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This article was last updated Jan 04, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
After US Airways merged with American Airlines in February 2013, the latter found itself with a portfolio of credit cards from Citi and Barclay. After some uncertainty about the future of the US Airways-branded Barclay cards, American announced in July 2016 that it had signed an agreement that would keep two Barclay credit cards — AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, along with its Citi-branded cards.
So which card is best for customers enrolled in American’s AAdvantage® loyalty program? You can’t directly apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®. Instead, you must first apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, keep it open for 90 days, then ask for an upgrade to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®.
The real question is whether to keep the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® or go with an upgrade to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®.
The short answer is to go with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® if you want a card that offers a sweet sign-up bonus and doesn’t require a big spend to get it, along with benefits that make travel on American Airlines smoother.
However, if you’d prefer a card that offers more miles per dollar spent on travel, ways to earn elite status, yearly companion passes and a Global Entry fee credit, maybe the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® is the card for you.
We’ll unpack the pros and cons of each card so you’ll be ready to decide which one is best for you.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
Best for: If you’re looking for a card with a sweet sign-up bonus that doesn’t make you spend a small fortune to get it, this is the one.
What we like
Simple 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. So if you pay the card’s $95 and buy something as cheap as a Snicker’s candy bar, you’ll have enough miles to book a round-trip Mile SAAver business class ticket on a flight within the 48 contiguous states after Jan. 16, 2019.
Your 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.
The perks. The card comes with early boarding and a free checked bag for you and up to four companions on the same reservation. Get a 25% discount on food and beverages bought with the card on American Airlines and American Eagle flights. Every time you redeem AAdvantage miles, get 10% of them back, up to 10,000 per calendar year.
Travel and purchase benefits. Cardmembers are eligible for trip cancellation and interruption coverage, auto rental collision damage waiver and access to a concierge. The card’s foreign transaction fee is None.
Miles boost. Get a discount of up to 7,500 MileSAAver miles to select destinations round-trip under the AAdvantage Reduced Mileage Awards program. Get a discount of 7,500 miles round-trip or 3,750 miles one-way for booked flights more than 500 miles or 2,000 miles round-trip or 1,000 miles one-way for flights under 500 miles with the MileSAAver program.
Things to watch out for
No more elite status help. This card originally offered cardmembers a way to earn elite status on American Airlines. You can still earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $25,000 on the card during a calendar year, but only you signed up for the card after Jan. 1, 2018. If you did, you’ll only have until Dec. 31, 2019, to earn EQDs — then the benefit goes away permanently.
Skimpy miles. If you want a card that helps you earn more miles for travel, dining, groceries and gas, this isn’t the one.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®
Best for: Those who are willing to pay a $195 annual fee in exchange for things such as more miles per dollar spent on top categories and ways to earn elite status on American Airlines.
What we like
Generous rewards. Earn 3X AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2X AAdvantage® miles on select hotel and car rentals, and 1X AAdvantage® miles on all other purchases. Not only do you earn higher miles for American Airlines spending, but you also get them for hotels and car rentals compared with the airline’s other credit cards.
Help with elite status. The card comes with two ways to help you earn or maintain elite status on American Airlines. One, get 5,000 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) — the percentage of the actual miles flown — for every $20,000 spent annually on the card, up to 10,000 EQM a year. Two, earn 6,000 elite qualifying dollars (EQDs) — based on ticket price — after spending $50,000 on the card each calendar year. Earn another $3,000 in EQDs after spending another $25,000, and another $3,000 in EQDs after spending $50,000.
Passenger experience upgrade. The card comes with a free checked bag and early boarding perk for the cardmember and up to eight companions on the same reservation. Save 25% on in-flight food and beverages on American Airlines and American Eagle-operated flights when you use the card.
Companionship. Spend at least $30,000 a year on the card and earn a companion certificate good for up to two guests, at $99 each, issued after your account anniversary.
Fee credit. Receive a $100 credit to reimburse your Global Entry enrollment fee. The foreign transaction fee is None.
More miles. Like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, this card also comes with access to the MileSAAver and AAdvantage Reduced Mileage Awards programs. Get 10% of your AAdvantage miles back every time you redeem them, up to 10,000 a year.
Things to watch out for
No direct application. If you want this card, you must apply for and receive the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® first, have it for at least 90 days, then request an upgrade to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®.
No sign-up bonus. The idea is that cardmembers already earned the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®’s bonus.
Hey big spender. You’ll need to spend up to $165,000 if you want to earn all the EQMs and EQDs offered on the card to help you earn elite status in the AAdvantage loyalty program.
Companions cost. While a $99 companion certificate is nice, you will pay between $21.60 and $43.20 in government taxes and fees for each ticket, depending on the itinerary you book.
No perks. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® doesn’t come with any travel and protection perks like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® even with its higher annual fee.
|AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®||AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®|
|Regular purchase APR||17.74%, 21.74% or 26.74% variable||18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% 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.||Earn 3X AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2X AAdvantage® miles on select hotel and car rentals, and 1X AAdvantage® miles on all other purchases.|
|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||N/A|
|Foreign transaction fee||None||None|
The bottom line
No matter what you decide, you must apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® before you can upgrade to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®. You’ll have 90 days to decide if you want to keep the current card or upgrade. If you like spending a tiny amount of money for a generous sign-up bonus, having a free checked bag, boarding your flight early and receiving some nice travel and purchase perks, then this is your card.
But after a year, there won’t be a way for you to earn elite status via spending on the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. And the miles per dollar spent you earn are pretty skimpy compared to other travel and airline credit cards.
Consider upgrading to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® if you want ways to earn elite status (or keep yours) on American Airlines. This card comes with more miles per dollar spent, a credit to cover your Global Entry fee and the chance to earn up to two companion certificates a year. However, some may not want to apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® first in order to get this card, and it doesn’t come with any travel or purchase protection perks.
Before making a final decision, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you willing to pay the annual fee charged by both cards?
- Will you earn higher miles per dollar spent in the top categories?
- Does the card come with a free checked bag and priority boarding?
- Will you spend enough on the card to earn elite status?
- Are travel and purchase protections important to have?
Between the pros and cons of both cards and answering the above questions, you now have the information you need to decide which one best fits your needs.