Full Review of AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard
Exceptional one-time miles offer
Opportunity to earn annual bonus to help earn Elite status
Opportunity to purchase a companion fare for $99 (taxes and fees apply)
Automatic annual 5% miles bonus
Relatively few benefits
- Opportunities for Exceptional One-Time Miles Offers: The 65,000 bonus miles available with the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, plus another 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card, is the one of the bigger bonuses out there, especially given the relatively high value of American miles. It also has a modest spending requirement of $1,000. With American miles worth 2.1 cents apiece, according to our valuation, the bonuses are together worth an estimated $1,575 when the miles are used for American flights. That essentially represents an impressive 50+% return on required spending.
- Opportunity to Earn Annual Bonus To Help Earn Elite Status: Reaching Gold Elite, the lowest status level in the AAdvantage loyalty program, unlocks such travel benefits as access to preferred seating, miles bonuses of up to 40%, and free room upgrades. Among the requirements to earn Gold is spending $3,000 in Elite Qualifying Dollars within the year. This card provides those EQDs every year in which you spend at least $25,000. Welcome as that bonus is, achieving Gold Elite requirements still requires travel, and a lot if it. Within a year, you must earn either fly 25,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles or 30 Elite-Qualifying Segments to qualify.
- Opportunity to Purchase a $99 Companion Fare: You get a certificate entitling you to purchase a companion domestic economy-fare ticket for $99 (plus taxes and fees of up to $43.20) when you charge $30,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year. With the average corporate ticket in 2019 costing about $450, and more if booked in the last week before traveling, according to Statista, the certificate is conservatively worth over $300 after deducting the purchase price and related taxes and fees. (Keep in mind, though, that you must purchase another ticket for yourself to travel alongside your companion on the trip.)
- Automatic Annual 5% Miles Bonus: On your card anniversary, Barclays totals the miles you earned over the year and adds a bonus of 5% of that miles total. So if you earned 50,000 miles, for example, over the last 12 months, you’d get 5,000 miles added as a bonus.
- Relatively Few Travel Benefits: This card does allow you (and up to four companions) to skip the carry-on process by checking a bag for free on domestic flights operating by American Airlines, and has no foreign-transaction fee. But it lacks other benefits common to travel cards that charge a fee, such as any level of insurance coverage for car rentals and travel accidents.
This Card is Best For
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
Earning a primary or side income from a small business
The American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard best suits business owners who fly American and expect to spend at least $2,000 to $3,000 a month on the card—and are comfortable using their rewards for American flights. Such a spending level would unlock some of the card’s better bonuses: a boost in the miles needed for Elite Status (after spending $25,000 a year) and the opportunity to buy a companion ticket for $99 plus fees and taxes (after spending $30,000 a year). This card is also a good fit for businesses seeking above-average rewards for spending on office supplies and telecom services. (It also offers its best rewards rate for car rentals, but the card’s puzzling absence of rental-car insurance coverage would seem to serve as a deterrent to using it for rental car transactions if another card you carry covers that liability, even if secondary to your primary insurance).
AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard One-Time Offer
This card offers a bonus of up to 75,000 miles. To earn the full bonus, though, you must meet two conditions.
First, you must spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening in order to receive 65,000 miles. Adding at least one employee card to the account, and having the employee use it once, earns you an additional 10,000 miles.
American Airlines uses dynamic pricing for flights so depending on where you book, you may get more or less mileage value. But by our calculations, miles are worth around 2.1 cents on average when used to obtain flights on American. The 75,000 bonus miles you could earn would, then, be worth $1,575 when used to receive awards flights.
Rewards Earning Details
Earning miles with this card is straightforward. Here's a quick recap of what you earn with the card:
- 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases
- 2 miles per dollar on office supply, telecom, and rental-car purchases
- 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
Miles are unlimited and there are no spending caps to heed or bonus categories to activate. In addition to miles on purchases, you'll get 5% of your miles earned for the year as a bonus on your card anniversary.
To qualify for the 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, you must spend directly with the airline. That means if you book a flight with American through a third-party travel site, you'll only earn 1 point per dollar; the same applies to rental cars and hotels bought through these sites.As with many rewards programs, the miles you earn with the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard technically have an expiration date. But as with those other programs, you can keep your miles and your account active by periodically making a purchase that earns miles or by redeeming miles you already have earned, in this case at least once every 18 months.
Rewards Redemption Details
When you're ready to redeem rewards, you can do so by calling American Airlines or visiting the airline's website to book award travel. While you can’t transfer miles to other loyalty programs, you can redeem miles for travel on American Airlines, American Eagle and OneWorld partner airlines on flights to nearly 1,000 destinations around the world.
Getting the best value for travel redemptions of course varies by the ticket class you choose. For example, you can book Mile SAAver awards with as little as 12,500 miles or AAnytime award flights with as few as 20,000 miles if you're comfortable with a Main Cabin seat. The minimums for business-class seats in those award categories increase to 15,000 miles and 45,000 miles, respectively, so you'll have to decide what's more important: preserving miles or enjoying the comforts of business class.
Other ways to redeem your AAdvantage miles include:
- Seat upgrades on American Airlines flights
- Seat upgrades on partner airlines
- Car rentals
- Hotel bookings
- Vacation packages
- Purchase or renew Admirals Club membership
- Gift cards
- Lifelock identity theft services
- Charitable donations
Out of all these options, your best bet in terms of value is redeeming miles for award travel, either with American Airlines or one of its partner airlines.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Making the most of the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard involves using it in a way that, budget permitting, allows you to gain its various bonuses. These two spending scenarios outline what a typical truly small business might earn in rewards, followed by the earnings for a larger and more travel-intensive enterprise. .
Assume that you run a business with no employees. You spend $1,000 in the first 90 days to get the 65,000 introductory bonus miles. Then your regular monthly spending totals $1,000 on American Airlines flights, $1,000 on office supplies and telecom services and $1,000 on everyday purchases for your business.
Based on those numbers, you'd earn 24,000 miles a year on flights (12 months x $1,000 = $12,000 on AA purchases x 2 miles per dollar), 24,000 miles on office supplies and telecom (12 months x $1,000 = $12,000 in annual spending x 2 miles per dollar), and 12,000 miles on other spending (12 months x $1,000 = $12,000 in annual spending x 1 miles per dollar) for a total of 60,000 miles per year. The 5% anniversary bonus would bring your miles from spending to 63,000 miles. With the 65,000-mile one-time offer, you'd have 128,000 miles in total. In all, that's $2,688 in travel value, based on our 2.1-cent valuation. And that total does not consider the approximate $350 value of the companion voucher.
Now let’s look at a business in which you and three other employees all hold cards on the account, and travel constantly. You meet the minimum spending requirement to earn the one-time offer of 65,000 miles, and the first employee who gets a card makes at least one purchase so you get the additional 10,000-mile first-year bonus, too.
Together, the four of you spend $3,000 per month on American Airlines purchases, $2,000 per month on telecom, office supplies, and car rentals and $4,000 a month on other business purchases. That level of spending would net the business 72,000 miles (12 months x $3,000 = $36,000 on AA purchases x 2 miles per dollar) + 48,000 miles (12 months x $2,000 = $24,000 on telecom etc. purchases x 2 miles per dollar) + 48,000 miles (12 months x $4,000 = $48,000 on telecom etc. purchases x 1 miles per dollar) for a total of 168,000 miles. The 5% miles bonus would earn you another 8,400 miles. Add in both the one-time offer and the one for adding the first card user and your first-year mileage total would come to 251,400 miles. Using the valuation of 2.1 cents each, those miles could be worth as much as $5,279 when used to buy flights on American. This total, too, does not consider the approximate $350 value of the companion voucher.
AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard’s Outstanding Benefits
There are several travel benefits that stand out with this card, including:
- First checked bag free: Get your first checked bag free for yourself and up to four companions on domestic American Airlines flights.
- 25% off in-flight purchases: Receive a 25% statement credit for inflight purchases you can apply to food and beverages.
- Companion certificate: Get a certificate entitling you to buy a domestic economy-fare companion ticket for $99 (plus taxes and fees) when you charge $30,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year.
- Preferred boarding: Enjoy preferred boarding for you and up to four guests on domestic American Airlines flights.
- $0 fraud liability
- Expense and account management tools
- Complementary employee cards
Barclays, which issues the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, received a rating of 806 in the 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. That's the national average rating across all card issuers included in the study.
Barclays customer service is on hand to help with account questions or issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can log in to your account to send secure messages, get in touch by phone or tweet questions to @AskBarclaysUs.
The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard is a chip-and-signature card with the option to set up a PIN. Barclaycard also offers a $0 liability fraud guarantee which means you're not responsible for any fraudulent purchases if your card is lost or stolen.
Fees to Watch Out For
The only real fee to be aware of is the convenience check fee, which is an unlikely one that most business credit cardholders should incur. Convenience checks are similar to cash advances—you can use them to write out a check for cash or to pay vendors who don’t accept credit cards (which is less likely in this day and age). This card doubles up on fees for convenience checks, charging you one fee to use them and another if they're returned. Not to mention, the checks can be subject to the same APR as a regular cash advance.
The AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard makes sense for those businesses prepared to spend fairly heavily on the card, and gain its bonuses tied to spending of at least $25,000 a year. More than most cards, it rewards heavy spenders. It may not be the right card for occasional travelers on American. With its best rewards, including those for American purchases, only a relatively modest 2 miles per dollar spent, you’d need to spend about $2,150 a year on the card to justify its $95 annual fee. (This figure considers the 5% annual mileage bonus but not what you might save by being able to check a bag free on flights.) If you don’t spend that much—by, say, taking at least four or so domestic return flights a year on American—another card will likely be a better choice. For example, although it isn’t a business card, an entrepreneur could opt for the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card offers the same rewards on American purchases and has no annual fee. Any American Airlines card, though, will be most lucrative by far if you use its rewards for awards flights on the airline and its partners. For a more versatile option, consider a general travel card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which also has a $95 annual fee but whose rewards can be used more broadly for booking travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards platform.