[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
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
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
- Admirals Club® membership for you and guests with you*
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year*
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
Card Details +
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.) (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
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).
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
- 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 flights*
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
- Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
- Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
Card Details +
Signup Bonus: For a limited time, cardholders can earn 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if they spend $2,500 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. You get preferred boarding on American Airlines flights. 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.
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 17.49% - 25.49%* (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 50,000 miles if they spend $3,000 within three months of account opening (equivalent to $500 in travel).
Rewards Details: You get unlimited two miles per dollar on all your purchases as well as ten miles per dollar for purchases on hotels.com/venture (learn more at hotels.com/venture). These miles can be redeemed as a statement credit for any airfare, hotel stay or other eligible travel expense.
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Purchase APR: 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable), depending on your credit
Discover it® Miles
- We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
- Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
- No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
- Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
- Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
- Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No Annual Fee.
Card Details +
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.
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.