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AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Review

overall rating
4.0

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The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard offers 2 miles per dollar spent with American Airlines as well as such perks as in-flight discounts and a free checked bag. Additionally, the card welcomes cardholders with 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles and an introductory period of 0% APR on balance transfers.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Overall Rating
4.0
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
On Barclaycard's Secured Site.
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 24.99% variable
Annual Fee $99
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X miles for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 15 Billing Cycles
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all rewards cards in our database:
Rewards
Benefits
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
worst best

The AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard is not one of our top rated airlines credit cards. You can review our list of the best airlines credit cards for what we think are better options.

Full Review of AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

Pros
  • Generous bonus

  • Introductory offer on balance transfers

  • Access to American Airlines benefits

Cons
  • Annual fee of $99

  • Balance transfer fee

  • No introductory APR on purchases

Pros Explained

  • Generous Bonus: 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 $1,356, since we value AAdvantage points at an average of 2.26 cents. Unlike almost all offers that are this rich, the bonus requires a very low minimum spending requirement. You receive it 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.

Cons Explained

  • 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

  • Avatar for Loyalty Status Seeker Persona
    Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
    Loyalty Status Seeker
  • Avatar for Frequent Flyer Persona
    Flies often for business or leisure
    Frequent Flyer
  • Avatar for Frequent Diner Persona
    Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
    Frequent Diner
  • Avatar for International Traveler Persona
    Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
    International Traveler

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.

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 2.26 cents, the bonus is worth about $1,356 when used for flights.

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.

Transferring Points

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 2.26 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

  • 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

Standard Benefits

  • Preferred boarding
  • Free checked bag
  • $0 fraud liability

Cardholder Experience

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. 

Security Features

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..

Our Verdict

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, as its generous 60,000 mile upfront bonus and excellent mileage value of 2.26 cents make it an excellent value.

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 each purchase earns 2 (Capital One) miles per dollar spent. Those miles can be converted to eligible airline program miles (though 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.

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For AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
on Barclaycard's Secured Site.
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CURRENT CARD
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
overall rating
4.0
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 24.99% variable
Annual Fee $99
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X miles for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.