Should You Upgrade From the AAdvantage Aviator Red to the AAdvantage Aviator Silver?

Aug 7, 2019

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Frequent American Airlines flyers who want cobranded AAdvantage credit cards can choose between offerings from Citi and Barclays. The Barclays lineup includes two cards that recently went through a series of updates: the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard. The Silver is the more premium of the two cards, but is currently not accepting new applications. However, Aviator Red cardholders can request an upgrade to the Silver.

Today, I’ll walk you through when it’s a good idea to upgrade to the Silver and when you’re better off sticking with the Aviator Red.

Comparison Overview

Aviator Red Aviator Silver
Sign-up Bonus 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the card’s $99 annual fee. N/A
Annual Fee $99 $199
Rewards Rate 2x miles on American Airlines purchases; 1x on all other purchases. 3x miles on American Airlines purchases; 2x miles on hotels and car rentals; and 1x on all other purchases.
Standout Perks
  • First checked bag free
  • Preferred boarding
  • 25% statement credit for inflight food and beverages purchases
  • $25 annual statement credit for inflight Wi-Fi
  • Anniversary Companion Certificate when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year
  • First checked bag free
  • Preferred boarding
  • $25/day in statement credits for inflight food and beverages
  • $50 annual statement credit for inflight Wi-Fi
  • Two Anniversary Companion Certificates when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year
  • Ability to earn EQMs and EQDs through card spending
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Overall, the two cards are similar. Both offer preferred boarding and first checked bag free, and both come with access to the Flight Cents program and offer the ability to earn Anniversary Companion Certificates ($99 fare plus taxes and fees). The Silver offers more perks, an additional Companion Certificate when you spend $20,000 and a higher earning potential in exchange for the increased annual fee. But the main differentiating factor is the Silver’s ability to earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) through card spending. In October 2018, American Airlines eliminated elite status earning potential from all of its Barclays cards with the exception of the Aviator Silver. However, that card did take a steep cut in its EQD and EQM earning potential.

You’ll earn 5,000 EQMs after spending $20,000 on the Aviator Silver within a calendar year, plus an additional 5,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 within the same calendar year. You’ll also earn $3,000 in EQDs after spending $50,000. Gold elite status, the lowest level of AAdvantage status, requires 25,000 EQMs, 30 Elite-Qualifying Segments (EQSs) and $3,000 EQDs. If you’re spending $50,000 on your card every year, that can eliminate the EQD requirement and knock out 40 percent of the EQM requirement. For those who take a lot of low-mileage, low-cost flights each year, this can help you bridge the gap to elite status.

(Photo by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images)

Related: Choosing the Best Credit Card for American Airlines Flyers

When it Makes Sense to Upgrade

Those who fly American frequently and want a little help hitting AAdvantage elite status will benefit from the Silver. Although the card comes with a higher annual fee, the $50 annual inflight Wi-Fi credit and six flights where you can use the inflight food and beverage credit combine to offset the cost of the fee. If you take advantage of the additional perks, especially the ability to earn EQDs and EQMs, the Silver is worth it, in my opinion.

However, both casual flyers and current top-tier elites won’t get much additional value out of the Silver over the Red. If you’re only taking one or two flights a year, spending $50,000 with the Silver to max out EQMs and EQDs earning opportunities doesn’t make sense, because you won’t hit elite status without flying a certain number of EQSs. Plus, you won’t use the Wi-Fi or inflight food and beverage credits enough to justify the higher annual fee. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re already flying often enough to hit Executive Platinum elite status or be invited into the exclusive Concierge Key program, none of the expanded perks offered by the Silver are worth it. Both Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members get free snacks, and the $50 inflight Wi-Fi credit and slightly elevated rewards structure isn’t enough to offset the higher annual fee on its own.

In either of the aforementioned scenarios (casual flyer or top-tier elite), it’s not really worth it to upgrade to the Silver. The Aviator Red will still earn 2x miles on your American Airlines purchases and offer basic benefits.

Bottom Line

While some cardholders can get a lot of value out of upgrading to the Aviator Silver, casual flyers and top-tier elites are both better off sticking with the Red or adding a Citi AAdvantage card to their wallet.

For Aviator Red cardholders looking to switch to another AAdvantage credit card, consider Citi’s cobranded AAdvantage cards. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers a comparable card to the Aviator Red with 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and at gas stations and restaurants. You’ll get preferred boarding, first checked bags free for you and up to four companions, an Anniversary Companion Certificate after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and a $125 American Airlines discount after spending $20,000 in a calendar year (and renewing your card) — all for a $99 annual fee that is waived your first year.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select 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.

Related: Check out our full reviews of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

If you’re looking for a step up from the Aviator Red, Citi offers the top-tier Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. The card comes with a hefty $450 annual fee, but perks include a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus (after spending $5,000 with the card in the first three months), Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100), full Admirals Club membership, priority check-in, airport screening and boarding privileges and 10,000 EQMs after you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year. Admirals Club membership alone covers the cost of the annual fee if you take advantage of it.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/TPG

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you.  Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 17.24% - 25.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
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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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