Which Credit Card is Best for American Airlines Fliers?

These credit cards cater to American Airlines frequent fliers, but each comes with its own unique perks.
Last updated Sep 21, 2020 | By Christy Rakoczy
Young man looking at his phone on an airplane

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If you fly with American Airlines often, it might make sense to opt for a credit card that gives you special perks for flying with this carrier. There are lots of credit cards that allow you to earn miles to use on different airlines, but there are also some cards that specifically cater to American Airlines customers.

These cards let you get special perks, such as free checked bags — helping you avoid American Airlines baggage fees — extra points on purchases with American, free companion airline tickets on American flights, and more. Finding an American Airlines-branded card can make a lot of sense if you’re loyal to this airline, but it can be hard to know which is the best travel credit card for American Airlines fliers.

Fortunately, this guide will show you all the key cards designed for American Airlines customers so you can find the card that’s best for your specific situation.

The best credit cards for American Airlines

What American Airlines credit cards offer

Each of the American Airlines credit cards differs in annual fees and the perks it provides. For example, while they all offer earn bonus points on purchases made with American Airlines and allow you to redeem miles with American or partner airlines, there are big differences in the annual fees, airline lounge access, savings on inflight purchases, and other cardholder perks.

The Citi / American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card has a $0 annual fee, for example, but charges foreign transaction fees and offers few cardholder perks besides the chance to earn rewards points. The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, on the other hand, has a $450 annual fee but comes with Admirals Club membership, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit, a free checked bag, and many other valuable perks.

The table below shows more details about each of these cards so you can better select which may be the best airline credit card for you.


Citi / American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp CardCiti / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
Annual fee $0
$99 (waived first year)  $450 $99
Intro bonus Earn 10,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (and a $50 statement credit) after making $500 in purchases in the first 3 months Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase in the first 90 days and pay the annual fee
Earning rate

2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at grocery stores and on American Airlines purchases, plus 1X on everything else     

2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases 2X miles on American Airlines purchases and 1X miles for every $1 spent on other purchases

Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 within the year

2X miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1X mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
Free bags None First checked bag free for you and up to four companions First checked bag free for you and up to eight companions First checked bag free for you and up to four companions
Boarding perks None Preferred boarding Priority boarding Preferred boarding
Lounge access No No Yes No
Other perks
  • 25% savings on inflight food and beverages
  • 25% savings on inflight food and beverages
  • $125 flight discount after spending $20,000 and renewing your card
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Dedicated concierge
  • Admirals Club membership, valued at up to $650
  • 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases
  • Annual $99 companion certificate after spending $20,000 and keeping your account open 45 days past your card anniversary
  • $25 statement credit on inflight Wi-Fi
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% APR on balance transfers for 15 billing cycles (on balance transfers that post within 45 days of account opening)

Which card is right for you?

The right card for your situation will depend on how often you travel, how much you spend, and how you prefer to travel.

While the Citi / American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card is the only one without an annual fee, opting for one of the other cards can make more sense if you and a guest fly more than twice with checked bags. That’s because the American Airlines fee for a single checked bag is $30 on domestic flights — so two bags on two flights would cost you $120 in checked bag fees. That’s well above the $99 annual fee for the Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select, which both offer free checked bags for you and up to four companions on domestic flights.

For many, the Barclays card may win over the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select. Both have the same annual fee, but the Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® also offers a companion certificate if you spend $20,000 on purchases each year and keep your account open for 45 days past your card anniversary.

Otherwise, you may prefer the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select if you often spend at gas stations and restaurants, since this Citi card provides double miles for these purchases, which the Barclay card doesn’t.

The Citi / AAdvantage Executive card is in a class by itself regarding the cost, thanks to its high annual fee. But if you were going to buy Admirals Club membership to get access to American Airlines lounges, this card provides a great value.

Other credit cards that are great if you fly American Airlines


The Platinum Card from American Express Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card
Annual fee $550 $550 $95 $0
Welcome bonus Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months (or earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months) Earn 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months
Rewards rate 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else 2X miles on every purchase, every day 3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming service purchases; and 1X points on other purchases
Free bags None; but you can use the $200 annual airline credit to cover baggage costs None; but you can use the $300 annual travel credit to cover baggage costs None None
Boarding perks None None None None
Lounge access Yes Yes No No
Other perks Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; up to $200 in Uber Cash each year Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Purchase and travel protections; no foreign transaction fees

While these general credit cards won’t get you any boarding perks or free bags, they do come with benefits that can make your time at the airport more comfortable and offset the costs of baggage. Plus, you’ll be able to use them to earn points on travel even when you’re not flying American Airlines.

Frequent travelers who want the best perks should consider the American Express Platinum Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Both cards offer annual credits to help offset the costs of travel, plus complimentary airport lounge access and ridesharing perks. 

Less frequent travelers looking for straightforward earnings will enjoy the Capital One Venture Card, which gets you 5X points on UberEats (until Jan. 31, 2021). With a lower annual fee and flexible redemption options, this card is ideal for people just getting started with travel rewards. And the statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee is a generous perk as well.

If you’re not ready to pay an annual fee but still want to earn high rewards on your travel purchases, consider the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. With 3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming services, you’ll be able to rack up points faster and use them toward travel on the Go Far Rewards portal — where you can redeem your points for American Airlines flights.

Compare credit cards carefully

With several options to choose from, American Airlines customers will love the flexibility their favorite airline’s cards provide. But you need to consider which of these cards is best suited to your specific needs — or if something other than an American Airlines credit card might be the best way to go.

For some, one of the cards with an annual fee might represent a better value thanks to free checked bags, special boarding privileges, and no transaction fees when using the card abroad. But domestic travelers who don’t fly often on American may prefer not to pay a fee for the card — although, in this case, picking a more general travel card altogether may be a better bet.

Free checked bags & more

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Benefits

  • 50,000 bonus mile sign-up offer
  • 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
  • First checked bag free