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American Airlines Credit Cards: How to Get the Most Out of the AAdvantage Program

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American Airlines is one of the most popular airlines in the United States. They fly nearly 6,700 daily flights to 350 destinations across the U.S. and internationally in 50 countries. American Airlines frequent flyer program, AAdvantage, was created in May 1981, and we’ve been focused on the best ways to earn more miles ever since. And with so many choices available among the American Airlines credit cards, earning AAdvantage miles is incredibly easy and lucrative.

This article will cover:

Top 3 Reasons to Consider American Airlines’ Cards and Program

One of the primary reasons to focus on earning American Airlines miles is that they have amazing coverage across the globe. By flying with American Airlines or one of their partners, you’ll find an incredible assortment of options available to use your miles. You can earn AAdvantage miles in many ways thanks to the multiple options available in both personal and business credit cards. And when you look to redeem your miles for a flight, you can earn up to a 10 percent bonus in miles redeposited to your account each year.

1. American Airlines Is a Member of the Oneworld Alliance

If you’re thinking about getting an airline credit card, you’ll want to pick one that can help you get to the destinations you want to visit. That sounds obvious, but one of the worst things that can happen to you in the travel rewards world is to earn a bunch of miles and then not be able to use them for your dream vacation.
Not only does American Airlines fly to 350 destinations across the globe, they partner with 12 other airlines in the oneworld alliance. These 13 airlines fly 530 million passengers a year to over 1,000 destinations. That’s a thousand passengers boarding a oneworld alliance flight every minute, 24 hours a day.

2. American Airlines Miles Are Easy to Earn

AA miles are easy to earn towards free flights because they offer cards that will fit everyone’s budget. Whether you are looking for a low annual fee card or a credit card with premium benefits, you can find a card that fits your budget from one of American Airlines’ partners.

And you can earn even more American Airlines miles when you transfer from their partner, hotel brand Starwood Preferred Guest (aka SPG).

3. Get Rewarded for Redeeming Your Miles

You also want to earn rewards that get you the most bang for your buck. When you hold the right American Airlines credit card, you’ll get rewarded for redeeming your miles for flights with a bonus of up to 10 percent added back into your account each year. It’s almost like you’re getting paid to go on vacation.

This is one of my favorite perks of flying with American Airlines. Both my wife and I hold American Airlines credit cards and redeem miles each year so we can take advantage of this benefit.

Credit Cards That Earn American Airlines Miles

When looking to earn American Airlines rewards, you have several credit cards to pick from, as well as different issuers. Two banks offer AA credit cards that directly earn AAdvantage miles and another bank offers a card whose points can be easily converted into American Airlines miles with an opportunity for bonus miles.

Credit Card Options From Citibank

Citibank offers a few choices for consumers and businesses, ranging from a no annual fee credit card to a premium card that offers complimentary Admirals Club airport lounge access.

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is a good all-around credit card for people who fly American Airlines at least once a year. This card provides valuable benefits such as free checked bags and priority boarding for a reasonable annual fee of $95. It waives foreign transaction fees and offers a 25 percent discount on in-flight purchases of food and beverages.

With this credit card, you’ll earn 2x miles with American Airlines and when spending at restaurants and gas stations and 1x on everything else. If you spend more than $20,000 per calendar year on this credit card, you’ll receive a $100 discount on a future American Airlines flight when you pay the annual fee.

This credit card also provides access to reduced mileage awards where you can save up to 7,500 miles to specific destinations. We’ll talk about this further down this article.

For American Airlines frequent flyers, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is the one you want. It offers many of the benefits you love from the AAdvantage Platinum card, but with so much more, starting with Admirals Club lounge membership.

In fact, you can add up to 10 authorized users for no additional charge and they will also have access to the more than 50 Admirals Club lounges, even when they’re not flying with you.

The primary cardmember will receive a statement credit up to $100 every 5 years when you renew your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership with the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
If your goal is to qualify for status with American Airlines, this credit card will help you get there with the potential to earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 on the card per calendar year.

This credit card also provides access to reduced mileage awards where you can save up to 7,500 miles to specific destinations. The only downside to this credit card versus the Platinum version is that it doesn’t earn 2x miles at restaurants and gas stations.

Please note that the $450 annual fee is not waived the first year. But if you’re an American Airlines frequent flyer and you appreciate lounge access, this credit card is less expensive than purchasing an Admirals Club lounge membership at $550 for yourself or $925 for your household.

The Citi AAdvantage Gold World Elite MasterCard is the lowest annual fee credit card that you can apply for within the American Airlines family of cards. With an annual fee of $50, there are only a few benefits that come with this card.

The best benefits are a 25 percent discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases and the ability to save up to 5,000 miles on reduced mileage award redemptions. There are no bonus mileage earning categories, so every dollar you spend will only earn one mile, even when spending with American Airlines.

Because both the Platinum and Gold versions of the American Airlines card from Citibank waive the annual fee the first year, I would only recommend this card if you don’t plan on flying with American Airlines within the next two years but still want to earn American Airline miles via the sign-up bonus and daily spend.

If you will fly even once over the next two years, the $45 difference in annual fee ($95 vs. $50) between the Platinum and Gold will easily be recouped with no checked bag fees, priority boarding and the ability to earn 2x with American Airlines, restaurants, and gas stations.

Citibank used to offer a Bronze version of the American Airlines credit card that had no annual fee, but you can no longer apply for this card. If you are thinking of closing your Citibank AAdvantage credit card because of the annual fee, contact customer service to see if you can downgrade your credit card to a lower or no annual fee version of the card.

If you have a business or are thinking of starting one and like to earn American Airlines miles, the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard deserves a place in your wallet. You get many of the same benefits as the consumer version of the credit card, such as free checked bags, preferred boarding, a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverages and reduced mileage awards.

But there are two benefits of the CitiBusiness AAdvantage card that aren’t available with the consumer versions. First, this credit card earns 2x miles on spending with telecommunications, car rentals and at gas stations.

Most importantly, though, you can earn an American Airlines companion certificate upon renewal when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. With this certificate, your companion will fly for free after paying a small fee and government taxes.

Credit Card Options From Barclays

Barclays also offers American Airlines credit cards thanks to their prior relationship with US Airways, which merged with American Airlines in 2013. For a period of time, you could only apply for the Barclays Aviator cards at the airport or while flying, but now you can apply from the convenience of your computer.

Although there are several versions of the Barclays Aviators cards, the only two you can apply for are the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard for consumers and the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard.

The best benefits of the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard are the 10 percent rebate of your miles redeemed for flights (up to 10,000 miles back) and the ability to earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 per calendar year.

As is typical with other American Airlines credit cards, you’ll get first checked bag for free (for you and up to four companions), preferred boarding and a 25 percent discount on in-flight food and beverages. You’ll earn 2x miles when spending with American Airlines, but only 1x on everything else.

This American Airlines business card from Barclays closely mirrors the business card offered by Citibank. However, the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard offers a perk not available anywhere else.

You can earn a 5 percent mileage bonus on the total number of miles earned with the card each year after you renew the credit card. Depending on the volume your business spending, this benefit could be very valuable.

You’ll also earn 2x miles when spending with American Airlines and at office supply stores, on telecommunications and with car rental agencies, and 1x miles everywhere else. The first checked bag is free for you and up to four companions. This card also features priority boarding, 25% discount on in-flight purchases of food and beverages and no foreign transaction fees.

An American Airlines companion certificate can be earned each year when you spend $30,000 and renew the credit card. And, if you value status with American Airlines, you will earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $25,000 each calendar year.

And, if you have employees, you will receive employee cards at no charge so you can earn more AAdvantage miles faster.

Other Cards That Earn AAdvantage Miles

Starwood Preferred Guest is a transfer partner with American Airlines, so you can transfer SPG points to American Airlines. As a bonus, you’ll receive an extra 5,000 miles for every 20,000 SPG points that you convert into American Airlines miles.

Unfortunately, the American Express SPG card isn’t offering a point bonus at the moment. However, the Chase Marriott credit card has a 100,000-point bonus and Marriott points convert into SPG points.

With the Chase Marriott Card, not only will you receive 100,000 bonus points, you also receive an annual free night at any Marriott property that is 35,000 points or less. I keep both the personal and business Marriott cards active solely for the annual free night.

The math looks like this:

  • Marriott 100,000 bonus points + 5,000 points from meeting minimum spend = 105,000 Marriott points
  • Convert to SPG at 1:3 ratio: 105,000 / 3 = 35,000 SPG points
  • For every 20,000 SPG points transferred, earn 5,000 extra American Airlines miles: 35,000 + 5,000 = 40,000 AAdvantage miles

How to Get 277,000 American Airlines Miles In 5 Months

To book the trip of a lifetime in business or first class or to take your family on a wonderful vacation, you’re going to want to earn as many points as you can quickly. Here’s how to get 277,000 American Airlines miles in just five months.

Step 1

First Month: Apply for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard to earn 60,000 American Airlines miles after meeting the minimum spend of $3,000 in the first month. This will net you at least 63,000 miles.

Step 2

Second Month: Apply for the Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard to earn 50,000 AA miles with your first purchase on the card.

Step 3

Third Month: Apply for the Chase Marriott Premier Plus 100,000-point offer. Spend $5,000 this month to meet the minimum spend which will earn you at least 105,000 Marriott points. Convert the Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio to have 35,000 SPG points. Then transfer those points to American Airlines to earn 40,000 AAdvantage miles thanks to the 5,000 point bonus.

Step 4

Fourth Month: Apply for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard to earn 70,000 American Airlines miles after meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 this month. You’ll earn at least 74,000 miles with this card.

Step 5

Fifth Month: Apply for the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard and receive 50,000 American Airlines miles with your first purchase.

Which American Airlines Credit Card Is the Best?

After you get the sign-up bonus the first year, it may not make sense to keep multiple American Airlines credit cards. Let’s take a look at whether the Citi AAdvantage American Airlines card or the Barclays Aviator American Airlines is the right one for you to keep in your wallet.

Why Citi AAdvantage Is the Best American Airlines Card

There are two primary reasons why you should consider Citibank over Barclays when picking one American Airlines card—the premium Executive card offers complimentary Admirals Club airport lounge access and most Citibank cards offer reduced mileage awards where you can save up to 7,500 miles when flying to select destinations.

Why the Barclays Aviator Is the Best AAdvantage Card

Like many other banks, Citibank has been implementing rules to limit the number of credit card bonuses you can receive. Citibank’s “24-month rule” says that you cannot receive a bonus if you’ve opened or closed a Citibank AAdvantage credit card within the last 24 months. So, if you’ve opened or closed one of Citibank’s American Airlines cards recently, you may not be eligible to receive a bonus.

Barclays has not created such rules, so you are free to apply without fear of a silly rule stopping you from receiving a bonus. The Barclays cards offer benefits that mirror the Citibank cards in almost every way. And the business version offers a benefit not found anywhere else—a 5 percent bonus on all credit card spend!

Fly Further With American Airlines Off-Peak Award Redemptions

If you’re looking to stretch the value of your American Airlines rewards, you have the option to fly off-peak (aka lower demand times of the year) and receive huge discounts off normal award ticket prices.

Looking at the American Airlines award chart, you can see the value offered when redeeming for off-peak American Airlines reward travel.

If Hawaii is your destination of choice, you can fly from the 48 lower states to Hawaii for only 20,000 American Airlines miles one-way using off-peak awards. Normally, tickets to Hawaii start at 40,000 miles.

My family and I flew to Paris using off-peak awards and saved a ton of miles. Today, if you want to fly to Europe from the U.S., off-peak Economy tickets are only 22,500 miles each way versus the standard price of 47,500 miles each way. That’s a savings of over 50 percent!

Where Can You Travel With American Miles

With 6,700 daily flights to 350 destinations across the U.S. and internationally in 50 countries, you can literally fly almost anywhere around the globe when redeeming American Airlines miles for flights. Personally, AAdvantage miles are my preferred choice to accumulate for international travel for my family and me.

Popular American Airlines World Hubs

American Airlines Oneworld Partners

Because American Airlines belongs to the oneworld alliance, you can also redeem American Airlines miles with one of their 12 airline partners. Combined, these 13 airlines fly 530 million passengers a year to over 1,000 destinations around the world.

Sometimes you will find better flight availability or accommodations with American Airlines’ partners over redeeming for flights on American Airlines with their own miles. If you are having trouble finding the flights you want on American “metal” (codeword for American Airlines’ branded planes), perform some searches to see what flight options are available on their partners.


If you’re looking to earn miles to fly with American Airlines, you have several choices to pick from. Citibank offers multiple flavors of the AAdvantage card, including a premium version that includes complimentary access to the Admirals Club airport lounges for you and up to 10 authorized users. If you’re subject to Citibank’s rules and are ineligible for a bonus, never fear because the Barclays credit cards are excellent options for both consumers and small business owners.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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