Best American Airlines Credit Cards for January 2024     – CNET

Best American Airlines Credit Cards for January 2024 – CNET

Citi is an advertising partner.

Whether you hop on an American Airlines flight a few times a year or multiple times a month, you can benefit from having an airline card in your wallet. There are a number of co-branded airline credit cards tailored for different types of American Airlines travelers, each earning you AAdvantage miles and other perks. 

If you like to travel solo and only pack a carry-on, you won’t gain much out of the free checked bags benefit some AAdvantage cards offer — but you may find a card with a good welcome bonus and rewards program. If you have kids or like to rest in an Admirals Club lounge between flights, the free checked bags and lounge benefit might stretch a lot further than rewards points.

If you have the travel bug or are already an experienced globetrotter, here are some of the best American Airlines credit cards available.

Best American Airlines credit cards



CNET’S PICK


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Intro Offer


50,000 miles



Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening


Annual Fee

$99, waived for first 12 months

Rewards Rate


2x
– 2x



Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants.; Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 850

Good – Excellent

APR


21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®* offers a good value for most travelers. It’s welcome bonus is competitive with other airline credit cards at this fee level, and the $99 annual fee is waived for the first year. You get 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2x miles at restaurants and gas stations and 1x miles on all other purchases.

This card also comes with other travel perks, including a free checked bag for you and up to four additional travel companions on the same reservation, preferred boarding and 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases. You also get a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount if you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your first year, and renew your card.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants.

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.



The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®* offers a good value for most travelers. It’s welcome bonus is competitive with other airline credit cards at this fee level, and the $99 annual fee is waived for the first year. You get 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2x miles at restaurants and gas stations and 1x miles on all other purchases.

This card also comes with other travel perks, including a free checked bag for you and up to four additional travel companions on the same reservation, preferred boarding and 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases. You also get a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount if you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your first year, and renew your card.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants.

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Intro Offer


50,000 miles



Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days


Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate


1x
– 2x



2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1 mile per dollar on other purchases


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 850

Good – Excellent

APR


20.74%, 24.74%, or 29.74%, variable

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®* offers features similar to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, with a few drawbacks. We like that the welcome bonus is easy to earn: You get 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you make your first purchase and pay the annual fee in the first 90 days of card ownership. Most welcome bonuses make you spend hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars to unlock the welcome bonus, so this is quite accessible.

Aside from that, you’ll get free bags for up to five people (you and four travel companions), 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, and up to $25 in statement credits for in-flight Wi-Fi annually. If you can spend $20,000 per calendar year on the card, you can also earn a Companion Certificate on each account anniversary. This will enable you to take one guest on a flight with you for $99 (plus taxes and fees).

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro for first 15 billing cycles following each BT that posts within 45 days of account opening
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
20.74%, 24.74%, or 29.74%, variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

2x

2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases

1x

1 mile per dollar on other purchases



The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®* offers features similar to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, with a few drawbacks. We like that the welcome bonus is easy to earn: You get 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you make your first purchase and pay the annual fee in the first 90 days of card ownership. Most welcome bonuses make you spend hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars to unlock the welcome bonus, so this is quite accessible.

Aside from that, you’ll get free bags for up to five people (you and four travel companions), 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, and up to $25 in statement credits for in-flight Wi-Fi annually. If you can spend $20,000 per calendar year on the card, you can also earn a Companion Certificate on each account anniversary. This will enable you to take one guest on a flight with you for $99 (plus taxes and fees).

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro for first 15 billing cycles following each BT that posts within 45 days of account opening
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
20.74%, 24.74%, or 29.74%, variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

2x

2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases

1x

1 mile per dollar on other purchases


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Intro Offer


70,000 miles



Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.


Annual Fee

$595

Rewards Rate


1x
– 4x



Earn 4x AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.; 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 850

Good – Excellent

APR


21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is geared toward extras and travel comforts rather than earning rewards miles. The AAdvantage Executive credit card, which has a $595 annual fee, offers cardholders access to American Airlines’ Admirals Club lounges, normally costing $850 annually. Keep in mind, a one-day pass costs $79, so unless you visit a lounge more than seven times per year, the AAdvantage Executive will not save you money if lounge access is your primary motivation.

This card also offers up to a $100 statement credit every four years for either TSA Precheck or Global Entry — programs that can help you speed through airport security lines. You can also take advantage of a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation. If you travel with between six and nine people often, this card can save you a significant amount of money compared to the Platinum Select.

For more details, see our full review of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

4x

Earn 4x AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

1x

1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases



The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is geared toward extras and travel comforts rather than earning rewards miles. The AAdvantage Executive credit card, which has a $595 annual fee, offers cardholders access to American Airlines’ Admirals Club lounges, normally costing $850 annually. Keep in mind, a one-day pass costs $79, so unless you visit a lounge more than seven times per year, the AAdvantage Executive will not save you money if lounge access is your primary motivation.

This card also offers up to a $100 statement credit every four years for either TSA Precheck or Global Entry — programs that can help you speed through airport security lines. You can also take advantage of a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation. If you travel with between six and nine people often, this card can save you a significant amount of money compared to the Platinum Select.

For more details, see our full review of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

4x

Earn 4x AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

1x

1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Intro Offer


65,000 miles



Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.


Annual Fee

$99, waived for first 12 months

Rewards Rate


1x
– 2x



Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases; Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations*; Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


800 – 850

Excellent

APR


21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)

The Business version of the Platinum Select is similar to its consumer counterpart, but it has a few key differences. The main differentiator is the welcome bonus — 65,000 miles after spending $4,000 in the first four months of card ownership. You’ll also get discounted Wi-Fi on flights and a personal travel assistant to help with arrangements.

As for rewards, you can earn miles in additional business-oriented categories, including cable and satellite providers, gas stations, telecom merchants and car rentals, but you’ll likely earn more with another business credit card if your goal is to maximize rewards.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations*

1x

Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*



The Business version of the Platinum Select is similar to its consumer counterpart, but it has a few key differences. The main differentiator is the welcome bonus — 65,000 miles after spending $4,000 in the first four months of card ownership. You’ll also get discounted Wi-Fi on flights and a personal travel assistant to help with arrangements.

As for rewards, you can earn miles in additional business-oriented categories, including cable and satellite providers, gas stations, telecom merchants and car rentals, but you’ll likely earn more with another business credit card if your goal is to maximize rewards.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations*

1x

Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Intro Offer


10,000 miles



Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening


Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate


1x
– 2x



Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services; Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases; Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 850

Good – Excellent

APR


21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)

The American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®* is a pretty basic American Airlines credit card, but its simplicity includes no annual fee. This card offers 2x miles on eligible American Airlines flights and 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases. It also offers a welcome bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership. The MileUp is an easy way to earn some extra AAdvantage miles and save some money on in-flight purchases, but it won’t get you any extra travel perks like some of the other cards on this list.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

1x

Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases



The American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®* is a pretty basic American Airlines credit card, but its simplicity includes no annual fee. This card offers 2x miles on eligible American Airlines flights and 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases. It also offers a welcome bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership. The MileUp is an easy way to earn some extra AAdvantage miles and save some money on in-flight purchases, but it won’t get you any extra travel perks like some of the other cards on this list.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
21.24% – 29.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services

2x

Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

1x

Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases

How do airline credit cards compare to other travel rewards credit cards? 

Generally, we don’t recommend using an airline credit card as your main credit card. Instead, think of airline cards as a way to improve your flight experience with perks and credits. They can be a great way to maximize flight purchases, but usually won’t offer the best overall value for other purchase categories.

Some of the perks might not seem glamorous at first glance — like free checked bags — but the benefits can add up over just a few flights. If you’re not an airline loyalist, though, travel credit cards can offer more widely applicable rewards categories and perks, without restricting you to specific brands.

How do American Airlines cards stack up against other airlines’ cards?

 If you are a frequent traveler and not tied to a particular airline, American Airlines credit cards have some competition. The co-branded cards from airlines like Delta and JetBlue generally offer better value overall through welcome bonuses, reward rates and other perks. 

But if you’re already loyal to American Airlines, it may make sense to stick with an AAdvantage credit card or a general travel credit card — the better rewards with other airlines won’t help you much if you don’t want to switch airlines.

Do AAdvantage cards offer any annual credits?

Some AAdvantage cards offer annual credits, but they’re not easy to unlock. Most of the cards listed above offer an annual credit of some kind, but given the high spending thresholds required to unlock them, and their relatively low value, we don’t factor them in as a major attribute.

However, they can be relevant if you’re a high spender ($20,000 and up annually).

  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card.
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard: $99 AA Companion Certificate (plus taxes and fees) for one guest after spending $20,000 on purchases in one year.
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Earn 10,000 additional Loyalty Points after you spend $40,000 in purchases or earn 50,000 Loyalty Points during the qualifying status year. If you earn 90,000 Loyalty Points or more in that same qualifying year, you’ll receive an additional 10,000 points. Total additional Loyalty Points that can be earned through this benefit is 20,000 in one qualifying year. **Starting March 1, 2024 on, you can earn an additional 10,000 Loyalty Points after earning 50,000 Loyalty Points or more in a qualifying year. If you earn 90,000 Loyalty Points or more in the same qualifying year, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 points, bringing the Loyalty Point bonus to a maximum of 20,000 per year.
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard: Earn a $99 American Airlines Companion Certificate (plus taxes and fees) for domestic travel after you spend $30,000 or more in purchases each card membership year and card membership is renewed.

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card doesn’t offer any annual credits.

Do any of the American Airlines cards accelerate your AAdvantage status?

The Executive World Elite card offers up to 20,000 additional Loyalty Points after meeting the above requirements, but there are very few situations where that perk will be relevant toward bumping you up a status tier. 

The reward rates can help you earn status — though slowly — since those extra miles also earn you extra Loyalty Points. For every mile earned, you earn one Loyalty Point. If you’re earning 2x or 3x miles on certain purchases, you’ll earn 2 or 3 loyalty points, respectively, instead of the 1x mile you’d earn if you were just an AAdvantage loyalty member without a credit card.

How to choose the best American Airlines credit card for you

Before you apply, consider your annual budget and travel habits. If you travel enough to justify paying a higher annual fee, you’ll get greater rewards and perks. However, you want to avoid overpaying for a credit card. Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Do you fly American Airlines frequently? American Airlines credit cards are geared toward loyalists. If you aren’t tied to a particular airline, in this case American Airlines, you might prefer the flexibility of a travel credit card
  • Will the rewards outweigh the annual fee? Airline credit cards with an annual fee typically offer premium benefits and higher reward rates, but they can eat a hole in your pocket if you don’t spend enough to cover the annual cost. If you can’t see the potential value in a card’s reward structure to pay the annual fee, you’re probably better off applying for a card without one. 
  • Will you use the card’s travel perks? Most American Airlines credit cards offer benefits such as lounge access, free checked bags, annual travel credits, discounts on in-flight purchases and more. If you typically travel with only a carry-on or try to avoid the cost of airplane snacks, you might not find these perks useful. 

Compare your normal spending to the benefits to see what nets you the best value.

Earning reward miles

Most airline credit cards measure your rewards in miles which are used to book future flights. The value of a mile may vary by airline, travel dates, destinations and various other factors. This makes airline credit cards particularly difficult to compare, though most airline websites offer booking portals that give real-time flight price estimates in points. You can multiply the rewards rate by your transaction amount to find how many miles you’d earn for each purchase.

Welcome bonus

A welcome bonus can go a long way toward covering future airfare. Before you opt for the card with the bigger welcome bonus, make sure you can meet the requirements to reach it. Some cards require you to make a few purchases to earn it, while others make you spend thousands of dollars within a few months.

Annual fee

While annual fees may seem like a hindrance, they often translate to higher welcome bonuses, rewards and better benefits. If you’re interested in a credit card with an annual fee, ensure you can earn enough with your normal spending to cover the annual fee. 

Free checked bags

Most airlines will charge you for checking luggage. However, many airline credit cards will waive the checked bag fee for you and your travel companions. If you travel often or with family, these savings could add up quickly.

Airport lounge access

If you spend a lot of time in airports, airport lounge access can be a huge boon. They offer quiet places to work, massages, snacks, beverages and other amenities. This benefit won’t be as valuable to infrequent travelers, but could be a make-or-break feature for frequent flyers. Typically this feature is associated with a higher annual fee.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Many travel credit cards will offer a statement credit for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Global Entry is for international travelers as it expedites customs and includes TSA PreCheck, which gets you through TSA security lines more quickly. Global Entry normally costs $100, while TSA PreCheck is $78. Both last for five years, after which the credit provided by your card will be replenished.

Priority Boarding

Priority Boarding allows you to board the plane ahead of other boarding groups. If you’re worried about overhead bin space, or are just eager to find your seat, it could be an important perk.

Companion Pass

The AAdvantage card family offers cardholders the opportunity to earn a companion pass after spending either $20,000 or $30,000 per calendar year, depending on which AAdvantage card you have. Once you’ve hit that spend requirement, you can purchase a companion pass for $99 plus taxes and fees. If you often travel with a family member or friend and spend a lot on travel each year, this perk could potentially net a few hundred dollars worth of value.

Issuer loyalty

If you don’t fly American Airlines frequently, no AAdvantage card will be worthwhile. You could choose another airline lineup — like that of Southwest or United — or opt for a more general travel credit card.

The airline itself does not provide the actual lending services, as most AA cards are issued by Citi or Barclays.

How to maximize your American Airlines credit card

The easiest way to maximize the value you get from your AAdvantage card is to pick the card that best matches your spending and travel habits after accounting for the annual fee.

In addition to using your miles to fund your travels, be sure you’re taking advantage of all your card has to offer. That means using the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit if your card has one, and any priority boarding, waived check baggage fees or airport lounge access. Familiarize yourself with the terms, costs and rewards structure of your card.

FAQs

The translation of miles into airfare varies depending on the airline, origin, destination, date, day, time and other factors. You can check to see how much your miles are worth for a given flight by dividing the number of miles it takes to cover a ticket by its dollar cost.

There are nearly 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide. For the latest list and updates on American Airlines airport lounges, check out the Admirals Club locations page.

In most situations, your first checked bag will cost $30, though some routes may charge more or less. Your second and third check bags will typically cost a lot more. American Airlines offers a list of its routes with associated baggage fees if you need more details.

A travel companion is defined as someone who’s traveling with you on the same reservation. This can be a family member, business partner or even an acquaintance, as long as you’ve booked your flights together.

A once fruitful option, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®* from Barclays is no longer accepting new applications. This product is only being serviced for existing card members.

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles — with the understanding that everyone’s financial situation is different — and the designated function of a card.

*All information about the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard and AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

https://www.cnet.com/rss/all/

Joe Van Brussel

Leave a Reply