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Citi issues three American Airlines AAdvantage co-branded consumer cards and as tools to maximize earnings when you fly, they’re not very good. They do, however, have their uses for those who like to fly with American Airlines and all three cards suddenly got a lot more interesting when American first confirmed that base earnings from these credit cards count towards the elite status targets in the revamped AAdvantage program.
So how do these cards compare, is one better than the others when it comes to earning American Airlines elite status under the new system, and what key benefits & earnings do they offer?
American’s new elite status earnings system
- Elite Qualifying Miles, Elite Qualifying Dollars, and Elite Qualifying Segments were all eliminated from 1 January 2022.
- Elite status is now earned using a single metric – Loyalty Points
- 1 Loyalty Point is earned for every eligible AAdvantage Mile earned
This is how many Loyalty points are needed to earn AAdvantage elite status:
- AAdvantage Gold status – 30,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum status – 75,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro status – 125,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum status – 200,000 Loyalty Points
There are no other metrics for earning AAdvantage elite status, just Loyalty Points.
American Airlines Loyalty Points can be collected from AAdvantage Miles earned through the following sources:
- Flying with status-qualifying airlines
- AAdvantage co-branded credit card purchases
- Earnings from the American Airlines eShopping portal
- Earnings from the AAdvantage Dining program
- Earnings from the Simply Miles program
Key: Not all miles earned from all of the above will count towards the Loyalty Points needed for elite status.
Citi AAdvantage consumer cards
To help show how the three Citi AAdvantage consumer credit cards compare, I’ve put a table together to give you an overview of some of the more important benefits that the three cards offer:
As you should be able to see, the three cards come with three very different sets of benefits and all three come with different annual fees, but when it comes to how they can help a flyer earn AAdvantage elite status, the differences are minimal.
Earning elite status credits
The key thing to remember is that under the way that American Airlines now awards elite status, only base miles earned from the co-branded credit cards will count towards a cardholder’s Loyalty Points total.
What this means is that regardless of what category of spending one of these cards is being used for, a cardholder will only earn 1 mile/dollar that will count towards their Loyalty Points total for the year.
It doesn’t matter if you’re spending using the no-annual-fee American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card or the $450/year Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, both will contribute the same number of Loyalty Points per dollar spent. The bonus points/dollar that all three cards earn on American Airlines spending will not count towards a cardholder’s Loyalty Points total and neither will any of the bonus points offered in any of the other spending categories.
The one small exception to this comes into play when a cardholder spends $40,000 in a calendar year on the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® as at that point, the cardholder is given a bonus of 10,000 Loyalty Points.
You could therefore say that for anyone who is guaranteed to spend $40,000 on their card in a calendar year, the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® effectively earns 1.25 Loyalty Points/dollar for the first $40,000 of spending.
The credit card earnings dilemma
The problem with all three of these credit cards is that their earning rates are poor. There are a lot of other great credit cards on the market that will offer considerably better rates of return than all three of these cards, but none of those cards will earn cardholders any Loyalty Points.
Essentially, if you want to earn 1 Loyalty Point per dollar you’re going to have to forgo the better earning rates that other cards will offer, so while the more you spend on these AAdvantage cards the more Loyalty Points you will earn, the more you spend on these cards the more you will miss out on better earnings elsewhere.
If you’re happy to miss out on better earnings elsewhere on at least some of your spending, one of these cards could work for you. If not, it’s time to move on.
Which card works best and for whom?
Different people have different needs so as I don’t know your personal circumstances, I can’t say which will be the best card for you. What I can comment on is what type of person I think each credit card is best suited.
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
This is a card for true American Airlines frequent flyers as it will only offer great value to those who will use the Admirals Club membership (i.e. those who would otherwise be paying cash pay for membership). $450/year is a lot to pay for a card whose other benefits are mostly offered by other considerably cheaper cards.
You don’t necessarily have to be someone who will hit the $40,000 spending target and earn the 10,000 bonus Loyalty points if you want this card to work for you, but if you plan to spend $40,000 on one of Citi’s AAdvantage credit cards then this is the card on which to do it.
Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
This is a card for the American Airlines flyer who won’t fly with the airline often enough to get value out of the Admirals Club membership but who will be able to justify the $99 annual fee (that kicks in in year 2) through savings made via the waived baggage fees and the 25% saving on inflight food and drinks.
Ideally, someone holding this card will plan to spend the $20,000 needed to trigger the $125 American Airlines credit as if you’re aiming to earn fewer than 20,000 Loyalty Points from credit card spending, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card may be a more economical option.
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
If all you care about is earning some redeemable miles and some Loyalty Points and don’t fly enough to need the Admirals Club membership and don’t fly with luggage often enough to need a fee waiver, the no annual fee American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card may work well for you.
If you’re going to be spending $20,000 on your card then the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® would be a better choice but if all you really plan to do is to top-up your Loyalty Points earnings every now and again then this card offers the most economical way to do it.
Note: This card also offers a cheap way of preventing an AAdvantage Miles balance from expiring if you don’t fly particularly often – a single purchase on the card will reset the expiration clock.
When it comes to deciding if one of these credit cards is right for you it will come down to what your spending levels are like, how often you fly with American Airlines, and how many Loyalty Points you’re hoping to generate from your credit spending. Because only you know the answers to all of those questions, you’re the only person who can say if one of these cards is worth a slot in your wallet.
I see the Executive Card being useful to someone who flies with American Airlines often enough to get value out of the Admirals Club membership and who can make the most of the bonus Loyalty Points earned after $40,000 of spending. I see the Platinum Card being useful for someone who’s looking to earn 20,000 Loyalty Points and who flies often enough to make good use of the card benefits (but not often enough to justify an Admirals Club membership). And I see the Mile Up card being useful to someone who doesn’t fly with American very often but has an AAdvantage balance they like to top up and keep alive.
What do you think of these cards?