Who is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
Loves to explore places and experience new things
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty
If you are a frequent American Airlines flyer and want to be spoiled for your loyalty, this is the card for you. You’ll pay top dollar (the annual fee is $450), but you’ll get access to airport lounges worldwide with an Admirals Club membership, VIP treatment at participating security checkpoints, and priority boarding, among other perks.
The card also boasts a nice sign-up bonus, and if your spending is similar to the average U.S. household’s ($2,024 a month, based on 2018 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) you’ll earn it easily. You don’t need to be a big spender, but you should be an avid traveler to take full advantage of all the card’s benefits and make the annual fee worthwhile. (You’ll need excellent credit, too.)
If you don’t need luxury travel benefits, consider instead the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, also issued by Citibank. It has a much lower annual fee but doesn’t offer lounge access. And if you don’t want to be tied to American Airlines, there are plenty of other travel cards to consider.
Airport lounge membership
Reimbursement on airport screening fees
Free checked bag
Steep annual fee
No travel insurance or purchase protections
High spending requirement for sign-up bonus
- Valuable miles: Based on calculations by The Balance, American Airlines miles are among the most valuable rewards offered by a major U.S. frequent flyer program. We value each one at an average 2.10 cents. The only program we found with miles worth more is United Airlines, at 2.16 cents apiece.
- Airport lounge membership: If you value a quiet refuge during layovers, this benefit is paramount. You and authorized users on your account, along with immediate family members or up to two guests, get unlimited access to Admirals Club lounges around the world. A membership otherwise costs $550 to $650 a year or you can pay $59 for a one-day pass, so this card’s annual fee is well worth it if you’ll use the benefit at least eight times a year.
- Reimbursement on airport screening fees: You’ll be credited the application fee for either TSA Precheck ($85) or Global Entry ($100) once every five years (which is how often the programs need to be renewed.) These expedited clearance programs help you breeze through security when traveling around the country and abroad, so it’s worth taking advantage of.
- Free checked bag: Without this perk, you’d pay $30 each way for your first checked bag. You and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation can take advantage on domestic flights, so the benefit has a value of up to $540 round trip. That’s some serious cash savings if you travel with family often.
- Steep annual fee: Any way you slice it, $450 is a lot. But if you fly often enough and appreciate VIP travel benefits, it may be well worth it. Just remember you’ll pay the fee year in and year out, so if you don’t use the perks enough, the value of your miles will dwindle or be lost.
- No travel insurance or purchase protections: This is a premium travel card, so we’d expect it to come with benefits such as travel accident insurance, trip delay/cancellation reimbursement, and lost luggage coverage. Citibank dropped these benefits on many of its cards in 2019.
- High spending requirement for sign-up bonus: This card requires you to spend $5,000 in the first three months to earn the new cardholder incentive. That’s higher than other premium cards as well as the Platinum Select card, which awards you the same 50,000 bonus miles.
If you spend $5,000 within three months of opening this card, you’ll receive 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles. Based on our average valuation per mile, these are worth $1,050 when redeemed for flights—a very competitive offer as premium airline cards go. Just keep in mind your monthly charges need to average at least $1,667 for the first three months to meet the required spending threshold.
Earning Points & Rewards
You’ll earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases made with American Airlines, and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. Double miles on airline purchases is a typical rewards rate for airline cards. Unlike some, though, you won’t get extra miles for groceries, dining out or any other spending categories.
The double miles applies to flights with more than 20 partner airlines too, including British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Qantas.
There’s no cap on earning with this card, and AAdvantage miles don’t expire as long as you earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months.
As an added bonus for big spenders, anyone who charges $40,000 on their card in a calendar year earns 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). EQMs cannot be redeemed for reward options. Instead, they count toward your status within the AAdvantage program and are earned by flying on American or partners that are in the OneWorld alliance. Elite status perks include additional free checked bags and seat upgrades, depending on the status level.
Based on their impressive valuation, AAdvantage miles are best used on American flights. You can book reward flights with American and most partner airlines online or via the app. You can also use your miles to upgrade seats on American, British Airways and Iberia flights.
American Airlines has published award flight charts and peak travel dates online, which are valuable resources when trying to plan a trip. However, take its award flight cost charts with a grain of salt. We noticed award flight names and prices vary greatly, and don't consistently match what's listed in the award chart. Search for flights directly on the American Airlines website to see the most current (and accurate) pricing information.
There are no blackout dates on American flights, but seats are limited and may not be available on all flights, according to the program terms.
Miles can also be used for rental cars, hotel stays, vacation packages, gift cards, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, identity theft protection, and charitable donations, though the per-mile value for these redemption options is likely to be much lower. Miles cannot be redeemed for cash, statement credits, checks, or direct deposit, according to an American Airlines spokesperson.
For more information about earning and redeeming American Airlines miles, read our AAdvantage program guide.
How to Get The Most Out of This Card
Regular travelers can get great value from this card, but you’ll need to stay on your toes to come out ahead of the $450 annual fee. Besides spending at least $5,000 within the first three months to earn the valuable bonus miles, make sure to apply for TSA Precheck or Global Entry to get the application credit, and above all else, use those exclusive airport lounges.
Lastly, make sure to book both American and partner airline flights through American, since flights purchased through third-party websites or travel agencies won’t earn double miles. And when you’re redeeming your rewards, look for MileSAAver flights if you’re flexible about travel dates. These will stretch your miles the furthest.
If you frequently have the same travel companions, consider making them authorized users on your account to help you earn more points while giving them access to card benefits like access to Admirals Clubs.
Travel cards often come with lots of perks, so we made a list of the ones that have superior value. Here are the benefits on this card that make our cut:
- Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement: Receive a statement credit of up to $100 every five years to cover your application fee for one of these expedited security clearance programs.
- Airport lounge access: You and your immediate family or up to two guests get unlimited access to almost 50 Admirals Clubs and more than 60 partner lounges worldwide. (Authorized users have access to Admirals Clubs, but not partner lounges.)
- Free checked bag: You and up to eight travel companions on the same domestic American Airlines reservation get the fee on your first checked bag waived. (Authorized users do not get this benefit.)
- Priority boarding: You and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation can board American Airlines flights early. (Authorized users do not get this benefit.)
- Elite airline status boost: Get 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after you spend $40,000 on purchases in a calendar year. For perspective, the first tier of elite status requires 25,000 EQMs.
- Discounts on American Airlines in-flight purchases
- Priority check-in and airport screening where available
- Concierge for booking event tickets, travel, and other services
Citibank ranked about average at No. 6 out of 11 national credit card companies reviewed by customers for J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. Citi’s mobile app fared worse, ranking below average in a comparable study for card apps.
Cardholders can view a free FICO score online or in the Citi app and can track and redeem miles through the American Airlines app. Customer service is available by phone 24/7 or you can send a chat message through a secure online portal, according to a Citibank spokesperson.
Citi, like most card issuers, will notify you of suspicious account activity by text, email, or phone. It’s also nice that you can instantly lock your card from your mobile app if it’s lost or stolen. This feature conveniently allows recurring transactions to proceed uninterrupted until the matter is resolved. If fraud occurs, Citi also offers identity theft services including assistance filing police reports.
Besides the high annual fee, this card has a standard line-up of fees, most of which can be avoided. Overseas travelers will appreciate not paying a foreign transaction fee when using this card abroad.