This article is being updated.
The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has a lot of benefits for travelers who fly American Airlines. Cardmembers earn 2 American AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent directly with American Airlines and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
And a host of other benefits make this card even more rewarding. There’s a free checked bag perk for the primary traveler and up to four companions on the same reservation, offering potential savings of up to $300 in checked bag fees round-trip. Cardmembers can board their flight early with up to four companions if they reserved with their card. Plus, members get Mastercard World Elite travel privileges, excellent coverages for things like rental cars and lost baggage, no foreign transaction fees and, for users who can charge $20,000 on the card in a year, a certificate that lets a companion accompany the primary traveler anywhere in the lower 48 states for just $99.
Best of all, this card currently offers a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. This offer is much easier to earn than you’ll find with the typical credit card sign-up bonus. Most require you to spend a certain amount, usually in the thousands, in the first few months in order to get the bonus. But this card will drop thousands of miles in your AAdvantage account after just one qualifying purchase of any amount in the first three months. And you’ll also receive an introductory $99 companion certificate valid for travel in the U.S. after making your first purchase and paying the card’s $99 annual fee within the first 90 days.
But, of course, there are plenty of ways this card could be better. Here are some of the benefits I wish came with my AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®.
Bonus spending categories
With its 1-mile-per-dollar payout on most card purchases, that next free flight seems far out of reach. Many other credit card issuers offer “bonus spending categories,” where you can earn, say, 4 points per dollar on purchases at restaurants and grocery stores, like the American Express® Gold Card (terms apply). This is a great incentive to use the card more and it gets you to free travel that much sooner. If my AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® added some bonus spending categories, I would definitely use it more.
Distance-based companion fare rules
It seems almost automatic that, when an airline gives some kind of free or reduced flight perk, they limit it to the lower 48 states. On the surface, that makes sense, since Hawaii and Alaska seem so very far away, exotic and, thus, pricey. But that view is different from the West Coast. If you’re in Seattle, you’re 600 miles closer to Honolulu than you are to Miami.
And if you’d rather go to Honolulu than Miami, the logic of this card’s $99 companion pass is frustrating. If I could rewrite the rules, I’d make that companion pass good for a flight within a certain distance, for example, 3,000 miles. That would work better for my favored destination: Hawaii.
Bring back the Miles Kickback
Until May 2019, my AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® had an uncommon perk I grew to love: Every time I redeemed American Airlines AAdvantage miles for a flight, 10% of those miles got kicked back into my account. That is, if you reserved a flight for 45,000 miles, soon after, 4,500 miles would be credited to your mileage balance. You were already on your way to your next redemption. Seems this would have been beneficial to the airline and credit card company, too, because it could motivate users to keep accumulating miles for that next award and make it harder to ever abandon using the card.
Lower (or no) annual fee
The annual membership fees charged by credit card companies may be justifiable. They may be reasonable. They may even be a good value. But they’re still a drag. And this card’s recent fee increase from $95 a year to $99 a year didn’t go unnoticed. We rewards-obsessed travelers are frugal enough to count every dollar, after all.
Upgrades to Main Cabin Extra
AAdvantage miles can get you a seat in the main cabin or a seat in business or first class, but that in-between sweet spot — the extra legroom seats called Main Cabin Extra — can’t be booked with miles, nor can you use miles to upgrade a cash fare to Main Cabin Extra. It sure would be nice if my card membership made these seats easier to access.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The 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