A few days ago I mentioned that I finally received my AAdvantage Aviator Red card from Barclaycard. Although I’ve mentioned briefly why I chose to apply for the card, I’ve never fully explained the benefits of this card. Today I wanted to take some time to explain the full benefits of the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red card. Additionally, I wanted to briefly discuss if there is an AAdvantage (sorry it’s just too easy) in choosing this card over its direct competitor; the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card.
AAdvantage Aviator Red Card Benefits Overview
The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red card has quite the unique history. Originally this card was actually the Barclaycard US Airways Premier World MasterCard. This card was born in the months immediately following the American Airlines and US Airways merger. While the card eventually replaced the US Airways co-branded card, you still couldn’t apply for the card directly.
At the time American Airlines had an exclusive credit card agreement with Citi Bank. Therefore, Barclaycard couldn’t accept new applicants for this card. Instead, you have to apply for the US Airways card which Barclaycard would eventually convert into an AAdvantage Aviator Card. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that you could apply directly for the AAdvantage Aviator Red card.
Once Barclaycard began accepting new applications directly for the card the question quickly became should you apply for the AAdvantage Aviator Red card or the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card from Citi? Both cards offer similar benefits and carry the same $95 annual fee. However, there are a few distinct differences, besides that fact that Citi waives the annual fee for the first 12-months, that convinced me to choose one over the other; for now.
AAdvantage Award Mile Sign-Up Bonus
Before I jump into the comparison between the two cards, I’ll first explain the benefits of just the AAdvantage Aviator Red card from Barclaycard. I’ll begin with the easy to quantify benefits.
For starters, the AAdvantage Aviator Red card is currently offering an attractive sign-up bonus. The current sign-up bonus is for 60,000 AAdvantage Award Miles after making a single purchase and paying the card’s annual fee. Since the annual fee is not waived for the first year, assuming you make a single purchase and pay off your entire balance at month-end, you should have no problem earning the sign-up bonus.
The 60,000 mile bonus represents a slight increase from the standard 50,000 mile bonus. While I wanted to take AAdvantage (sorry, last one I promise) of the increased sign-up bonus, the increased bonus alone didn’t factor in to my decision to open this card. Either offer represents at least $750 of value. I hope to get at least $900 of value from my increased 60,000 AAdvantage mile sign-up bonus (60,000*$0.015). In theory, the sign-up bonus alone justifies keeping this card open for at least 9 years.
10% Annual AAdvantage Mile Redemption Rebate
While increased sign-up bonuses generally get me interested in opening new cards, I don’t open a new credit card unless there is a long-term value proposition. For me, with this card, that’s the 10% annual award mile rebate. Essentially this rebate gives you 10% of your redeemed miles back each year. The best part is that you receive the rebate around the same time of your redemption instead of having to wait until the end of the year.
American caps this benefit to just 10,000 miles annually. So, to maximize this benefit, you’ll have to redeem at least 100,000 AAdvantage miles annually. Given my upcoming travel plans for 2018 and beyond I don’t think I’ll have a hard time maximizing this benefit.
The reason I love this benefit is that it effectively covers the $95 annual fee each year. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I value AAdvantage miles at $0.015/each. If I maximize this benefit each year I’ll effectively get $150 of value from the card which more than covers the annual fee.
Annual $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollar Benefit
Another reason I’ll most likely keep this card open for a while is the possibly to earn $3,000 EQD annually. As you’ll recall this year the AAdvantage loyalty program turned revenue based. This means, theoretically, you have to spend a certain amount of money with the airline each year to qualify for elite status. In my case, I must earn $12,000 of EQD each year to qualify for Executive Platinum status.
With this card, I’ll only need to earn $9,000 EQD from flying or spending with American. I’ll earn the other $3,000 EQD after putting $25,000 of annual spend on this card. In this case I’m going to move some of my everyday spending to this card. I’ll always try to find other ways, such as paying rent on the card, to make sure I spend at least $25,000 on the card this year. I try to earn EQD at a rate of 2 EQD per $1 I spend on airfare. That means each year I can spend $1,500 less in airfare and still qualify for Executive Platinum status.
It’s worth mentioning that you must spend the $25,000 entirely within a calendar year. For this reason, I will make sure to hit the mark when my November statement closes as I don’t want to miss out on earning status just because my year-end transactions didn’t post in time.
Earn 2X AAdvantage Miles On American Airlines Purchases, 1X On All Other Purchases
Another valuable benefit from this card is the ability to earn 2X AAdvantage miles on all American Airlines purchases. I suspect most people who open this card fly with American a decent amount. This represents a great opportunity to earn AAdvantage miles quickly when buying flights directly from American. Additionally, you’ll earn 1X AAdvantage miles on all other purchases.
While this is actually quite a nice benefit, I could never recommend opening this card for this benefit alone. If your goal is to earn miles quickly from buying flights then you absolutely MUST open the American Express Platinum card. With the Platinum card you’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards points from all airfare. Also the Platinum card’s effective annual fee is just $150 after taking advantage of annual credits. When compared to the $95 of the Aviator Red card you’ll only need to spend $750 on airfare annually to earn enough Membership Rewards points to offset the difference in annual fees. Not to mention American Express Membership Rewards points are much more valuable than ever more difficult to use AAdvantage miles.
First Checked Bag Flies Free
While American elite’s and road warriors won’t care much about this benefit, it’s still a benefit worth mentioning. If you carry this card American waives checked baggage fees for your first domestic checked bag and the first bag for up to four travel companions. This benefit is only valid for American Airlines operated domestic flights.
This benefit is particularly hard to quantify. If you’re worried about bag fees on American you probably don’t fly American that often. AAdvantage Gold elite members receive this benefit, so if your without status it’s likely that you take less than ~20 flights each year. For that reason I’m not sure how much money you’ll actually save each year from this benefit.
However, this benefit did become more valuable with the addition of basic economy fares. With this card you can purchase a basic economy fare and not worry about checking your bag. Since you may have to check your bag anyway it might as well be free. This benefit is really only useful if you rarely fly American, but when you do you either need to check a bag or only purchase basic economy fares.
Speaking of American’s Basic Economy, this card helps you escape the pitfalls of booking basic economy altogether. When purchasing BE fares you aren’t allowed to bring a carry-on into the main cabin. However, this rule is currently only enforced for those in Boarding Group 9.
With the AAdvantage Aviator Red card you’ll automatically board with Boarding Group 5. In boarding group 5 you’re allowed to bring a carry-on into the main cabin. This benefit coupled with the free checked bag benefit mean that if you don’t care about elite status, you can book Basic Economy and still fly as though you purchased a Main Cabin ticket.
25% Off In-Flight Purchases
This benefit will maybe get you a few dollars back each year, but again is worth mentioning. Anytime you make an in-flight purchase with your AAdvantage Aviator Red card, you’ll automatically receive a 25% rebate in the form of a statement credit. I suppose this benefit could come in handy if you have a tight connection and have to skip a meal at the airport in between flights or if you just need that premium beverage to take the edge off.
Either way, I don’t think anyone is going to get a ton of value from this benefit. In fact, I’d argue this benefit is for the benefit of the airline. I’d bet people end up spending more on in-flight purchases if they have this card than those who don’t. Note: I have no evidence to back up this claim.
Waived Foreign Transaction Fees
The last benefit I find worth mentioning is a benefit found in nearly all fee based credit cards these days. As with most annual fee credit cards the AAdvantage Aviator Red card offers waived foreign transaction fees. Again, I don’t think you’re going to get enough value from this benefit to justify paying the annual fee, but it’s always nice to have more than one credit card that offers this benefit when traveling internationally.
My Opinion On The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red Card
Right off the bat I think this card is perfect for anyone who plans on buying Basic Economy fares on American going forward. While you still won’t be able to pre-select a seat when buying BE fares, you’ll at least be able to bring a large carry-on and board in boarding group 5. If you end up having to check a bag at least you won’t have to pay for checked baggage fees. For those reasons alone, I’d argue this card is worth considering if you plan on buying BE fares and are without American status.
Next, I thought about this card as it compares to the United MileagePlus Explorer card. I opened the United MileagePlus Explorer card because of the benefits I receive when flying United as a non-elite MileagePlus member. Additionally, I’m able to justify the $95 annual fee thanks to the two complimentary United Club passes I receive each year. However, I can’t make the same argument for the AAdvantage Aviator Red card. In fact, I’d argue that this card is terrible for anyone who doesn’t fly American with some regularity. While the free checked bags and preferred boarding benefits are great, I don’t think either make the case for carrying this card.
Instead, I’d argue this card is best suited for those who fly American a lot. If you’re diligent about putting a lot of annual spend on this card and earn the $3,000 EQD annually you could find yourself at a higher level of status than you would have earned from flying alone.
Additionally, I believe American geared the 10% mileage rebate toward the frequent American flier. For most people it would take years to earn 100,000 AAdvantage miles. However, many frequent American fliers easily earn and burn 100,000 miles each year.
I’m really intrigued by the AAdvantage Aviator Red card from Barclaycard. While I tend to think these $95 annual fee credit cards generally appeal to travelers without frequent flyer status, I’d argue this card is best suited for those who do go after elite status. To make things even more difficult, American currently offers to co-branded credit card options.
When trying to decide between the AAdvantage Aviator Red card and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum select card I think the only question to ask yourself is if you value the EQD waiver? If the answer is “Yes” then you absolutely MUST apply for the Barclaycard co-branded card as the Citi card does not offer this benefit. However, if you don’t care about earning EQD I’d recommend opening the Citi Platinum Select card. The Citi card comes with nearly identical benefits as the Aviator Red card, but also gives card holders to quarterly reduced mileage awards.
All in all, I’m very happy with the AAdvantage Aviator Red card. I think it’s a good fit for AAdvantage members with elite status. The card is especially great for elite members who are looking for ways to maintain elite status under the new
regime program guidelines.
- Barclaycard’s website (Not An Affiliate Link)