Why I’m Keeping My American Airlines Aviator Red Card, For Now

On May 1st, 2019, Barclays is making changes to its American Airlines Aviator Red credit card. For those of us who have held this card for a while, it’s the card that used to be the US Airways credit card. While I pulled the plug on my card last year, Sharon’s kept her card active and will continue to do so, at least for another year.

The changes make a material change to the value proposition the card offers so it would make sense to see if you still want to keep the card or not.

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Here’s a list of the changes, both positive and negative, depending on what benefits you find important from a credit card.

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New Benefits

Companion Certificate good for one guest at $99. This would seem to be similar to the offer the old US Airways card offered or the companion certificate you get with the Alaska Airlines credit card. However, the devil is in the details when it comes to qualifying account activity.

At each card anniversary, you will be eligible to earn one (1) domestic economy fare Companion Certificate redeemable for one (1) companion ticket at $99 (plus taxes and fees) provided that $20,000 or more in eligible Net Purchases are made with your Card Account during the card membership year (each 12-month period through and including your Card Account anniversary month) and your Card Account remains open for at least 45 days after the anniversary date

So I need to spend 20K on the card for a companion certificate?

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A $25 refund on inflight WiFi services is something no other card has offered. In fact, most other airlines exclude WiFi charges since they are provided by third parties like GoGo or Panasonic.

Depending on how much we fly on American, I can see us getting some value from this new benefit, but it’s only $25.

Flight Cents is essentially a program where you set your account to round up your charges on your card and you earn points for the additional amount charged to your card. In plain English, you’re buying American Airline miles for 0.5 cents each. While some people might find this to be a great value to buy miles, I’m not a fan paying extra for a mile when I’m not sure I’ll be able to use them for anything so I value this benefit at $0.

Changes to Existing Benefits

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One of the killer perks of this card was a 10% rebate on redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles per year. If you were able to redeem 100,000 miles in a year, you’d receive 10,000 miles back, which was a pretty sweet deal and worth the $89 annual fee of the card.

Sharon’s held the Aviator Red card since it was a US Airways product (and we were able to get in a sign-up bonus that we might not have been eligible for) and she’s received a 10,000-mile bonus every year at her account anniversary. This alone made paying the $89 annual fee worth it, even if I’m not a fan of “buying” miles with cash.

While this benefit of the card is going away on May 1st, Sharon just paid her annual fee so she received her 10,000 miles for this year and should still be eligible for 10,000 miles on her next renewal. This is one of the reasons we’ve decided to keep the card open another year.

The annual fee will be increasing to $99 but she won’t pay the higher fee until next year.

We never bothered with the $100 discount code so why should we care that it’s going away. 🙂

Continuing Benefits

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While the Aviator Red card earns 2x times Advantage miles on American Airlines purchases, I don’t put airfare spending on the card when I have so many better options.

The first eligible checked bag free benefit can be worth a lot if you check bags. Just by having the card, you and up to four companions on the same reservation get the first checked bag free. Now that American has raised the fee to $30 for the first checked bag, this benefit can be worth up to $300 on a single round trip.

Cardholders get to board with Group 5 on American, putting them in front of all other Economy passengers, even if you’ve booked a Basic Economy ticket.

Final Thoughts

Since Sharon is still eligible for the 10,000 point bonus on next year’s renewal and the card still provides for a free checked bag and preferred boarding, we’re going to keep the card for at least one more year. I’d be sad about losing the 10% rebate on point redemptions except I haven’t been able to redeem American Airline miles for an award trip for the past two years.

As most of these decisions are, Your Mileage May Vary if keeping the Aviator Red card makes sense for you. In our situation, because of our renewal date and lack of other cards with overlapping benefits, it makes sense to keep the card for now. However, I’d understand if you’re getting rid of it if your situation is different than ours.

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2 thoughts on “Why I’m Keeping My American Airlines Aviator Red Card, For Now”

  1. This card is also one of the only cards that will work as a chip and PIN card internationally. It defaults to chip and signature, but it will work with a PIN at a kiosk or un-staffed payment point abroad. That is the main reason I keep it.

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