Why I canceled my AAdvantage Aviator Red Card

May 10, 2021

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American Airlines offers one of the most robust portfolios of cobranded credit cards, with more than 10 options to choose from with two issuers: Barclays and Citi. While it’s nice to have options, too much of anything can feel like a con.

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Before the pandemic, Caroline English, TPG’s social media manager, decided to apply for the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard, thanks to a generous sign-up bonus.

The information for the Aviator Red 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.

The chance to earn tons of AA miles and a companion certificate

While English wasn’t actively looking for a new card at the time, she was motivated by the limited-time sign-up bonus. At the time, she earned 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles and a companion certificate (for $99, plus taxes and fees) after making her first purchase within 90 days of account opening.

Related: Your guide to airline credit card companion tickets

Just by buying a $1 chocolate bar, she was able to get 60,000 miles (worth $840 according to TPG valuations) and a companion certificate — a stellar deal at the time.

Then the pandemic happened

If you’re able to take advantage of the Aviator Red card’s perks, you can enhance your AA flying experience. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As a long-time Chase fan and New York resident, English rarely flew American. But she wanted to diversify her points portfolio and thought the deal was too good to pass up. Before the pandemic, she anticipated that she would fly on American quite a bit in 2020, as TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures, has headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina — an American Airlines hub — and she wanted to rack up as many miles as possible.

That all changed when the pandemic struck, changing the travel industry forever. Soon, English found her new stash of miles — and her new companion certificate — virtually unusable.

Related: How to redeem miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage program

While travel has picked up in recent months, English still doesn’t feel comfortable traveling quite yet. AA miles expire after 18 months of no activity, but it’s easy to prevent this from happening (even if you’re not flying). For instance, any activity on a shopping or dining portal can easily trigger account activity and prevent your miles from expiring.

Related: Points are still expiring in the pandemic — how I just lost 48,000 of them

An expiring companion pass

On the other hand, English’s companion pass is set to expire on June 30. Other TPG readers have had success extending expiring benefits, so she decided to give it a go. Around the time she had to pay the $99 annual fee again, she called American’s customer service to get her companion pass extended.

To her dismay, the customer service representative did not grant her a pass extension. As a result, English decided to cancel her card before the annual fee was charged again.

“Had they actually extended it, I would have paid $300 for my pass (two annual fees, plus the $99 to book with it), making it not really worthwhile anyway,” said English. “It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to use it, but 2020 was just so unpredictable.”

Bottom line

The year 2020 was like no other. Like English, many of us applied for credit cards to make our travel aspirations a reality before the pandemic descended. If you’re in a similar boat and weren’t able to take advantage of your card’s perks this past year, you have a couple of options. You can call your card issuer for an extension of a benefit or perhaps try to get your annual fee waived.

Related: TPG readers find success with retention bonuses

If all else fails, you can cancel your card if you can’t justify paying the annual fee. As travel picks up, many travel cards can help your 2021 travel dreams come true, so you’ll want to apply now to give yourself time to lock in that sign-up bonus.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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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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