Should you upgrade from the AAdvantage Aviator Red to the AAdvantage Aviator Silver?
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new credit card details. It was originally published on Aug. 7, 2019.
Frequent American Airlines flyers who want cobranded AAdvantage credit cards can choose between offerings from two issuers: Citi and Barclays. There used to be five available Aviator credit cards issued by Barclays — one business and four personal cards. However, only two of those original cards are still open for applications on the Barclays site: the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard.
This means that in order to get the benefits of the Barclays’ top-tier AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard, you’ll have to request a product switch from the Aviator Red. The Aviator Silver does come with extra benefits, including a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, the ability to earn EQMs and EQDs through spending, and more, but is it worth it to upgrade?
Let’s look at these cards side by side to see if it makes sense for you to request an upgrade.
|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|
|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; 1x on all other purchases.|
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 the ability to earn anniversary Companion Certificates ($99 fare plus taxes and fees). The Silver does offer more perks — an additional Companion Certificate when you spend $20,000 and 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. Even the Silver took a steep cut in its EQD- and EQM-earning potential.
Related reading: A guide to airline credit card companion tickets
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 in 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.
Related reading: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status
Should you upgrade?
Those who fly American frequently and want a little help hitting AAdvantage elite status could benefit from the Silver. Although the card comes with a higher annual fee, using the inflight food and beverage credit at least six times, along with the $50 annual inflight Wi-Fi credit, will offset the cost of that 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, 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 EQM and EQD 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. The 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.
Something else to consider is whether you’re eligible to upgrade. Multiple TPG readers have recently reported difficulty requesting a product change from the Aviator Red to the Aviator Silver. When they called Barclays to ask for the upgrade, they were told that there were no current promotions available.
I confirmed with Barclays that in general, Aviator Red cardholders are allowed to upgrade. However, that doesn’t mean every cardholder meets Barclay’s qualifications to do so. There is a long list of factors that Barclays looks at when considering whether or not it will approve an upgrade request, including but not limited to whether your account is in good standing, the length of your account history and any recent upgrades/downgrades.
If you’re interested in an upgrade, it’s certainly worth a call. But keep in mind that Barclays may not upgrade you, even if you have an excellent credit score, an account in good standing and have had your current card open for more than a year.
Some cardholders can get a lot of value out of upgrading to the Aviator Silver, but casual flyers and top-tier elites are both better off sticking with the Red or adding a Citi AAdvantage card to their wallet.
Aviator Red cardholders looking to switch to another AAdvantage credit card should consider Citi’s cobranded AAdvantage cards. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers a card comparable to the Aviator Red, with 2x miles on eligible 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 and a $125 American Airlines discount after you spend $20,000 in a calendar year (and renew your card) — all for a $99 annual fee.
Related reading: 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 you spend $5,000 with the card in the first three months of account opening), a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100), a 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.
Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers
Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.
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.
- 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 up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
- 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 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.