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July 5, 2017

Which American Airlines Credit Card is Right for You?

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Are you a American Airlines fan or just want to start earning miles for future flights? These are the credit cards to consider for AAdvantage miles.

The options for American Airlines cards are rather limited. There are not a lot of credit cards that earn or can be transferred to AAdvantage miles.

There are two issuers that offer cards that earn AA miles: Citi and Barclaycard.

Besides those, there's also the Starwood Credit Card (from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner) that earns Starpoints, which can be transferred to American Airlines.

And unfortunately, there's no option with no annual fee.

Here are the credit cards you should not ignore to get AA miles. We'll break down the differences so you can figure out which one is best for you.

How to Decide Which AA card Is Right for You

American Airlines Airbus A330-243
American Airlines Airbus A330-243 © Oliver Holzbauer (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

To decide which card is right for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much do you value perks and benefits? Is getting things like free checked bags and priority boarding important to you? If so, you'll want to look into one of the Citi and American Airlines co-branded cards. We feel the best value is the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, which offers good perks for just an annual fee of $95.

  • What about luxury benefits? The Citi AAdvantage Executive is the only AA consumer credit card that offers some luxury travel perks, such as lounge access. It's also the only card that gives you the opportunity to earn AA Elite Qualifying Miles, which you can use to score cabin upgrades.

  • Do you prefer more flexibility? If you don't want to be limited to just AA (and its partners), then the only card that lets you transfer to other airlines as well is the AMEX SPG. You also get the option to trade points for hotel nights. Other popular North American partner carriers include Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, Air Canada, and Alaskan Airlines.

  • How much do you fly a year? Most travel reward cards come with an annual fee, so you'd have to be a semi-frequent flyer to make it worthwhile. The card with the lowest annual fee is the Citi AAdvantage Gold Mastercard. The fee is still $50 a year though, so you'd have to think about how often you fly.

Note: Citi Prestige used to be a favorite luxury travel card for frequent American Airlines flyers because of certain AA benefits. It used to offer complimentary Admiral Club access. And you could redeem ThankYou points toward travel on AA at a higher 1.6 cents redemption rate. However, these benefits was removed as of 7/23/2017 and there are no more extra advantages for AA flyers.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select: For American Perks

Citi AAdvantage offers 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. This card lets you enjoy preferred boarding on American Airline domestic flights. You also get the first checked bag free on domestic AA itineraries for you (and up to 4 companions traveling with you on the same reservation). There is a $95 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months).

Plus, you can earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back (up to 10,000 miles each calendar year).

You also get a 25% discount for in-flight food and beverage purchases on all eligible American Airlines flights.

Citi also offers Reduced Mileage Awards with all their AA cards. This means that you can book a flight with fewer miles. For this card, you can get a mileage discount of up to 7,500 miles for a round-trip flight (or 3,750 miles one-way).

Tip: The Reduced Mileage Awards are only to specific destinations each month. The availability changes monthly. This is great if you happen to go somewhere that's one of the reduced mileage destination. You can keep track of the destinations and availability here.

The annual fee is $95, but it's already more than worth it if you just fly once a year with a family of four (or twice a year with one other person), and each person checks a bag. In addition, there is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95).

Barclaycard Aviator Red

Barclaycard also has a series of Aviator cards co-branded with American Airlines.

When US Airways and American AAdvantage merged programs back in 2015, existing US Airway cardholders were given new AA Aviator cards. Of the 5 different Aviator cards, the only one available for new applications is the Aviator Red.

The Aviator Red is very similar to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select in terms of rewards and benefits. You get 2x points on eligible AA purchases and 1x point on everything else. You get the 1st bag checked free and priority boarding for you and 4 companions, as well as 25% off in-flight purchases. You also get 10% of the miles back each year and a MileSAAver discount of up to 7,500 miles. The annual fee is also $95.

So which is better? For now, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select has the edge because it offers a bigger sign-up bonus.

Note: The information for Barclaycard Aviator cards has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Pricing information as of June 4th, 2017.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select

For the same $95 annual fee, the Business version of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select offers some great additional benefits.

Besides the 2x on AA purchases, you also get bonus points in popular business categories like telecommunication services, car rentals, and gas stations.

And in addition to all the flight perks, you also get an American Airlines Companion Certificate each year, after spending more than $30,000 in purchases. You pay just $99 (plus government taxes & fees) for a companion domestic economy round-trip ticket along with your own eligible fare. If you spend enough to make use of this, this could be a few hundred in savings.

Tip: Employee cards are also free and will help earn AA miles. The only thing is that you don't get the 10% miles back bonus when you redeem.

Note: The information for CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Pricing information as of June 4th, 2017.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite: For Luxury Travelers

With an annual fee of $450, this is the luxury card for frequent American Airline flyers.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive card allows you (and two guests) access into Admiral Clubs. Authorized users also get complimentary lounge access. You also get a $100 credit every 5 years for Global Entry or TSA Pre application. There is also a dedicated concierge service to help with any tasks.

Other flight benefits (for domestic flights) include free 1st checked baggage, priority check-in, priority screening, and early boarding. These are available for you and 8 companions on your reservation. You also get a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.

This is also the only card that can earn you Elite Qualifying Miles, which can be used to buy cabin upgrades. However, you have to be a big spender to earn the EQMs.

The annual fee is steep at $450, but if you mainly travel on American Airlines, the lounge access could make it very worthwhile. Especially as it includes access for guests and authorized users as well. This card is best for big spenders who fly a lot on American Airlines per year.

Note: The information for Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Pricing information as of June 4th, 2017.

 

Citi AAdvantage

Citi AAdvantage Executive

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Purchase APR16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$95 annual fee, waived for first 12 months*$450 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Airline DealIntroductory Bonus Airline Rewards: Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.Introductory Bonus Airline Rewards: Limited Time Offer: Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
AirlineAirline Rewards: Earn Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.Airline Rewards: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
Bonus Airline RewardsBonus Airline Rewards: Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back - up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*Bonus Airline Rewards: Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
Airline StatusAirline Status: Your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries (for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation).
Enjoy Preferred Boarding on American Airlines domestic flights.
Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.
Airline Status: Admirals Club® membership. Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users.
Your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries (for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation).
Enjoy Preferred Boarding on American Airlines domestic flights.
Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

Citi AAdvantage: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on July 15, 2017 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Citi AAdvantage Executive: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on July 26, 2017 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Citi AAdvantage Gold MasterCard: Low Fee but Is It Worth It?

And at the other end of the spectrum, the Citi AAdvantage Gold is the lowest tier offered by Citi, at just a $50 annual fee. But is it even worth that?

The benefits are very, very limited. You don't get a free checked bag or priority boarding. And you only get 1x mile on every dollar spent. Plus, this is the only Citi AA card that has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

However, the sign-up bonus is not terrible. It's enough for a free domestic round-trip fare. And this card offers a Reduced Mileage Award savings of up to 5,000 miles round-trip (or 2,500 one way). If you take advantage of that, it easily justifies the $50 fee. Besides, it's waived the first year.

Note: The information for Citi AAdvantage Gold has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Pricing information as of June 4th, 2017.

 

Citi AAdvantage

Citi AAdvantage Gold

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for PurchasesN/A0%* introductory APR for 15 months*
Introductory APR for Balance TransfersN/A0%* introductory APR for 15 months*
Purchase APR16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.99% to 24.99%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.99% to 24.99%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Foreign Transaction FeeNo foreign transaction fee3% of each purchase transaction in US dollars.
Annual Fee$95 annual fee, waived for first 12 months*$50 annual fee, waived for first 12 months*
 

Benefits and Features

Airline DealIntroductory Bonus Airline Rewards: Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.Introductory Bonus Airline Rewards: Earn 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $750 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
AirlineAirline Rewards: Earn Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.Airline Rewards: Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on purchases
Bonus Airline RewardsBonus Airline Rewards: Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back - up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year* 
Airline StatusAirline Status: Your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries (for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation).
Enjoy Preferred Boarding on American Airlines domestic flights.
Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.
Airline Status: Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

Citi AAdvantage: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on July 15, 2017 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Citi AAdvantage Gold: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on September 5, 2017 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Starwood: For Flexibility and Earning Hotel Nights

The AMEX SPG (from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner) is technically a hotel card, but you can transfer your Starpoints to over 20 airline partners, including American Airlines.

And as an added bonus, every time you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to an airline partner, you automatically get a bonus of 5,000 points. So this effectively boosts each point's value by 25%.

Since this card allows you to transfer points to different airline partners, this makes it the most flexible option. You can transfer to other airlines if it makes more sense to do so. Just note that with this card, you'll lose AA perks like free checked bags and priority boarding.

Don't overlook the potential free nights part of this card either. Starpoints are highly valued in the hotel world. The award chart is priced well and each point is often worth 2 cents or more based on our estimates. That makes this one of our favorite cards for earning hotel nights and award airfare.

 

Citi AAdvantage

Starwood Preferred Guest

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Purchase APR16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.24% to 20.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR16.74% to 24.74%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.24% to 20.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$95 annual fee, waived for first 12 months*$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
 Terms Apply See Rates & Fees
 

Benefits and Features

Airline DealIntroductory Bonus Airline Rewards: Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. 
Hotel Deal Introductory Bonus Hotel Rewards: Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Travel 
AirlineAirline Rewards: Earn Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.Airline Rewards: Transfer Starpoints to more than 30 airline frequent flyer programs, mostly on a one-to-one basis.
Redeem Starpoints® for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, with no blackout dates.
Bonus Airline RewardsBonus Airline Rewards: Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back - up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*Bonus Airline Rewards: Get 5,000 bonus Starpoints after you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program with more than 30 airlines
Hotel Hotel Rewards: Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries, with no blackout dates.
Airline StatusAirline Status: Your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries (for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation).
Enjoy Preferred Boarding on American Airlines domestic flights.
Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.
 
Hotel Status Hotel Status: Premium on-property Internet Access. Booking requirements apply.
Earn SPG Gold Status by spending $30,000 or more on your Card in a calendar year. Receive credit for 5 nights toward SPG elite status each year.
Airline Transfer Partners Airline Transfer Partners: Airline transfer partners include American Airlines, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, British Airways, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France (Flying Blue), Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles), Virgin Atlantic, Avianca, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Etihad, Asiana Airlines, Air China, Alitalia, Air Berlin, Jet Airways, China Southern Airlines, Japan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Thai Airways, Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines, Miles and More, All Nippon Airways, China Eastern, and more.

Citi AAdvantage: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on July 15, 2017 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

About American AAdvantage Miles: What Are They Worth?

American Airlines Airbus A330-243
American Airlines Airbus A330-243 © Oliver Holzbauer (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

American Airlines has 2 types of awards:

  • AAnytime: This basically allows you to buy any seat on any flight with miles. There's total flexibility. You can also change flights with no penalty, as long as there's an available seat.

    AAnytime awards come in Level 1 or Level 2, with Level 2 needing more miles. Level 2 is generally for peak season travel, holidays, etc.

  • MileSAAver: This is only available for AAdvantage credit card holders. Flights can be booked for a lot fewer miles (for example, 12,500 MileSAAver miles for a one-way within the continental U.S., as opposed to 20,000 AAnytime miles), but there's less flexibility. There are only a certain number of available MileSAAver award seats.

    There is also an off-peak MileSSAver award. It would cost you even fewer miles to go to certain destinations during off seasons. For example, flying from the continental U.S. to Europe would cost 22,500 miles during off-peak, as opposed to 30,000 miles normally.

Here are how many miles you'd need with the MileSAAver awards. These are all for one-way flights starting from the continental U.S.:

  • Domestic, less than 500 miles: 7,500
  • Domestic, more than 500 miles: 12,500
  • Canada & Alaska: 15,000
  • Hawaii: 22,500 (20,000 off-peak)
  • Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America: 15,000 (12,500 off-peak)
  • North South America: 20,000 (17,500 off-peak)
  • South South America: 30,000
  • Europe: 30,000 (22,500 off-peak)
  • Asia: 35,000 (32,500 off-peak)
  • South Pacific: 40,000

Take a look at the American Airlines award chart.

American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, so if you're going somewhere American doesn't fly, you can use your AA miles to book flights on any of its partners. The oneworld partners are:

  • Airberlin*
  • British Airways*
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair*
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LAN
  • TAM
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas*
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian*
  • S7 Airlines

Additional partners include:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines*
  • Cape Air
  • El Al
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airlines
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines*
  • Jet Airways
  • Jetstar
  • Seabourne
  • WestJet

* These are the partner airlines you can book online. For the others, you have to call and book by phone.

Tip: American Airlines usually doesn't collect fuel surcharges, EXCEPT on partner airlines British Airways and Iberia long-haul flights.

BOTTOM LINE

There are many cards you can use to earn AAdvantage miles. Picking the right one for you depends on what you value, how often you fly, and your spending habits.

In general, we'd say that the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select will be adequate for most American fans. You get good perks, such as free checked bags, priority boarding, and MileSAAver awards for a decent annual fee of $95. The heavy spenders and very frequent American flyers could get the full benefits out the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite. And those who aren't ready to fully commit to one airline would appreciate the flexibility of the AMEX SPG.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Citi Prestige® Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, and Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.