Home Airlines Credit Card Review: American Airlines Aadvantage Aviator Red Mastercard

Credit Card Review: American Airlines Aadvantage Aviator Red Mastercard

by joeheg

It’s understandable if you get confused by the co-brand credit cards offered by American Airlines for their AAdvantage program. Both Barclays and Citi offer cards ranging from entry-level to luxury and even business cards. This dual structure dates back to the merger of American and US Airways, where each airline had its own credit cards. Barclays was the issuer of US Airways cards and the deal was that they would only be able to market their cards on planes and in airports, while Citi could market their cards everywhere else.

That’s still why, when you’re onboard American flights, you’ll get a pitch to sign up for the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator card instead of a Citi card.

The standard card in the Barclays Aviator portfolio is the Red card.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard


Annual Fee

$99 per year

Sign Up Benefits

Barclays doesn’t have any specific rules on signing up for their cards but they’re known to deny applicants who have signed up multiple cards in the previous 24 months. You’re also not supposed to be able to get a sign-up bonus if you’ve had a card before but it’s been reported that if it’s been a while since having a card, you may get the bonus again.

The current offer for this card has a 60,000-mile bonus once you pay the $99 annual fee. That’s right, no spending requirement besides paying $99. This offer is set to expire on October 31, 2019, and there’s no indication of what the offer will be after then.

You can sign up on the Barclays website

Spending Bonus Categories

The American AAdvantage Aviator card earns 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. The card earns one point per dollar for all other types of spending.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

As a card that can be used on American flights worldwide, the American AAdvantage Aviator card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Free First Checked Bag

The primary cardmember and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation may each check one bag free of charge when traveling on domestic itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines or its affiliates. This is not available for travel on codeshare flights booked with an American Airlines flight number but operated by another airline.

The card account must be open 7 days prior to air travel, and include the primary cardmember’s AAdvantage account number 7 days prior to air travel.

This means you’d be able to get the free checked bag benefit while still paying for the ticket with a card like the Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of the better trip delay and lost baggage insurance this card offers.

This benefit cannot be combined with any existing AAdvantage Program elite program benefits, or Premium cabin benefits, including any waiver of baggage charges. So you don’t get two free bags if you already get a free checked bag due to status.

The first checked bag benefit does not apply to overweight or oversized bags.

Now that your first checked bag on American costs $35, this benefit alone can save more than the cost of the annual fee on a single round trip for 2 people.

Priority Boarding

The primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling with and listed in the same reservation as the primary cardmember are eligible to board at the same time as the primary cardmember. Eligible cardmembers will board after Priority boarding is complete, but before the rest of economy boarding. The boarding benefit will display on your American Airlines boarding pass as Group 5 (Here’s a full list of the boarding order for all US airlines).

The same restrictions apply as with the free checked bag where the card account must be open 7 days prior to air travel, and include the primary cardmember’s AAdvantage account number 7 days prior to air travel.

Anniversary $25 Wi-Fi Credits

The Aviator Red card provides a Wi-Fi statement credit up to a maximum of $25 each card membership year (each 12-month period through and including your anniversary month) towards in-flight Wi-Fi sessions purchased on American Airlines flights and paid for with your card.

25% In-Flight Savings

Primary cardmembers save 25% on eligible inflight food and beverage purchases when purchased using the Card Account. Savings do not apply to any other inflight purchases, such as wireless internet access or inflight entertainment.

Anniversary Companion Certificate

You can earn a companion certificate good for 1 guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20,000 on your card in an anniversary year. The certificate is good for a domestic round trip itinerary is good for one year from the issue date.

Fight Cents

This is a program specific to Barclays. When you make a purchase, you have the opportunity to round up the purchase to the next dollar. Those cents are used to “buy” additional miles for 2 cents each. If you’re looking for more info on Flight Cents, I suggest checking out this post on No Mas Coach.

Chip + PIN

Barclays cards offer true Chip + PIN functionality. Combine that with a card having no foreign transaction fees and you have a perfect card to put in your wallet when traveling overseas, especially in Europe where many automated kiosks (gas stations and mass transit tickets) only take chip + PIN cards.

Use of Miles on Partner Airlines

While you can use your miles to book flights on American, you can also use miles to book award travel on One World and other partner airlines. In 2016, we flew on American from London to Miami in business class.


Final Thoughts

There are two things that make this card valuable. If you’ve never held this card before, the 60,000 AAdvantage mile sign-up bonus with no spending requirement is reason enough to sign up for it, that is if you know you’ll be able to use those miles. American has been notoriously stingy with award space at the saver levels so it’s possible that the bonus might only get you a round-trip economy ticket.

If you’re able to book flights on one of American’s partners like Cathay Pacific, JAL, Qatar or Etihad, those miles can go much further.

For the long term, the free first checked bag, $25 in Wi-Fi credits, Priority boarding and 25% off onboard purchases can add up to much more savings than the $99 annual fee of the card. Personally, I keep the card for just that reason.

Whether those benefits are worth the annual fee for you, all I can say is Your Mileage May Vary.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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