I recently explained why I’m not requalifying for American Airlines elite status. But I know many of you will be looking to achieve various AA elite levels this year, and there are many ways to do so. Indeed, the myriad options to earn Loyalty Points for status is my favorite feature of American’s program. In particular, American Airlines credit card spend can play a big role in achieving status. Most all co-branded AA cards earn one Loyalty Point per dollar spent (the no-fee Aviator card from Barclays earning 0.5x is one exception). So what are the best American Airlines cards for earning status? A couple earn bonus Loyalty Points in addition to this base 1x earning. Today, I’ll describe these two options and what to consider from each.
Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard
The Aviator Silver comes with a solid set of benefits in return for the $199 annual fee. The card earns 3x on American Airlines purchases, 2x on hotels and car rentals, and 1x everywhere else. You may do better in those bonus categories on other cards. But the Silver entices cardholders to spend on it for other reasons.
Cardholders earn 5k Loyalty Points after spending $20k, an additional 5k with $20k more, and a final 5k with $50k total spending in the AA elite status qualification year (1 Mar 2023 through 28 Feb 2024). That’s 65k total Loyalty points on $50k spending, or a 1.3x earn rate. Plus, each anniversary year, cardholders earn a Companion Certificate good for two guests at $99 each (plus taxes and fees) by spending $20k. Simultaneously earning redeemable miles, companion certs, and Loyalty Points isn’t bad!
The Silver also comes with a rad, obscure benefit – the card offers up to $25 back daily in statement credits on inflight food and beverage purchases when used on American Airlines operated flights. Cardholders also get $50 back annually for wi-fi purchases on American flights. The card comes with several other benefits similar to other cards: $100 Global Entry fee credit, baggage allowances, preferred boarding, etc.
There’s one big catch with this card. It’s only available via product change with Barclays. I’ve been targeted to upgrade my Aviator Blue to Silver via my Barclays online account, and calling in to request an upgrade may also be an option.
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
The big benefit of this $450 annual fee card is Admirals Club membership, including sneaky-good access for authorized users. The card earns 2x on American Airlines spend and 1x everywhere else. But the Executive card has a similarly-enticing bonus Loyalty Points earning scheme like the Aviator Silver. The Executive card earns a bonus 10k Loyalty Points on $40k spend, for a 50k total/1.25x rate, during the AA elite status qualification period.
Other card benefits include priority check-in, airport screening (where available), early AA boarding, baggage allowance, and a $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.
Which To Pick?
Individuals interested in spending their way to elite status and who value Admirals Club access should pursue the Citi Executive card. Existing Barclays Aviator cardholders who want to spend for status should consider product changing to the Silver card.
In each case, the cards come with benefits that more than make up for the annual fees, depending on how much a cardholder flies American. For status chasers who have both options, decide if lounge access or in-flight credits matter more and pick accordingly.
Big AA fans and even bigger spenders may naturally conclude holding both is worth the effort. With attentive spending, these individuals earn 115k Loyalty points on $90k total spend, over 1.27x Loyalty Points along the way.
Best American Airlines Cards for Status – Conclusion
I may eventually decide to upgrade to the Silver, but probably not until April 2024 at the earliest. I may be looking to qualify for AA elite status again in that period. Regardless, I’ll be more interested in the daily in-flight credits then, while they provide higher value without status. Bigger picture, I’m interested to see if these cards and their benefits continue to exist in their current state. Indeed, card issuers can change (read: devalue or eliminate) these benefits whenever they desire. But until then, consider these cards solid options for earning bonus Loyalty Points and enjoying additional benefits. Do you hold either of these cards? If so, what’s the biggest benefit to you?
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