Full Review of AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard
Introductory offer on balance transfers
Access to American Airlines benefits
Annual fee of $99
Balance transfer fee
No introductory APR on purchases
- Generous Bonuses: The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard's one-time offer of 60,000 miles is enough to book up to four return trips using MileSAAver awards, since redemptions for those start at 15,000 miles. Valued in another way, Investopedia estimates the bonus to be worth about $1,260, since we value AAdvantage points at an average of 2.1 cents. You'll also receive a companion certificate that entitles the cardholder to buy a round-trip domestic ticket for a friend or family member for $99 (plus taxes and fees), a benefit that is quite a bargain when compared to the average cost of roundtrip airfare. Unlike almost all offers that are this rich, the bonuses require a very low minimum spending requirement. You receive them if, within the first 90 days, you make a single purchase on the card and pay the annual fee in full.
- Introductory Offer on Balance Transfers: With a decent introductory balance-transfer offer, new cardmembers receive a 0% APR for 15 billing cycles, as long as the balance is transferred within 45 days of opening the account. As with many such offers, though, there is a transfer fee of 3% or $5 of the balance, whichever is greater.
- Rich American Airlines Benefits: The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard comes with benefits specific to flying on American Airlines. These perks include:
- First checked bag free on domestic flights
- Preferred boarding
- A savings of 25% back (in statement credit) on in-flight food and beverage purchases
- Annual statement credit for in-flight wi-fi purchases, to a maximum of $25.
- Companion certificate for a round-trip domestic ticket for $99 plus taxes each year that you spend $20,000 on purchases and your account remains open for 45 days after your anniversary date.
Two of these perks, checked bags and preferred boarding, also apply to up to four traveling companions on the same reservation as the cardholder.
- Annual Fee of $99: There is an annual fee of $99 with this card, and it’s applied immediately, with no waiver for the first year. However, frequent American Airlines customers may find they justify the cost quickly, especially if they collect the first year’s generous and easily earned bonus. After that, those who typically check bags on domestic flights, for example, could essentially justify the fee after taking four one-way flights, since the first checked bag on a domestic flight is $30.
- No Introductory APR on Purchases: While there is a 0% APR balance transfer introductory offer with this card, the offer doesn’t extend to purchases, as it does on many cards—even including some that have no annual fee. For example, the Capital One SavorOne card, with no annual fee, has a 15-month 0% introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers.
This Card is Best For
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
Unsurprisingly, given its name, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard best suits those who frequently fly American Airlines or its Oneworld partners, and do so fairly often. The rewards structure reveals how AA-centric the card is: it earns 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, and only 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Putting aside the rich one-time and regular point-per-mile earnings on other purchases, and assuming flights cost the U.S. average of $364 for a domestic round-trip, we estimate you’d need to use the card to buy 13 round-trip tickets worth a total of $4,732 to justify its annual fee as a comparable value of flights rewards. Alternatively, you’d need to spend twice that sum, $9,464, to justify the annual fee with regular purchases that earn a single mile per dollar spent.
You'd be able justify the fee in fewer flights, though, if you and your companions typically check bags, since the card allows you to skip the $30 bag fee each way. Also, while on flights, you’d get a further $25 in annual statement credit against wi-fi fees and enjoy a 25% discount on in-flight food and drinks. Finally, assuming you want to take a friend or family member along with you on a trip, the one-time offer certificate allowing you to buy, for $99 (plus taxes and fees), a domestic economy round-trip ticket for a companion could alone add hundreds of dollars to the value of the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard.
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Bonus
This card offers 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after the first purchase is made in the first 90 days and the annual fee is paid. This is enough miles for up to eight one-way flights using MileSAAVer awards, or up to three flights using AAnytime awards. Since we estimate AAdvantage points to be worth 2.1 cents, the bonus is worth about $1,260 when used for flights.
The modest requirements to earn the bonus miles also earn the cardholder a certificate allowing purchase of a companion domestic economy round-trip ticket for $99. With an average domestic round-trip ticket costing $364, that benefit could be worth $265 more than it costs.
Rewards Earning Details
Earning rewards is fairly straightforward. You earn 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 miles per dollar on all other purchases. That’s on a par with, if not a little ahead of, mileage rewards for some comparable airline co-branded credit cards.
For example, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from Amex, offers 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and charges an annual fee of $99, which is waived for the first year. The United Explorer MileagePlus card, with a $95 fee, earns 2 miles per dollar on hotels and restaurants in addition to the same rewards on United purchases. However, it’s worth noting that both Delta and United miles are worth appreciably less than those of American, according to our analysis.
Rewards Redemption Details
Redeeming rewards is fairly straightforward, if quite limited in some respects. You can redeem miles for gift cards only if you have both a balance of at least 25,000 AAdvantage miles and a certain level of status in the AAdvantage program.
Using miles for American purchases is by far the best redemption option. You simply sign into your AAdvantage account and use miles to pay for the flights you choose. The cost of the flights, in miles, depends on the destination and type of miles you’re redeeming.
For example, a one-way flight in the contiguous 48 states starts at 7,500 miles, when using MileSAAver awards. However, that same flight with AAnytime Level 2 miles would cost 30,000 miles. One-way flights from the lower 48 states to Alaska using MileSAAver awards would cost 15,000 miles while one to Hawaii would be 22,500.
It's also possible to redeem AAdvantage miles for cabin upgrades, as well as for Admirals Club access. There is also a portal that allows AAdvantage members to use their miles to pay for hotel stays, vacation packages and car rentals.
AAdvantage is part of the Oneworld alliance, so while cardholders might not be able to transfer their miles directly to another alliance member loyalty program, it’s possible to use miles to book flights on other airlines. When searching, partner airlines will be included in results.
Additionally, miles can be gifted to others or transferred to the account of another member, as long as that person also has an AAdvantage account number. However, all such transfers are subject to fees.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Given the 2 miles per dollar spent with American when the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, using the card for all American Airlines purchases is the first step to making the most of the card. With each mile worth an average of 2.1 cents, according to Investopedia's research, those rewards could meet or even exceed the value you'd make with, say, a cash-back card that earns 4 cents per dollar spent.
A cash-back card, of course, doesn't restrict what you can spend its rewards on—where this card's rewards are geared toward redemption for American purchases. When redeeming for flights, pay attention to the costs in both dollars and miles and, if your plans are flexible, explore different schedules for your trip in order to find the best value.
Keep in mind, too, that miles can also be used to enhance your on-board experience. Indeed, you can sometimes get more value if you use miles to upgrade from economy to business class, or from business class to first class than if they’re redeemed for flights.
If your annual credit-card charges run to five figures, and you travel a lot on American, you should weigh whether to put most or all of your charges onto the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. The reason to do so would be to earn the card's anniversary bonus, a certificate that allows you to buy a return domestic economy ticket for a companion for just $99 plus taxes and fees.
Assuming there's a domestic trip you'd want to make with a friend or family member, the perk promises significant savings, on top of the value of the miles you'd earn—which we estimate would range between $420 and $840, depending on how much of the spending is on American (which would earn 2 miles per dollar spent) and other purchases (which would earn 1 mile per dollar). But before you go all out with putting everything the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, though, compare your earnings with this card to that of other cards in your wallet.
The card also comes with the option to boost earnings by having every purchase you make on it rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the resulting amounts used to buy miles. For example, if you charged a purchase of $40.25 to the card, the transaction would be rounded up to $50 in your account, with the $0.75 "overpayment" converted to miles at the end of each billing cycle. You get half a point for every cent converted, which means every dollar rounded up would add .50 AAdvantage miles to your account.
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s Outstanding Benefits
- Companion certificate for $99, after you make your first purchase with the card
- Anniversary companion certificate for $99, if you charge $20,000 to the card within a year
- World Elite travel benefits, including travel coverage
- The ability to round up purchases for more miles
- Preferred boarding
- Free checked bag
- $0 fraud liability
Barclays, which issues the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, ranks in the middle of the pack in the 2019 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Study. Overall, the bank was deemed to be average as a card issuer, receiving three out of five in all the factors used by J.D. Power to determine customer satisfaction.
It's possible to contact customer service 24/7 by phone.
In general, the security features are based around Mastercard's $0 Fraud Liability protection, which means cardholders aren’t liable for fraudulent charges.
Fees to Watch Out For
While these fees are fairly straightforward, it is worth noting that a balance-transfer fee applies, even to transfers made under the card’s 0% APR introductory offer..
The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard compares respectably to similar co-branded airline cards, like the Gold Delta SkyMiles and the United Explorer MileagePlus. And its exceptional one-time offer, comprising both a hefty miles and the option for a $99 companion ticket, may even edge out the ones of those competitors.
But after the first year particularly, this card is firmly for aficionados of American, since fairly heavy spending is required to justify the annual fee. If you don’t spend that money with American, for higher miles earnings, you’ll enjoy greater flexibility, and earn more value, by using another card.
If you're not heavily committed to American, then, you might instead consider the Capital One Venture card. Like the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, this card has an annual fee, albeit a little less ($95) and waived the first year, and each purchase earns 2 (Capital One) miles per dollar spent. Those miles can be converted to AAdvantage miles or those of other airline programs (albeit at 2 to 1.5 ratio) or used for other travel purchases such as hotels.
If you're averse to paying any annual fee, because of the risk you may not justify the expense, you could also consider a no-fee card such as the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, which offers 1.5 points on all purchases.