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 RathnerJul 19, 2021

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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

Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard Credit Card
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OR

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
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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 you spend $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 within the first 90 days.

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

While the bonus requires reaching a spending minimum, there are more ways in general to earn AAdvantage miles with this card, making it a more beneficial card to hold on to for a longer time. 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.

If you spend $20,000 in a year, you’ll earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount. It’s not much after such dedicated card use, but that’s a higher value than what the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® offers for the same spending: a companion certificate costing $99 (plus taxes and fees).

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.

If you're a number cruncher, the richer sign-up bonus of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® comes out on top. NerdWallet values American Airlines AAdvantage miles at 1.2 cents each. But in exchange for earning more miles from the sign-up bonus of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, you'll have to pay the annual fee upfront.

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.

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