5 Things to Know About the AOPA Credit Card

The AOPA credit card offers solid rewards on aviation-related purchases, but even pilots may find the card lacking because of the restrictions on earning and redeeming rewards.
Jae Bratton
By Jae Bratton 
Edited by Erin Hurd

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The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has its own co-branded credit card, the aptly named AOPA World Mastercard. It touts itself as “the best credit card for pilots,” which may be true considering the card’s high rewards rates on aviation equipment, aviation fuel, pilot workshops and clinics. Despite the card’s affiliation with the AOPA, membership in the organization isn’t required to qualify for the credit card.

However, the AOPA credit card has some major limitations on earning rewards that may cause even career pilots to pass. While the card also earns rewards on nonaviation purchases, many general rewards credit cards have stronger rewards rates and perks lacking in the AOPA credit card.

Here’s what you need to know about the AOPA World Mastercard, issued by Commerce Bank.

1. Rewards are tailor-made for pilots

If you aren’t a pilot, you won’t get much value out of the AOPA credit card, since the rewards categories are almost exclusively aviation-related. The card offers:

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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  • 4% cash back on select AOPA purchases including AOPA memberships, pilot protection services, AOPA flight instructor refresher clinics, AOPA event registration and AOPA pilot gear store purchases.

  • 3% cash back on purchases at select AOPA partners including Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co., Aero-Space Reports, Jeppesen, Sirius XM Aviation, PilotWorkshops and Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

  • 3% cash back on streaming, satellite and cable. Amazon streaming, Pandora and YouTube Music/TV aren’t eligible.

  • 2% cash back for fixed based operator purchases, aviation fuel, car gas, ride sharing and taxis.

  • 1% cash back for all other purchases. 

Nonpilots who want the AOPA card’s solid rewards rate on streaming and gas should check out a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It offers a stellar 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3% at U.S. gas stations. (Terms apply.)

2. Cap on bonus rewards limits potential earnings

While the AOPA card's earnings potential may sound impressive, it comes with a big caveat: Bonus points, or the points earned above the card’s 1% base rate, are capped at 2,500 points per quarter. Points are worth 1 cent each, meaning you'll never earn more than a $25 bonus per quarter, even on pricey plane purchases.

Say you spend $4,000 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop in a quarter. Sporty’s Pilot Shop purchases earn 3% cash back, credited as 3 points per dollar spent, with the AOPA credit card. Of those 3 points, 1 point is considered a base point and the other 2 are bonus points. However, because of the 2,500 points cap, only a fraction of the total purchase amount gets the 3% rate.

If you spent $4,000 on aviation equipment per quarter at Sporty’s Pilot Shop, you’d get just $65 cash back. Here’s how:

  • $4,000 X 1 (base rate) = 4,000 points, the equivalent of $40 cash back.

  • $1,250 X 2 (bonus rate) = 2,500 points, the equivalent of $25 cash back.

For comparison, if the entire $4,000 earned the 3% rate, you’d come away with $120 cash back.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some cardholders will receive an AOPA travel mug when they open an AOPA credit card.

3. You won't land a sign-up bonus

Many cash back credit cards can take your rewards to new heights when you first sign up for the card, but the AOPA card isn't among them. That means that a different card, even one that earns less on air-specific purchases, could be more rewarding.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
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The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, for example, earns an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases and offers this incentive for new cardholders: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.

Returning to our example above, if you spent $4,000 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop on a new Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, you would earn the following rewards:

  • $200 new cardholder bonus.

  • $4,000 x 2% = $80 rewards from the purchase.

That's a total of $280 cash back on that purchase compared with the $65 you would yield from the AOPA card with no sign-up bonus and capped rewards.

4. There are restrictions on some redemption options

Points earned with the AOPA credit card can be redeemed for the following:

  • Cash back in the form of a statement credit. Cardholders need at least 2,500 points to get cash back. One point is worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash.  

  • Airline ticket credit. Cardholders need at least 10,000 points for this redemption, and there may be a redemption fee of up to $40, a highly unusual requirement.

  • Gift cards.

  • Merchandise.

Points expire three years from the quarter that the points were posted to the account. For example, points that were credited to the rewards account in the first quarter of 2024 will expire at the end of the first quarter of 2027.

5. It offers a low intro APR on purchases and balance transfers

U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Credit Card
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The AOPA credit card offers an excellent 1.99% APR on purchases and balance transfers made in the first six months of account opening. (After the six months, the APR rises to 15.49%-25.49%, as of January 2024.) Note that you'll pay a balance transfer fee of 5% or $10, whichever is greater.

While that intro APR offer is good, it’s by no means the best on the market. It’s possible to find cards that offer 0% interest on balance transfers and purchases for a year or more such as the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card. The card offers 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 19.49%-29.74% Variable APR. Its balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5, whichever is greater.

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