AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® review: Accessible rewards and solid traveler benefits

“As American Airlines shifts to a ‘Loyalty Points’ system for earning status, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard is now a very important tool for AA loyalists.” – Stephanie Zito

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Snapshot

4.4

Bankrate rating
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Bottom line

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elie Mastercard is a boon for American Airlines loyalists who may not fly enough to earn frequent flier status. The card lacks flexibility, but it touts a generous welcome bonus and solid benefits for travelers.

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AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Rewards rate

1 mile–2 miles

Annual fee

$99

Intro offer

60,000 miles

Regular APR

18.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% variable based on your creditworthiness

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Card Overview

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s generous (and easy-to-earn) welcome bonus makes it an attractive card for just about anyone who travels with American Airlines. You’ll earn miles on all your spending, including 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, so you can quickly put those miles toward flights to destinations around the globe. This American Airlines credit card also comes with handy perks that would benefit people who fly the airline at least a couple of times a year.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • The generous welcome bonus is easy to obtain and has no minimum spending requirements.
  • Introductory 0 percent APR on balance transfer is great for debt managers.
  • The Companion Certificate allows you to travel with a companion for just $99 (plus taxes and fees) if you spend $20,000 on purchases and your account remains open for 45 days after your anniversary date.
  • Cardholders get access to a number of travel perks like an annual $25 statement credit on inflight Wi-Fi purchases and 25 percent savings on inflight food and drink purchases when using this card.

Cons

  • The $99 annual fee is high for a card that only earns 1X miles on everyday purchases.
  • The annual fee is not waived the first year nor is there an introductory $0 annual fee.
  • The only category that earns elevated AAdvantage miles is American Airlines purchases, making it difficult to boost earning potential.

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 2X miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after making one purchase and paying the annual card fee in full within the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $99
  • Purchase intro APR: None
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for 15 billing cycles for transfers made in the first 45 days
  • Regular APR: 15.99 percent, 19.99 percent or 24.99 percent variable

Current welcome bonus

Earning 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles couldn’t be easier—just pay your $99 annual fee in full and make a purchase on your AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard within the first 90 days of opening your account. This offer is incredibly generous since even the best airline credit cards on the market require a spending minimum (usually around $2,000) for a comparable number of bonus points or miles.

While there are certainly larger welcome offers around, this one is a top pick because it’s rather easy to earn. And keep in mind, too, that a domestic round-trip award flight with American Airlines can cost as little as 25,000 miles—so this bonus could, in fact, be enough for two domestic round-trip flights if you’re flexible with your travel plans and smart about your redemptions.

Rewards

You can earn unlimited AAdvantage miles, but be aware they will expire if you don’t keep your account active. Make a purchase with your AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard at least once every 18 months, or fly with American Airlines to keep your miles.

Earning rewards

As with other co-branded airline credit cards, you’ll earn miles faster by traveling with the airline. Flying American Airlines Purchasing American Airlines tickets will get you 2X AAdvantage miles, but you’ll also earn 1X miles on all other purchases.

Frequent American flyers who spend at least $20,000 on the card each year will also earn an annual Anniversary Companion Certificate. With it, someone can travel with you for just $99 (plus taxes and fees) as long as your account remains open for 45 days after your anniversary date.

Redeeming rewards

American Airlines is part of the oneworld®Alliance, and the AAdvantage Program currently has 18 partner airlines, so you can redeem miles with a number of carriers. You can redeem your miles online or over the phone. You can also gift or transfer miles for a fee.

How much are miles worth?

According to The Points Guy’s most recent points and miles valuations, an AAdvantage mile is worth around 1.77 cents as of April 2022. Depending on how you redeem your welcome offer, those 50,000 AAdvantage miles (when you pay your $99 annual fee in full and make a purchase on your card within the first 90 days) could be worth approximately $700.

Other cardholder perks

American Airlines flyers will love the benefits this card offers, which will make traveling with the airline easier and less expensive when flying American Airlines.

First checked bag free

You and up to four companions on the same reservation can enjoy one checked bag for free on select domestic American Airlines flights.

Preferred boarding

You and up to four companions are also eligible to receive preferred boardings on all American Airlines flights.

In-flight savings

You can get $25 back in statement credits every year for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases on American Airlines, plus save 25 percent on food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights.

No foreign transaction fees

You won’t have to pay the standard 3 percent charge on foreign transactions when making purchases overseas with this card.

Flight Cents

You can fast track your AAdvantage miles by rounding up purchases to the nearest dollar.

Protection and insurance

By paying for your trip with this card, you could enjoy a host of travel protections, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, travel accident insurance and collision and theft insurance on rental cars.

Earn American Airlines status with your spending

Amerian Airlines’ AAdvantage Program has moved to a new Loyalty Points system. Now it’s possible to earn elite status on American Airlines entirely with your credit card spending.

Anniversary Companion Certificate

If you spend at least $20,000 on your card and your account remains open for 45 days after your anniversary date, you can receive a Companion Certificate for $99 (plus taxes and fees), which you can use for a domestic economy fare.

Rates and fees

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has an annual fee of $99, but there are no foreign transaction fees. The late payment fee is up to $40.

Travel rewards credit cards don’t often come with introductory APR offers, which makes the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard even more appealing. You can take advantage of an intro 0 percent APR for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers made within the first 45 days. There’s a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3 percent of the transfer amount, whichever is greater.

A variable APR of either 15.99 percent, 19.99 percent or 24.99 percent will apply after the introductory period for balance transfers ends.

How the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard compares to other airline credit cards

Compared to other co-branded airline cards, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s rewards earning potential is fairly limited. For example, both the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® allow you to earn bonus miles on everyday spending in addition to airline purchases.

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AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

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4.4

Annual fee

$99

Intro offer

60,000 miles

Rewards rate

1 mile–2 miles

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
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Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Annual fee

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99

Intro offer

65,000 Miles

Rewards rate

1X–2X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
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Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Annual fee

$99, waived for first 12 months

Intro offer

50,000 miles

Rewards rate

2X–2X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard vs. Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

If Delta has a hub near you and you use the airline more frequently, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card will likely be a better fit for you. The Delta SkyMiles card—like the AAdvantage Aviator Red card—offers similar benefits for cardholders, but there’s far less flexibility for earning points with the AAdvantage Aviator card. AAdvantage Aviator cardholders will earn 2X miles for all American Airlines purchases and 1X points or miles for everything else. On the other hand, the Delta SkyMiles Gold card earns 2X miles on dining (including takeout and delivery) and 1X miles for everything else, so foodies will definitely get more out of this card.

Delta SkyMiles cardholders will also see some savings in the first year that AAdvantage Aviator cardholders won’t. While AAdvantage cardholders are obligated to pay the $99 annual fee for their first year, Delta SkyMiles cardholders will have their first annual fee waived. Additionally, the  welcome bonus will be much more difficult to achieve for Delta SkyMiles cardholders. They’ll have to spend $2,000 in purchases in the first six months to earn 65,000 bonus miles (offer ends  11/9/22). The AAdvantage bonus is only 50,000 (valued at about $700), but you only have to make one purchase on the card  and pay the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days to receive the welcome offer.

The Delta SkyMiles card might be a hindrance when traveling overseas. American Express cards aren’t as widely accepted as their Mastercard counterparts. Travelers—especially international travelers—should keep this in mind when weighing the two options.

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard vs. the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is another American Airlines credit card partner that can be beneficial for American Airlines flyers. AAdvantage Platinum cardholders will get similar benefits when flying with American Airlines, like free checked bags and preferred boarding. But the Citi AAdvantage waives the annual fee in the first year and charges a $99 annual fee each year after.

Where the Citi AAdvantage truly pulls ahead is its potential to earn elevated rewards in categories outside of American Airlines purchases. Citi AAdvantage cardholders earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, but it also earns the same rate at restaurants and gas stations. This separates it from the AAdvantage Aviator, which only earns 2X miles on American Airlines purchases and 1X miles for all other purchases.

The AAdvantage Aviator may be the suitable choice for earning frequent flyer miles and spend less to earn their welcome bonus. Citi AAdvantage cardholders will have to spend $2,500 in the first 90 days of account opening to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Best cards to pair with the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

To build AAdvantage miles rewards faster, you could pair this card with another American Airlines credit card. For example, the aforementioned Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard earns 2 miles at restaurants and gas stations, in addition to airline purchases.

If you want more versatile travel rewards, the Discover it® Miles is a fantastic alternative because it gives you 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, and you can use miles accumulated to offset recent travel expenses or even receive cash back.

Bankrate’s Take—Is the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard worth it?

If you love flying with American Airlines and travel at least a couple of times a year, then this card could be a great fit. Although there’s a $99 annual fee, you can easily make this back with the checked-bag benefit. And the ability to earn a Companion Certificate each year is excellent for couples or family members who often travel together.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here.

All information about the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.