The Best Credit Cards for American Airlines Fliers

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The American Airlines AAdvantage program is chock full of value, especially for those that know how to use its nifty award map that shows places you can travel for the cheapest number of miles. Despite being the largest airline in the world, using American’s long list of airline partners like Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways, Qantas, and Qatar Airways can prove to be quite fruitful.

American’s redemption chart is among one of the best of North American airlines. It hasn’t been devalued to the level of United (Delta doesn’t have one anymore, which is especially confusing). But you can’t really benefit until you rack up those miles.

Below you’ll find a few credit card strategies to help exemplify the best credit cards for American Airlines fliers. This guide is for everyone – from the infrequent flier to the loyal American Airlines road warrior. See where you stack up and start collecting the miles. Whichever card you get, be sure to take advantage of the generous discounts American gives to many of its co-branded credit cardholders.

Best Credit Cards For American Airlines Fliers: The Occasional Fliers

Even if you don’t take to the skies on a regular basis, American miles can provide incredible value for your next dream vacation. They can also be used for a variety of redemptions from merchandise and magazines to hotel stays. Read on to learn about the best credit cards for American Airlines fliers.

American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Red Credit Card

The American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Red Credit Card comes with a large 60,000-mile sign-up bonus after first purchase and payment of the low $95 annual fee. This makes it popular for infrequent fliers looking to rack up lots of miles from the get-go. Cardholders get double miles for American Airlines purchases, but only a single mile per dollar spent on everything else.

This card is often promoted on American Airlines flights, but there can be better signup offers online that are worth considering. There are also benefits that are akin to having elite status, such as preferred boarding for you and up to four companions and waived check bag fees. Even if you travel a few times a year, this can cover the annual fee cost easily. If you spend at least $30,000 on the card, you’ll receive a $100 American Airlines travel credit.

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard also comes with a 50,000-mile signup bonus, but it requires that you spend $2,500 within the first three months of having the card to score the extra miles.

Citi AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard

For a card with a low annual fee, the American Airlines AAdvantage Gold is a decent “starter” card. But it should be noted that its perks are quite limited with only one mile per dollar spent on all purchases.

While its annual fee is waived the first year, it does not come with waivers for foreign transaction fees or checked bags. That alone significantly reduces its value. Its best feature is the option to redeem as few as 5,000 miles for one-way, short-haul awards.

American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business card

Business owners may find that the American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business card is a solid earner because it earns double miles not only on American purchases, but also on several other bonus categories like office supply stores, rental cars, and cell phone bills. If you travel infrequently, these categories could help your mileage balance to add up much more quickly. Plus at the end of the year, cardholders get a bonus reward equal to 5% of all the miles they earned that year.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp

The new American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card is another good option for those that don’t fly a lot but spend in other categories. It does not have an annual fee and offers double miles on grocery store and American Airlines purchases. It even has a signup bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit for spending $500 within the first three months. That’s pretty good considering how little you have to spend. This deal makes this card one of the best credit cards for American Airlines fliers.

citi/aadvantage credit card Best Credit Cards For American Airlines Fliers

Best Credit Cards For American Airlines Fliers: The Frequent Fliers

American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business card

The American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business card is a great way to earn more miles when shopping thanks to its double miles in certain spending categories. Frequent travelers will find solid value in it thanks to its 25% discount on in-flight purchases like food and drinks. There is also a 5% mileage bonus based on eligible purchases in the cardmembership year.

It’s a solid card for frequent travelers (especially those that rent cars) because it comes with elite status-type perks including priority boarding, no checked bag fees (for up to four people), and no foreign transaction fees. These may be normal perks for those with elite status, but frequent fliers that may not be loyal to one airline will find substantial savings with this card.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

If you travel a lot and put all of your eggs in the OneWorld basket, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard can be worth its weight in gold. While it comes with a $450 annual fee, it brings Admirals Club lounge access. While the Citi Prestige card also comes with lounge access, it requires that you fly American to gain access.

This card brings lounge access no matter what airline you are flying. You can even use it on arrival after landing from a flight. Authorized users (free to add them) get lounge access and the associated perks (free checked bags, priority boarding, etc). Plus it has one of the best offers available. The 75,000 bonus miles after spending $7,500 within the first 3 months of card ownership is a good deal.

This card is a solid option for frequent American fliers is that it earns two miles per dollar spent on AA flights. It only earns one mile per dollar spent on everything else though. This is the kind of card to use when buying flights, but not when spending on other things since the mileage earning is weak on non-flight purchases. If you do plan to use the card for everything, note that there are no foreign transaction fees if using the card overseas.

If the chase for elite status is important, this card comes with the opportunity to score 10,000 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. This is especially important because the only other way to earn EQMs is by flying. This can help some travelers reach elite status more quickly.

American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Silver Credit Card

There’s also the American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Silver Credit Card, which is a Barclays premium card. You can’t apply for it right away either. It’s typically an upgrade from the Aviator Red card. The $195 annual fee has some nice benefits for frequent fliers. It comes with priority boarding and free checked bags for as many as eight people. It also offers a 25% discount for onboard purchases and a 10% bonus (up to 10,000 miles) at the end of the year based on how many you earned in a calendar year.

Other perks of the card include two $99 companion certificates after having spent $30,000 in a calendar year and 5,000 EQMs for every $20,000 spent (up to 10,000 EQMs). There’s also a $100 statement credit for Global Entry. This card is especially valuable for frequent travelers that need to reach the threshold for elite status. It is the only way to earn EQMs without flying.

Bottom Line When Deciding on the Best Credit Cards For American Airlines Fliers

When it comes to choosing the best credit cards for American Airlines fliers, knowledge is power. Knowing your spending patterns becomes especially important as you’ll want to earn for what you’re already spending on. Infrequent travelers are not putting a lot of airfare charges on their cards while frequent fliers probably are. Find a card with a bonus point earning in different categories that best fits you.

Ramsey Qubein

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The Best Credit Cards for American Airlines Fliers
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About the Author

Ramsey Qubein
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist and correspondent for Northstar Travel Media covering the hotel and airline industry from every corner of the globe. He has traveled to 144 countries (many more than two dozen times) and lived in both Madrid and Paris. His work has appeared in numerous consumer and industry publications including Travel+Leisure, Premier Traveler, Islands, Business Traveller, Singapore Airlines' Silver Kris, and US Airways magazines. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and completed a Master’s Degree thesis researching various aspects of marketing/branding in the travel industry. Ramsey is highly recognized as an expert in travel loyalty programs, business travel and the luxury travel segment. He flies nearly 350,000 miles per year and estimates he has circumnavigated the globe more than 80 times. He is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio programs and contributor to USA Today, Fox News, BBC, Frommers, and AirfareWatchdog. Ramsey enjoys participating on travel panels or roundtables and is frequently quoted on travel-related subjects. Interested editors are welcome to contact him for any freelance writing needs related to business travel, aviation, or the hotel industry.

2 Comments on "The Best Credit Cards for American Airlines Fliers"

  1. Patricia Bunyard | August 14, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Reply

    There is confusion on your comments Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and misleading. It seems you are talking about the American Airlines AAdvantage Gold. The Platinum Select does not have Foreign Exchange fees, and it does come with free checked bags and preferred boarding. Recently added perks of 2X miles for restaurants and uping trip cancellation insurance to $5000 make it a much nicer card to hold. I am not sure the AA Gold is being offered at this time.

    • You’re right, the title of that section was misleading as we are referring to the Gold version of the card. We have revised the title of that section, thanks!

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