AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

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An easy, low-cost choice for American Airlines perks.

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The Barclaycard-issued AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard offers one of the best sign-up bonuses without a minimum spending requirement of any airline card currently available. If you ever fly on American Airlines, you may want to consider adding this card to your wallet.

Review

If you’re looking for an easy-to-earn credit card sign-up bonus that can fast-track you to free flights, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard will do the trick. Just pay the $95 annual fee and make any purchase within the first 90 days of opening the account and you’ll earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles –enough for a round-trip flight for two in economy from Los Angeles to Miami or a round-trip flight for one from New York City to Brussels, Belgium in economy class, for example.

Bankrate estimates this mileage bonus to be worth between $600 and $750, depending on the flight you choose. Note that these examples and other award travel options are subject to taxes and carrier-imposed fees that start at $5.60 per person per award.

All eligible American Airlines purchases will earn 2x miles for every $1 spent. All other purchases earn 1x miles per dollar. You’ll also get to check one bag for free for you and up to four others traveling with you on your domestic reservation. Without this perk, the first checked bag for each person costs $25. For families, this alone might make it worth the $95 annual fee, as long as American Airlines is what you mostly fly.

Longer-term, the Aviator Red card may not make sense as an everyday card as the rewards rate of 1x miles per $1 can easily be bested by other credit cards. But, if you’re trying to accrue miles for a specific trip, and you don’t want to be bogged down with a hefty annual fee or meet a minimum spending requirement, this card can give you a nice boost toward that goal at a minimal cost.

There’s also an introductory 0% balance transfer offer for the first 15 billing cycles for balances transferred within the first 45 days of opening the account. You’ll pay a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount being transferred, whichever is greater. Depending on how much debt you’re looking to move, you might save more with a different balance transfer credit card.

Who should get this card

If you live near, or fly to an American Airlines hub a few times a year, you could benefit from owning this credit card.

Advantages
  • The sign-up bonus is generous and spending any amount, no matter how small will qualify you for it.
  • If you travel with at least one other person on your flights, the included perk of a free checked bag for you and up to four others are worth more than the cost to own the card.
  • You get preferred boarding and in-flight discounts of 25% off of food and beverage.
Disadvantages
  • If you're just signing up to get the bonus offer, the miles will expire after 18 months if you don't use the card.
  • If you rarely fly on American Airlines, the benefits of this card are likely not worth it to you.
  • Mile SAAver awards are notoriously difficult to find due to their limited availability so you may not be able to redeem your miles for the lowest award flights.

Fees and APR

  • Annual fee is $95.
  • You’ll pay a variable APR of 16.99% to 25.99% on purchases based on creditworthiness.
  • Enjoy an introductory 0% APR offer for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers made within 45 days of opening the account. After that it’s a variable 16.99% to 25.99%.
  • Balance transfer fee is 3%.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside the U.S.

Extras, perks and using points

Cardholders get their first checked bag free and preferred boarding for up to four traveling companions, a 25% savings on in-flight purchases and an automatic rebate of 10% of redeemed miles, up to 10,000 miles per calendar year.

If you spend $25,000 or more on the card within a calendar year you’ll earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars which can help you qualify for elite status with American Airlines, which in turn comes with its own perks and benefits.

If you spend $30,000 or more on purchases in a year on your card, you’ll earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount.

Cardholders are also eligible for reduced mileage award travel on American Airlines for MileSAAver awards to destinations selected every other month.

To redeem your points, log into your American Airlines AAdvantage account, choose your qualifying flight and select the redeem miles option. There is no fee to redeem your miles and you can choose a combination of cash and miles, or pay entirely with miles. You can also use miles to upgrade your flight.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.