The Best Credit Cards for American Airlines Flyers [Lounges, Upgrades, Priority Boarding & More]

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The American Airline’s AAdvantage® frequent flyer program was established in 1981, making it one of the world’s oldest frequent flyer programs. It’s also the world’s largest.

The AAdvantage brand, with its history and strong presence in the loyalty arena, is also prominent in the collection of nearly a dozen AAdvantage co-branded credit cards.

With offerings that include flight benefits, lounge access, companion tickets, a faster path to elite status, and the ability to earn miles for free flights, there’s an AAdvantage credit card for every American Airlines flyer.

But how do you sort through nearly a dozen cards and find a fit? And are there other travel rewards credit cards worth considering even if you’re an American Airlines loyalist?

Here’s all the information you need on the benefits of the top AAdvantage credit cards, issued by both Citi and Barclays, and a few alternative credit cards.

In the end, you’ll have the information you need to select a credit card that delivers the best bottom-line value for you.

Best Credit Cards for American Airline Flight Benefits

American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards come with valuable flight benefits that can add comfort, convenience, or cost savings. Boarding early, free checked bags, and statement credits for your in-flight purchases are some examples of perks that add comfort and value.

Let’s take a look at the flight benefits you can expect from each of the best AAdvantage branded credit cards.

AAdvantage Credit CardFlight Benefits
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite™ MasterCard®
  • Receive a free checked bag for the cardholder plus 8 traveling companions
  • Preferred boarding (boards after priority boarding)
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • Up to $50 in statement credits annually for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases
  • $25 per day back as a statement credit for in-flight food and beverage purchases made with the card
CitiBusiness® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®

Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite™ MasterCard®

Citi®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®

Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator®  Business World Elite™ MasterCard®
  • Preferred boarding (boards after priority boarding)
  • A free checked bag for the cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food and beverage purchases
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • $125 American Airlines flight discount
  • A free checked bag for the cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions
  • Preferred boarding (boards after priority boarding)
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food and beverage purchases
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • Access to Admirals Club for you and authorized users
  • Dedicated check-in areas, expedited airport screening, and priority boarding
  • Receive a free checked bag for the cardholder plus 8 traveling companions
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food and beverage purchases
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®
  • Free checked bag for cardholder and up to 8 travel companions on the same reservation
  • Priority boarding, priority check-in, and priority TSA screening lines for cardholder and up to 8 companions
  • Admiral’s Club lounge access for cardholder, 2 guests, or immediate family
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food and beverage purchases

In addition to the stated benefits above, the Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard card receives a $25 per anniversary year statement credit for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases.

American Airlines Final Thoughts
Earn at least 2 miles per dollar for American Airline purchases on most AAdvantage branded credit cards. Image courtesy of aa.com.

Best Credit Cards for Earning on American Airlines and Everyday Purchases

American Airline Purchases

If you spend a lot on American Airlines,  you’ll want to be sure to have an AAdvantage credit card that earns at least 2 miles per dollar spent. The following AAdvantage credit cards deliver this level of earnings.

AAdvantage Credit CardMiles Earned per Dollar Spent on AA Flight Purchases
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

Citibusiness Platinum Select World MasterCard

AAdvantage MileUp MasterCard
  • 2 miles per dollar spent
Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver
  • 3  miles per dollar spent
Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Blue

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business
  • 2  miles per dollar spent

In addition, the Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator®  Business World Elite MasterCard earns a 5% mileage bonus each anniversary year based on miles earned on the card.

Earning on Everyday Purchases

Earning AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases is great, but miles can add up faster if you can earn multiple miles per dollar spent on other purchases. Here’s how the bonus earnings break down by credit card.

AAdvantage Credit CardBonus Category and Additional Earnings
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum
CitiBusiness® Platinum Select
  • 2 miles per dollar on telecommunications, satellite and cable providers, car rentals, and gas stations
AAdvantage MileUp
  • 2 miles per dollar at grocery stores
Barclays Aviator Business
  • 2 miles per dollar on telecommunications, office supply stores, and car rentals
Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver
  • 2 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals
Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver
  • The Flight Cents™ feature allows purchases to be rounded up to the nearest dollar to earn miles faster

Bottom Line: To maximize earnings, select an AAdvantage branded credit card that earns at least 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and has bonus earning categories that match up with your spending profile. 

American Airlines Flasgship First - International
Executive Platinum Elite members receive upgrade certificates that can be used on International flights. Image courtesy of news.AA.com

Best Credit Cards for AAdvantage Elite Status and Seat Upgrades

Here’s what it takes to annually qualify for American Airlines AAdvantage elite status, how AAdvantage credit cards can help you qualify, and how the upgrade process works.

What it Takes to Qualify for American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Status

Having elite status with the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program allows you to earn upgrade certificates and, at the Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum levels, receive complimentary upgrades.

AAdvantage Elite Status LevelRequired Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Segments (EQS)Required Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)
Gold Elite25,0000 or 30$3,000
Platinum Elite50,0000 or 60$6,000
Platinum Pro75,0000 or 90$9,000
Executive Platinum100,000 or 120$15,000

How AAdvantage Credit Cards Help You Qualify for Status

There are two American Airlines credit cards that can help you achieve elite status faster.

AAdvantage Credit CardEarn Elite Qualifying MilesEarn Elite Qualifying Dollars
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard
  • Spend $40,000 in a calendar year and earn 10,000 EQM
  • N/A
Barclays Aviator® Silver
  • Spend $20,000 in a calendar year and earn 5,000 EQM
  • Spend an additional $20,000 in a calendar year, for a total of $40,000, and receive another 5,000 EQM
  • Spend $50,000 in a calendar year and earn $3,000 EQD

The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with additional benefits such as Admiral’s Club access for the primary cardholder, guests, and all authorized users, priority boarding and a free checked bag.

The Barclays Aviator Silver card is not available for new applications; however, those who first have a Barclays Aviator Red card can product switch to the Silver card version.

American Express First
Having AAdvantage elite status can help you get upgraded on American Airlines. Some AAdvantage credit cards offer a faster path to reaching elite status. Image courtesy of aa.com.

AAdvantage Upgrades

Having an American Airlines credit card alone will not help you get an upgraded seat. Elite status in the AAdvantage frequent flyer program is the key factor in whether you’ll receive an upgrade.

For example, Gold and Platinum level elites earn 4 500-mile upgrade certificates for every 12,500 miles they fly. These upgrade certificates can be used to upgrade on domestic and qualifying regional flights.

Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elite members receive complimentary domestic and regional upgrades.

Executive Platinum members receive 4 system-wide upgrades when qualifying for Platinum and the ability to earn 2 more upgrades when reaching specific EQM levels annually. These upgrades can be used worldwide.

We’ve also written an extensive guide on how to get upgraded on American Airlines.

Bottom Line: Having an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card can help you achieve elite status faster by allowing you to earn Elite Qualifying Miles and/or Elite Qualifying Dollars. Having elite status can then help you qualify for upgraded seating. 

Admiral's Club Entry
Complimentary Admiral’s Club access comes with just one AAdvantage branded credit card. Image courtesy of American Airlines.

Best Credit Cards for Admiral’s Club Lounge Access

The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard is the only AAdvantage-branded credit card that comes with complimentary Admiral’s Club access (not to mention a bunch of other perks).

Since an Admiral’s Club lounge membership can cost $650 annually, securing the AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard as an avid American Airlines traveler makes good economic sense.

The cardholder is allowed to bring 2 additional guests or the cardholder’s immediate family. For example, if a cardholder is traveling with a spouse and their 2 teenagers, a total of 4 people, all would be allowed entrance.

Also, authorized users on the card receive the same Admiral’s Club access even when not traveling with the primary cardholder. There is no cost to add up to 10 additional authorized users.

The AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard has an annual fee of $450.

Bottom Line: With complimentary Admiral’s Club access for the primary cardholder, 2 guests or immediate family, and up to 10 additional authorized users, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard holds tremendous value for frequent American Airlines travelers who value lounge access. 

The Best AAdvantage Credit Cards for Companion Tickets

One of the best benefits of having an AAdvantage branded credit card is the $99 companion pass ticket. Each card anniversary year, after spending $20,000 on your card, you can secure a companion ticket for just $99 plus taxes and fees when purchasing a paid ticket. Currently, those fees are estimated to be between $21.60 to $43.20, according to Barclays.

The ticket is valid for travel between all 48 contiguous states. Residents of Alaska and Hawaii can use the ticket for flights originating in their home state round trip to the 48 contiguous states.

The AAdvantage Aviator Red card and AAdvantage Aviator Silver card each come with the companion ticket benefit after spending $20,000 each card anniversary year. The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard offers the companion ticket benefit after spending $30,000 each card anniversary year.

Your card must remain active for 45 days after your card anniversary renewal to receive the companion ticket.

Bottom Line: The $99 companion ticket benefit, offered on 3 AAdvantage branded credit cards, could save you hundreds of dollars each year. 

AAdvantage Credit Cards – Additional Benefits

Both Citi and Barclays issue AAdvantage branded credit cards that come with additional valuable travel and purchase benefits:

  • Car rental collision damage waiver – Provides coverage for damage from collision and for theft of your rental car
  • No foreign transaction fees – Carry your card while traveling as there are no foreign transaction fees
  • Baggage Delay – Up to $100 per traveler for delay of 6 hours or more
  • Trip delay – Up to $500 per traveler for trip delays of 12 hours or more
  • Trip cancellation/interruption – Receive up to $5,000 for trips canceled or interrupted for covered reasons
  • Lost luggage – $3,000 per traveler ($2,000 for New York residents), up to a maximum of $10,000 per trip
  • Travel, Emergency, and Roadside Assistance – 24/7 emergency services when things go wrong, the cardholder is responsible for the actual cost of services provided
  • Price Rewind – if a covered item goes down in price within 60 days of purchase, you could receive up to $500 or the difference in the purchase price. Available on Citi issued AAdvantage cards
  • Purchase Protection – 90 to 120 days of protection for covered items from purchase date for damage and theft
  • Extended Warranty – the manufacturer’s warranty will be extended on covered purchases by up to 24 months

This list is just an overview of additional benefits that may come with your AAdvantage branded credit card.  It is not all-inclusive and does not include all applicable terms and conditions. You can access the AAdvantage protection guide for more information here and review a list of World MasterCard benefits here.

Best Rewards Programs for Transferring to American AAdvantage

American Airlines flyers who want to purchase award travel on American can redeem their AAdvantage miles directly for airline tickets. Another option is to transfer points/miles from other programs to your AAdvantage frequent flyer account in order to purchase award tickets.

Transfer Hotel Loyalty Points to American AAdvantage

Hotel Loyalty ProgramTransfer Ratio – Hotel Points to Miles
Best Western Rewards5,000 to 1,000
Choice Hotels5,000 to 1,000
Hilton Honors10,000 to 1,500
Marriott Bonvoy30,000 to 10,000 + bonus
World of Hyatt5,000 to 2,000
Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)10,000 to 2,000
Radisson Rewards10,000 to 1,000
Wyndham Rewards6,000 to 1,200

Transfer ratios when transferring hotel points to AAdvantage miles can be less than stellar; however, topping off your AAdvantage account by transferring hotel points to reach a specific award ticket redemption level can be a useful option.

Transferring Marriott Bonvoy Points to the American AAdvantage program can result in a bonus if you transfer 60,000 miles or more. Earning lots of Marriott Bonvoy points is easy with these recommended credit cards:

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Card - earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points (terms apply). A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Hot Tip: When transferring Marriott Bonvoy Points to American, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus when transferring 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points. For example, transferring 60,000 points will result in 25,000 AAdvantage miles versus 20,000 miles. 

Ultimate Rewards
You can book American Airlines flights directly with Chase Ultimate Rewards. Image courtesy of Chase.

Other Options for Booking American Airlines Flights with Points and Miles

While American Airlines has no additional direct transfer partners, you can transfer points from some of the most popular rewards programs to airlines that allow you to book flights on American.

Here are some of the best options for American Airlines award flights.

Transfer Rewards Points From:To This Frequent Flyer Program:To Book These American Airline Flights:
Chase Ultimate Rewards PointsBritish AirwaysShort distance one-way flights – as low as 7,500 British Airways Avios between U.S. cities
Cathay PacificTo Asia – 75,000 Asia Miles one-way in First
Iberia PlusRound trip to Spain – JFK to Madrid for 34,000 Avios
American Express Membership RewardsBritish AirwaysOne-way from West Coast U.S. to Hawaii – 12,500 Avios
EthiadRound trip U.S. to Europe starting at 40,000 Ethiad miles

For more ideas on redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards Points, check out these in-depth articles.

Hot Tip: Chase Ultimate Rewards Points can be redeemed directly for American Airlines flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. If you use a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you will receive an increased redemption value of 1.5 cents per point.

Summary: Best Overall Personal AAdvantage Credit Cards for American Airlines Flyers

In this article, there was a lot of information pertaining to AAdvantage credit cards. It might be helpful to highlight the best overall credit cards for American flyers and summarize the features and benefits.

Citi/AAdvantage Executive Platinum World Elite MasterCard

  • Admiral’s Club lounge access for cardholder, 2 guests, immediate family, authorized users
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines
  • Earn EQM toward AAdvantage elite status
  • Free checked bag for cardholder and up to 8 travel companions on the same reservation
  • Priority boarding, priority check-in, and priority TSA screening lines for cardholder and up to 8 companions
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food and beverage purchases

AAdvantage Aviator Silver MasterCard

  • Earn 3 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals
  • Earn EQM and EQD toward AAdvantage elite status
  • Free checked bag and preferred boarding for cardholder and up to 8 companions
  • Earn miles faster with Flight Cents™
  • $50 statement credit each anniversary year for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases
  • $25 per day statement credit for in-flight food and beverage
  • Companion ticket for $99 after spending $20,000 in a calendar year
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit

Summary: Best Overall Business Advantage Credit Card for American Airlines Flyers

CitiBusiness Platinum Select World MasterCard

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, telecommunications, satellite and cable providers, car rentals, and gas stations
  • Preferred boarding and free checked bag for the cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases
  • Companion ticket for $99 after spending $30,000 in a calendar year

Barclays Aviator Business MasterCard

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on American Airline purchases, telecom, office supply stores, and car rentals
  • 5% mileage bonus after renewal each anniversary year
  • Preferred boarding and free checked bag for the cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food, beverage purchases
  • Companion ticket for $99 after spending $30,000 in a calendar year

Bottom Line: While initial welcome bonuses vary, you can count on thousands of American AAdvantage miles after meeting minimum spending requirements within the first 3-4 months (depending on the card) after you’re approved for any of the mentioned AAdvantage credit cards. 

Summary: Best Alternative Credit Cards for American Airline Flyers

The best overall credit card for the American Airlines flyer may not be an AAdvantage branded credit card. Premium travel rewards credit cards can offer broader lounge access opportunities, greater rewards on travel purchases, and premium travel benefits.

Here are 2 premium travel rewards credit cards to consider:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why this card is great for American Airlines Flyers:

  • You’ll earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent on American Airlines flights purchased from American or from Amex Travel
  • The primary cardholder and 2 guests receive complimentary access to all lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection. This includes over 1,200 lounge properties worldwide, including the prestigious Centurion Lounge Network
  • A $200 airline incidental fee credit each year which can be used on American Airlines

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why this card is great for American Airlines Flyers:

  • The card earns 3 Ultimate Rewards Points per dollar spent on travel which includes American Airline flights
  • The cardholder and 2 guests receive complimentary access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide with Priority Pass™ Select
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards can be used to book American Airlines flights directly through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
  • Elevated redemption level of 1.5 cents per point when booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
  • The $300 annual travel credit which can be used for American Airlines flights

Bottom Line: It’s wise to consider alternative premium travel rewards credit cards if you frequently fly on other airlines in addition to American Airlines. Premium travel rewards cards can provide greater earnings, more flexibility at redemption time, and broader travel benefits. 

Final Thoughts

If you travel frequently on American Airlines and general flight benefits, earning AAdvantage miles, and discounted in-flight purchases are important to you, you’ll do well with an AAdvantage branded credit card.

If you’re currently paying for an Admiral’s Club membership, it would be a sound economic decision to secure the AAdvantage Executive Platinum World Elite MasterCard that comes with complimentary access for you and your traveling companions.

If you travel frequently on a lot of different airlines, enjoy premium travel perks, and would find value in having access to a larger worldwide network of lounges, you might find a better fit with a premium rewards credit card.

As always, you’ll want to align your travel preferences, spending habits, and tolerance for paying an annual fee, to the credit card that brings you the most bottom-line value.


*Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

FAQ

Which is the best American Airlines credit card?

The best American Airlines credit card will depend on how often you fly American Airlines, whether lounge access is important to you, and your tolerance for paying an annual fee.

If you travel frequently on American Airlines, are currently paying for an annual Admiral’s Club membership, and don’t mind the annual fee, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers good value.

The $450 annual fee is offset with the complimentary Admiral’s Club membership alone which can cost upwards of $650 annually.

Can American Airline miles be transferred?

American AAdvantage miles cannot be transferred to other airlines or rewards programs.

However, American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be used to book flights on American and partner airlines.

You can also transfer American AAdvantage miles to another account, however there are fees for doing so.

Which credit card earns American Airline miles?

All of the AAdvantage branded credit cards earn at least 1 American Airlines AAdvantage mile per dollar spent on the card.

Each credit card has its own earning structure and many have bonus categories where you can earn additional miles per dollar spent.

Selecting an AAdvantage credit card that earns at least 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and offers bonus category earnings that match your spending habits is that fastest way to earns lots of American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Do American Airline miles expire?

American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire after 18 months of inactivity in your AAdvantage frequent flyer account.

You can keep your miles from expiring by earning or redeeming miles with American Airlines or one of its partners.

Each time you make a qualifying activity, your expiration date is extended by 18 months.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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2 comments

  1. Margaret Aurand · April 23, 2019 · Reply

    I have a Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Master Card and have accumulated almost 90,000 miles. Looking at their website’s Flight Awards Chart, I see that round trips from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii start at 20,000 miles. I’ll bet that NEVER happens! It’s probably there only to get you excited about earning miles! I just checked on booking award tickets for my family of 4. Flights start at over 43,000 miles per round trip ticket. So only half the family can go!

    • Christine Krzyszton · April 24, 2019 · Reply

      Hello Margaret. Sorry you are having trouble redeeming your Hawaiian Airline miles for your family trip. Most award charts list fares for one way flight purchases and such is the case with Hawaiian. According to the Hawaiian Airlines website: “Flight awards as low as 7,500 miles one-way for travel within Hawaii, or 20,000 miles between Hawaii and the West Coast.”

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