Best American Airlines Credit Cards of 2021

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If you’re a regular flyer with American Airlines, you may have noticed that the airline offers many co-branded credit cards with frequent in-flight announcements. However, out of all the cards available, which ones are the best American Airlines credit cards for you? We spoke to travel veterans about their favorite American Airlines travel cards.

“I always have my American Airlines card open, so I can take care of free checked baggage,” says Jeff Whitmore, a contributor to travel blog Johnny Jet, who flies with the airline quite frequently. And when he does, he brings his American Airlines credit card with him.

He also likes the priority boarding provided by the card, which means there is usually room on the top bunk when he gets into his seat. “If I have carry-on luggage, I don’t want to be stuck at the end of the gate checking it out,” he said. “That kind of defeats the purpose.”

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Best Frequent Flyer Card

The reason the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is superior to all true road warriors is because it gives you access to nearly 50 American Airlines Admiral Club Lounges worldwide. (Many have closed due to COVID-19, but some have reopened—see full list for details.) These lounges aren’t actually limited to American Airlines travelers. You can use these clubs even if you work with American Airlines partners like Alaska Airlines or British Airways, says Julian Heale, senior financial editor at CNN Underscored.

“This card comes with some pretty cool bonuses,” agrees Benet Wilson, senior credit card editor at The Points Guy. She notes that at no additional cost, you also get up to 10 cards for authorized users who can also enjoy the privileges. And the card is currently offering a 50,000 mile signup bonus after an initial $5,000 spend within the first three months of opening an account.

As for the card’s rewards program, it offers 2X Airlines AAdvantage® miles earned on qualifying American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on other purchases. Plus, it has several features to make your journey easier, including a free first checked bag for up to eight people in your group, priority boarding, and up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.

  • pros: The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard provides many benefits such as priority screening, 25% off in-flight purchases and more. You can add authorized users at no extra charge, and of course the free Admirals Club membership is hard to beat.
  • Minuses: The card does charge a hefty $450 annual fee (but it’s cheaper than paying the American Lounge membership separately, Hill says). In addition, its 50,000 miles check-in bonus is less than other American Airlines cards.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: The Best Card for Occasional Travelers

Whitmore recommended Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®* for casual travelers. Currently, new cardholders receive 50,000 Airlines AAdvantage® Miles if they spend $2,500 within the first three months.

But what benefits Whitmore is that cardholders can earn more miles on everyday purchases: 2X more miles on purchases at American Airlines, restaurants and gas stations, plus 1X miles on everything else.

  • prosA: In addition to rewards, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card provides travel perks such as a free first checked bag, priority boarding, and a $125 American Airlines discount (if you spend $20,000 and renew your card).
  • MinusesA: There is a $99 annual fee (although there is no charge for the first 12 months) and some awards have blackout dates.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: Best Card with No Annual Fee

Citi also has a great no-year option, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card. “This is a great starter card for those who want to earn status and miles on American Airlines flights,” says Wilson. As a signup bonus, cardholders can earn 10,000 bonus miles and $50 credit by spending $500 on a card within three months of opening an account.

It offers 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and groceries and grocery delivery services, and one mile per dollar on everything else. Like other American Airlines cards, cardholders receive a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverages if they use the card.

  • prosA: Of course, the lack of an annual fee is a big plus, as are some other useful perks like the Citi Private Pass (which gives you early access to tickets to music, sports, and dining events) and an extended warranty. Double miles at grocery stores are useful for accumulating miles quickly.
  • MinusesA: Unlike other American Airlines credit cards, this card does not entitle you to free baggage check-in or priority boarding. It also charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard: the best card for business travelers

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®* is offering 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® Bonus Miles to new cardholders upon purchases of $4,000 within the first four months of account opening. You also earn 2x more miles on American Airlines purchases and in certain business categories, including telecom merchants, cable and satellite TV providers, car rental vendors, and gas station vendors.

Benefits include free first checked baggage, priority boarding and 25% savings on food, beverages and in-flight Wi-Fi. There is a $99 annual fee for this card, which is waived for the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

  • pros: The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard offers the usual benefits of other American Airlines cards. A special benefit of the card is that you can earn a $99 American Airlines Companion Certification for domestic travel if you spend $30,000 and renew your membership (including taxes and fees).
  • MinusesA: The $99 annual fee may turn some cardholders off. The card also charges some fees for certain bonus payouts and for flight cancellations.

Comparison of the best American Airlines credit cards

All cards, with their various perks and rewards programs, sound equally appealing. Which one suits you best? See how the cards compare side by side:

How to choose an American Airlines card

With all these American Airlines credit cards on offer to new cardholders, how can you decide which one is best for you? Here are some tips:

If you want the best bonus for your new account, we recommend the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. It offers 50,000 bonus miles and only requires you to spend $2,500. Compared to the $5,000 target spend on the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Platinum Select World Elite card gives you the same amount of points, but much less.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in perks and benefits, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has it all, including several exclusive benefits such as Admiral Club membership and priority registration. For those who travel frequently for work and leisure, access to the lounge will come in handy during stops.

Also consider what you will be using this card for. If this card is only for you to earn and maximize your AAdvantage Miles, one of the more elite cards will suit you. For cardholders who would like to use their card to earn miles for everyday purchases, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card or American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card is a great addition to your wallet.

bottom line

Each of these American Airlines credit cards has its own strengths and weaknesses. By understanding who these cards are for, you will quickly find a card that suits your needs. Of course, those with higher annual fees will offer more premium benefits, but think carefully about whether you travel often enough to truly enjoy these perks. Otherwise, opting for a lower or no annual fee option will still earn you big rewards and enrich your experience with American Airlines.

Citi is not the only issuer offering co-branded American Airlines credit cards. Barclays has one too. We recommend that you read their card list before committing to one.

*All information on Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard has been collected independently by The Issuer has not provided the content and is not responsible for its accuracy.

Editorial disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective judgment of our contributors and is not based on advertising. It was not provided or ordered by credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to our partners’ products.

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