Best American Airlines credit cards

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Frequent flyers can benefit from getting a credit card that is co-branded with a major issuer and their favorite airline. Not only can co-branded airline credit cards make it easy for consumers to earn more miles in their favorite program, but they can score elite benefits like priority boarding, free checked bags, discounts on in-flight purchases and airport lounge access.

The best American Airlines credit cards make it easy for frequent flyers to earn more miles in the American AAdvantage program and enjoy a more convenient flying experience. The right American Airlines credit card for you depends on how frequently you fly, your preferred rewards structure, perks and more, so keep reading to learn which option might work best for you.

Bankrate’s picks for the best credit cards for American flyers in 2020:

  • Best for no annual fee: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
  • Best welcome bonus offer: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • Best for frequent flyers: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • Best for business owners: CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines miles and a $50 statement credit when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on grocery store and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on everything else
  • No annual fee
  • Cardholder benefits include 25 percent off in-flight food and beverage purchases when you pay with your credit card

Why it’s the best American Airlines card with no annual fee

The AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard is the only co-branded American Airlines credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. This makes it a good option for anyone who flies infrequently. You’ll earn a bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit when you meet a minimum spending requirement of just $500 within the first three months, but you can also quickly earn miles via regular spending — especially since you earn double miles on grocery purchases.

The only real cardholder benefit you’ll receive with this card is the 25 percent discount on in-flight purchases of food or drink. With that in mind, you may want to consider another card on this list if elite travel perks are important to you.

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

  • Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $2,500 on purchases within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on restaurants, gas stations and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on everything else
  • $99 annual fee, waived the first 12 months
  • Cardholder benefits include a first checked bag free you and up to four travel companions on domestic American Airlines itineraries, preferred boarding when you fly American and 25 percent off in-flight food and beverage purchases

Why it’s the best bonus offer

The bonus offer on this card is generous since you can earn it without paying an annual fee the first year. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers you  50,000 miles when you spend $2,500 on your card within three months of account opening, and that’s easily enough for two round-trip domestic flights within the U.S. on dates with MileSAAver availability.

You’ll also earn 2X miles on gas stations, restaurants and eligible American Airlines purchases, which can help you rack up rewards quickly. As a bonus, you’ll get elite perks like preferred boarding, a first checked bag free on domestic flights and a discount on in-flight purchases — all of which can improve your travel experience tremendously. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, either.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening; also earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status when you spend $40,000 on your card within a year
  • Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x miles on everything else
  • $450 annual fee
  • Major cardholder benefits include Admirals Club membership (valued at $650), up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®, a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines flights, priority boarding, priority check-in at the airport and more

Why it’s the best card for frequent flyers

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® is best for frequent flyers since cardholders receive Admirals Club airport lounge access every time they fly with the airline. This can make travel considerably more comfortable and worry-free, and the benefits only compound when you travel more frequently for work or leisure.

The $450 annual fee for this card is steep, but it can actually be a bargain when you consider the fact that Admirals Club membership alone is worth $650. Also keep in mind that you’ll get up to a $100 application fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®, a first checked bag free on domestic AA flights, priority boarding and more.

If you’re in pursuit of elite status with American Airlines, you’ll be happy to know this card gives you 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles when you spend $40,000 within a calendar year. This card also comes with no foreign transaction fees.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

  • Limited time offer: Earn 70,000 miles when you spend $4,000 on your card within four months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, gas station purchases, cable and satellite providers, select telecommunications purchases and car rental merchants, as well as 1X miles on everything else
  • $0 annual fee the first year, then $99
  • Cardholder benefits include a first checked bag free on domestic AA flights, for you and up to four travel companions, 25 percent back on in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases and preferred boarding

Why it’s the best business card option

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® is specifically geared to small business owners and entrepreneurs since it lets you earn miles on your business purchases. The bonus categories on this card reflect that fact, and it’s easy to see how you could rack up a meaningful number of miles simply by using this card for your business expenses throughout the year.

The welcome bonus is also extremely generous, and you won’t have to pay an annual fee during the first year. This card also comes with no foreign transaction fees, and you can earn an American Airlines Companion Certificate for domestic main cabin travel after you spend $30,000 on your card each cardmembership year and cardmembership is renewed.

Consider travel cards with flexible point offerings

If you prefer to fly American Airlines but you’re worried about being tied down to a single frequent flyer program, you may want to consider flexible travel credit cards in place of — or in addition to — an airline credit card. This is based on the idea that many travel credit cards let you transfer points to multiple airlines or even use points to book travel through a portal with any airline you want.

As an example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you earn points that can transfer at a 1:1 ratio to airlines like United, Southwest, British Airways or JetBlue. However, you can also use these points to book airfare with any airline through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and you’ll even get 25 percent more value out of your points when you earn them and redeem them for travel with this card.

Other flexible rewards programs include American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Both let you earn points you can use to book airfare with any airline (including American Airlines) through their respective portals, but you can also transfer these points to airline partners if you prefer. If you’re curious about travel credit cards that let you book airfare in a variety of ways, make sure to compare cards in each of these programs.

How to pick the right American Airlines credit card for your needs

Keep in mind you don’t have to pick between a flexible travel credit card and an airline credit card. In fact, many consumers opt to sign up for both. That way, they can maximize the bonus categories with each card and enjoy the frequent flyer perks or benefits their airline card offers. As you compare cards specifically for American Airlines, here are some tips that can help you determine the best option for you.

Decide if you want to pay an annual fee

A few co-branded American Airlines credit cards waive the annual fee for the first year or don’t charge an annual fee at all. Make sure to compare credit cards in terms of their fees before you decide.

Do you need a card for personal expenses, business purchases or both?

Determine if you want to earn American AAdvantage miles on your personal expenses, your business expenses or both. You can have a personal American Airlines credit card and a business credit card if you want to.

Compare cards’ frequent flyer perks

Do you want to pay $450 per year in order to access Admirals Clubs at select airports, or would a card with fewer benefits suffice? Make sure to check which cards have the benefits you care about, whether that includes priority boarding, free checked bags or something else.

Pay attention to earning rates and bonus categories

The rewards rate each card offers can help you determine which might help you earn more miles over time. If a certain card comes with a bonus category you happen to spend a lot of money in, then that’s definitely worth considering.