AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red MasterCard®: A Good Upgrade for US Airways Customers

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red MasterCard®: A Good Upgrade for US Airways Customers

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The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is a good travel rewards credit card aimed at American Airlines customers that we recommend to consumers who spend on average more than $2,500 per month. Otherwise, we'll explain why opting for a different credit card may be a better choice.

Review: Is the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® Worth It?

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is a great credit card for individuals who are frequent customers of American Airlines (AA). We think the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is best for individuals who spend $30,000 per year on their credit card. At this spending threshold, one of the best features of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® kicks in – a $100 flight discount.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®'s value begins and ends with its affiliation to American Airlines. Consumers wishing to earn rewards across more spending categories or those who want more varied redemption options should look to non-airline affiliated travel rewards cards. For instance, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card gives consumers the ability to Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.

International travelers will be glad to know that the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is well-suited for their overseas travels. There are 0% foreign transaction fees – unlike other similar cards with a 3% foreign transaction fee. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® also comes equipped with an EMV smartchip. Vendors in many European and Asian nations do not have the capabilities of accepting old magnetic strip credit cards. Having a credit card with smartchip technology will be easier for your global travel as well as provide you an extra layer of protection against fraud.

What are the Benefits and Features of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®?

The table below showcases the most signficant metrics, bonuses, and other features of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. We'll then explain how we value the rewards rate, how to maximize value, and all of its other perks in more detail.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® Rewards Rate

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®'s rewards program is based mainly around earning users AAdvantage miles. Cardmembers Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases. On average, we value these AA miles at $0.017. With these two numbers in hand, we are able to calculate the rewards rate of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®.

Note that rewards rate will vary depending on how you divide your spending between purchases of AA tickets and general spending on things such as gas, groceries, shopping, etc. We will look at two different scenarios that will lie on both extremes of the rewards rate spectrum to demonstrate the best and worst possible average rewards rates. By our calculations, that range is 1.9% and 3.7%, excluding the impact of the annual fee.

How to get the most out of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®? If we just use the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® to purchase AA tickets, we will Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases. Therefore, if we buy a $1,000 ticket we will earn 2,000 AA miles. As noted above, the average value of these miles is $0.017. Therefore, the value of the 2,000 AA miles we've earned is equal to 2,000 x $0.017 = $34. This money earned will vary based on how much money we spend. A more universal gauge of the value of the card is therefore the ratio between money earned to money spent – what we call the rewards rate. Spending $1,000 netted us $34, and so $34 / $1,000 = 0.034 = 3.4%.

Additionally,AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® users earn 10% of the miles they redeem back. Taking that back into our rewards rate calculation, those extra 10% would translate to: 2,000 x 0.1 = 200 AAdvantage miles. Those miles are worth 200 x $0.017 = $3.40. Therefore, in reality we earn $37.4 back after having spent $1,000. Our effective and overall rewards rate for the Aviator Red credit card therefore becomes: $37.40 / $1,000 = 3.7%. With this kind of targeted spending, the Aviator Red credit card offers consumers a higher than average return on their spending compared to other credit cards.

What is the absolute worst value we can get out of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®? If we make $1,000 in purchases on things like movie tickets, Starbucks, and all other household items other than American Airlines tickets, we will receive just 1,000 AA miles. Following the same math we've done above for the base miles redemption and the 10% redemption bonus, we can calculate that this will yield us a rewards rate of 1.9%.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® Bonuses

American Airlines and Barclays offer their AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®holders a number perks and bonuses, which we'll cover in detail below.

$100 Flight Discount Each year that a cardmember charges at least $30,000 to their AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, they will earn a $100 flight discount. The $100 discount equates to receiving approximately 5,882 AAdvantage miles.

In-Flight Purchase Discount TheAAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® also grants its members a 25% discount on purchases of food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines flights. This is a nice touch that is sure to give American Airlines customers the sense that they are being well rewarded for their brand loyalty on the more gastronomical aspects of flying.

How Does the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® Compare to other Credit Cards?

As the merger between US Airways and American Airlines grows closer, individuals who have the US Airways credit card at hand are faced with an important decision. Are they better off getting updated to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, or should they look to other credit cards? Below we analyze how theAAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® stacks up in the crowded field of other available options.

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

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® cardholders Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases. The card currently comes with a sign-up bonus that offers the following: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® vs AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard®

The AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard® offers bigger savings and better perks at the cost of a higher annual fee. The card costs $195 per year to maintain, which is a little more than double what the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® costs. In return, AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard®members 3X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on hotels and car rentals and 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases. This rewards structure is not only more generous than that of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, but also gives more opportunities to earn miles – with the extra miles awarded for hotel and car rental purchases.

Individuals interested in premium frequent flyer benefits also have extra incentives in the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard®. Firstly, the card allows users to earn up to 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles per year. These miles count towards qualifying for Elite Status with American Airlines, which is their loyalty perks program for frequent flyers. On top of this, AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard® members will receive statement credit refunding them for an approved application for Global Entry with TSA Pre√™. If this is something consumers would want to get in the first place, this benefit alone is enough to justify the higher annual fee of $195 for the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard®, as Global Entry applications costs $100.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® vs Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

  • On Citibank's Secure Website

Consumers who are more focused on travel perks, instead of earning travel rewards should prefer the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® over the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. Though the two cards have the same rewards rate, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® has a significantly higher annual fee - $450 per year. This higher cost is the price for what Citi calls an "enhanced airport experience". This includes: priority check-in, priority airport screening, and priority boarding – all on flights operated by American Airlines.

These amenities are not present in the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, whose primary focus is around simply earning members AAdvantage miles to be used on future flights. If a consumer already finds themselves frequently traveling with American, and calls the airport their second home, a card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® can provide an extra level of comfort worth the high annual fee.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® vs Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a more general travel rewards credit card, with no affiliation to either American Airlines or any other airline or hotel chain. This results in some advantages and disadvantages when we compare it to a card like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. Firstly, having no direct affiliation means the card doesn't offer the same narrow band of rewards. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Cardholders receive 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. The miles earned aren't as valuable as the AAdvantage Miles you earn with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, though they can be stretched further. You may only use AAdvantage miles to book more American Airlines flights – which may be good enough for some consumers. With the pointers earned with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can earn statement credit on a wider array of travel expenses, such as taxis, public transportation, hotels, airline tickets (American Airlines and more). You can also use Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card miles as cash back on non-travel related expenses, though this causes their value to depreciate, and this kind of use of miles is not recommended.

While you may earn more miles in more places with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, as noted above, their value will be lower than AAdvantage miles. We value the latter at $0.017, while Barclays' general miles are worth only about $0.01. It should be up to individual consumers to decide how much they value the flexibility in rewards. If you are okay with earning greater rewards on just American Airlines purchases, then the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is the card for you. However, if you would like your credit card to be able to save you money on more of the purchases you make, we recommend the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Don't forget that with no American Airlines affiliation, the Venture cannot offer you some of the brand-specific discounts, such as the 25% savings on in-flight purchases or the $100 flight discount.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® vs Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

  • On Citibank's Secure Website

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is one of our favorite cash back credit cards, and it can help an individual to maximize their spending alongside their AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. Since the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has a $0 annual fee, there is no extra carrying cost to have both credit cards in your wallet. With American Airlines purchases, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® outperforms the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer in terms of savings. This is because the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer only offers the following rewards rate: Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, on the other hand, can get you up to 3.7% back on those AA purchases.

The reason one should consider having both credit cards at their disposal is to maximize the savings on all purchases. Whenever you are not making AA purchases, the best your AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® can do is give you a 1.87% rewards rate. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has a flat rewards rate back on all spending – regardless of category. Therefore, we recommend you get the second card and use it whenever buying gas, groceries, and all things that don't fall under the umbrella of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®'s 3.7% rewards rate.

The information related to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard® has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).