Courtesy of American Airlines

Best American Airlines credit cards

Options abound but travel experts offer their picks for the best cards for American loyalists

Summary

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or just travel with your family once a year, these are the American Airlines cards with the best perks and rewards bonuses.

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If you regularly fly American Airlines, then you may have noticed that the airline offers many co-branded credit cards, with frequent in-flight announcements about them. Of all the cards available, which ones are the best American Airlines credit cards for you? We spoke with travel veterans about their favorite American Airlines travel cards.

“I always have an American Airlines card open, so I can take care of my free checked bags,” says Geoff Whitmore, correspondent for travel blog Johnny Jet, who flies with the airline fairly often. And when he does, he brings his American Airlines credit card with him.

He also likes the priority boarding afforded by the card, which means there’s usually some space in the overhead bin when he gets to his seat. “If I have a carry-on, I don’t want to be stuck at the end of the gate checking it,” he said. “It kind of defeats the purpose.”

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Best for frequent flyers

Why we picked it: The reason the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® pulls ahead of the pack for true road warriors: It grants access to the nearly 50 American Airlines’ Admiral Club lounges worldwide. (Many of them closed due to COVID-19, but some have reopened – see the full list for details.)

In fact, access to these lounges is not only for when you fly with American Airlines. You can use these clubs even if you’re with a partner of American Airlines, such as Alaska Airlines or British Airways, says Julian Kheel, senior finance editor for CNN Underscored.

“This card comes with some pretty sweet perks,” says Benét Wilson, senior credit cards editor for The Points Guy. She points out that for no additional cost, you also get up to 10 cards for authorized users, who can enjoy the perks too. And the card is currently offering a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after an initial $5,000 spend within the first three months of opening.

Pros

  • 2X Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X mile on other purchases
  • Free Admirals Club membership
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck every five years
  • Free first checked bag, for up to eight people in your party, and priority boarding

Cons

  • $450 annual fee
  • Restrictive routing rules

Who should apply: Regular American Airlines fliers who’ve been curious about the airline’s Admirals Club should definitely consider this card. Those who love traveling in luxury and don’t mind paying for it will also love this option.

Who should skip: If that $450 annual fee made you wince, you should skip. Also, those who don’t spend enough time in airports to enjoy lounges will not appreciate this card.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Best for occasional travelers

Why we picked it: Whitmore recommended the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®* for the occasional traveler. Currently, new cardholders get 50,000 Airlines AAdvantage® miles if they spend $2,500 within the first three months.

But what gives it the edge is that cardholders can earn more miles on everyday purchases, with 2X miles on spending on eligible American Airlines purchases at restaurants and at gas stations. Plus, you’ll earn 1X miles on everything else.

Pros

  • 50,000 miles if you spend $2,500 in the first three months
  • Travel perks like free first checked bag and preferred boarding
  • $125 American Airlines Flight Discount every year you spend $20,000 and renew your card
  • Unlimited miles earnings

Cons

  • $99 annual fee (waived for first 12 months)
  • Blackout dates on some awards
  • Fee for phone award booking

Who should apply: Do you travel only a few times a year and would enjoy some benefits, but not all? If so, this card will suit you great.

Who should skip: Anyone who cannot fit an annual fee into their budget should probably skip this one.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: Best for no annual fee

Why we picked it: Citi’s no-annual-fee option the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is also excellent. “This is a great starter card for those looking to earn status and miles on American Airlines,” Wilson says. At sign up, cardholders can earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on the card within three months of opening the account.

It offers 2X miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and grocery stores, and 1X mile on other purchases. Like the other American Airlines cards, cardholders get a 25% discount on in-flight food and drinks if they use the card.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Citi Private Pass (early access to tickets for music, sports and dining events)
  • Extended warranty and 90-day return protection
  • 25% savings on in-flight purchases

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Blackout dates on some awards

Who should apply: If you’d like to earn miles on everyday categories like grocery stores, you’ll love this card. It’s also great for anyone who isn’t ready to pay for an annual fee.

Who should skip: If you require a bit more pampering and indulgence before a long flight, you can skip this card. People who love earning travel rewards will also be disappointed with the slim rewards structure.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard: Best for business travelers

Why we picked it: The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®* offers new cardholders 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after they make $4,000 in purchases within the first four months. You also earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and in select business categories including telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations.

Benefits include a free first checked bag, preferred boarding and a 25% savings on in-flight food, beverages and wi-fi. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year and no foreign transaction fees.

Pros

  • 65,000 AAdvantage miles if you spend $4,000 in the first four months
  • $99 American Airlines Companion Certificate, for domestic travel, after spending $30,000 and renewing your ownership
  • Free first checked bag and preferred boarding
  • 7,500 fewer miles required for select destinations

Cons

  • $99 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months)
  • Various fees for award redemptions and cancellations
  • Fee for phone award booking

Who should apply: Business owners who fly often for work should definitely consider this card. Even if you mostly travel for pleasure, you’d probably like it for its rewards on gas and the Companion Certificate.

Who should skip: Non-business owners, of course, should not get this card. Business owners who  spend less than $30,000 a year or do not fly often with American Airlines should also skip.

Comparing the best American Airlines credit cards

All the cards, with their various benefits and rewards programs, sound equally attractive. Which one suits you the best? Check out how the cards compare side by side:

CardsCiti®/ AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ CardCitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
Introductory bonus50,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months50,000 miles if you spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months10,000 miles and $50 statement credit if you spend $500 in purchases within the first 3 months65,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months
Annual fee$450$99 (waived the first year)$0$99 (waived the first year)
2X miles categoriesAmerican Airlines purchases
  • American Airlines purchases
  • Gas stations and restaurants
  • American Airlines purchases
  • Grocery stores
  • Telecommunications, car rental, cable and satellite and gas station purchases
  • American Airlines purchases
Free checked bagYesYesNoYes
Preferred boardingYesYesNoYes

How to choose a card for American Airlines

With all these American Airlines credit cards on offer, how can you decide which one is best for you? Here are some questions to consider.

  • Do you want the best sign-up bonus? If so, we recommend the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and its 50,000 bonus miles after only a $2,500 spend. Compared with the $5,000 spending goal of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Platinum Select World Elite card gives you the same number of points for much lower.
  • Do you prioritize card perks? Of them all, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has everything, including several exclusive benefits like an Admiral Club membership and priority check-in. For those who often travel for work and play, the lounge access will really come in handy during layovers.
  • What will you use the card for? If this card is only meant for you to earn and maximize your AAdvantage miles, one of the more elite ones will do the trick. For cardholders who’d like to use their cards to earn miles while spending on everyday purchases, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card or the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card will make great additions to your wallet.

Bottom line

Each American Airlines credit card has its own strengths and weaknesses. By understanding who these cards are designed for, you’ll quickly find the right one for your needs. Of course, the ones with higher annual fees will offer more premium benefits, but think carefully if you travel often enough to truly enjoy those perks. If not, opting for one with a lower annual fee, or none, will still earn you great rewards and enrich your experience with American Airlines.

Citi isn’t the only issuer that offers American Airlines co-branded credit cards. Barclays has one as well. We recommend you read up their roster of cards before committing to one.

*All information about the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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