With all the travel credit cards available, it can be tough to pick the right one (here are some tips on how to pick the right one). A big sign-up bonus may catch your eye, but the annual fee and ongoing benefits are important things to consider before you hit that apply button.
Some travel credit cards have no fee, some are mid-tier cards that carry a $95 fee which is often waived the first year, and others are premium cards that will cost you $500 or more a year to hold. If there are annual fees involved, you need to consider whether you are getting enough benefits from the card to justify the cost and/or whether another card might offer similar benefits for a lower fee.
American Airlines has co-branded credit cards with both Citibank and Barclays that range from top-of-the-line premium cards with lots of benefits including airport lounge access to credit cards with less benefits but no annual fee.
Benefits and Cost
Benefits can include lounge access, free checked bags, travel insurance, in-flight discounts and statement credits. Sign-up bonuses, rewards and annual fees are also big considerations for any credit cards you are thinking about applying for. Keep in mind that most premium cards that carry a high annual fee often have more than enough benefits and credits to offset the cost of holding the card, but only if you use them.
Another thing to consider is which perks you might already be getting with your elite status if you are a frequent flyer. Many cards and loyalty programs offer similar benefits to those offered to elite members of a frequent flyer program like American Airlines AAdvantage, so you may not need a particular perk if it’s already included with your status.
Depending on what you value most and what you are willing to spend to hold the card, an American Airlines AAdvantage co-branded credit card may or may not be the best choice for you. Also, since there are many credit cards available for travelers, chances are good that you might want more than one credit card if you travel frequently. If that’s the case, then it’s good to know which card should be used for what in order to maximize rewards and benefits.
To help you decide which card is best for you, we’ll look at a few credit cards that we consider the best ones for travelers who frequently fly on American Airlines, and then we’ll go over the lineup of American Airlines co-branded cards available and highlight their benefits.
Best Premium Card for Lounge Access
The Platinum Card from American Express (see credit score required for approval) provides you access to over 1,300 Priority Club lounges in 148 countries as well as access to American Express Centurion lounges. There are a dozen of them currently in the US and one in Hong Kong.
The annual fee is pretty steep at $695, but the card is currently offering 100,000 Membership Rewards points as a welcome bonus after spending $6,000 in the first three months after getting approved. These points don’t transfer to American Airlines, but there are some Oneworld alliance partners that are part of the Amex program and you can book American Airlines award seats through them. Or you can use the MR points to book American Airlines flights through the Amex travel portal.
The Amex Platinum card also offers a $200 annual travel credit, Marriott and Hilton elite status, and a host of travel credits including up to $200 a year in Uber credits, $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits and reimbursement of TSA PreCheck or Global entry fees.
The card also has some great reward earning potential including 10x on up to $25,000 in purchases at restaurants worldwide and at participating small businesses in the US during the first six months of membership. You’ll also earn 5x on flights booked directly with the airlines or through American Express Travel up to $500,000 per year, and you’ll earn 5x on prepaid hotel bookings through Amex.
(Related: See where the Amex Platinum card stacks up against the competition in our rundown of the best credit cards for airport lounge access.)
Best Mid-Tier Credit Card for Travel Insurance
The hottest card in the market right now is the Chase Sapphire Preferred (see credit score required for approval), which is offering an elevated sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months. The points don’t transfer to American Airlines, but you can use them to book flights on the carrier through the bank’s online booking portal. The sign-up bonus is worth $1,250 in free travel because you get a 25% bonus on points when booking through Chase.
The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, and you earn two points per dollar spent on all dining and travel purchases and one point per dollar on everything else. But one of the best features of this mid-tier card is that It comes with great travel insurance including primary car rental insurance, up to $20,000 for cancelled or interrupted trips, up to $500 for trip delays of more than 12 hours and $100 per day for up to five days if your luggage is delayed.
Best Premium Card for Earning Rewards
The premium Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is the upgraded version of the Sapphire Preferred, is a great card for earning rewards for all of your travel. Also, it comes with all the same insurance protections of the Sapphire Preferred.
The biggest difference between the two cards is the annual fee, which is $550 for the Reserve compared to only $95 for the Preferred version. But you do get a $300 annual travel credit with the Reserve that will offset more than half the cost.
The sign-up bonus on the Reserve card is 60,000 points, which is worth $900 on travel booked through the Chase travel portal because the card gives you a 50% bonus when redeeming points that way. While you can’t transfer your points directly to American Airlines, Chase does have Oneworld alliance partners that you can transfer points to in order to book American Airlines award seats. Or you can book American flights using Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase portal.
The best thing about this card though is that it lets you earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points on all your travel, so if you travel frequently those points will really add up. You’ll also get triple points on dining worldwide, and one point per dollar spent on everything else.
American Airlines Co-Branded Credit Cards
American has quite a few co-branded cards with two issuers because of its merger with US Airways back in 2013. Many basic benefits on the cards are similar including earning double miles on American as well as priority boarding and rebates on in-flight purchases, but annual fees vary as does the spending needed to get sign-up bonuses, earn elite status miles and companion certificates. We’ll go over the choices and highlight the best thing about each card below.
Best for Earning Miles
The mid-tier Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard can help you boost your AAdvantage mileage balance because it earns 2x points on American Airlines purchases as well as double points at restaurants and in gas stations. The card currently has a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $2,500 on the card in the first three months.
The AAdvantage Platinum Select card has a $99 annual fee, but it is waived the first year. Cardholders get a free checked bag on American Airlines domestic flights and one free checked bag for up to four companions, as well as preferred boarding and a 25% discount on in-flight purchases. If you spend $20,000 or more on the card a year, you’ll get a $125 American Airlines discount certificate. Learn more here.
Best for Admirals Club Airport Lounge Access
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is a premium card that costs $450 a year to hold, but you’ll get an Admirals Club membership that is worth $650. Membership allows you to access any of the 50 Admirals Club lounges as well as some partner lounges, and you can bring immediate family or up to two guests with same-day boarding passes on American Airlines or a partner airline.
You’ll also get free checked bags for yourself and up to eight companions on domestic flights, priority boarding and a 25% rebate on in-flight food and beverages. Other benefits include a $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every five years. The sign-up bonus on this card is 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months.
Best for Elite Status
The AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard is no longer available to the public, but if you have this card you can earn elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and elite qualifying dollars (EQDs) toward American Airlines AAdvantage elite status. If you spend $20,000 or more on the card in a calendar year you will earn 5,000 EQMs, and if you spend $40,000 you’ll get an additional 5,000 EQMs. If you spend $50,000 on the card in a year, you’ll earn $3,000 in EQDs toward status.
There is no sign-up bonus for this card as you can no longer apply for it, but if you do hold it you’ll get preferred boarding, free checked bags for yourself and up to eight companions, and two $99 companion certificates good for domestic flights after you spend $20,000 in a year.
The annual fee is $195 and the card earns 3x miles on American Airlines purchases, 2x miles on hotels and car rentals, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. It also has a $25 reimbursement per day for food and beverages and a $50 credit annually for WiFi on board the plane.
Best for In-Flight Discounts and Credits
If you still hold the Aviator Silver card that is no longer being issued, you can upgrade to AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. It currently offers a 60,000 mile sign-up bonus after making a single purchase, and the annual fee is $99. Cardholders get preferred boarding and a free checked bag.The card earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
With the Aviator Red card you get a 25% off in-flight food and beverages, and reimbursement for up to $25 a year for in-flight Wi-Fi. Because it’s a World Elite Mastercard you also get monthly $10 Lyft credit after taking five or more rides, and a 5% cash reward for shopping on Boxed. Another nice perk is cell phone protection of up to $800 per claim for a lost or damaged phone. There is a $50 deductible and the benefit can be used twice a year for up to $1,000 in claims.
Best No-Fee American Airlines Card
The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card is best for people who don’t want to pay an annual fee, but still want to earn AAdvantage miles with their credit card spending. You get 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores, and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
The sign-up bonus is 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on the card in the first three months after opening the account. This is a small sign-up bonus, but it’s a very low minimum spend and you are not paying an annual fee. You’ll also get a 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases of food and beverages like other American Airlines AAdvantage cards.
Best Co-Branded Cards for Business Travelers
There are two banks issuing American Airlines co-branded cards, so there are multiple cards available for business travelers. The Barclays version has a lower minimum spend and sign-up bonus, but it can help you earn elite status. Both come with a free checked bag and a 25% rebate on in-flight purchases, and both allow you to earn a companion certificate if you spend $30,000 a year on the card. Below are more details on each of the American Airlines business credit cards.
Barclays Bank Card
The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard from Barclays comes with a generous 75,000 sign-up bonus. You’ll earn 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months, and another 10,000 miles when one of your employees uses their card. The annual fee for this card is $95.
One of the best things about the Aviator Business card is it allows you to earn elite status. If you make $25,000 in purchases a year you will receive $3,000 EQDs toward elite status, and if you spend $30,000 per year you will receive a $99 companion certificate. Other perks include a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation. You and your traveling companions will also receive preferred boarding and a 25% rebate on in-flight food and beverages.
This card earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, car rentals, at office supply stores and on telecom purchases. Everything else earns one point per dollar charged on the card. You’ll also get a 5% bonus on points earned every year.
Citibank Business Card
The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard is another good option for small business owners that fly on American. The $99 annual fee is waived the first year, and the card offers a 65,000 mile bonus after spending $4,000 in the first four months of having the card.
Bonus categories for this card include 2x on American Airlines purchases, car rentals, gas stations, cable/satellite services and on telecommunications. You also get a free checked bag and a 25% rebate on in-flight purchases including food, beverages and WiFi. If you spend $30,000 or more on the card, you’ll also get a $99 companion certificate.
When reviewing travel credit cards it’s important to compare features, but it’s equally important to keep in mind which benefits will serve you best. If you fly American Airlines frequently, you may already have elite status that comes with its own benefits like lounge access and free checked bags.
Even if you don’t have elite status, you may not need a free checked bag or lounge access because you bring a carry-on bag and don’t arrive at the airport early enough to use a lounge so these benefits may not be valuable to you. If you’re collecting miles for a free trip, the bigger sign-up bonus may be attractive, and if you’re chasing elite status you may like a card that can help you reach the next tier.
Credit Score Needed and Bank Rules
Once you’ve narrowed down which card might be best for you, keep in mind that most travel cards require a good to excellent credit score. The more premium cards require your score to be closer to excellent, which is a FICO score of 720 or more, while the cards with no annual fee usually require at least a good credit score, which is between 690 and 719.
Banks also have rules on how often you can apply and when you can earn a bonus. For example, Citibank will only let you earn a bonus on an American Airlines card every 48 months. Barclays only allows you to earn a welcome bonus on the same card if you close the card and wait 24 months before applying again.
Neither Barlcays or Citibank have strict rules on how many cards you can hold, but if you intend to apply for more than one American Airlines co-branded card you should consider how much credit you already have with either Citibank or Barclays.
Citibank may not have a rule on how many credit cards you can open with them, but they do have a set amount of credit they will extend to you. On the other hand, Barclays has a 6/24 rule which is very much like Chase’s 5/24 rule where you can’t open more than five credit cards in the past two years or your application will be denied. With Barclays, you can not have gotten more than six cards in the past 24 months. With Chase you are pretty much guaranteed a denial if you go over the limit, while Barclays is a little more flexible but not much.
Your credit card history will be taken into consideration when you apply for a card with either of these banks, but they will also be checking your creditworthiness to determine your eligibility. To do this they look at your credit score, income and credit history.
Be sure to check your credit report before applying if you haven’t reviewed it lately to make sure your credit score is in the good to excellent range and that there are no mistakes on your report that might cause the bank to deny your application.