AAdvantage Aviator Red vs. Citi AAdvantage Platinum: Citi Goes the Extra Mile

The Aviator Red wows at first with its easy-to-earn bonus, but the Citi card offers more robust long-term benefits.
Sara Rathner
By Sara Rathner 
Updated
Edited by Erin Hurd

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The race between the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is akin to the fabled tortoise and the hare. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, issued by Barclays, comes flying out of the gate with a sign-up bonus you can earn after just one purchase, but the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, issued by Citibank, plays the long game with more earning potential over time.

While both cards offer money- and time-saving benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases, loyal American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program members will find more reasons to keep the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® in their wallets for a longer time.

The two cards at a glance

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet rating 

OR

Rewards

• 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants.

• 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

• 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

• 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

• 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $99.

$99.

Additional benefits

• Priority boarding and first checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions on your reservation.

• $125 annual American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000.

• 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

• Priority boarding and first checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions on your reservation.

• Annual companion certificate for $99 (plus taxes and fees) after you spend $20,000.

• 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

• Up to $25 back as a statement credit per year for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases.

Sign-up bonus

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

Why the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is better for most people

NerdWallet's star ratings, which are based on cardholder value in the first three years, see these cards as roughly equal, with the Barclays card getting a slight edge due to the ease of earning the sign-up bonus and the potentially higher value of a companion certificate, compared with the $125 credit you can get with the Citi card.

But the longer you hold the Citi card, the more it may become a better value, due to its superior rewards categories.

While you do have to hit a spending minimum to get the sign-up bonus, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® offers more ways in general to collect AAdvantage miles. Not only do you earn 2 miles per $1 on American Airlines purchases, but you also earn the same rate at restaurants and gas stations — two potentially lucrative spending categories, especially for frequent travelers.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® earns 2 miles per $1 only on American Airlines purchases, while all other spending earns an unimpressive 1 mile per $1. Those rewards categories and rates simply aren't competitive with other airline credit cards at similar price points.

Who might prefer the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

If immediate gratification is what you seek, you’ll get it with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. It’s rare to find a card that grants a generous sign-up bonus after just one purchase. This can be helpful if you want a lot of miles quickly, plus free checked bags and priority boarding. It’s essentially a way to get one discounted, perk-laden trip. But in exchange for an easy-to-earn sign-up bonus, you'll have to pay the annual fee upfront. With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, it's waived for the first year.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you can’t pick a favorite, you can actually carry both cards and direct your earned miles into the same American Airlines AAdvantage account.

Which card should you get?

Loyal American flyers, especially those who travel often, will get more out of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® overall. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® can be helpful if you have one specific upcoming trip in mind but otherwise you don’t fly American exclusively. But again, you can carry both cards, making it possible to earn a substantial number of points when you combine the two bonuses together.

Cards for American Airlines from our Partners
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
See more cards

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