Several travel rewards credit cards are designed for big spenders — people who don’t mind paying annual fees, people who can charge thousands in purchases to earn a pile of bonus miles. That’s not for everyone.
Enter the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, a solid option for frugal types who want to earn travel rewards and with an annual fee of $0.
But like every travel rewards credit card, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card has pros and cons. The cons include the opportunity cost of using this card instead of another, possibly a more rewarding competitor, as well as using up one of your 5/24 slots in the event you're eyeing other cards. Here are some things to consider to determine whether this card is worth getting.
No annual fee
Anytime you’re weighing whether a card is worth its cost, a price tag of $0 goes a long way toward answering that question. The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card costs you nothing in annual fees. That makes it an attractive option compared with other American Airlines co-branded cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, which costs $0 intro for the first year, then $99 a year to carry after the first year, and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, which costs $99 a year starting with the first year you have the card.
$50 one-time statement credit
Unlike cards that charge you to carry them, this one actually pays you — kind of. When you hit the $500 minimum spend in the first three months, you’ll get a one-time $50 statement credit. Think of that as $50 erased from your credit card bill and a solid pro in this card’s pros and cons balance sheet.
Easy-to-earn welcome bonus
Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. In the world of credit card welcome bonuses, that’s an easy spending hurdle to clear.
The downside of the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is the size of its welcome bonus. Those bonus miles won’t get you far. If you time your trip right, 7,500 AAdvantage miles will get you a one-way ticket within the continental U.S. on a flight less than 500 miles in distance. Meanwhile, a 50,000 or 60,000-mile bonus on other American Airlines cards could get you a round-trip ticket to Hawaii, with miles to spare, or two round-trip tickets in the continental U.S.
2x miles on groceries
Use your American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card at the grocery store and you’ll earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every dollar you spend. That’s twice the miles you’ll get if you use this card at restaurants, where you’ll earn just 1 AAdvantage mile per dollar. This tells you a lot about who this card is tailored for: Frugal types who save money by eating at home.
But if earning rewards at the grocery checkout is your No. 1 priority, you can probably do better: The no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express pays 3% cash back and the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card, is paying 5 Hilton Honors points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets. Terms apply.
If you’re looking specifically for a card with good rewards for grocery store spending, check with the issuers of your current credit cards because you might already have one.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best credit cards for groceries
2x miles on American Airlines travel purchases
If you’re an AAdvantage member, you earn miles just by flying on the airline. But if you buy your ticket directly from American using this card, you’ll add to that an additional 2 miles for every dollar charged. That makes travel even more rewarding, getting you to your next award trip even faster.
On all other purchases, you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar charged to the card.
25% savings on in-flight purchases
The snack cart on the plane poses a conundrum for thrifty travelers. A treat can make any flight more enjoyable. But a couple of overpriced drinks and snacks each way can add up. Use the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card to pay for snacks and drinks on your American Airlines flight and you’ll get back 25% of the cost in the form of a credit posted to your card statement, taking some of the guilt out of that in-flight treat.
3% foreign transaction fee
This one goes in the negative column: Use your American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card for foreign transactions and you’ll be charged an additional 3% on every overseas purchase. If you plan on doing any shopping abroad, use a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees (there are many to choose from) instead of this one.
The bottom line
If you’ve been missing out on travel rewards because you can’t charge a ton of purchases on a credit card and you’re a casual American Airlines flyer, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is a good option for you.
Not only does it cost nothing in annual fees, but you’ll add $50 to your bottom line when you earn the welcome statement credit. The bonus miles won’t have you packing for a vacation right away, but those miles are a good foundation to start earning award travel at a pace that fits your thrifty ways.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card