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American Airlines Credit Cards: Here’s How to Pick the Right One for You

7 min read
Susan Shain By Susan Shain Dec 23, 2018 | Updated Nov 08, 2019

American Airlines is one of my favorite ways to travel through the sky.

Not only does it offer an abundance of routes to Latin America, which I love to visit, but I’ve also never had major customer service issues with the carrier.

So, with a trip to Argentina soon on the radar, I’m considering applying for an American Airlines credit card. But which one? Frankly, there are too many to choose from.

To help me — and you! — decide, I dug into the details of the different American Airlines card offers.

Which American Airlines Credit Card Should You Get?

Let’s kick things off with my picks for the best American Airlines credit cards, depending on what you’re looking for.

We’ll get deeper into the details of each card later on.

Best For Card Name
All-Around Workhorse Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (Review)
Generous Bonus Miles, Low Minimum Spend AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®
Good, Fee-Free Airline Card American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card
Business Owners CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® (Review)
Frequent AA Flyers Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Best All-Around Workhorse

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

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$99, waived for first 12 months*
Regular APR17.99% - 25.99%* (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

No matter how you look at it, this card is solid. Its annual fee is waived for the first year, it offers 2X miles in the high-spend categories of restaurants and gas stations, and it gets you a slew of AA-affiliated perks.

Best for Generous Bonus Miles and a Low Minimum Spend

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$99
Regular APR18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money for a lot of miles, this card’s low barrier to entry is super attractive. Essentially, you’ll pay $95 (the annual fee), and make one purchase of any size, to get 60,000 miles.

Best for a Good, Fee-Free Airline Card

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Most airline credit cards come with annual fees of at least $95 or thereabouts, so if you want an airline card without one, this is a smart choice. It earns good rewards for a fee-free card and even comes with a decent intro bonus.

Best for Business Owners

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$99, waived for first 12 months
Regular APR17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

This card’s introductory bonus is well worth the price of admission. Best of all, you can apply for it alongside the Platinum Select personal card, snagging you a ton of AAdvantage miles between the two. (Wondering if you’d qualify for a business card? Here’s what you need to know.)

Best for Frequent AA Flyers

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Because of its $450 annual fee, this card’s only good for people who fly AA a lot. The free bags for up to eight companions are perfect for big families, but with this card, you’re mostly paying for Admirals Club airport lounge access for yourself and two guests.

The Basics of the American Airlines Frequent Flyer Program

American Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, so you can use AAdvantage miles to fly on any of its 12 partner airlines. You can also fly with several other partners outside the alliance.

American Airlines partner airlines

Image credit: American Airlines

The American Airlines AAdvantage program offers elite status to frequent flyers. You can use a combination of elite qualifying dollars (EQDs) along with either elite qualifying miles (EQMs) or elite qualifying segments (EQSs) to qualify for the four different tiers:

American Airlines elite status

Image credit: American Airlines

When it comes to elite status, credit cards unfortunately aren’t going to help much. The only cards that offer any assistance are the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard®, but they require a lot of spending to earn bonus EQMs or EQDs.

The Benefits of American Airlines Credit Cards

The fastest way to earn AAdvantage miles is with the airline’s co-branded credit cards.

In addition to signup bonuses, all of them earn at least 2X miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X mile per dollar on everything else. Most earn 2X miles in a few other bonus categories, too.

Another perk of being a cardholder is you won’t have to worry much about your miles expiring. Although AAdvantage miles generally expire after 18 months of inactivity, each mile-earning purchase resets the clock.

Here are two other big (but often overlooked) benefits:

Avoiding basic economy boarding

As you probably know, basic economy tickets are the pits. You have to board dead last, meaning there probably won’t be any room for your carry-on bag.

But if you carry a co-branded American Airlines credit card, you’ll get priority boarding — even if you paid for the ticket with a different card.

When you’re a cardmember, you’ll get to board in at least Group 5 (rather than Group 9 with basic economy and Groups 6–8 with standard economy tickets). Executive cardholders will get to board even earlier, with Group 4.

While you still won’t get to pick your seat, you’re more likely to find overhead bin space. You’ll receive this benefit on all the AA-branded cards in this post, with the exception of the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card.

Booking reduced mileage awards

Cardholders can also get discounts on tickets purchased using miles. For flights of 500+ miles, you could get 7,500 miles off, and on flights under 500 miles, you could get 2,000 miles off. 

To qualify, you must be a cardholder who is:

  • Traveling entirely within the contiguous United States or Canada
  • Going to or from a destination on AA’s list of reduced mileage awards cities, which changes every few months
  • Booking a flight that has low-level MileSAAver space available (though you can book your seat in another fare class)

Follow the instructions on the reduced mileage awards webpage to book an eligible flight, which includes finding and using the appropriate award code.

You can check availability on the AA website, but if you want to avoid a booking fee you’ll have to book over the phone at 1-800-882-8880. If you book at a travel center you’ll incur a $35 fee for domestic travel or a $45 fee for international travel.

6 American Airlines Credit Cards Go Head-to-Head

While you might see lots of different AA cards floating around the interwebs — like the Aviator Silver or Blue — many aren’t accepting new applications.

Here are the six major American Airlines credit cards that you can apply for today, followed by a detailed breakdown of their features. The first four are issued by Citi, while the last two are issued by Barclays.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

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

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$99, waived for first 12 months*
Regular APR17.99% - 25.99%* (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$99, waived for first 12 months
Regular APR17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$99
Regular APR18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR18.24% or 27.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

In addition to the features in the table below, all the cards offer:

  • 1st checked bag free (with the exception of MileUp)
  • 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees (with the exception of MileUp)

 

Card Name Annual Fee Perks
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card $0
  • 25% off inflight food + bev
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (Review) $99 (waived for first year)
  • Preferred boarding
  • $125 AA flight discount after spending $20,000 in a year
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® $450
  • Admirals Club membership
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
  • Priority check-in, security, boarding
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® (Review) $99 (waived for first year)
  • Preferred boarding
  • 25% inflight discount on WiFi
  • $99 companion certificate after spending $30,000 in a year and renewing card
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® $95
  • Preferred boarding
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard® $95
  • Preferred boarding
  • $99 companion certificate after spending $30,000 in a year and renewing card
  • $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year
Card Name Intro bonus (in AAdvantage miles) 2X Mileage Categories
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card 10,000 and a $50 statement credit for spending $500 in 3 months
  • AA
  • Grocery stores
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (Review) 50,000 after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
  • AA
  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® 50,000 for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months; 10,000 EQMs for spending $40,000 in a year
  • AA
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® (Review) 70,000 for spending $4,000 in the first 4 months
  • AA
  • Telecommunications
  • Cable/satellite providers
  • Car rentals
  • Gas stations
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® 60,000 and a Companion Certificate for making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee
  • AA
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard® 50,000 for making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee
  • AA
  • Car rentals
  • Office supply stores
  • Telecommunictions

Note the AA-affiliated perks can only be used on flights operated by AA — and, in some cases, on American Eagle-branded flights marketed by AA but operated by other airlines, like Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines. Check your card’s terms before assuming a particular benefit will work for your flight if it’s not operated by AA.

Citi’s strict application rules state you won’t earn an introductory bonus if you’ve opened or closed a card in the same card family in the past 24 months. So if you get the Platinum card, then the Executive card six months later, you won’t get the second card’s intro bonus. Business and personal cards are separate entities, though, so you could apply for both the Platinum and Platinum Business within two years and get intro bonuses for both.

Other Cards That Can Earn American Airlines Miles

Hoping to book American Airlines flights with frequent flyer miles? You don’t have to limit yourself to AA cards. If you earn miles with any of American’s partner airlines, you could use their miles to fly AA, too.

Here’s an example:

  1. Get the British Airways Visa Signature® Card (Review) and earn 120,000 Avios miles or more after spending $20,000 within the first year of opening the card.
  2. Since British Airways is part of the oneworld alliance, you can then use those Avios to book a ticket with American Airlines.

So you could explore the world of co-branded airline credit card offers to find good options for earning partner airline miles.

For a broader, more complicated strategy, you could use a credit card that earns a specific type of rewards points, transfer them to AA or one of AA’s partner airlines, and then use those miles to book an American Airlines flight. Only certain cards, provided by several different issuers, have this point transfer feature.

Here’s what that could look like:

  1. Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) and earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
  2. Transfer the 50,000 UR points to Iberia, which is also part of the oneworld alliance.
  3. Use the 50,000 Iberia points to book a flight on American Airlines.

As you can see, that method opens up a world of possibilities. Here’s how you could use cards from several major credit card issuers to snag seats on AA flights, plus some suggested cards from each.

American Express

How to use with American Airlines partners: Transfer Amex’s Membership Rewards (MR) points to British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Etihad, or Iberia. The transfer ratio is usually 1:1, or it may change; take note that there’s a $0.0006 fee per point for transfers to U.S. airlines, so choose one of the others.

Our pick

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$550
Regular APRN/A
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $550 (Rates & Fees)
  • 60,000 bonus MR points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5X MR points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or via Amex Travel, and on prepaid hotels via Amex Travel
  • Luxury travel perks and credits

 

Other Cards That Earn Membership Rewards Points

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$250
Regular APRN/A
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99%–25.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

American Express® Business Gold Card

American Express® Business Gold Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$295
Regular APR15.74–23.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

 

Chase

How to use with American Airlines partners: Transfer Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to British Airways or Iberia.

Our pick

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $95
  • 60,000 bonus UR points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2X UR points per dollar on travel and dining; 1X on everything else

With Chase you have yet another potential strategy. Only three Chase cards allow point transfers to partner airlines and hotels — the Sapphire Preferred and two others noted below — but several other cards earn UR points without the transfer option. You can use one of those other cards to earn UR rewards, then move those rewards to a card that does allow partner point transfers, and be on your merry way.

 

Other Cards That Earn Ultimate Rewards Points and Allow Point Transfers to Partners

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR18.49% - 25.49% Variable
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.49% - 22.49% Variable

Cards That Earn Ultimate Rewards Points and Do Not Allow Point Transfers to Partners

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.49% - 25.24% Variable
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.49% - 25.24% Variable

 

Capital One

How to use with American Airlines partners: Transfer Capital One miles at a ratio of 2:1.5 to Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Finnair, Qantas, or Qatar.

Our pick

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Regular APR17.49% - 24.74% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 10X miles/dollar at Hotels.com/venture through January 2020; 2X on everything else

 

Other Cards That Earn Capital One Miles

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.74% - 23.74% Variable
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Regular APR18.74% Variable
Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business

Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.74% - 22.74% Variable

 

Citi

How to use with American Airlines partners: Transfer Citi’s ThankYou (TY) points at a 1:1 ratio to Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Jet Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, or Qatar.

Our pick

Citi Premier℠ Card

Citi Premier Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR18.24% - 26.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Citi Premier Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $95
  • 60,000 bonus TY points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3X TY points per dollar on travel and gas stations; 2X on dining and entertainment; 1X on everything else

Like Chase above, several Citi credit cards earn ThankYou points, but only a couple allow point transfers to the relevant partner airlines. And again like Chase, you can move rewards from one card that doesn’t offer those point transfer options to another card that does.

 

Other Cards That Earn ThankYou Points

Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$495
Regular APR17.99%–25.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Citi Rewards+ Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

(The Rewards+ only allows point transfers to JetBlue TrueBlue.)

Wrapping Up

If you’re not devoted to American Airlines, we recommend using a general travel credit card — like the ones listed in the “other cards” section above — instead. Since these flexible cards aren’t co-branded with any particular airline, they work well for a variety of travel spending.

Or, if you’re a fan of a different travel service, check out some other co-branded airline and hotel credit cards.

No matter which American Airlines card you choose, be sure to pay your bill in full each month — and enjoy the journey!

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For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please click here.

AT A GLANCE

American Airlines offers a host of co-branded travel rewards cards for personal and business use alike. Each card earns AAdvantage miles, and most include perks like free checked bags, discounts on inflight food and beverages, and no foreign transaction fees.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, Citi Premier Card, and Citi Prestige® Card have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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