[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]
[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace.]
If you live in a hub or you simply like to fly one particular carrier all the time, then an airline miles credit card could, quite literally, be your ticket to first-class. Most major airlines offer co-branded credit cards that help their frequent fliers rack up miles, skip paying certain travel fees and enjoy a bevy of ancillary travel perks that can make the experience of flying much less stressful. American Airlines is no exception. It offers a suite of AAdvantage credit cards through a partnership with Citi that pairs with the AAdvantage frequent flier program. That program helps you earn miles that can put be toward award tickets, upgrades, hotel stays, rental cars and vacation packages. Two of these American Airlines credit cards, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Citibank AAdvantage Platinum, are for personal use. (The Citi AAdvantage Business credit card is — you guessed it — for businesses.) Both feature no foreign transaction fees, a 25% discount on in-flight purchases and reduced mileage deals. In this AAdvantage credit card review, we’ll break down the major terms associated with each personal American Airlines credit card and outline how to decide which might be right for you.
The Best Credit Cards for American Airlines Fliers in 2017
Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 75,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if they spend $7,500 within the first three months of opening their account. (Note: Signup bonuses are subject to frequent change so be sure to check the issuer’s website for the most recent offer.)
Rewards Details: You get two miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent everywhere else. You can also score 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) every year you spend $40,000. Plus, you get an Admiral’s Club membership, which includes partner lounge access for you and guests with you, a free checked bag on domestic American airline flights for you and up to eight other travelers, VIP airport treatment, which includes priority check-in and priority boarding privileges, and a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit (up to $100 every five years, so long as you charge the application fee to the card, of course).
Annual Fee: $450
Purchase Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 16.74% - 24.74%* (Variable), depending on your credit
Signup Bonus: For a limited time, cardholders can earn 30,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if they spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening their account.
Rewards Details: Just like with the Executive World Elite Mastercard, you get 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere, but the secondary travel perks are decidedly less swanky. There’s no annual 10,000 EQMs bonus option, though you do earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles each calendar year. You get Group 1 boarding on domestic American Airlines flights, not priority boarding or priority check-in. You also get a free checked bag, but that perk can only be extended to four of your travel companions, not eight, and there’s no Admiral’s Club membership.
Annual Fee: $95, waived for first 12 months*
Purchase APR: 16.74% - 24.74%* (Variable), depending on your credit
Which Card Should I Get?
Well, for starters, if you don’t fly American Airlines or you do so infrequently, neither card is quite right for your wallet. Travelers whose patronage is more varied may want to opt for a general-purpose travel rewards card that earns miles that can be redeemed with more than one carrier (more on these cards in a minute.) Second, airline miles and rewards credit cards in general aren’t the best for folks prone to carrying a balance. That 16.74% - 24.74%* (Variable), after all, will very swiftly nullify any miles you’ve earned.
If you are a dedicated American Airlines customer, well, then you’ll need to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which card you’re better off going with. The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard clearly touts the better benefits, but they’re in exchange for a much bigger $450 annual fee that’ll you have to pay that first year and beyond. Given that, you’ll need to consider if you fly and spend enough to recoup the cost. If you’re struggling with crunching the numbers, the annual bonus that comes with the Executive World Elite can serve as at least an initial benchmark: Remember, you’ll only get those 10,000 EQMs annual bonus award if you spend $40,000 a year.
Alternatives to the American Airlines Credit Cards
As we stated earlier, if you fly frequently, but you don’t board an American Airlines plane each time, consider instead a solid, general-purpose travel rewards credit card. Here are two of the better ones on the market.
Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 40,000 miles if they spend $3,000 within three months of account opening (equivalent to $400 in travel).
Rewards Details: You get unlimited two miles per dollar on all your purchases that can be redeemed as a statement credit for any airfare, hotel stay or other eligible travel expense.
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Purchase APR: 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable), depending on your credit
Signup Bonus: Discover is matching all the miles their new cardholders earn during their first year at the end of year. So, if you earn 30,000 miles, you’ll actually get 60,000.
Rewards Details: You get 1.5 miles per dollar spent back on all purchases that can be redeemed as statement credit toward travel purchases.
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: Variable 11.99% to 23.99%, after an initial 14-month 0% introductory APR on purchases expires.
One last note: Solid rewards credit cards generally require good-to-excellent credit, so you should check to see where you stand before you apply for one of these cards. Otherwise, you risk generating a hard inquiry on your credit, which can hurt your credit score, just to get rejected. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
At publishing time, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Rewards, Capital One Venture Rewards and Discover it Miles credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
This article has been updated. It was originally published on June 5, 2016.