5 Things to Know About the AAdvantage Aviator Red and Silver Mastercards

These Barclays-issued cards underwhelm in areas like ongoing rewards, but they do offer plenty of perks for American Airlines flyers.

Sara RathnerAugust 30, 2020
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The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, both issued by Barclays, offer perks that are tailored toward frequent American Airlines fliers. If that’s not your usual airline of choice, you may get more value out of other travel rewards cards.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has an annual fee of $99, while the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® has an annual fee of $195. Here are five more things to know about both cards.

1. Easy sign-up bonus, limited ongoing rewards

Qualifying for a five-figure sign-up bonus usually involves spending a four-figure sum in a short period of time (no pressure!). That’s not the case with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, which offers an easy-to-snag sign-up bonus. Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full within the first 90 days.

Again, any purchase of any amount will do. That means buying a pack of gum can be the first step toward a deeply discounted vacation.

As for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, the only way to get it is by upgrading from the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® — which you’re eligible to do once you’ve had that card for more than 90 days. There is no additional sign-up bonus, but you can get a $100 credit to cover the cost of Global Entry, which is a nice mini-bonus of sorts.

The cards earn ongoing rewards at the following rates:

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on American Airlines and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases. Compared with other co-branded airline cards at this price point, those are mediocre rates. For example, the United℠ Explorer Card earns 2 miles per dollar not just on United purchases, but at restaurants and on hotel stays, as well.

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®: 3 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines, 2 miles per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals, and 1 mile on all other purchases. Those rates are better, but the annual fee is much higher. And, again, you can't apply for this card directly.

2. You can bring a friend at a discount after the first year

Each year you keep the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and spend $20,000 or more, you’ll earn one Companion Certificate good for travel at a cost of $99 plus taxes and fees.

If you have the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, that same spending will get you two companion certificates for $99 each (plus taxes and fees).

Nerd tip: The Companion Certificate is good for one round-trip qualifying domestic economy fare ticket, and you'll have a year to use it. The taxes and fees you'll pay, in addition to the required $99, range between $21.60 and $43.20, according to the card's terms and conditions. You must go through American Airlines Meeting Services to receive the benefit. Other restrictions apply.

3. You’ll save on baggage fees and in-flight purchases

Even if you don't earn or don't use the Companion Certificate, you and other passengers on the same reservation can save on one pesky travel expense: baggage fees. AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® cardholders can get one free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights, and so can up to four companions. That’ll save all of you $60 each round-trip. You’ll also get preferred boarding for yourself and up to four companions, which is a great way to feel fancier even when you fly coach.

If you have the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, you can provide up to eight of your nearest and dearest with free checked bags and priority boarding, virtually guaranteeing you’ll be the one to front the cost of flights for the next destination bachelor party. At least you’ll get to keep the extra miles if someone “forgets” to pay you back.

There are discounts once you board, too. With the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll get up to $25 back as statement credits on inflight Wi-Fi purchases every anniversary year. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® doubles that credit to $50. With in-flight Wi-Fi starting at $10, it helps to get access on a few flights for free.

And if a cocktail would make it more palatable to check those work emails on your return trip, you can get 25% off in-flight food and beverage purchases with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® (you’ll receive your savings in the form of a statement credit). The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® takes it a step further with a statement credit of up to $25 per day for in-flight purchases. So go ahead: Buy a round for your row.

4. You can turn pocket change into miles

The optional Flight Cents program allows you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar and use that extra cash to buy AAdvantage miles. You set a threshold of $1 to $500 (or opt out by keeping your threshold set to $0), and the “spare change” out of all purchases up to that threshold will be set aside until the day before your billing cycle ends. Whatever you’ve saved up will buy miles at a rate of 0.5 AAdvantage miles per penny. (Put another way, that's a cost of 2 cents per mile.)

Is that price per mile a good deal? The answer is a resounding “maybe” because you can buy miles at a lower rate during promotional periods, and the discount you’d get varies based on how many miles you buy. Either way, buying miles in a frequent-flyer program (as opposed to earning them by taking flights or using a credit card) is usually not the smartest strategy, since the cash price per mile is typically much higher than the value you get when you redeem the miles.

Nerd tip: NerdWallet values American miles at 1 cent each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1 cent or more in value from your American miles.

5. Pair with another American Airlines credit card to earn more

American Airlines is unique in that it offers co-branded credit cards from two different issuers: Barclays and Citi. That means you can have multiple cards all feeding bonus miles directly into your AAdvantage account. And since the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® grants you its large sign-up bonus after just one purchase, you don’t have to worry about meeting two spending minimums at the same time.

Combine that card with, say, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and earn even more AAdvantage miles, via its similarly generous sign-up bonus but also through its richer rewards on everyday spending. Unlike the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, the Citi co-branded card earns double miles on more than just eligible American Airlines purchases. Restaurants and gas stations are bonus categories, as well.

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