Barclays Is Making Big Changes To Its AAdvantage Aviator Cards


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At the beginning of 2017 Citibank’s monopoly on issuing AAdvantage credit cards was broken thanks to a deal American Airlines inked with Barclays and this had the effect of introducing some innovation into the AAdvantage credit card sector.

Citi’s AAdvantage offerings had become somewhat stale so, when Barclaycard opened up its AAdvantage Aviator cards to new applications it was a welcome change for a lot of customers.

Barclaycard offers a number different types of co-branded AAdvantage credit card but the main two are the Aviator Red and the Aviator Silver credit cards.

You cannot apply directly for the Silver Aviator Card – you have to upgrade from the Red Aviator Card.

Currently both cards offer reasonably good benefits for anyone who’s a frequent flyer with American Airlines (the Aviator Red card is the only US Airline card I hold) and both offer benefits that make them stand out from the range of AAdvantage credit cards that Citibank issues….but that’s about to change.

From 1 May 2019 Barclays will be putting through some significant changes to what both the Red and Silver Aviator cards offer and although some changes are positive there’s quite a bit of bad news too.

Barclays Is Rolling Out “Flight Cents”

Back in 2017 Barclays piloting a scheme which it called “Flight Cents” and this scheme allowed cardholders to purchase AAdvantage Miles while they go about their everyday shopping.

This is how the scheme was described at the time:

Flight Cents rounds up your AAdvantage® Aviator™ Mastercard® purchases to the nearest dollar, and turns that rounded up amount into American Airlines AAdvantage® miles – boosting your miles balance on top of what you already earn.

During the pilot Aviator cardholders were presented with one of two offers.

The first offer (which I was targeted for) effectively saw people purchasing AAdvantage Miles at 2 cents each:

While the second offer allowed cardholders them to purchase miles at just 1 cent each.

Barclays is now ready to make this a full feature of its Aviator cards and, unsurprisingly, it’s the 2 cents/mile price that the card issuer will be going with.

From 1 May 2019 Aviator cardholders will be able to opt into the Flight Cents program and roundup their purchases to effectively buy miles at 2 cents each with a maximum roundup of up to $500/month (cardholders can select their own maximum up to $500).

The AAdvantage Aviator Red Credit Card

 

Here are the changes coming from 1 May 2019:

  1. The annual fee will increase from $95 to $99
  2. The annual 10% mileage rebate (up to 10,000 miles) that’s offered on award redemptions is being removed.
  3. The $100 American Airlines discount offered after a cardholder spends $30,000 on the card in a year is being eliminated.
  4. Legacy US Airways credit card holders who were grandfathered into a program offering 10,000 bonus miles every year the card is retained will no longer receive this bonus.
  5. Cardholders spending $20,000 in a year will be given a certificate offering a companion fare for $99 + taxes and fees.
  6. Cardholders will be given an annual credit of up to $25/year towards in-flight Wi-Fi costs.

Benefits not changing:

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage Miles for every dollar spent with American Airlines
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage Mile for every dollar spent elsewhere
  • Preferred boarding
  • First checked bag is free for the cardholder and up to 4 companions on the same reservation.
  • Get a 25% discount on in-flight food and drink purchases

The AAdvantage Aviator Silver Credit Card

American Airlines Credit CardsHere are the changes coming from 1 May 2019:

  1. The annual fee will increase from $195 to $199
  2. The annual 10% mileage rebate (up to 10,000 miles) that’s offered on award redemptions is being removed.
  3. Legacy US Airways credit card holders who were grandfathered into a program offering 10,000 bonus miles every year the card is retained will no longer receive this bonus.
  4. The two companion certificates that the card offers will now be earned after $20,000 spend in a year (previously $30,000).
  5. Cardholders will be given an annual credit of up to $50/year towards in-flight Wi-Fi costs.
  6. Cardholders will be given a $25 statement credit per day for inflight food and drinks purchases on American Airlines operated flights (this replaces the 25% discount the card currently offers).

Benefits not changing:

  • Earn 3 AAdvantage Miles for every dollar spent with American Airlines
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage Miles for every dollar spent with hotels and rental car companies
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage Mile for every dollar spent elsewhere
  • Get 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles for every $20,000 you spend in a year (up to a maximum of 10,000 EQM each year)
  • Earn 3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $50,000 on purchases each calendar year
  • $100 credit towards Global Entry
  • Preferred boarding
  • First checked bag is free for the cardholder and up to 8 companions on the same reservation.
  • Get a 25% discount on in-flight food and drink purchases

Thoughts

The loss of the 10% rebate on annual award redemptions is a big hit. It will make the Aviator Red card effectively pointless for people like me who don’t need most of the other benefits the card offers but who find the $95 annual fee acceptable in return for a 10,000 mile annual rebate.

The companion fare soon to be offered on the Aviator Red card may seem like a nice benefit but $20,000 is a lot to spend on a relatively unrewarding card just for that.

Also, when you get two companion certificates for the same amount of spend on the Aviator Silver card (a considerably more rewarding card) you have to wonder who would see the single companion certificate as a reason to keep the Aviator Red?

While the changes to the Aviator Red card are a definite net negative the changes coming to the Silver Card will probably be seen as a net positive….although American’s top-tier elites and premium cabin flyers may not necessarily agree.

The biggest easily quantifiable benefit is the $25 daily statement credit that the Silver Aviator card will offer for food and drink purchased on American Airlines.

If you don’t hold top-tier status and you fly in Economy Class with any kind of frequency it will be possible to earn back the card’s annual fee in just 8 days.

Top tier elites already get a free snack and drink when flying in the back and premium cabin flyers get free food and drink anyway so this new benefit won’t make much difference to them at all.

Still, everyone has to pay for wi-fi and the $50 annual credit will at least help offset some of the annual fee and the fact that $20,000 spend will now get you 2 companion certificates and 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles will probably be seen as a nice bonus too.

As for “flight cents”….

Hopefully readers will already know how hard it is to redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles economically so the chance to buy them at 2.0 cents each is one that just about everyone should be passing on.

Bottom Line

Overall these are negative changes to the Aviator Red card and, for most flyers, positive changes to the Aviator Silver card.

The loss of the 10% mileage rebate will probably be the most discussed aspect of these changes (that’s a big hit)…although I’m sure we’ll start seeing people finding creative ways (and possibly even friendly ways) to use up the $25/day food and drink allowance onboard – I can see top-tier flyers in Economy Class suddenly making a lot of new friends 🙂

Overall I expect to see a lot of people cancelling the Aviator Red card once these changes kick in (if they really wanted the Silver card they would have got it by now) but that’s probably what Barclays actually wants.

People like me who just keep the card for the 10% rebate aren’t really making Barclays any money so this is the card issuer’s way of asking us to leave.

[HT: View From The Wing]

4 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, hits my spouse and I – we both have the card. I just did a redemption (hard to find on AA Saver) and got the 10% back (6K miles). I would miss that. Will probably cancel, then….

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