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AAdvantage Aviator Red vs Aviator Silver – is Silver worth the upgrade?

by on Mon December 26, 2016 • 1 Comment
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The AAdvantage Aviator Red and Aviator Silver cards are two lesser known credit card options that allow you to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Unfortunately, only the Aviator Red is available for direct applications.  To get an Aviator Silver you need to open an Aviator Red and request an upgrade to the Silver after having the Red account open for at least 90 days.

We’re going to take a deeper look at the Aviator Red and Aviator Silver in this article and help you decide if you should get the Aviator Red and whether or not it is worth the hassle to product change to the Aviator Silver.

The short answer is:

  • Get the Aviator Red if you fly American Airlines and check a bag without status. Even with just one person traveling, you can pay for the card and then some with checked bags on just two round trips.
  • Change your Aviator Red to an Aviator Silver if you want elite qualifying miles or often travel with more than four companions who check bags.

Here’s a rundown of the major features of each card:

Aviator Red

  • aviatorred170Earn 2 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.  
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines flight discount when you spent $30,000 or more during your cardmember year.
  • Check your first bag for free for yourself and up to four traveling companions when traveling domestically (international flights don’t qualify, including Mexico and the Caribbean).
  • You and up to four traveling companions can board with Group 1 on domestic flights.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • This card has an $89 annual fee.

Aviator Silver

  • aviatorsilverEarn 3 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases
  • 2 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on select hotel stays and car rentals, and 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 elite qualifying miles for every $20,000 you spend annually (up to 10,000).
  • If you spend $30,000 or more within your cardmember year, you will earn a companion certificate that is good for up to two guests at $99 each.
  • Your first bag is free for you and up to eight traveling companions for domestic flights.
  • You and up to eight traveling companions can board with Group 1 on domestic flights. $100 Global Entry application fee credit.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • This card has a $195 annual fee.

Depending on your spending patterns and travel needs, one of these cards might be better for you than the other. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each card.

Aviator Red

Pros

  • You can apply directly. Unlike the Aviator Silver, it is possible to apply for the Aviator Red directly. If you want the Aviator Silver, you first have to apply for the Red, wait 90 days, and then do a product change.
  • Group 1 boarding. The cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation are eligible for Group 1 Boarding.
  • Free checked bag. The cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation are able to check their first bag for free. This has a value of $25 per person, per direction.
  • No foreign transaction fees. This is a pretty standard benefit for credit cards that charge annual fees, but nonetheless a good one to have.
  • 25% off in-flight purchases. If you’re going to snack or drink on your flight anyway, saving 25% can add up.
  • 10% off your redeemed miles. When you redeem American Airlines miles, you’ll get 10% of your miles back, up to 10,000 miles per year.
  • Access to reduced mileage awards. American Airlines offers up to a 7,500 mile discount on select routes throughout the year. This card gives you access to the maximum discount.
  • Earn elite qualifying dollars. While the Aviator Red doesn’t let you earn elite qualifying *miles* you can earn elite qualifying dollars, which are also required to earn elite status. You get $3,000 elite qualifying dollars after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Cons

  • Earning for spending. The card isn’t the most rewarding for your spending. It only earns 2 points per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and one on all other purchases. Additionally, the spending required to earn the $100 flight discount is a very high $30,000. This works out to be a 0.3% rebate on your spending – not much.

Aviator Silver

Pros

  • Decent mileage earning. Earn 3 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, 2 American Airlines miles per dollar spent on select hotel stays and car rentals, and 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Companion certificate. Earn a companion certificate good for up to two people at $99 each after spending $30,000 within your cardmember year.
  • Earn elite qualifying miles. For every $20,000 you spent within the calendar year, you can earn 5,000 elite qualifying miles up to a maximum of 10,000 elite qualifying miles. You can also earn $3,000 elite qualifying dollars after you spend $25,000 and another $3,000 after you spend $50,000 in a calendar year.
  • Group 1 boarding for more companions. The cardholder and up to eight companions (versus four for the Red) traveling on the same reservation are eligible for Group 1 Boarding.
  • Free checked bag for more companions. The cardholder and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation (versus four for the Red) are able to check their first bag for free. This has a value of $25 per person, per direction.
  • $100 Global Entry Fee credit. If you don’t have Global Entry, this is a great opportunity to be able to get it without paying for it.

Cons

  • You can’t apply directly. If you want the Aviator Silver, you will first need to apply for the Aviator Red, wait 90 days, and then do a product change to the Aviator Silver.
  • Higher annual fee. The $100 higher fee is really only worth it if you want the extra elite qualifying opportunities or have a really big family that checks bags.

Which Should You Get?

Well, you’re going to have to start off with the Aviator Red no matter what. The Aviator Red makes the most sense for someone who frequently checks bags but does not have status.

This savings for one person would be $50 per round trip flight and will cover the annual fee of the card in less than two trips. The savings add up even more if you travel with a companion.

The Aviator Red also makes sense for someone who is planning to redeem American Airlines miles as the savings is 10% of the mileage redemption, up to 10,000 miles, or can make use of the reduced mileage awards.

Whether it makes sense to upgrade to the Aviator Silver mainly depends on spending and how many people you travel with. If it is common for you to travel with more than four traveling companions who check bags, you can cover the fees for an additional four companions (eight total) with the Aviator Silver.

And if you’re hard up for hitting AAdvantage elite status – either re-qualifying for your current level, or trying to hit the next level, the Silver is one of the most powerful ways to get closer to status without flying.

 

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

One thought on “AAdvantage Aviator Red vs Aviator Silver – is Silver worth the upgrade?

  1. Smittytabb

    You neglected to mention the elite qualifying dollars (EQD) possibilities for AA with each of these cards, something unique that CIti AA cards do not have at all. You can earn up to 3K EQD for 25K spend on either and up to 6K EQD for 50K spend on the Silver only.

    Reply

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