The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is, in some ways, a throwback to a not-long-gone era of travel rewards credit cards — a straightforward card co-branded with a major airline that rewards you with an easy-to-understand currency: American Airlines AAdvantage miles. It came with a great sign-up bonus when I got it, 60,000 miles after meeting a minimum spend of several thousand dollars. But new customers can seize an even better deal: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full within the first 90 days. Right now, you can earn that impressive bonus with just one qualifying purchase.
Plus, you earn AAdvantage miles for every purchase and enjoy a host of other perks, like no foreign transaction fees, savings on in-flight purchases and travel coverage for rental cars, baggage delay and, in some circumstances, trip cancellation. Here are some of the main reasons I use my AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® (View rates and fees.) on a regular basis.
1. It’s my best way to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles
The best thing about this card is that it rewards me with travel on American Airlines, which goes practically everywhere I want to go. That’s why, to me, American Airlines AAdvantage miles are valuable and my Barclay Aviator card is the best way to collect them. I earn 1 American AAdvantage mile for every $1 I spend on most purchases and 2 miles per $1 when I make a purchase directly from American Airlines.
And there aren’t a lot of other ways for me to accumulate American miles because the AAdvantage program doesn’t partner with other programs I use. For comparison, consider United, which partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That partnership gives me an extra way to earn United travel because those Chase points convert directly to United MileagePlus miles. But Chase points don’t convert to American miles, so my Barclay card is a great way to earn them.
2. AAdvantage miles allow award travel on British Airways
Just as American flies pretty much everywhere I want to go to in the U.S., fellow Oneworld member British Airways can get me just about any place I want to visit in Europe. Departing from Los Angeles International, there’s almost sure to be a connecting flight through London to any major European city that beckons.
Given that British Airways flights are bookable on aa.com, it’s easy to see BA award inventory. Although British Airways passes on taxes and surcharges for award flights booked on aa.com, BA offers a lot more inventory on flights to Europe.
It’s important to note that British Airways isn’t the only airline that can be booked on aa.com; there are many other partner airlines also bookable using your American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
» Learn more: Your guide to the American Airlines award chart
3. $99 companion certificate
In May 2019, the benefits of my AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® changed. My favorite new perk is a $99 companion certificate earned after spending $20,000 in a year. That sounds like a lot of money to spend, but per month, it breaks down to a (somewhat) more reasonable-sounding $1,667. The certificate lets me bring a companion along on any round-trip flight I take in the continental U.S. for just $99.
4. Free checked bag
This is a perk that never gets old. Use it enough and it’s money in the bank — easily offsetting the card’s $99 annual fee. With the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, myself and up to three companions can get a free checked bag on a qualifying American Airlines flight, which normally would cost $30 each way. Traveling alone, that’s $60 savings round-trip every time I fly. Traveling with three family members, it’s up to $240 saved.
5. Preferred boarding
Ever since airlines started charging fees for checked bags, the scramble for space in plane overhead bins is like an extreme sport where the loser has to gate check a bag they wanted to keep with them on the plane. The odds you’ll lose are slim, but the anxiety of knowing you could is unpleasant. With preferred boarding, I know I’ll be on the plane long before the battle royale for overhead bin space begins.
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:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best airline credit card for you 5 things to know about the AAdvantage Aviator Red and Silver Mastercards Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies