on most of its cards, including the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select, in September 2019. Cardholders no longer have car rental insurance, trip cancellation or interruption protection, travel accident insurance, trip delay protection, baggage delay protection, lost baggage protection or purchase protection.

For its part, the Aviator Red also lost select benefits on Nov. 1, 2019. The card no longer includes extended warranty, price/purchase protection or return protection. On the plus side, it does include worldwide secondary rental car insurance that extends to SUVs and trucks if a car is not available and covers vehicles with MSRPs of more than $50,000.  It also has trip cancellation and interruption coverage as well as travel accident insurance.

Winner: Neither card is great in this category, but at least the Aviator Red still includes a few insurance coverage benefits.

There's no kitchen sink in there, but everything else is covered
(Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.)

Which one should you get?

Which of these cards is better for you depends on which one’s benefits you will maximize.

The Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard offers a bigger sign-up bonus with very low spending to get it. It also offers some travel protections and a shot at earning a valuable companion certificate potentially worth hundreds of dollars.

On the other hand, if you only purchase American Airlines tickets occasionally and spend significantly more on dining and gas, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard might be a better choice for racking up miles.

If you previously had the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select and earned a sign-up bonus in the past 48 months, you will not be eligible for its sign-up bonus again until that window of time has elapsed. So you might want to look to the Aviator Red instead. Likewise, the Aviator Red’s application page says, “You may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or previously had an account with us in this program.” So if you already carried the Aviator Red and closed it, you might want to apply for the Citi card instead.

Overall, both are excellent products that present the opportunity to earn miles quickly with the AAdvantage program while enjoying elite-style perks when you travel — all for a reasonable $99 annual fee.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson.

Featured photo by Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images.

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