American credit cards: pointless, stupid, or worth having?

This is now number three in an increasingly boring series. I’ve already covered United and Delta, but I’m too fucking lazy to link to those posts, so if you care, just…I don’t know, go to the web site and find them, or something. Do you expect me to do all the work for you?

Anyway, good morning to you. or whenever it is that you’re reading this. Let’s size up the credit card offerings that get you American miles. Short answer: some are maybe worth having, sometimes, but your loyalty to American is costing you award trips because you can’t accumulate the miles as quickly as you can for United and Delta. (Then again, Delta’s friggin’ awards will cost you a billion miles, so you have to figure that in, too.)

American’s a slightly different beast than United or Delta when it comes to points and miles, because 1) they have seventy billion different credit cards, from two different banks (Citi and Barclays) and 2) you can’t transfer any Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, or Citi FuckYou ThankYou points to American miles. (You, can, however, transfer both Chase and Amex points to British Airways, where you can often redeem your BA miles for an AA flight. I’ve done it more than once.)

What you can do is transfer SPG points to AAdvantage miles, and you can earn those with the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest card. If you’re an American loyalist, for some reason, then that’s probably the card you should be spending on, because you get a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points at a time, plus you can use the points for 44 other airlines, giving you a helluva lot more flexibility than, you know, one single airline. So when I’m saying below that most AA cards are stupid to spend on, it’s in comparison to instead spending on the SPG card. But, if you’re willing to fly United or Delta instead, then even the SPG card is stupid to spend on compared with cards that earn Chase and Amex points, because you can accumulate more points for the same spending.

Ok, so, fine, already, is it worth having any of the American AAdvantage credit cards? There are…so many of them.

Citi AAdvantage Gold: This is the only major airline card that can be had for $50/year (waived the first year), which isn’t terrible, and you get 25,000 AA miles for signing up (though you can do better with the AAdvantage Platinum Select card). The Gold card gets you a mile per buck you spend, 25% discounts on in-flight purchases, and not much else, though it does get you access to award ticket discounts if you want to go somewhere on on the reduced mileage awards list. Worth having if you actually use the reduced mileage awards. Stupid to spend on.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select: $95/year (waived the first year). Nominally, you get 30,000 AA miles for signing up, which is uninspiring, but there are offers for 60,000. You get the same benefits as the Gold, plus 2 miles per dollar spent on AA, first bag checked free, priority boarding, deeper discounts on reduced mileage awards, and, happily, a 10% rebate on award ticket redemptions, up to 10,000 miles back per year. (Also available in a business flavor, the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select, which additionally offers two miles per dollar spent on gas, office supply, and telecom; and you can get a companion certificate for $99+taxes if you spend $30K in a year.) Worth having if you actually use the reduced mileage awards, don’t have elite status on American, or use more than 50,000 miles a year on award tickets. Stupid to spend on.

Citi AAdvantage Executive: $450/year (not waived first year), with a 50,000 mile signup bonus. The benefits are mostly the same as the Platinum Select, minus the 10% award ticket rebate, plus expedited screening and check-in, and lounge access — for you and any authorized user you designate on the card. Also, significantly, you can also get 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles, though you have to spend a pretty steep $40,000 for that. Worth having if you and your loved-or-at-least-tolerated ones like the American lounge, and/or don’t have elite status on American. Stupid to spend on, except maybe if you’re chasing status by spending.

Citi AAdvantage Bronze: This card has no fee at all, and you can’t apply for it, only convert another Citi card to it. It earns a drab 0.5 miles per dollar spent, with no other benefits. The only reason to have this card is that downgrading to it from another Citi AAdvantage card, rather than closing the card, might be good idea, because that way you don’t reset the Citi 24-month no-bonus clock, and do better for your credit score. Worth having if you want to avoid closing another Citi AAdvantage card; very stupid to spend on.

(There’s also something called the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Select, that you can’t apply for, but presumably can change to from a CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select. Compared with the personal cards, it looks closest to the Gold, so I’m assuming it costs around the same, but I don’t know. I can’t fucking know everything.)


Those are just the cards from Citi. Barclays also has a few, which are sort of inherited from when they offered cards for US Airways, whose executive staff has remade American in its own low-rent image since the merger. American doesn’t even pimp these cards on their own site, but they exist.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red: $95/year. Currently, you get 50,000 miles for signing up, after making just one purchase, which ain’t bad. Its major perks are nearly identical to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select: 2 miles per dollar spent on American, and 1 mile for everything else; first checked bag free; priority boarding; 10% mileage rebate on award tickets up to 10,000 miles per year, and 25% off in-flight purchases. But, unlike the Citi card, if you spend $25,000, you get $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars, effectively waiving the spending requirement for one tier of status. If you care, then that makes this card better than the equivalent Citi version, except for its first year not being free. (Also available in a business flavor, the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business, which additionally offers two miles per dollar spent on car rental, office supply, and telecom; 5% bonus miles based on your yearly earning; and you can get a companion certificate for $99+taxes if you spend $30K in a year.) Worth having if you don’t have elite status on American; possibly worth spending on if you’re chasing elite status by flying on cheap tickets.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver: $195/year. You can only get it by converting from a Red. It’s got all the stuff the Red has, but it’s more helpful for earning status. Each year, you can earn 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $20,000, and then another 5,000 for another $20,000. Unlike the Red, you can also earn an additional $3,000 (so $6,000 total) Elite Qualifying Dollars by spending an additional $25,000 (so $50,000 total). It also earns better, at 3 miles per dollar spent on American, 2 on hotel and car rental, and 1 for everything else. Worth having if you don’t have elite status on American; possibly worth spending on if you buy a ton of American tickets, or are chasing higher-tier elite status by flying on cheap tickets.


If you really want elite status on American, and spend a fuckton, you could contemplate getting both the Citi Executive and the Barclays Silver, which would help you on both qualifying miles and qualifying dollars. Still, you’d be talking about spending $90,000, not counting annual fees, for a measly 20,000 EQM and $6,000 EQD. That wouldn’t quite qualify you for even entry level status (though you’d need to fly only 5,000 miles in economy, or 2,500 in Business, to get there).

Having flown American a few times recently, I can say without reservation that they suck. Still, if you fly them more than a couple times per year, check bags, and don’t have elite status, it’s probably worth having one of their dumb cards. I don’t think it really makes sense to spend on any of them, though, unless you really, really want a higher elite status tier. Personally, I’d rather have SPG points.

2 thoughts on “American credit cards: pointless, stupid, or worth having?

  1. Jack

    Thanks for breaking this down with actual numbers and why the hell we’d even want these cards (don’t; way too much spend for way too little benefit). Appreciate your honesty, which is seriously so refreshing after reading article after article from blogwhores pushing these cards. Ugh. Please never change.

    1. Ivan X Post author

      You’re welcome. Changing sounds hard, so I’ll probably just stay as I am. As far as spend goes, the Barclays AA card has $0.01 minimum spend (you get the bonus after one purchase), so it’s pretty much 60,000 AA for $99, which I think is a pretty solid deal. Otherwise, yeah, the Citi cards have first year free, but it’s the usual minimum spend party.


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