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Best American Airlines credit card in 2016? It might not say American on it

by on Wed March 5, 2014 • 26 Comments

American Airlines credit card

There are more ways to earn American AAdvantage miles from credit cards than you think. And not all of them involve cards that say American on them. In fact, American branded credit cards aren’t always the fastest way to earn miles on American, though they do offer special perks that give them an advantage over other cards. For you, the fastest credit card for American mile earning could be the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express.

The easiest way to see what card will earn you the most miles is to use’s Card Finder tool for AAdvantage credit cards. You can input your monthly spending habits and see what you can earn and compare the value factoring annual fees and more. There’s no login required and we don’t store any of your personal information.

If you don’t want to do that, we’ll walk you through the cards below. All of the links we provide on this page are to the best available public offers, so you don’t miss out on the biggest introductory mile deals.

There are four personal credit cards that earn full value AAdvantage miles:

  • Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® MasterCard® ($95 annual fee) – the most popular
  • Citi® Executive AAdvantage® MasterCard ($450 annual fee) – with Admirals Club access
  • Citi® Gold / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® ($50 annual fee) – a low fee 
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee) – lets you transfer points to AAdvantage

Here’s how they compare.

Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature®
This is the most popular American Airlines credit card and useful if you can take advantage of the first checked bag waiver on domestic flights. You earn 1 American AAdvantage mile per dollar spent, and 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases. Here are the details on benefits:

  • First checked bag free of charge. On domestic flights, the $50 roundtrip charge for your first checked bag is waived when holding the card. This benefit also applies for up to 4 other people in your reservation. You don’t need to use the credit card to purchase you travel as the benefit is tied to your AAdvantage frequent flyer number. Just book your flights, put your AAdvantage number in the reservation, and the free bag will be automatically applied.
  • If you check bags more than twice a year, this card will save you money even without using it to earn miles. You’ll avoid over $100 in bag fees for an annual fee of $95. And if you travel with family that can add up even faster.
  • Priority boarding. You’ll board just behind American’s own elite frequent flyers, and ahead of general boarding via the ‘Priority AAccess’ red carpet lane you see at the gates. Again, this benefit is tied to your AAdvantage frequent flyer number once you get the card, so you can enjoy the benefit whether or not you use the credit card to purchase your ticket.
  • 10% rebate on miles redeemed. When you use your miles for an American Airlines flight, you’ll get 10% of what you spent back. So when you spend 25,000 miles on a mile ticket, you’ll get 2,500 miles deposited back into your account. There is a cap of a 10,000 mile rebate each year. This is a nice discount versus the prevailing rate.
  • No foreign transaction fees. So you don’t get hit when you travel abroad.

All in, it’s a decent card, but we wish there were more mile earning bonuses, though the 10% rebate is a nice touch, and you can earn back the $95 annual fee of the card quickly if you check bags a few times a year.

The intro bonus on the card is usually pretty generous and may be worth getting on its own.

> Click here for a secure link to the best offer

Citi® Executive AAdvantage®
 executiveaadvantage170This is the premium level card and you’ll want it if you value Admirals Club access or want elite qualifying miles. Otherwise it’s not worth keeping with a $450 annual fee. Here’s a rundown of benefits:

  • Full Admirals Club access for you and 2 guests. Authorized users of your account, which are free to add, also get access to American Admirals Clubs even when you’re not traveling with them.
  • First bag checked free of charge. Same benefit as the regular Platinum Select card above.
  • Priority boarding. Again, the same privilege on the $95 Platinum Select card.
  • Priority check-in and security. This is a point of difference; you can use the business class check-in line (first class if no business class line exists) to check in for American Airlines flights. You can also use the priority security lanes where designated for American Airlines ‘Priority AAccess.’
  • Elite qualifying miles. This is the only credit card that can earn elite qualifying miles on American, which are useful if you’re a very frequent flier. You earn 10,000 each year you spend $40,000 on the card.
  • No foreign transaction fees. It’s a $450 a year card, so it would be absurd if they charged these fees.

This card is for you if you travel American frequently enough to value the lounge access or want to hit the next tier in the AAdvantage elite program. But if you want to earn the most AAdvantage miles overall it’s actually not a great choice. There’s no 10% annual rebate on miles you use like with the Platinum Select card, and as we’ll show you below the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express can earn miles even faster.

> Click here for a secure link to the best offer

Citi® Gold / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®
This card isn’t widely publicized, but it’s the lowest fee credit card that earns AAdvantage miles, with a $50 annual fee.

There are no priority boarding or baggage benefits, but you’ll earn full one mile per dollar on all of your spending. If you rarely check luggage on American this may be a better bet for you than the higher annual fee Platinum Select AAdvantage card.

> Click here for a secure link to the best offer

But for $15 more per year there’s an even better choice that doesn’t say American on the front…

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
This is the credit card for Starwood Hotels…including Westin, Sheraton, and W hotels. It’s unique because the Starwood points you earn can be transferred 1:1 directly into your American Airlines AAdvantage miles account at any time.  It’s one of our favorite travel cards overall because the points you earn are so flexible.

Here’s how…

  • 25% bonus on mile transfers. When you transfer miles to your American Airlines account in 20,000 mile increments, Starwood will add an extra 5,000 miles for each 20,000 you transfer. That’s a 25% bonus, and there is no limit on this in any year. This is what makes this card earn faster than the other American Airlines credit cards. Click to learn how airline mile transfer works with Starwood. It’s like earning 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend. Mile transfers generally take about a week.
  • Choose hotels or transfer to over 20 other airline mile programs. You can use the points for free nights at any of the Starwood affiliated hotels (which are often better deals than flights). Or you can transfer your points into the miles of over 20 other airlines besides American, including Delta, Air Canada, British Airways, Lufthansa, Hawaiian, Air France, and many more.

What you trade off are the baggage fee waiver and airport priority of the Platinum cards. You’ll also need to wait about a week from when you request a mile transfer for the miles to show up in your American Airlines account, but that’s not a big deal if you are regularly accumulating AAdvantage miles and can earn them 25% faster thanks to the bonus on transfers.

> Click here for a secure link to the best offer

Consider more than one card to maximize your value

There’s no reason you have to hold only one card that earns AAdvantage miles.

For example, if you check bags several times per year it may make sense to carry the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature® for the baggage fee waiver, and use the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express for your daily spending to are created equal.

You’ll save more than the annual fee of the Platinum Select card in baggage fees, and earn more miles than if you only carried the Platinum Select card by choosing the Starwood Card for your earning, since it can earn miles 25% faster. And you can still take advantage of the annual 10,000 mile rebate on miles you use as a perk of holding a Platinum Select card, even if the miles came from your Starwood account.


Or get in on big bonus mile deals

Consider applying for more than one card to collect multiple introductory bonus offers. This is the fastest way to build your AAdvantage account, and you could earn miles quickly depending on the size of the offers. We keep a current list here.

Citi will let you try out all three of its cards if you’d like, the only catch is you can only apply for one Citi card every 8 days or so. And the Starwood card is from American Express which often offers decent intro bonuses as well.

Once you have multiple cards and get the bonus you can try them out and see which one suits your needs best, and keep the one you use most often. They won’t take your miles away if you decide to close an account before the annual fee comes due.



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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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26 thoughts on Best American Airlines credit card in 2016? It might not say American on it

  1. bev

    I have had Citibank visa for years that gave me Aa miles. now that AA Citi bank card moved to MasterCard for Aa miles, the question is: is there a Visa card with any other bank that offers AA miles. if not, do you think AA left visa to not allow people to accrue big amounts of miles at Costco??


      @bev – Unfortunately it might be less about Costco and more about probably better terms from MasterCard to keep the AA business exclusively.

  2. Robert Whitlow

    Is there a Visa card associated with American Airlines. Had the US Air visa through Bank of America formally? Have the AA MC.


      @Robert – Unfortunately not right now. There used to be a Visa option via Citibank but it’s not offered anymore.

  3. Brian

    The Citi Platinum Select is a solid card; the 10% rebate is pretty unique except with the Barclay World Elite, and that doesn’t have an actual airline loyalty attached to it so it’s not nearly as valuable.

    Unfortunately the devaluation has happened which kind of hurts it, but the miles are still good to go to South America, which is where I’d like to go next.

    Waiting for the next 50,000 sign up!

  4. Penny

    I just booked two airline tickets and signed up for your credit card on the same day as the logo for American air airlines cc and $100 credit showed on the ticket page? I see the bill coming to my email but there is no hundred dollar credit. I am paying full price for the tickets. Will this credit come off of my first bill? Can I use the free check in bag offer at the airport in a few weeks?


      @Penny – Give a number to the number on the back of your card to check on the credit. As for the free bag, as long as you put your AAdvantage frequent flier number in the reservation now, and it’s the one that’s associated with your card, you’ll be eligible for a free bag on domestic flights.

  5. sue

    Do all the perks offered with Advantage Citi Platinum Level Visa Signature cards and Platinum Select Mastercards apply only when flying on American Airlines flights or to partners’ flights also.

    For example, we are flying on AlaskaHorizon, receiving FF miles into our American FF account, but booked with Alaska Airlines. Will we receive first bag free and group 1 privileges? Thanks

    1. Joriesells@

      Citi is awful and its customer service is not honest. I had a very bad experience with a large purchase. They customer service out of the blue stated ” we are giving you 5 k bonus miles into you AA account for your bad service , I thought that was so nice and unexpected . I never did receive them. When I called to check on it they quote said we can not give any bonus miles out . What?? Customer service said it mayst have been American that promised you the miles , I spoke to American and they confirmed it was Citi and YES they absolutely can give customers bonus miles at any point. Also your first bag is free only on domestic flights, no PR or Mexico etc. the perks of this card are very shallow and it can not compare to the King of cards which is American Express. My advice pass on it . There are far too many better cards. Even the United cards give you passes into the club room once a year. Plus so much more then this card.

      1. Jo Do

        Agreed. Citibank is absolutely horrible with plenty of ‘hidden charges’. So yes, you really do pay for those ‘free’ bag checks. You probably just haven’t done the proper research to even know that you are getting ripped off!!!!!!

  6. shari

    do you have a visa card tied to american airlines? I currently use the Starwood American Express card mostly for Costco. But Costco is going to Visa only next year.

      1. mm

        So American Airlines has converted all Visa credit cards to Mastercards?
        Is that why they issued me a new Mastercard and are transferring all transactions on the old Visa account to the new Mastercard?
        Why would they do that?


          @mm – Unfortunately yes they did convert them. They may have been offered some better terms by Mastercard, but they didn’t pass on much of that benefit to you.

  7. judy johnston

    I have a platinum AAdvantage MC and I would like to know if it covers any Travel Insurance with it?

  8. Franklin

    I have an AA Citi platinum credit card, and I see my miles through my bank website, and I have my AAdvantage membership. However these are not linked, how can I link the membership with the credit card accounts?


      @Franklin – Call Citi using the number on the back of your card to get the ball rolling on that. They can point you in the right direction, though it may ultimately end up needing calls to both Citi and AAdvantage. But start with Citi.


      @Patti P-C – Unfortunately they don’t have one that waives international baggage fees. Only domestic destinations.

  9. Pam

    I recently used two miles tickets, one with my own account, one with my dads. We both hold the American Airlines credit card. Unfortunately when I booked my ticket, I used a different credit card to pay for the $10 taxes. I was denied the free first checked bag and did not receive the 10% bonus. My dad received the free baggage as his reservation was made with his card, but he did not receive the bonus either. When I spoke with American Airlines about the baggage, I was told the booking must be done using the card to receive this. I had forgotten about the 10% bonus! guess I need to contact American again.

  10. Geoffrey

    Hi there,

    I am intrigued about the possibility of transferring Starwood points into American miles. But my question is, how does this process work and how long does it take for the miles to appear in my American account?


  11. bonnie

    Good Evening,
    Can you please tell me what phone number to call to apply for AA Executive Advantage credit card?

    Thank you for your time.


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