Despite the recent devaluation, AAdvantage still remains one of the most valuable frequent flyer programs in North America. There are many reasons for that, one of which is the sheer number of American partner airlines you can fly on using AAdvantage miles. Between the oneworld alliance and additional airline partnerships, American has 22 strategic partners that can take you to every corner of the world.
The best way to earn AAdvantage miles on the ground is via American’s co-branded credit cards issued by Citibank. There are three cards to choose from.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases in the first three months. Additional benefits include first checked bag free for the cardholder and up to four companions, priority boarding, 25 percent off eligible in-flight purchases, 10 percent redeemed miles rebate (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year), reduced mileage awards to select destinations, and no foreign transaction fees. In addition, you get two miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, and the $95 fee is waived for the first year.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® is a small business card that offers the same benefits as the personal card plus double miles for select business categories and gas stations, a free annual Companion Certificate after spending $30,000 a year, some business accounting tools, and access to a Personal Business Assistant for travel and dining arrangements. A minor downside of this card though, is that the first checked bag is free for the cardholder only.
Even if you don’t run a small business, that doesn’t mean you’re not eligible for a business credit card. If you have any kind of side business from selling on Ebay to freelance or consulting work, banks will treat it as a side business as long as you’re honest about your income and other details. If you don’t have a separate EIN or ITIN number, just enter your SSN in the appropriate field and use your name as your company name.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® offers 50,000 miles after $5,000 in purchases in the first three months and a lot of other valuable perks, such as access to the Admiral Clubs and oneworld lounges for the cardholder or an authorized user and their family or guests, first checked bag free for the cardholder and up to eight companions, Global Entry or TSA Pre fee credit, VIP Enhanced Airport Experience (priority check, priority screening, and priority boarding), 25 percent off eligible in-flight purchases, 10 percent redeemed miles rebate (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year), Reduced Mileage Awards to select destinations, and no foreign transaction fees. You also get double miles for eligible American Airlines purchases.
American Express Cards
American Express doesn’t have co-branded AA cards, but it does issue personal and business Starwood Guest Preferred cards with a sign-up bonus of 75,000 and 100,000 points respectively. The Amex SPG cards are not associated with American Airlines, but the hotel program is unusual in that you can transfer SPG points to over 30 different airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Other hotel programs have much worse transfer rates.
You can get even better, 1:1.25 rates, if you transfer 20,000 SPG miles or more. You can find the Amex SPG applications here:
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card: a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Using the right credit cards is a terrific way of getting airline miles without getting into an airline seat. You can quickly earn at least 231,500 with all of these sign-up bonuses and miles earned for meeting the spending requirements. That’s enough for seven one-way transcontinental business class tickets, two round-trip business class tickets to Europe or Latin America, or one first class ticket anywhere in the world. But there are a few simple rules you must follow to make sure you don’t get in over your head.
- Make sure you can meet the spending requirement every time you apply for the card. If you don’t – you won’t get the bonus.
- If you have opened or closed your corresponding Citi AAdvantage card within the last 24 months, you won’t get the bonus.
- If you’ve ever had the business or SPG card, you’re not eligible for a bonus on that one again.
- Do not apply for two cards from the same bank on the same day, although you can apply for one personal and one business Amex card.
- As a rule, leave at least a 10-day space between the two Citi cards applications and at least 65 days between applying for the first and the third card.
- Do not apply for multiple credit cards if you’re going to apply for a mortgage in the next 12-18 months.