American AAdvantage Aviator Red is a popular airline card due to its generous sign-up bonus – but the card will now offer more benefits. Should you keep the card or shop around?
Dear Cashing In,
I have a Barclaycard American AAdvantage Aviator Red card that I have kept for a few years because I fly occasionally on American Airlines.
I was considering getting rid of it because I now rarely use it. But then I got a letter in the mail saying they are improving some of the benefits on the card.
With the changes, should I hang onto the card, or should I cancel it like I was planning to? – Ronda
Usually, when we are talking about cards that have annual fees, the general rule is to re-evaluate them regularly and see if they continue to make sense for you.
If you find you are rarely using the card, and you are rarely using the perks associated with the card, then that can often be an indication that you should cancel and stop paying annual fees.
If your card has no annual fee, there’s not much downside to keeping it open, even if you don’t use it.
See related: Best cards for American Airlines
Airline card: To keep or not to keep
It’s always tough to know the right answer because people’s individual circumstances differ.
With airline cards, a lot of people are attracted to them initially because of the high sign-up bonuses of frequent flyer miles they offer.
For instance, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard currently gets you 60,000 American miles after you use the card for the first time in the first 90 days and pay the $95 annual fee. That’s a lot of miles.
But a lot of times, people fail to evaluate those cards a year later when the next annual fee comes due. They wind up paying annual fees for ongoing benefits that are less compelling than the original reason for applying for the card.
With airline cards, these perks often include priority boarding, free checked bags and minor discounts on in-flight food. You usually earn one airline frequent flyer mile per $1 spent.
See related: Best airline credit cards of 2019
Aviator Red old and new benefits
Specifically, on the Aviator Red, the perks are:
- First checked bag free.
- Preferred boarding.
- 25 percent savings on in-flight food and drinks.
As you can see, those benefits are tied directly to flights on American. If you rarely fly on American, you might consider canceling the card, since you’re not in position to take advantage of the benefits – although if you really enjoy redeeming miles on American, you might hang onto the card to continue earning those miles on your spending.
Now, let’s look at the changes Barclaycard and American recently announced on the Aviator Red:
- Adding an annual $25 Wi-Fi credit on American flights.
- Adding an annual $99 companion ticket for customers who spend $20,000 a year or more on the card.
- Adding a voluntary program called Flight Cents, which rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and gives you additional miles at a rate of 50 points per $1 (or 2 cents per point).
- Raising the annual fee to $99, from $95
Red Aviator card: Is it worth keeping?
Again, these are changes that mostly pertain to flying on American or redeeming miles on American.
If you are not a loyal American customer, and your home airport has flights on a lot of different airlines, you may want to stick with your original inclination to cancel the card and perhaps look at different travel cards as a replacement.
But if you foresee a lot of American flights in your future, or you are stockpiling American frequent flyer miles, then hanging onto the card might make more sense.