Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
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 welcome 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.
Very valuable miles
Airport lounge membership
Statement credits for airport screening fees
Free checked bag
Steep annual fee
No travel insurance or purchase protections
High spending requirement to earn bonus
- Valuable miles: Based on calculations by The Balance, American Airlines miles the most valuable rewards offered by a major U.S. frequent flyer program. We value each one at an average of 2.32 cents.
- 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 $500 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.
- Statement credits for airport screening fees: You’ll be reimbursed 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 from many of its cards in 2019.
- High spending requirement to earn 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.
Bonus for New Cardholders
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 $1,130 when redeemed for flights—a 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 also applies to flights on partner airlines, as long as they're booked through American. (Partners include 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.
For more information about earning and redeeming American Airlines miles, read our AAdvantage program guide.
Not surprisingly, AAdvantage miles are best used to fly, especially because of their impressive valuation. For perspective, an average of 2.26 cents per mile is better than United Airlines (2.19 cents per mile) and Delta Air Lines (1.54 cents per mile), according to our calculations.
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 and hotel stays
- Vacation packages
- Gift cards
- Ticket upgrades
AAdvantage Miles can’t be redeemed for cash, statement credits, checks, or direct deposit.
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.
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.
When you fly, 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.
This travel card comes with a lot of perks, and here are two more that stands out from typical card offerings:
- 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.
You may have other (and easier) ways to earn/use card benefits right now, in light of pandemic travel disruptions. Read “Credit Card Deals Help You Earn and Use Travel Benefits During COVID-19” for more information.
- 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 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study.
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.