Should I Get an American Airlines Credit Card?

American Airlines is unique in that it offers credit cards with two separate issuers: Barclaycard and Citibank. Both of these issuers offer great sign-up bonuses and make these cards some of the most valuable travel credit cards available. Here’s a look at the American Airlines credit card offered and some of their highlights.

Barclaycard

Barclaycard offers the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® which comes with the following offer:

  • Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after your first purchase (standard offer is 40,000)
  • Annual fee $95 (not waived)
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Group 1 boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic flights operated by American
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • 10% of your redeemed miles back on redemptions (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year)
  • Reduced Mileage Awards — Fly to great destinations on American Airlines operated flights for up to 7,500 fewer AAdvantage miles for flights in the US and to/from Canada.
  • No foreign transaction fees

I’m a big fan of the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® because you don’t have to worry about hitting a “true” spending requirement.  All you have to do is make single purchase, and just like that, you’ve earned the sign-up bonus. The drawback is that the $95 annual fee is not waived. But that means that this offer is essentially like paying $95 for 50,000 AAdvantage miles which is a deal that I would take any day.

Citibank

Citibank offers the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard®  which comes with the following offer:

  • 60,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening (standard offer is 30,000)
  • $95 annual fee waived the first year
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Group 1 boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic flights operated by American
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back – up to 10, 000 AAdvantage®miles each calendar year.
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • Reduced Mileage Awards — Fly to great destinations on American Airlines operated flights for up to 7,500 fewer AAdvantage® miles for flights in the US and to/from Canada.
  • No foreign transaction fees

Citibank also offers a business version of this card called the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®. This card is substantially the same as the personal version but earns 2X on select business categories including telecommunications, car rental merchants and gas stations. The business version does not come with the 10% rebate, however. ‘

Citibank also offers a premium American Airlines card called the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard® which comes with a $450 annual fee. You can read more about that card here.

Citi has the advantage (no pun intended) of offering the bigger bonus (sometimes — this 60,000 offer is not always around) and the annual fee is waived the first year. So if you can hit the minimum spend for the personal and small business versions, you’re able to score up to 120,000 AAdvantage miles without paying an annual fee, which is very impressive. And if you factor in the 10% rebate (up to 10,000), that’s a total of 130,000 AAdvantage miles in your account for free.

American is not a transfer partner of a major rewards program

Unlike other domestic carriers such as United, Delta, Jet Blue, and Southwest, American is not a transfer partner to any major rewards program (SPG aside). You can still book American Airlines flights with miles from partners but there’s no way to earn American miles with cards from issuers like Chase, Amex, and Citi.

This makes the need for American Airlines cards greater since you can’t rely on point transfers from other programs to build up your AAdvantage miles balance. So this should be a big consideration for you when deciding if you should pursue an AAdvantage card.

Should I get the Citi or Barclaycard American Airlines credit card?

There’s really not a big difference between these cards so I think this comes down to your personal preference: do you want to go with Barclaycard or Citibank? One reason you might choose one over the other is if you’re in violation of an application rule. For example, if you’ve opened 2 Citi cards within the past 65 days, you’ll need to hold off on applying for a Citi card because you will get denied due to the Citi application rules.

For people planning an aspirational trip flying all business or first class, I recommend for them to go for the Barclaycard and the two Citi Platinum Select cards (with $95 annual fees waived the first year). Since there’s no minimum spend requirement on the Barclaycard, it’s much easier to hit the sign-up bonuses on all three of these cards than it would be for others. And since the annual fee is waived on the two Citi cards, you get away with only spending $95 for your miles.

This presents you with the chance to earn up to 170,000 AAdvantage miles. With that many miles you can do a lot.

Redeeming possibilities

One reason people don’t pursue these credit cards is that the award inventory on American Airlines is sub-par. It can be really difficult to find decent awards that don’t involve horrendous layovers or red-eye departure times, etc. But to me, the beauty of AA miles is that you can use them to redeem on American partners, which are some of the top airlines in the world.

For example, with 170,000 those miles you could book:

  • Etihad First Class Apartment or Qatar first class for one way to or from the Middle East at 115,000 miles
  • Etihad or Qatar business class roundtrip to or from the Middle East at 140,000
  • Cathay Pacific business class roundtrip to Asia at 140,000
  • Roundtrip business class to Europe at 115,000
  • Roundtrip in business class to Africa at 150,000
  • Two roundtrip business class tickets to Hawaii at 160,000
The Etihad Apartment, booked with AA miles.

Final word

American Airlines offers four different credit cards available to the public. By jumping on a couple of these at the right time, you can earn up a ton of AA miles that you can use on premium redemptions on airlines like Etihad, Qatar, and Cathay Pacific. What’s more, you can do all of this while paying minimal annual fees since the first year annual fees on the Citi Platinum Select cards are waived.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *