Changes to Barclays American Airlines Aviator Cards: Wi-Fi, Dining Credits & More

Feb 28, 2019

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Over the last year, we’ve seen many airline and hotel cobranded cards revamp their benefits in an effort to keep up with the competition. Now, Barclays has announced it will be updating two of its American Airlines cobranded credit cards.

The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard will both see a host of new benefits, and a few cuts, starting on May 1.

Aviator Red Card

We’ll start with the changes to the less-premium, but more widely held, Aviator Red card. This card is probably best known for its large sign-up bonus: currently 60,000 American miles, that you can earn after making just one purchase in the first 90 days.

Here are the new benefits Barclays will be adding to the Aviator Red come May 1.

Positive Changes:

  • Wi-Fi Credit — Every year, card holders can receive up to $25 back in statement credits when purchasing Wi-Fi on American Airlines flights.
  • Companion Certificate — Every year after their account anniversary, card members can earn a companion certificate when they spend $20,000 on the card in a year. The certificate will cover a companion ticket in economy class after you’ve paid $99 plus taxes and fees (similar to the Alaska Visa’s $99 companion certificate).
  • Flight Cents: Barclays is introducing a very interesting new benefit (which it’s been piloting for some time now) that will allow you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar and use that extra cash to earn more American miles. You can essentially buy American miles from Barclays at 2 cents apiece. American will put a $500 monthly limit on Flight Cents.


Negative Changes:

  • The annual fee will be raised from $95 to $99.
  • Card members will no longer earn 10% of their redeemed miles back (up to 10,000 each year). This was a nice perk that could help preserve one’s American AAdvantage balance — fortunately, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard still offers this benefit.
  • The $100 flight discount after spending $30,000 in a year will disappear.

Aviator Silver Card

The more premium Aviator Silver card is also getting a refresh, and it’s adding one benefit that can be extremely valuable for frequent American flyers.

Positive Changes:

  • Inflight Food and Beverage Credit — Aviator Silver card holders get a daily $25 statement credit toward inflight food and beverages. Yes, you can get $25 to use on food and drink every day on board American flights if you pay with this card. While almost no one is flying on American every day of the year (not even our own JT Genter, though almost!), if you completely maximized this benefit it’s hypothetically worth $9,125 a year. That’s obviously quite a stretch, but this card could be great for the consultant who’s flying weekly, or even the semi-frequent American flyer who takes half a dozen round-trip flights a year.
  • Wi-Fi Credit — Aviator Silver card holders can receive up to $50 a year in statement credits toward inflight American Wi-Fi purchases.
  • Flight Cents — Similar to the Red Card, you’ll be able to participate in the Flight Cents program which allows you to round up purchases and buy AA miles at 2 cents each
  • Companion Certificate — You’ll now only have to spend $20,000 a year (down from $30,000 a year) to earn two $99 companion certificates.
American Airlines’ Main Cabin Extra seats on its 737MAX. Image by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

Negative Changes:

  • The annual fee will be raised from $195 to $199.
  • Card members will no longer earn 10% of their miles back on redeemed miles (up to 10,000 each year).

The Silver card is not currently open for direct applications — Aviator Red card holders will have to upgrade if they want the product. The Aviator Silver’s elite mile and dollar bonuses will go untouched after October’s EQD devaluation — the card offers 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after $20,000 in yearly spend and another 5,000 EQMs after $40,000 in yearly spend. If you can hit $50,000 of annual spend, then you’ll end up with $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) toward AAdvantage elite status.

Bottom Line

What’s most interesting is the introduction of the Flight Cents program. Currently you can buy American miles for 2.35 cents each, although we’ve seen prices as low as 1.72 cents apiece — but to get the best rate you have to buy a large chunk of miles that can potentially cost thousands of dollars.

Flight Cents allows you to purchase American miles at a somewhat reasonable rate, but without the huge investment. It’s potentially a great tool if you have a specific redemption in mind and need to top off your mileage account.

Still, TPG values American miles at 1.4 cents each, so it’s best to only participate in Flight Cents if you’re planning on redeeming your miles for a premium cabin award on American or one of its partners.

The daily $25 inflight food and drink credit is great, but American Executive Platinums and Concierge Keys already get free snacks so this benefit will be less useful to American’s highest elites, and they are the ones who would potentially benefit most from this card since they’re flying the most. But for many people this daily credit paired with the $50 Wi-Fi credit can easily offset the $199 annual fee.

It’s unfortunate that these cards aren’t seeing any changes when it comes to new category bonuses — Citi added some to its Platinum Select card — adding 2x miles on restaurant and gas station purchases. And the 10% back on miles redeemed is a potential $140 loss to those who redeem 100,000 miles or more a year.

The changes are a mixed bag, and it still probably makes more sense to put most of your spending on a card that earns transferrable points. But like with most cobranded cards, it makes sense to hold on to them for the airline perks: the Aviator will continue to offer free checked bags, preferred boarding and now the new and revamped benefits.

Featured image by The Points Guy Staff.

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