I began getting serious about travel miles and points about a year ago. After finding various blogs on the "hobby," I decided to to take advantage of a great opportunity available at the time. Citibank was promoting its Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select Card with 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Simultaneously, despite the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, Barclaycard was still offering the US Airways Premier World MasterCard (no longer available) with a signup bonus of 50,000 US Airways Dividend Miles. To earn the bonus, you simply paid the $89 annual fee and made a single purchase with the card. With the pending combination of the American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles frequent flyer programs, the net result would be 100,000 American AAdvantage miles within a couple of months. I quickly applied and was approved for both cards.
Since that time, the Barclaycard US Airways Premier World MasterCard has been converted to the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard. The new Barclaycard benefits largely mirror those of the Citibank product. With the annual fee due on both later this month, I need to evaluate which of the two cards - if either - I will keep.
I am not a regular American Airlines customer
A key component of this analysis is the simple fact that I am not a regular American Airlines customer. I live in Atlanta which is the headquarters of and a major hub for Delta Air Lines, so the majority of my flights are on Delta. That being said, from points and miles blogs, I have come to recognize the value of American AAdvantage miles for international award travel, even with the recent updates to the program. For that reason alone, I want to maintain and grow my current mileage balance. Also, I have an international trip scheduled on American and several oneworld partners later this year, so some of the card benefits could be useful for my trip. My decision will factor in these realities but, depending on your circumstances, you may reach a different conclusion regarding the various card benefits and their relative value.
Benefits shared by both cards
The following travel benefits are the same for both the Barclaycard and Citibank MasterCards when traveling on American Airlines:
- First bag checked free for you and up to four traveling companions when flying domestically
- Group 1 boarding for you and up to four traveling companions when flying domestically
- 25% discount on in-flight purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
The following AAdvantage reward benefits are the same for both cards:
- Earn 2 AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases
- Earn 1 AAdvantage mile on all other purchases
- No limit to the number of AAdvantage miles that can be earned from card usage
- Receive a 10% mileage rebate on redeemed AAdvantage miles, up to 10,000 miles rebated per year
In fact, the biggest difference I can find between the two cards is that you earn a $100 American Airlines flight discount if you spend $30,000 annually on the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard. Frankly, that is not an an attractive incentive. If you are spending $30,000 on credit cards, there are far better cards to use. Even if you truly value AAdvantage miles more than their objective valuation, $100 is only a 0.33% return on $30,000 of spend.
Which card do I keep?
As you can see from the benefits comparison, the two cards are effectively interchangeable. If you are a regular American Airlines economy customer without elite status, carrying one of the cards has valuable benefits. I carry the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express for similar benefits on Delta.
For me, my rewards trip on American is booked in international business class. I won't benefit from the travel benefits, and I will use another card for foreign transactions anyway. I put minimal spend on the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard just to ensure there is a trickle of miles into my AAdvantage account which keeps my points balance from expiring. However, there are other ways that I can ensure the account shows activity. The mileage rebate is attractive but that rebate has already posted for my upcoming trip. If I were going to receive the full mileage rebate each year, that would be worth $170 at current mileage valuation. This alone would justify the annual fee on either card, but I am unlikely to realize such a rebate in 2016. All together, there is little reason for me to continue holding either AAdvantage credit card. However, one consideration recently changed the calculus of this decision.
Barclaycard's 15,000 mile promotion did it's job
I recently wrote of a promotion I received via email from Barclaycard. If I spend $500 in each month of February, March and April, I will earn 15,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. The value of the bonus miles far exceeds the annual fee, and, furthermore, 15,000 miles would be a nice pad to my mileage balance. Given that holding neither card gives me much value going forward, this offer did its job: I will not only keep the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard but I will actively use it for the next three months. That just leaves me to call Citibank and cancel the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select Card before the annual fee comes due.