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Frequent American Airlines flyers may want a branded credit card to help them earn and maintain their elite status in its AAdvantage® loyalty program. With a choice of seven American Airlines-affiliated credit cards by Barclays and through our partner Citi, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is worth consideration, thanks to a generous sign-up bonus and some good travel perks.
This card was named overall best airline card in CompareCards.com’s roundup. We’ll take a look at the card’s features, and take a look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as a potential alternative.
In this article hide
- Is it worth the fee?
- How the miles work
- What can you do with the miles?
- Earning miles
- New benefits
- Travel protection
- Compare it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Questions and answers
- Does the card report to the credit bureau?
- Can you share miles with others?
- Can you combine miles with other rewards-earning cards?
- Is it a chip-and-PIN card?
- What happens to your miles if you cancel the card?
- Can you get the annual fee refunded?
- Is there airport lounge access?
- Can you get both a shopping portal and category bonus?
- The bottom line
Is the card worth the annual fee?
You’ll find the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is more than worth its $95 annual fee, thanks to a Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee in full in the first 90 days.2 Offer ends 10/31/19. That means if you buy something as small as a Snickers candy bar — plus pay the card’s annual fee — those bonus points are yours.
It comes with a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to four travel companions on domestic American Airlines flights. Checked bags with American Airlines start at $30 each way, so you would need to fly four one-way flights in order to break even on the annual fee. If you travel with companions regularly, then it’s possible for the card to pay for itself even faster.
There’s also preferred boarding for the cardholder and up to four travel companions, plus a 25% in-flight discount on food and beverages.
How the miles work
When using the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll earn American AAdvantage® miles, with redemptions available according to the American Airlines flight award chart. You can also book reward travel on oneworld® alliance and other partner carriers, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways, using the oneworld and partner airlines award chart.
If your reward travel plans are flexible, AAdvantage allows you to get the biggest bang for your miles by letting you book them at a discount — in all cabins — under the MileSAAver program.
What other airlines can you book with AAdvantage miles?
American Airlines’ partners are:
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air
- Cape Air
- Etihad Airways
- Fiji Airlines
- Gulf Air
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Jet Airways
- Seaborne Airlines
What else can you do with AAdvantage miles?
There are many options for travel that you can book with miles, but to name just a few:
- Upgrade your seat to premium economy and business class.
- Redeem miles for car rentals and hotel stays at more than 150,000 properties in over 500 destinations worldwide.
- Book a vacation package.
- Buy or renew an Admirals Club airport lounge membership.
- Redeem them for magazines, newspapers, gift cards and Lifelock identity theft protection services.
- Donate them to charity.
How to earn AAdvantage miles
Cardmembers Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases. You also earn miles with hotel partners such as Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt; car rental companies including Hertz and Avis; American Airlines Vacations; cruises; the AAdvantage DiningSM program; and AAdvantage eShoppingSM mall.
This card originally had a way for cardmembers to earn elite status on American Airlines’ AAdvantage loyalty program. Current cardmembers can still earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (based on ticket price on American Airlines-marketed flights) after spending $25,000 on the card during a calendar year — but only if you signed up for the card after Jan. 1, 2018. For those who did, you have until Dec. 31, 2019, to earn those bonus EQDs; then that popular benefit is gone, with no other way to earn them.
Barclays announced new benefits with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® effective May 1, 2019. Every anniversary year, cardmembers will earn one companion certificate for $99 after spending $20,000 on purchases and the account remains open for 45 days after the card anniversary date.
Flight Cents™ allows cardmembers to round up purchases to the nearest dollar to even more AAdvantage® miles. For example, if you make a purchase in the amount of $3.10, your Flight Cents amount will rounded up to $4. In order to participate in Flight Cents, you must log into your account and set your threshold to between $1 to $500.
Cardmembers receive up to $25 back as statement credits on in-flight Wi-Fi purchases each anniversary year on American Airlines-operated flights.
The companion certificate is only good for flights in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. You’ll pay between $21.60 and $43.20 in government taxes and fees. The certificate is only valid for a year from the issue date.
This card comes with benefits you’d expect from a World Elite Mastercard®.
Car rental coverage
The car rental coverage only applies to the primary cardmember and will cover rentals of up to 15 days within your country of residence or 31 days outside of it. The benefit will cover up to the actual cash value of the car that was originally rented. This is secondary insurance within your home country, so you’ll need submit it through your personal insurance first.
When you purchase travel using your AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll be covered for up to $1,500 in the case of trip cancellation or interruption. The trip cancellation or interruption must be caused by death, accidental injury, disease or physical illness of the cardholder or an immediate family member, or default of the common carrier due to financial insolvency.
Mastercard Travel Services™
This perk can help with specific travel needs. There’s free planning to help curate unique travel experiences, along with preferential treatment at participating hotels and resorts around the world.
World Elite MasterCard concierge service
Cardmembers can create a personal profile that tracks their preferences for travel, hotels, dining, entertainment, special occasions and even food allergies. Local experts are available to provide on-site assistance with everyday household needs, such as being there when a new appliance is delivered because you can’t be. You receive access to unique dining and entertainment venues and a reminder service for dates or events you can’t afford to miss.
Help is also available for pre-trip planning services, including 10-day weather forecast, travel requirements, city-specific news and conditions, safety and security advisories, suggested packing list, pre-arranged confirmations for dining and other services, top must-see attractions, fitness facilities and jogging paths and recreation close to your hotel.
Compare it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you want to play the field when it comes to airlines, but still want a way to use and redeem points for flights, then you might want to consider a non-airline-specific credit card.
One great option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which has an annual fee of $95. New cardmembers Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.. This card is more valuable than the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® for two reasons. One, you receive 25% more value for the points you earn when you redeem them for travel at the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. Two, you earn points in much broader travel categories than the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, covering airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges, highways, parking lots and garages.
The points you earn can be transferred 1:1 to nine airline and three hotel loyalty programs.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has more robust travel and protection perks that the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement and travel and emergency assistance services. It also comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection, and you can earn 10,000 points — to a maximum of 50,000 — for each friend you recommend for the card and is approved.
|AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card|
|Regular purchase APR||17.74%, 21.74% or 26.74% variable||15.99% - 22.99% Variable|
|Rewards||Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.||2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.|
|Sign-up bonus||Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee in full in the first 90 days.2 Offer ends 10/31/19||Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.|
|Foreign transaction fee||None||$0|
Questions and answers about the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
Does the card report to the credit bureaus?
Can you share miles with others?
With American Airlines you can always book a ticket for someone else out of your account, but you will pay a fee if you want to transfer your miles to someone else.
Can you combine miles with other rewards-earning cards?
No. If you have another credit card that earns American Airlines miles, all of your American Airlines miles from both credit cards will go into the same account. If you have another card that earns different types of miles, you will not be able to combine them.
Is it a chip-and-PIN card?
Yes, this card has an EMV chip and can be assigned a PIN for transactions at kiosks and other places that don’t take a signature.
What happens to your miles if you cancel the card?
If you cancel your credit card, your earned miles will remain in your American AAdvantage account. Your miles are subject to American’s AAdvantage expiration policy, which requires earning or redeeming miles every 18 months to keep your account active.
Can you get the annual fee refunded?
If you decide to cancel the card, you can get the annual fee refunded for up to 30 days from the closing date of the billing cycle in which the fee was posted. Beyond that time, you will not be able to get any amount refunded.
Is there airport lounge access?
There is no airport lounge access included with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®.
Can you get both a shopping portal and category bonus?
Yes! When shopping online you should always go through the AAdvantage eShoppingSM mall website to increase the number of points and miles you are earning, especially in the travel and luggage category. For example, earn 3 miles per dollar spent when booking an IHG hotel through the eShopping mall, along with 15% discounts for a family getaway or Fourth of July vacation.
The bottom line
Both cards have pros and cons, so when it comes time to decide between the two, think about what’s more valuable when it comes to card benefits. If you’re loyal to American Airlines and belong to the AAdvantage program, then having the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is an easy choice.
When it comes to sign-up bonuses, you can’t beat the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, since you only have to buy one thing and pay the card’s $95 annual fee to get it. The spend needed to get the bonus points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is much higher.
The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® comes with airline perks including a free checked bag, early boarding and an in-flight discount on food and beverages. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t come with any airline travel perks.
However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s travel spending category is much broader than the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, giving you more opportunities to earn points. And don’t forget about the 25% more value for points when redeemed for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards website.