Credit Card Review: American Airlines Aadvantage Aviator Red Mastercard

by joeheg

It’s understandable if you get confused by the co-brand credit cards offered by American Airlines for their AAdvantage program. Both Barclays and Citi offer cards ranging from entry-level to luxury and even business cards. This dual structure dates back to the merger of American and US Airways, where each airline had its own credit cards. Barclays was the issuer of US Airways cards and the deal was that they would only be able to market their cards on planes and in airports, while Citi could market their cards everywhere else.

That’s still why, when you’re onboard American flights, you’ll get a pitch to sign up for the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator card instead of a Citi card.

The standard card in the Barclays Aviator portfolio is the Red card.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard


Annual Fee

$99 per year

Sign Up Benefits

The current advertised offer for this card has a 60,000-mile bonus once you pay the $99 annual fee and make your first purchase. That’s right, no spending requirement. You can sign up on the Barclays website.

Barclays doesn’t have any specific rules on signing up for their cards but they’re known to deny applicants who have signed up for multiple cards in the previous 24 months. Most reports are that you are able to apply and receive a sign-up bonus if it’s been a while since you had a card (anywhere between 6 and 24 months.)

Barclays has also added language to applications about previous cardholders being ineligible to receive a signup bonus.

You may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or previously had an account with us in this program.

We’ve yet to see how strict Barclays is going to be about this rule and several people who held an Aviator card in the past have reported receiving a new bonus.

In addition, the offers you’ll see on board American Airlines flights may be different than the offers advertised on the web. They can have waived annual fees for the first year, different bonus point offers and additional perks. So if you’re flying on American and are thinking about signing up, it can be a good idea.

Spending Bonus Categories

The American AAdvantage Aviator Red card earns 2X miles for every dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. The card earns one point per dollar for all other types of spending.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

As a card that can be used on American flights worldwide, the American AAdvantage Aviator card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Free First Checked Bag

The primary card member and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation may each check one bag free of charge when traveling on domestic itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines or its affiliates. This is not available for travel on codeshare flights booked with an American Airlines flight number but operated by another airline.

The card account must be open 7 days prior to air travel and include the primary card member’s AAdvantage account number 7 days prior to air travel.

This means you’d be able to get the free checked bag benefit while still paying for the ticket with a card like the Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of the better trip delay and lost baggage insurance this card offers.

This benefit cannot be combined with any existing AAdvantage Program elite program benefits, or Premium cabin benefits, including any waiver of baggage charges. So you don’t get two free bags if you already get a free checked bag due to status.

The first checked bag benefit does not apply to overweight or oversized bags.

Your first checked bag on American costs $30, meaning this benefit alone can save more than the cost of the annual fee on a single round trip for 2 people.

Priority Boarding

The primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling with and listed in the same reservation as the primary cardmember are eligible to board at the same time as the primary cardmember. Eligible cardmembers will board after Priority boarding is complete but before the rest of economy boarding. The boarding benefit will display on your American Airlines boarding pass as Group 5 (Here’s a full list of boarding orders for all US airlines).

The same restrictions apply as with the free checked bag where the card account must be open 7 days prior to air travel, and include the primary cardmember’s AAdvantage account number 7 days prior to air travel.

Anniversary $25 Wi-Fi Credits

The Aviator Red card provides a Wi-Fi statement credit up to a maximum of $25 each card membership year (each 12-month period through and including your anniversary month) towards in-flight Wi-Fi sessions purchased on American Airlines flights and paid for with your card.

25% In-Flight Savings

Primary cardmembers save 25% on eligible inflight food and beverage purchases when purchased using the Card Account. Savings do not apply to any other inflight purchases, such as wireless internet access or inflight entertainment.

Anniversary Companion Certificate

You can earn a companion certificate good for 1 guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20,000 on your card in an anniversary year. The certificate is good for a domestic round trip itinerary and is good for one year from the issue date.

Flight Cents

This is a program specific to Barclays. When you make a purchase, you have the opportunity to round up the purchase to the next dollar. Those cents are used to “buy” additional miles for 2 cents each. If you’re looking for more info on Flight Cents, I suggest checking out this post on No Mas Coach.

Chip + PIN

Barclays cards offer true Chip + PIN functionality. Combine that with a card having no foreign transaction fees and you have a perfect card to put in your wallet when traveling overseas, especially in Europe where many automated kiosks (gas stations and mass transit tickets) only take chip + PIN cards.

Travel Insurance Coverage

The AAdvantage Aviator Red provides several different types of travel coverage.

AAdvantage Dining

Aviator cardholders are automatically enrolled in the AAdvantage Dining program. That’s a nice gesture as other cards typically make you register your card yourself. When visiting a restaurant that is a part of the program, cardholders receive:

  • Basic members earn 1 mile per dollar
  • When opting in for receiving emails from AAdvantage Dining, you’ll earn 3 miles per dollar
  • VIP members (who have 12 qualified visits in a calendar year and receive emails) earn 5 miles per dollar starting with the 12th visit.

Use of Miles on Partner Airlines

While you can use your miles to book flights on American, you can also use miles to book award travel on Oneworld and other partner airlines. In 2016, we flew on American from London to Miami in business class.


Final Thoughts

There are two things that make this card valuable. If you’ve never held this card before, the bonus with no spending requirement is reason enough to sign up for it, that is if you know you’ll be able to use those miles.

If you’re able to book flights on one of American’s partners like Cathay Pacific, JAL, Qatar or Etihad, those miles can be worth much more.

For the long term, the free first checked bag, $25 in Wi-Fi credits, Priority boarding and 25% off onboard purchases can add up to more than the $99 annual fee of the card. I kept the card for years just that reason but eventually, we closed it when we applied for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard.

Whether the benefits are worth the annual fee for you, all I can say is Your Mileage May Vary.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Dalton October 17, 2021 - 7:05 pm

I took an application from a flight attendant. The code inside was 871410, if anyone needs it.

Elaine and Charles Williamson October 17, 2021 - 7:08 pm

I believe the offer is “Flight” cents not “Fight” cents.
But I guess it could be a reward for the trauma of a flight that had some violence on it.

joeheg October 17, 2021 - 11:47 pm

Fixed. Thank You.

Stephen October 2, 2023 - 7:24 am

The wifi credit often works when flying with other carriers. I use it for all wifi purchases on planes.


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