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Citi American Airlines Credit Card Review (2016)

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Power Rankings

Currently #7 in Aaron’s Travel Credit Cards Power Rankings

Signup Bonus

If you want us to do a proper American Airlines credit card review (especially for Travel Hackers) we gotta talk about the signup bonus. 30,000 AA miles after spending $1,000 in 90 days (Citi will also randomly offer 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000, but it’s usually a targeted offer, or only available for a short period of time, if you see 50k being offered, attack!)

Annual Fee

$95 (waived the first year)

Minimum Credit Score

650+

Specs

  • 2x points on all American Airlines purchases
  • 1x everything else
  • First bag checked free for up to four people (U.S. domestic flights only)
  • Group One boarding (U.S. domestic flights only) 
  • Reduced Mileage Awards (U.S. domestic flights only)
  • 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when purchased with card
  • 10% rebate on award redemptions
  • Annual fee waived
  • No foreign transaction fees
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Citi AA Platinum

A Quick Word

First – There is an American Airlines Citi card and an American Airlines Mastercard. This review is about the Citi version.

Second – As of writing there are two signup bonuses 1) 30,000 miles for $1,000 spent in 90 days, or 2) 50,000 miles for $3,000 spent in 90 days. The 50k bonus comes and goes. It’s there one week, it’s gone the next week. If you can swing, the extra 20k miles are absolutely worth it.

While this card has a few nice perks (free checked bags and priority boarding) this baby is all about one thing – 50,000 valuable American Airlines Miles. AA miles are some of the best to have, and there’s a lot you can do with 50k of them.

The Good

     1) 50k AA Miles

American Airline miles are one of my favorites, which is why this is one of the best American Airlines rewards credit cards. Availability ranges from good to great, and excluding British Airway’s demonic fuel-surcharges, they are usually without any additional bulls**t.

But according to The Points Guy, major changes have been made to the AAdvantage program. Most noticeably for Nomads, are changes to AA’s ‘off peak’ flights.

‘Off peak’ from the US to Europe used to cost 20,000 miles and be valid from October 15 – May 15. Using off peak fares, I flew to Paris in mid-October 2015 for $5.60 and 20,000 miles.

Travel Hacking Paris
Fort Myers -> Paris (20,000 AA miles & $5.60)

Now? 22,500 miles and valid January 10 – March 14, and November 1 – December 14. That’s a huge difference.

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AA Award Chart (Leaving from US)

Regardless of AA’s devaluation, for U.S. departures, ‘off-peak’ prices to Hawaii, South America and Europe are still a bargain… for now.

     2) Annual Fee Waived

Crucial.

     3) 10% Rebate

If you redeem 40,000 miles for a one way from USA to Asia, you’ll have 4,000 miles redeposited back into your account. While it’s not quite a game-changer, it’s a cool perk bro.

     4) Reduced Mileage Award

This is being advertised as a serious perk of the card, but honestly, it’s a process, and only pertains to U.S. domestic travel and a few Canadian destinations.

The jist – You can save 7,500 miles on domestic MileSAAver reward tickets. To do so, you must (and I quote the AA website)…

Like I said, it’s a process. While saving 7,500 AA miles is great, the process is tediousness. The opportunity to save is there, we just think the process is a bit too much to get hyped up about. Ease of use is crucial.

     5) Group One Boarding

There’s very little benefit from getting on the plane first, but it’s a nice stroke of the ego.

    6) No Foreign Transaction Fees

Standard, but appreciated.

    7) First Bag Checked Free (US Domestic Only)

To reiterate – the perks of this card are small in comparison to other Travel Hacking cards. Outside of the 50k bonus miles, it’s hard to get too excited about any perks.

But! If you frequent AA and live in the US, free checked bags for you and up to three other people could be a godsend.

     8) 25% off in Flight Purchases

I mean, it’s a perk… right?

The Bad

     1) 2x AA Flights/1x Everything Else

While the signup bonus is great, earning additional points by spending on this card is a bad idea. There is no reason to make this your primary card.

If you are one of the handful of road-warrior AA loyalists, you’ll probably have the Admiral Card or some other Up in the Air type card welded from magma and titanium.

And if you are specifically interested in getting more AA miles, Amex Starwood Preferred is preferable alternative. SPG has a wide range of partners, and offers a 5,000 point transfer bonus to AA. SPG wins.

     2) Fuel Surcharges

AA miles can range from ‘Wow this is a great flight!’  to ‘I f**king hate British Airways!’

To explain. 

When you redeem your flights with AA’s search engine, you also do so with all of their partners (Cathay, Japan, Quatar, the list goes on). Certain airlines have certain policies.

For example, American Airlines is usually pretty good and you’ll rarely have to pay more than $50 to redeem a flight. Redeeming flights with American Airlines is great and straightforward – hence the recommendation to get those miles!

But British Airways? They have implemented a policy of  ‘fuel surcharges’ – which are surprisingly worse than they sound. 

Basically any flight you book with miles with British Airways will cost you the amount of miles, plus a ridiculous ‘fuel surcharge’ that will probably be in the $200-300 range. Such charges completely negate any benefits of collecting miles. Accumulating miles is supposed to get you flights for cheap. It’s the point.

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Fuel surcharges got me like…

So if you are looking to redeem your AA miles to Europe or the Middle East, keep an eye out for British Air and their cheeky surcharges. Don’t pay them. It defeats the whole purpose. 

Strategy

If you live by an AA hub, or are exclusively loyal with AA, then there might be an argument to use this card for every day use. But otherwise, this isn’t a go to card, as the perks aren’t anything to marvel over. It’s a great way to stock up on an additional 30-50,000 AA miles for a rainy day. 

Conclusion

The conclusion of our American Airlines credit card review? American Airlines miles can be exceptional. This is a great way to get a boat-ton of AA miles for a small-ish minimum spend. If you can, wait til the bonus hits 50k, then pounce!

What do you think about the Citi Platinum? Comment below! If we like what you gotta say, we’ll feature it in this article (and give you credit for it!)

Written by Aaron Radcliffe

City dweller. Dumpling crusher. Aaron is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Nomads Nation. Connect with Aaron Radcliffe -