Advertiser Disclosure

5 Things to Know about the AAdvantage Aviator Red and Silver Mastercards

June 27, 2019
Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards
GettyImages_815695708_Story.jp
At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, both issued by Barclays, will reward users who book a lot of travel on American Airlines.

In fact, American Airlines purchases are the only way to earn double AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on the Aviator® Red — for every other purchase, you’ll earn only 1 mile per dollar. Compared with other co-branded airline cards, that’s a bit of a bummer. For example, the United℠ Explorer Card earns 2 miles per dollar not just on United purchases, but at restaurants and on hotel stays, as well.

But if you upgrade to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, you stand to earn more, especially if you travel frequently: 3 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines, 2 miles per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals, and 1 mile on all other purchases. The only way to get the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® is by upgrading from the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® — which you’re eligible to do once you’ve had that card for more than 90 days.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has an annual fee of $99, while the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® has an annual fee of $199. Here are five more things to know about both cards.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best airline credit cards

1. Earning the sign-up bonus is easy

Qualifying for a five-figure sign-up bonus usually involves spending a four-figure sum in a short period of time (no pressure!). Depending on how much you typically charge to a credit card each month, it can be hard to spend enough without blowing money frivolously just to get the points.

That’s simply not the case with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, which offers an easy-to-snag sign-up bonus. You’ll earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles, plus an introductory Companion Certificate good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees), after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. Again, any purchase of any amount will do. That means buying a pack of gum can result in a sign-up bonus big enough for you and a friend to go on vacation for $198 plus taxes and fees, with miles to spare.

If you upgrade to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, there is no additional sign-up bonus, but you can get a $100 credit to cover the cost of Global Entry, which is a nice mini-bonus of sorts.

» MORE: Top airline credit cards with companion tickets

2. You can bring a friend at a discount after the first year

That Companion Certificate isn’t just a one-time benefit. Each year you keep the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and spend $20,000 or more, you’ll earn one Companion Certificate good for travel at a cost of $99 plus taxes and fees. If you have the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll get two companion certificates for $99 each (plus taxes and fees).

Even if you don’t earn or don’t use the Companion Certificate, you and other passengers on the same reservation can save on one pesky travel expense: baggage fees. AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® cardholders can get one free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights, and so can up to four companions. That’ll save all of you $60 each round-trip. You’ll also get preferred boarding for yourself and up to four companions, which is a great way to feel fancier even when you fly coach.

If you have the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, you can provide up to eight of your nearest and dearest with free checked bags and priority boarding, virtually guaranteeing you’ll be the one to front the cost of flights for the next destination bachelor party. At least you’ll get to keep the extra miles if someone “forgets” to pay you back.

» MORE: Airline cards that offer free checked bags

3. You’ll save on in-flight purchases

Paying for in-flight Wi-Fi feels like a raw deal, especially since Wi-Fi service on planes can be spotty at best. But sometimes you need to stay connected from 30,000 feet, and both Aviator cards have you covered. With the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll get up to $25 back as statement credits on inflight Wi-Fi purchases every anniversary year. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® doubles that credit to $50. With in-flight Wi-Fi starting at $10, it helps to get access on a few flights for free.

And if a cocktail would make it more palatable to check those work emails on your return trip, you can get 25% off in-flight food and beverage purchases with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® (you’ll receive your savings in the form of a statement credit). The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® takes it a step further with a statement credit of up to $25 per day for in-flight purchases. So go ahead: Buy a round for your row.

» MORE: How to get started with frequent flyer programs

4. You can turn pocket change into miles

The optional Flight Cents program allows you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar and use that extra cash to buy AAdvantage miles. You set a threshold of $1 to $500 (or opt out by keeping your threshold set to $0), and the “spare change” out of all purchases up to that threshold will be set aside until the day before your billing cycle ends. Whatever you’ve saved up will buy miles at a rate of 0.5 AAdvantage miles per penny. (Put another way, that’s a cost of 2 cents per mile.)

Is that price per mile a good deal? The answer is a resounding “maybe” because you can buy miles at a lower rate during promotional periods, and the discount you’d get varies based on how many miles you buy. For example, until May 31, you can buy miles at a rate of 1.8 to 4.7 cents per mile, compared with the 2 cents per mile you’d pay through the Flight Cents program. But if you’d like to buy miles on a regular basis with no additional effort, the Flight Cents program makes it possible.

» MORE: 9 unsung ways to earn airline miles for free

5. Pair with another American Airlines credit card to earn more

American Airlines is unique in that it offers co-branded credit cards from two different issuers: Barclays and Citi. That means you can have multiple cards all feeding bonus miles directly into your AAdvantage account. And since the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® grants you its large sign-up bonus after just one purchase, you don’t have to worry about meeting two spending minimums at the same time.

Combine that card with, say, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and earn even more AAdvantage miles, via its similarly generous sign-up bonus but also through its richer rewards on everyday spending. Unlike the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, the Citi co-branded card earns double miles on more than just eligible American Airlines purchases. Restaurants and gas stations are bonus categories, as well.

» MORE: Citi, Barclays roll out big changes to American Airlines cards

About the author