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Citi AAdvantage MileUp Review: No Annual Fee, but No Free Bags

It's an intriguing possibility for those who want to rack up miles without paying to carry a card — but compare your options.
Oct. 2, 2018
Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
Citi AAdvantage MileUp Review: No Annual Fee, But No Free Bags
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The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card is a rarity in the realm of co-branded airline cards: It earns frequent flyer miles, but it costs nothing to carry, thanks to its annual fee of $0.

This could make the card an intriguing possibility for annual-fee-averse households who fly only occasionally. The card’s rewards structure could also sweeten the deal for those with large grocery bills.

But if you fly American Airlines several times a year — or if you’re seeking a card that offers more lucrative rewards or major travel perks — there are better options for you.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best airline credit cards

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp<sup>℠</sup> Card

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Apply Now on Citibank's secure application
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 720
    850
    Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee

    Cons

    • Needs excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 17.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 27.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    NEW: 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*

    Intro APR

    • None
  • Additional Information
    • NEW: 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*
    • No Annual Fee*
    • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services*
    • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
    • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
    • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*

Key features of the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Some fast facts about the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card:

Annual fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: NEW: 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*

Rewards:

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on other purchases

There’s no cap on the rewards you can earn. AAdvantage miles are worth about a penny each, according to NerdWallet valuations.

APR: The ongoing APR is 17.99% - 25.99% Variable APR

Foreign transaction fee: 3%

» MORE: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide

Nerd note

If you own the Citi® / AAdvantage® Bronze credit card, you were automatically converted to the AAdvantage MileUp℠ card’s rewards structure in July 2018. When your current Bronze card expires, an American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card will be sent to you, and you’ll retain your current account number.

Highlights of the card

  • Annual fee of $0. When choosing a credit card with an annual fee, you should consider whether what you’ll earn in rewards will outweigh the cost of holding the card. But since the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card doesn’t have an annual fee, any rewards you earn are pure gains, as long as you don’t rack up finance charges by carrying a balance.
  • Bonus rewards on grocery spending, including grocery delivery. Some co-branded airline credit cards offer enhanced earning potential only on flights and other eligible airline spending. What makes the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card unique is that it also offers 2X miles on grocery shopping.
  • A few extras. The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card offers 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, as well as access to Citi Private Pass and Citi Concierge.

Drawbacks to consider

  • It lacks the perks of other airline cards. A great reason to get a co-branded airline card is for money-saving extras such as a free checked bag, priority check-in or priority boarding. In some cases, what you’ll save on baggage fees can make the cost of owning the card worth it. But the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card doesn’t come with any of those extras.
  • Annual fees or not, other cards offer more lucrative incentives to apply. If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, you can find much more generous sign-up bonuses among either co-branded or general travel cards. The annual fees on many of these cards are often waived in the first year. But even if you’re completely opposed to annual fees, there are better bonuses to be had. Both the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, for example, offer big welcome offers for no annual fee.
  • There are better cards for grocery shoppers. Earning 2 miles per dollar spent at the grocery store isn’t bad. But you can find cards that offer both higher rewards rates in that category as well as the ability to redeem earnings for cash back or statement credit. Take, for example, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It earns 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%); 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores; and 1% back on other purchases. Terms apply. This card, too, charges an annual fee of $0.
  • This card charges a foreign transaction fee. If you use the miles you earn with the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card to book a trip abroad, you may want to leave the card itself at home. Otherwise, you’ll be paying an extra 3% on everything you buy with it. Many travel credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Possible alternatives

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

If you’re an American Airlines loyalist and fly frequently, it may make sense to apply for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. Although it has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $99, it offers plenty of value to offset that fee. For starters, there’s a large sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*. The card also comes with one free checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation. Without this perk, the first bag you check will cost you $25 one way. You’ll also earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, restaurants and gas stations. Plus, this card grants you preferred boarding and doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

If you want a travel card but can’t stomach the thought of paying an annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card could be a good fit. It has an annual fee of $0, along with a generous welcome offer: Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $300 cash redemption value. You’ll also earn rich ongoing rewards on a wide variety of spending, including travel, dining, gas stations, ride-hailing apps and more. There’s also no foreign transaction fee — although, as an American Express card, acceptance may not be as widespread internationally.

» MORE: Citi credit cards mobile app review

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

If you travel infrequently and don’t want to fool with tiered reward categories, why not go with a flat-rate cash-back card that offers a high rewards rate on all of your purchases? The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer earns 2% cash back on everything — 1% back when you make a purchase, and another 1% back as you pay for it. The good thing about cash back? You can use it on anything, travel included. The card charges an annual fee of $0.

To compare this credit card to the competition, see NerdWallet’s list of best credit cards to apply for.

Should you get the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card?

Given its $0 annual fee and its earnings rate on flights and groceries, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card may be tempting to casual travelers. But other no-annual-fee cards may prove more lucrative in the long run.

And if you travel round-trip more than once a year on American Airlines and typically check a bag, you’ll likely get greater value from a card that offers more bells and whistles in exchange for an annual fee.

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