/The 8 best credit cards for American Airlines flyers, from a no-annual-fee option to premium perks
The 8 best credit cards for American Airlines flyers, from a no-annual-fee option to premium perks

The 8 best credit cards for American Airlines flyers, from a no-annual-fee option to premium perks

These are the best credit cards for American Airlines flyers:

If you fly American Airlines more than once or twice a year, a co-branded American Airlines card could make sense so you can earn miles toward award flights, and enjoy benefits like a free checked bag.

Between its two issuer partners, Citibank and Barclays, American Airlines now offers an overwhelming eight credit cards that are available to new members. They range from a no-annual-fee option to a $450-per-year card that offers includes access to the airline’s Admirals Club airport lounges and rewards high spenders with elite-qualifying miles.

With all those choices, picking the right card for your needs is more difficult than ever. Take a look at each of their benefits, how they differ, and decide which one’s perks you can most easily leverage based on your regular spending activity. Here’s a snapshot of what type of traveler each card might be best for.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back. 

If you’re not loyal to American: Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you know you’ll fly American once or twice this year but want to keep your options open with rewards that can be used across multiple airlines (and hotels), a card that earns transferable points is your best best. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a good option thanks to its reasonable $95 annual fee and the valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points it earns you.

The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Chase points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You’ll earn 2x points on all dining and travel purchases, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. While American Airlines isn’t a Chase transfer partner — meaning you can’t move your Chase points into the AAdvantage frequent flyer program — you can use your rewards from the Chase Sapphire Preferred to book American Airlines flights directly through Chase. Even better, your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel, so you’ll get 1.25 cents in value toward flights.

If you want a more premium card, you could consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead. It earns 3x points (instead of 2x) on travel and dining, and your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece toward American Airlines flights booked through Chase. The card has a $450 annual fee, but the $300 annual travel credit helps offset that cost.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred »

Best for earning American miles: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select card

If your primary goal is to rack up American AAdvantage miles quickly on everyday purchases, the earning rates on the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard can’t be beat. That’s because it accrues 2x miles not only on American Airlines purchases, but also at restaurants and gas stations, two major expense categories for a lot of consumers.

Aside from that, cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions, preferred boarding, and 25% in-flight food and beverage discounts. Those who spend $20,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year can earn a $125 flight discount certificate.

The card’s $99 annual fee is waived the first year, and it’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you make $2,500 in purchases within the first three months.

Best for budget travelers: AAdvantage MileUp card

Want to earn miles on everyday purchases without the burden of a high annual fee? American Airlines introduced its no-annual-fee MileUp Mastercard a couple years ago to target less frequent flyers on a budget.

The card earns a respectable 2x miles on both American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores, and 1x on everything else. Its only day-of-travel benefit is a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage buys, so don’t expect free checked bags or priority boarding.

The card is currently offering 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you make $500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Click here to learn more about the AAdvantage MileUp card »

Best for lounge access: Citi / AAdvantage Executive card

If you’re a frequent American flyer and value access to the airline’s Admirals Clubs, then this is the right card for you. It does have a $450 annual fee, but that is still $200 cheaper than Admirals Club membership costs if you by it outright.

Unlike other airlines’ club cards, which merely offer lounge access, those with this one enjoy full Admirals Club membership privileges including entry to some partner lounges. Cardholders can also bring immediate family or up to two guests with same-day boarding passes on American or partner airlines for free. Not only that, but you can also add up to 10 authorized users, each of whom can also access Admirals Clubs with up to two guests for free.

Cardholders are eligible for up to a $100 statement credit to cover the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application feeonce every five years. They also get free checked bags for themselves and up to eight companions, are entitled to priority boarding, and get a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

Those who spend $40,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year receive 10,000 elite-qualifying miles toward status with the airline. Foreign transaction fees are waived, and cardholders can book reduced-mileage awards on some domestic routes.

This card is currently offering 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Click here to learn more about the Citi / AAdvantage Executive card »

Best for elite status: AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard

This card is not open to new applicants, but you can upgrade to it if you have the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. The reason this card wins in this category is that it allows you to earn both elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) and elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs) toward American Airlines AAdvantage status.

You can earn 5,000 EQMs by spending $20,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year, and an additional 5,000 EQMs for hitting $40,000. Not only that, but cardholders can also earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 on purchases in a calendar year. Those are some big numbers, but if you’re the type of flyer who takes longer flights on less expensive fares, those extra EQDs might be all the boost you need to hit the next tier of status.

This card’s other value-packed perks include up to a $100 credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every five years, up to $25 back per day on in-flight food and beverage purchases, and up to $50 refunded for Wi-Fi purchases on American flights each year.

Cardholders also enjoy priority boarding, free checked bags for up to nine people on the same reservation, and two $99 (plus taxes) companion certificates after spending $20,000 in purchase each account year that they can redeem toward round-trip domestic economy itineraries.

The card earns 3x miles on American Airlines purchases, 2x miles on hotels and car rentals, and 1x on everything else. Its annual fee is $195.

Best for discounts: AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

While the Aviator Silver offers more significant onboard discounts, you might still want to consider the Red version instead for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s open to new applicants and is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles that you earn after making a single purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee.

In addition to offering 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, it will also reimburse you up to $25 each year for in-flight Wi-Fi buys. However, since it’s also a World Elite Mastercard, you can take advantage of perks recently added to that program including a $10 Lyft credit after taking five or more rides each month, and a $5 discount on orders of $25 or more from Postmates. Plus, the card includes cellphone protection (with a $50 deductible per claim) against loss or damage on up to $800 per claim, or up to two claims and a total of $1,000 per year, which can be a lifesaver.

The card waives foreign transaction fees and earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and 1x on everything else. Day-of-travel benefits include priority boarding and a free checked bag for up to five people on the same reservation including the cardholder. If you spend more than $20,000 on purchases per account year, you will also receive a $99 (plus taxes) companion certificate good for a round-trip domestic economy ticket.

Best for business travelers who want status: AAdvantage Aviator Business card

Barclays’ American Airlines business card wins out in this category for a few reasons, not the least of which is its 75,000-mile sign-up bonus, which you can earn by making $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days and adding an employee card and making a purchase on it in the same time frame.

The card earns 2x miles not just on American Airlines purchases, but also at office supply stores and on purchases from telecom companies and car rental agencies, and 1x everywhere else. Cardholders also get a 5% annual bonus on all the points earned each account year.

Those who make $25,000 in purchases on it in a calendar year are eligible to receive $3,000 EQDs toward elite status, while those who spend $30,000 or more during an account year receive a $99 (plus taxes and fees) companion travel certificate. During travel, the first checked bag is free for cardholders and up to four companions, all of whom also receive priority boarding, and in-flight food and beverage purchases are eligible for a 25% discount. The annual fee is $95.

For business travelers who don’t care about status: CitiBusiness/ AAdvantage card

Your other option is the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard. It’s offering new cardholders 70,000 bonus miles for making $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening, and its $99 annual fee is waived the first year.

The bonus earning categories include 2x on American Airlines purchases, gas stations, cable and satellite services, telecommunications, and car rentals. This card has the same checked bag and boarding benefits as the Barclays version, though its in-flight purchase discount includes Wi-Fi. Those who spend $30,000 or more on purchases in an account year and renew their account receive a companion travel certificate, too (provided their account remains open for at least 45 days after the account anniversary).

Click here to learn more about the Citi Business / AAdvantage card »

Bottom line

American Airlines fields an extensive collection of co-branded credit cards through its two issuers, Barclays and Citibank. Which product is right for your needs will come down to the benefits you most value, and which card’s perks you can maximize with your normal travel and spending habits.

Click here to learn more about the best airline credit cards »

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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