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Best American Airlines credit card in 2017? It might not say American on it

by on Mon January 2, 2017 • 55 Comments
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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 MileCards.com’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 open for new applicants online:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee, waived the first year) – lets you transfer points to AAdvantage and dozens of other airline progrmas
  • Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World Elite™ Mastercard® ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
  • Barclaycard Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard ($95 annual fee) – almost identical to the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage
  • Citi® Executive AAdvantage® Mastercard ($450 annual fee) – with Admirals Club access
  • Citi® Gold / AAdvantage® World Mastercard® ($50 annual fee) – a low fee

Here’s how they compare.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card American Express

starwood card imageYou might not think of this one first, since it’s the credit card for Starwood Hotels…including Westin, Sheraton, and W hotels. But 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.

And it can earn you more points than a card that only earns American AAdvantage miles. 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 AAdvantage branded 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

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


aadvantagemc170
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 in Group 5. 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.
  • Trip cancellation and trip delay coverage. You’re covered for up to $5,000 if you have to cancel a trip purchased with your card for a covered reason, or up to $500 for hotels and meals if your flight is delayed 12 hours or more.
  • 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

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

aviatorred170This card, from Barclaycard, is almost identical to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card, and earns the same number of miles from spending, and has almost all the same benefits, except for these differences:

  • $95 annual fee upfront. Unlike the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, there’s no waiver of the annual fee the first year.
  • Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars. If you’re in the hunt for AAdvantage elite status, you can earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars when you spend $25,000 on the card in a calendar year. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, it’s something only important if you fly American Airlines a lot every year (think 25,000 or more miles a year worth of flying).
  • Less comprehensive travel protection. Trip cancellation coverage is only up to $1,500, versus $5,000 for the Citi AAdvantage, and there’s no trip delay coverage.

It’s probably most useful if you’re looking to earn a fresh signon bonus to top off your account and already have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card.

> Click here for a secure link to the best offer

Citi® Executive AAdvantage® World Elite™ Mastercard®


 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. Similar to the $95 Platinum Select card and Aviator Red, though you board one group earlier (Group 4 vs Group 5 for the other cards).
  • 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 fliers.
  • 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®


aadvantagegold
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…

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.

bonusmilesgraphic

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.

 

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

Yes

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

Still confused? Have a question?

Leave a comment below -- we'll reply shortly -- no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice.

"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."

55 thoughts on Best American Airlines credit card in 2017? It might not say American on it

  1. Brett Frank

    Be careful when choosing your card. I asked the flight attendant this evening if the red card also offered Admiral Club privilege’s. She told me “yes”, the answer is “NO”! I also have the card with $450 per year in annual fee’s and was about to cancel until I read the details. The win in this take away is that I have another 60,000 AA points, the almost downside was that I was about to cancel the higher annual fee card and would have lost the Admiral Club access that I really need when traveling.

    Reply
  2. M McClure

    According to the AA website, the AA Executive Card is Priority Boarding Group 4 and AAdvantage card is Main Boarding Lane Group 5. The author has stated the benefit is the same when it is not actually.

    Reply
  3. Mary

    Hello,
    I just came back from my trip and the flight attendants were giving out the applications that we could apply and it had some addition perks and insentives. this offer will be expiring in November, 2017.
    Unfortunately, I dont have the application on hand. But wanted to check nevertheless. Also, is there any chance if I get the card , I can use the miles of the flight I just took?
    Thank you for your time.

    Reply
      1. Mary

        No I do not have an account just yet. Should I contact the AA website and get one there? Then I can use my miles? Still I am confused what is the best card that I can apply for that has less annual fees and accumulate miles for every dollar spent. Some cards giving 10K some 50,000.00 miles upon singing. What is the best card that fits my criteria in your opinion? Thank you!

        Reply
        1. Mary

          No I do not have an account just yet. Should I contact the AA website and get one there? Then I can use my miles? Still I am confused what is the best card that I can apply for that has less annual fees and accumulate miles for every dollar spent. Some cards giving 10K some 50,000.00 miles upon singing. What is the best card that fits my criteria in your opinion? Thank you!

          Reply
  4. uk

    I book AA flight through orbit earlier for Nov flight, and just applied for Red Aviator card. Do I still get the free checked bag even though it was purchased through orbit and used different cc?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @uk – Yes just make sure your AAdvantage number is in the reservation and that it’s the same AAdvantage number linked to your Aviator.

      Reply
  5. katherine edwards

    Does Aadvantage Aviator credit card provide any flight benefits on United flights? Such as Free carry-on on basic economy, free carry-on, seat assignments , and/or preferred boarding. i’m booking thru cheapoair and they made reference to free carry-on with basic economy.

    Reply
  6. Norma Jackson

    I recently cancelled my Citi Bank card. I am NOW interested in opening a Citi Bank Credit Card to receive the AA air miles special they are offering. What are my chances of being successful in opening the account.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Norma – If you recently cancelled a Citi AA card, then you probably won’t get the air miles special. But if you cancelled a different kind of Citi card then you should be eligible, as long as you haven’t opened or closed an AA card from Citi in the last two years.

      Reply
  7. Tandy Nan

    Why should I have an AA branded card other then to get reduced milege awards if Im EXEC plat/conc key and already there till 2019? i dont need the extra miles, early boarding or free baggage on any airline for myself. I fly first for all business so im not looking to upgrade myself anywhere. I also don’t understand why i have the hyatt card still when im globalist and carry the Chase sapphire preferred 450 dollar card and the Amex plat mercedes . Im also lifetime Marriot plat so i really dont need my Marriot card. Can you advise? I also wondering the value of my starwood amex? im the top status there also and when they completely merge i will have Marriot life anyway. i don’t need status from any or lounge access as i get that with Concierge key and plan to keep that going and when traveling other airlines its always in first for business. I use the Chase Saphire for all travel and restaurants. I use Amex plat to keep me well rounded. Im very confused and really want to simplify and in a year or 2 also get the bonus sign ups once i qualify again. which to cancel first?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Tandy – You’re reading it right for your situation.

      No need for the AA branded in your situation. Same for the Hyatt and Marriott if you have a Sapphire, which earns points you can use at Hyatt and Marriott anyway.

      Sapphire for travel / restaurants + Amex Plat for lounges is a decent plan.

      The SPG would have value if you really like to use points for hotel rewards. Those are probably the most valuable around for base earning, and since you can transfer them to Marriott at 1:3, it’s like earning 3x Marriott points on all your spending.

      Reply
  8. Gary Bullington

    I’m looking for a card to get me first class travel as I just started traveling 2 times a month or more and slowly getting miles to upgrade my status. Best all around card to get the highest status please

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Gary – Are you only flying American Airlines? If so, about how much in airfare do you think you’ll spend total this year, and how many elite miles do you think you’ll earn just from your flying this year?

      Reply
    2. Eric

      Hello. Great article. I am the highest level on American I will not travel much this year, probably only 40k miles and 30 segments. My status will end in jam 2018. Is there a card that will help me maintain my status

      Reply
      1. MileCards.com

        @Eric – Tough to retain Executive Platinum status flying 40k miles. Best you can try for is to keep regular Platinum status by reaching 50k miles. The AAdvantage Aviator Silver is the cheapest way – it costs $195 and if you spend $40,000 on it in a calendar year you’ll earn 10k elite qualifying miles.

        The catch is, you have to apply for a different card, the Aviator Red, first, and wait 90 days before you can upgrade to the Silver. Confusing…

        The alternative is to pay the higher $450 annual fee for a Citi Executive AAdvantage, which gives you lounge access, and also earns 10,000 elite qualifying miles after you send $40,000 in a calendar year. That one you can get started with right away, there’s no need to get another card first.

        Here’s some more background on all of this:

        http://milecards.com/1588433053/how-to-earn-2017-aadvantage-elite-status-via-credit-cards/

        Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Davonne – Unfortunately they don’t have one for AA flights. But many international flights give you a free bag or two as part of the ticket.

      Reply
  9. Peter

    I’ve had an AAdvantage card via Amex that never charges an annual fee; however, there are no sign-up bonus miles and miles only accrue at 1 point per $2 spent on the card. Still, if you’re looking for a no-fee card this might be one to consider.

    Reply
  10. David L

    Too bad. I relinquished my Citibank American Advantage Card. I do not blame Citibank, I blame American airlines reward program. It is nearly impossible to book a Mileage Saver flight to Europe even with flexible dates. It is not easy to book flights that are at all convenient using “anytime” and if you do find it the flight is with British Airways which charges you Fees that cost 50-75% of the flight without using award miles. The rate of return on the reward is poor. I had to Change to Bank of America. Too bad, I use to tell my friends about AA travel, now I discourage

    Reply
  11. Arthur Litke

    Hi there,

    I currently have the Platinum Select card, and I’m considering wether to move towards the Avaitor Red (then hopefully Silver), or the Citi Executive. My Admirals Club membership is already solidified through other means, so my main goal is to keep, and further my frequent flier status with AA (Currently Gold – Trying for Platinum). Any suggestion on which way would be best in the long run? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Arthur – If you think you’re going to be short on EQDs (qualifying *dollars*) then go with Aviator, since the Citi card doesn’t help you earn EQDs. If it’s EQMs you’re worried about, then see if the Silver’s 10k EQMs are enough for your needs. It’s the cheapest route for them.

      But if it’s not enough, add on the Executive to get 20k total. We have a full writeup on the elite qualifying landscape with AA cards here:

      http://milecards.com/1588433053/how-to-earn-2017-aadvantage-elite-status-via-credit-cards/

      Beware that the 90 days of spending on the Aviator Red won’t count toward the Silver for earning EQMs.

      Reply
  12. rattus

    I’m looking at the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for AA advantages; If I am the only cardholder in my family, but book tickets for all of us (same flights) do the free bag privileges apply to all of us?

    Reply
  13. William

    My question: My company books my flights, but I am able to accrue the miles personally. That is a great benefit. If I have an AA Citi card, it would not be charged to my personal credit card. Would I still be eligible for the benefits such as first bag free?

    Reply
  14. 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??

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

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

      Reply
  15. 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.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

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

      Reply
  16. 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!

    Reply
  17. 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?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @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.

      Reply
  18. 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

    Reply
    1. Joriesells@ aol.com

      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.

      Reply
      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!!!!!!

        Reply
  19. 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.

    Reply
      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?

        Reply
        1. MileCards.com

          @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.

          Reply
  20. judy johnston

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

    Reply
  21. 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?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @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.

      Reply
    1. MileCards.com

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

      Reply
  22. 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.

    Reply
  23. 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?

    Thanks!!

    Reply
  24. 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.

    Reply

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