Full Review of Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Generous one-time offer
Strong rewards when used for flights
No annual fee the first year
Limited lucrative options for rewards
Maximizing rewards value requires savvy—and probably an international destination
- Generous One-Time Offer: While the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard’s one-time offer of 50,000 miles is equal to the 50,000 you’ll earn with the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. The miles are enough to book as many as six one-way trips using MileSAAver awards, since redemptions start at 7,500 miles. Valued in another way, Investopedia estimates the bonus to be worth about $1,130, since we value AAdvantage points at an average of 2.26 cents. You do have to spend at least $2,500 within the first three months of owning the card to earn the bonus. While that’s more than the single purchase, of any size, required to earn the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard bonus, it’s less than some other travel cards require for comparable introductory offers.
- Strong Rewards When Used for Flights: With its earnings of 2 miles per dollar spent with American, and on gasoline and restaurant purchases, the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is highly rewarding. With every 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. The card also allows the potential for additional savings when flying American, through a 25% discount on in-flight purchases and a free checked bag and preferred boarding for you and up to four others on your reservation. (Unfortunately, Wi-Fi is not considered an eligible in-flight purchase for the in-flight-purchase discount.)
- No Annual Fee the First Year: The card charges a $99 annual fee, but it's waived the first year. While that isn't a unique extra, it also isn't standard among airline credit cards. For example, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard imposes its $99 annual fee from the first year you own the card. Also, note that if you spend $20,000 or more during your card membership year, you'll get a $125 American Airlines flight discount, which is even more than the cost of the annual fee.
- Limited Lucrative Options for Rewards: You can redeem your AAdvantage miles for more than just award flights; they can be exchanged for gift cards and used for car rentals and hotel stays, among other options. However, unless you want to give up a lot of value, award tickets are by far your best redemption option. For example, you'll only get 0.4 cents per mile if you redeem them for gift cards.
- Maximizing Rewards Value Requires Savvy—and Probably an International Destination: We value AAdvantage miles as 2.26 cents each, but you may have a hard time getting that when flying with American. Instead, you may need to spend some time researching international flights with the airline's oneworld alliance partners, where the richest redemption rates tend to be found.
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, the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard best suits people who fly with American Airlines, and regularly. Its rewards are designed to heavily favor redemption for flights with American and its international partners.
Indeed, this card makes the most sense if you plan to travel abroad and can use your miles with one of the airline's oneworld alliance partners. With value per mile greater with those partners than with American itself, as a rule, you're likely to find the best deals by flying abroad with those partners than flying within the U.S. with American.
Even if you settle for redemptions of a lesser value, you can still get enough value out of the card's free checked baggage and flight-discount perks to easily get the card's annual fee back in value.
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard One-Time Offer
The card offers 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in the first three months. At 2.26 cents per mile, you’re getting $1,130 in value—an impressive 45% return on investment.
For more context, you can get a roundtrip domestic flight for as little as 15,000 miles and round trip international flights start at 25,000 miles.
Rewards Earning Details
In addition to the card's bonus, you'll also earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airline purchases and at gas stations and restaurants, and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
The card's base rewards rate may sound low, but considering how much each mile is worth, it’s still worth considering the card for all of your everyday purchases.
Rewards Redemption Details
The best way to redeem your AAdvantage miles is by booking flights with American and its partner airlines. But while we calculated a value of 2.26 cents per mile, you may get more or less than that based on how you use yours.
American Airlines allows you to use your miles for other things as well, but you’re unlikely to get much value with these other redemption alternatives:
- Upgrades with American or partner airlines
- Car rentals
- Hotel stays
- Trip activities
- Admirals Club membership
- Magazines and newspaper subscriptions
- Gift cards
- Identity protection services
You can't transfer AAdvantage miles to another loyalty program, but you can use your rewards to book flights with American Airlines partners through the airline’s online booking platform and via phone reservations.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Getting the most from this card begins with charging as much to it as makes sense for you, given your budget and the other cards you own. This card's average mile value of 2.26 cents, makes charging all American purchases as well as those for gas and restaurants a lucrative prospect.
Especially when its earnings are redeemed for pricier international tickets with American's partners, this card could beat all others in your wallet for rewards, unless another card offers better than about 4 cents in value for every dollar you spend. Using the card extensively can also earn you the $125 flight credit that’s awarded if you charge at least $20,000 in purchases to it over the course of a year.
As for redemption, little else but their use for award flights makes much financial sense, given the poor value you'll get with those other options. As you consider how to maximize them, take some time to research different redemptions to see how much value you can get out of your miles—since this ranges widely.
For example, let's say a domestic flight from Dallas to Los Angeles is $237 in the main cabin or $719 in first class. Alternatively, you could book the same itinerary for 25,000 miles in economy or 50,000 miles in first class. The first option represents a value of 0.95 cents per mile and the second 1.44 cents per mile—both well below our calculated average of 2.26 cents per mile.
Now, let's consider an international flight from New York City to Abu Dhabi. Let's say that you're looking at $1,045 for a seat in economy or a staggering $18,626 for a first-class fare.
Using miles to obtain these flights, you can expect to redeem 80,000 miles for the main cabin or 230,000 miles for first class. In this scenario, redeeming miles for the main cabin would give you an unremarkable 1.3 cents per mile, but an award ticket in first class would give you a rate of 8.1 cents per mile—or over 3 times our calculated 2.26-cent average.
Exploring various redemption options can take time and demand patience, but the result can be savings that run into thousands of dollars, especially for premium seats on long international flights.
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard's Outstanding Benefits
- First checked bag free: If you're flying domestic, you and up to four others on the itinerary will get a first checked free. The perk doesn’t transfer, though, if you end up on a codeshare flight operated by another airline—unless it's an American Eagle flight.
- Preferred boarding: You and up to four others on your reservation will get to board with Group 5 on American Airlines-operated and American Eagle flights.
- American Airlines flight discount: If you spend $20,000 or more during your card membership year—note, that’s not calendar year but the year between annual fees—you'll get a discount worth $125 good for flights with American Airlines and its partners. The only drawback is that it expires 12 months after you receive it.
- In-flight discount: You'll get a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases on flights operated by American Airlines and other eligible airlines. To get the discount, you'll need to use the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard.
Citi ranked sixth among 11 national credit card issuers in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study. Citi's overall rating was below the average.
The bank offers free access to your FICO credit score, which can come in handy if you're working on building or maintaining your credit history.
If you have a question, you can reach customer service via phone 24/7, which is standard in the credit card industry. You can also chat with someone through your online account, which isn't a feature you'll get with some other major card issuers. You can manage your account online or through Citi's mobile app.
With the Citi mobile app, you can lock your account if you misplace your card then unlock it once you've found it. While many other national credit card issuers offer this feature, it's not a given.
The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is also a contactless credit card. This means that if you're using a contactless-enabled card reader, you can just tap your card instead of swiping or inserting it. This process is faster than inserting your card into a chip reader but still gives you the same level of security. Contactless credit cards are more common than they used to be but not every major card issuer is on board.
While it's best for frequent travelers on American Airlines, the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard offers ample rewards to justify its acquisition by even some occasional travelers on the airline. That's especially true for the first year in which you own the card, where its one-time offer alone provides sufficient points for several domestic return trips.
That said, the card is likely to be most valuable when used for international travel. Using miles to book with American's oneworld alliance partners tends to yield the most lucrative redemption rates, our research suggests.
American Airlines is unusual, if not unique, in offering credit cards from two different issuers. Competing with this Citi card, then, is the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, which is issued by Barclays. Each has comparative advantages and disadvantages you should weigh against your spending and card priorities.
The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has the better one-time offer: 50,000 miles when you make your first purchase with the card and pay the annual fee. But the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard waives the $99 fee in the first year, and allows you to earn 2 miles per dollar spent with the card for spending from American as well as on gasoline and in restaurants. Its competitor, by contrast, only providers that rate for American purchases.
Both of these cards, though, are unsuitable for those who wish to redeem at least some of the miles they earn for anything other than flights on American—or, better still, the carrier's international partners. If you want a wider range of redemption options, while still earning plenty of value, consider a general travel credit card instead.
If you're not heavily committed to American, then, you might instead consider a card such as the Capital One Venture card. Like the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, the Capital One Venture has a $95 annual fee, but it isn't waived the first year. All purchases with the Capital One Venture earn 2 (Capital One) miles per dollar spent. Those miles can be converted to those of other OneWorld airline programs, such as Qantas (at 1 to 1 ratio) or used for other travel purchases such as hotels.
If you're averse to paying an annual fee because of the risk you may not recoup it, you could also consider a no annual fee card such as the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, which offers 1.5 points on all purchases.