Big AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard Changes Coming May 2019

Filed Under: American, Credit Cards
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American and Barclays have just announced some big changes to their co-branded credit cards. As a reminder, American has co-brand credit card agreements with both Barclays and Citi (they market in different channels), which in general is good for consumers, since it means they’re competing with one another.

These major changes coming to Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Cards kick in as of May 2019 (this includes for existing cardmembers). So let’s take a look at the changes:

AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard

As of May 2019, the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard will offer the following additional benefits:

  • Anniversary companion certificate — each anniversary year, earn a companion certificate good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20,000
  • Wifi credit — get up to $25 back as statement credits on American Airlines wifi purchases each anniversary year
  • Flight Cents Program — round up your purchases to the nearest dollar to earn more miles (more on this below)

Meanwhile the following will be changing for the worse:

  • Annual fee increase — the annual fee on the card will be increasing from $95 to $99
  • 10% refund on redeemed miles changes — cardmembers will no longer earn 10% back on redeemed miles (currently members receive 10,000 miles back when they redeem at least 100,000 miles per year)
  • $100 flight discount eliminated — cardmembers will no longer receive a $100 American Airlines flight discount after spending $30,000 during a cardmember year

AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard

As of May 2019, the AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard will offer the following additional benefits (this is the premium Barclays AAdvantage card, which is only available as an upgrade option from the Red Mastercard, if you’ve had it for more than a year):

  • Anniversary companion certificate — each anniversary year, earn a companion certificate good for two guests at $99 each (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20,000; note that this card already offers this benefit, though the spend threshold is being reduced from $30,000 to $20,000
  • In-flight savings — get $25 per day in statement credits for eligible American Airlines onboard food and beverage purchases
  • Wifi credit — get up to $50 back as statement credits on American Airlines wifi purchases every anniversary year
  • Flight Cents Program — round up your purchases to the nearest dollar to earn more miles (more on this below)

Meanwhile the following will be changing for the worse:

  • Annual fee increase — the annual fee on the card will be increasing from $195 to $199
  • 10% refund on redeemed miles changes — cardmembers will no longer earn 10% back on redeemed miles (currently members receive 10,000 miles back when they redeem at least 100,000 miles per year)

Big changes were already recently made to these cards

Major changes were already made to these cards as of the beginning of 2019, which were negative for those looking to earn elite status in the AAdvantage program:

  • The Aviator Red Mastercard used to offer 3,000 EQDs when you spent $25,000 on the card; as of 2019 you can no longer earn EQDs with the card
  • The Aviator Silver Mastercard used to offer up to 6,000 EQDs per year — 3,000 when you spent $25,000, and another 3,000 when you spent another $25,000; as of 2019 you can only earn a total of 3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 per calendar year, which makes this benefit not worthwhile anymore for many of us

I have the AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card, and I had it exclusively for the ability to earn 6,000 EQDs. These changes made the card nearly worthless for me, as I wasn’t about to spend $50,000 to earn 3,000 EQDs. There’s too much opportunity cost for that spend.

AAdvantage Aviator Flight Cents program

As promised above, I wanted to briefly explain what Flight Cents are. Essentially Barclays lets you round up a purchase to earn additional miles, at the rate of two cents per mile.

It’s probably most easily illustrated in the form of an example. If you opt into this program and make a purchase that’s 50 cents, you’ll be charged one dollar but you’ll earn an additional 25 miles (since the 50 cents you’re “rounding up” earn 25 miles).

To me that’s not worth it, since American often sells miles for less than two cents each. In fairness, there’s often a big minimum to buy miles at that rate, though, so many may prefer the more manageable amount here.

Other cards for earning AAdvantage miles

My take on AAdvantage Aviator Red changes

I’m bummed this card is eliminating the 10% discount on awards, since to me that more than justified the annual fee. I redeem at least 100,000 American miles per year, so earning back 10,000 miles is the same as ~$140 of value, based on my valuation of AAdvantage miles. So that’s a huge cut.

Personally I don’t think it’s worth spending $20,000 on the card for a companion certificate, since American’s companion certificates aren’t great. The companion can’t be upgraded, the companion doesn’t earn miles, and you have to mail in a voucher. This is nothing like Alaska’s valuable companion certificate.

I’d say at this point the only reason to have the card is if you benefit from the free checked bags and priority boarding. As an elite member the only real benefit here is the $25 wifi credit, and it’s not worth paying a $99 annual fee for that.

My take on AAdvantage Aviator Silver changes

This is the card I have. Much like above, I’m disappointed to see the elimination of the 10% mileage refund. In the past I thought it was worth spending $50,000 on the card to earn 6,000 EQDs, but I no longer think it’s worth it for the 3,000 EQDs.

Similarly, I don’t place any value on American’s companion certificate, so that’s not a reason to get the card.

So for me the math is pretty simple at this point. The card has a $199 annual fee, and offers a $50 wifi credit. Let’s value that at face value, and say the real “out of pocket” is $149 per year.

Is it worth paying $149 per year to get a $25 per day food and beverage credit on American? I’ll give them credit that this is a very cool benefit.

The maximizer in me says “oh this could be fun and worthwhile.” But the reality is that I’m often in first class, and since I’m an Executive Platinum, I’m already getting a free drink and snack when I’m in economy. On top of that, those in Main Cabin Extra get free drinks anyway.

So what am I going to do, force feed myself packaged snack boxes, or take them home with me? That just seems a bit much. But it’s an intriguing concept. I try to avoid drinking when flying domestically, so it’s not like what I want to get hammered by buying additional drinks.

Sure, you could buy them for people near you, but that requires having a conversation with strangers, which takes the fun out of it for me. 😉

What do you make of the AAdvantage Aviator Card changes?

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  1. I can deal with these since I’m not EP but fly often enough for the credits to be worth it

    but what would be really unfortunate is if Citi also gets rid of the 10%. Both of them having it is silly, but neither of them having it is really dumb. Would for sure cancel my Citi plat. AA not having a real transferable points currency (love my Diner’s stash tho) and two identical cards just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Also to your last point… Gary is already dreaming of taking mini bottles to consume later, like dude grow up. How old is he anyway?

  2. “…If you opt into this program and make a purchase that’s 50 cents, you’ll be charged one dollar but you’ll earn an additional 25 miles (since the 50 cents you’re “rounding up” earn 25 miles)……”

    Are you sure an additional 50c would net you additional 25 miles?

  3. Is the spend requirements for the bonus changing? Currently The red card is like 50000 points for $1 spend right?

  4. I want to like this card, but removing the 10% refund on redeemed miles is a deal killer for me. Good news is, I just saved $99.

  5. I have the Red card, which I just renewed a few months ago, and have kept it only for the 10% rebate. I was thinking of upgrading to Silver when the annual fee came due late this year, but now I’ll just cancel. In fact, I’m bummed that I probably now won’t be able to take full advantage of the 10% rebate (even though I just renewed exactly for that sole purpose) because I likely won’t redeem 100k miles before May, though I certainly would have by the end of the year. I am unhappy they gave just a couple months’ warning of this change because I just wasted a $95 annual fee.

    I agree with @Hal. If you’re EXP and/or flying in first/business class and/or even flying MCE, using the card to buy drinks for those around you is worthless because everyone around you will also be getting free drinks already if not food also. And what incentive do we have to fill passengers in other cabins with more liquor? So that the bathroom lines will be longer? Or so that you increase the chances of being delayed or diverted by an drunk unruly passenger? Or so that AA’s overhead costs can increase, thereby indirectly increasing the prices we pay for tickets? I see no upside at all.

    I’ve seen some suggest this is good marketing for the Silver because it will get people talking about how someone is gifting drinks. But who precisely would be doing this talking? You can’t apply for the Silver card directly anyway, and anyone who flys AA even semi-regularly has probably already heard the sales pitch ad nauseam, so likely already fully knows about the card (or already has it). And for those leisure travelers who set foot on a plane only once or twice a year, this card wouldn’t make sense because of the hoops they’d have to jump through combined with the higher cost just to get to that Silver level, which they’d never be able to take advantage of fully anyway if they’re only flying a few times a year. It’s difficult to see who would be the target audience for this “clever word-of-mouth marketing.” Penny wise on paper, pound foolish in reality.

  6. I can’t see the reason to pay $100 more for the Silver Card over the Red outside of the $25 in-flight benefit. Am I missing something?

  7. @ Donna — Only if you consider it worthwhile to spend on the card to earn EQDs at a reduced rate, if you value the in-flight benefit, or if you value the incremental $25 wifi credit.

  8. @ Mileage Man — Nope, any change in welcome bonus would be unrelated to these changes. The current bonus is even for up to 60K.

  9. 2 cents per mile is different than 2 miles per cent (:

    @PhatMiles is right, maybe you’re talking 0.25miles for the 50c (which makes sense if the benefit gives you half of usual spend mileage). If 1us generally gives you 1 mile, how can 0.5us give you 25 miles?

    If it does, this round up thing is pure gold!

  10. After I finish my taxes I’ll be tackling the credit cards. Too many of them are no longer worth keeping and w/o the 10% refund I don’t see any value in these cards.

    Other cards that are close to being closed include the AmexPlat (depends on how much traveling and/or access to lounges I need) since the AA gift cards no longer seem to be working, the $15 Uber credit is only worth about $50 to me and the annual fee just keeps going up.

    I probably will get rid of at least one Chase business card (or downgrade it to some no fee card).

    If I end up only traveling 1-2 times a year, it is better just to pay for the items I want instead of using cards for statuses.

    The miles I do have (with AA, BA, Chase and Amex) are always useful. The chase/amex are fine but the AA/BA miles have limited use for the travel I do (Europe) since they are so hard to use or incur fuel charges.

  11. @ Luckas — The point is that you’re paying 50 cents to earn 25 miles. That’s like paying two cents per mile, unless I’m missing something. They’re simply rounding up the cost of your purchase. Your out of pocket is 50 cents, and you receive 25 miles.

    It’s possibly my brain just isn’t working today, so let me know if that still doesn’t make sense.

  12. I have the white version just because this card is one of my older ones and want to keep my AAoA high. I may apply for the red (as a new account) again just to get the 60k bonus, then cancel a few months down the road and keep the white in my drawer

  13. I’m a Platinum Pro, who does about 50/50 upfront and in the back. The 10% rebate is hard loss, but the 5K EQM for spending $20K was the difference between Platinum Pro vs. PLT. So Lucky, I think it makes sense to keep the Silver for those of us always running short on EQM. I didn’t have to do end of year mileage run thanks to card for the last two years.

    I really like the AA cheese plate, so the $25 credit will be handy.

  14. Oh nevermind, I think I need to have another coffee myself. Ben’s math is right. I missed the fact that when rounding, you’re literally buying miles. I thought they were going to some savings account, but you’d still get the normal “1 mile per dollar”.


  15. I recently cancelled my Silver card. Never made enough spend to get the companion certificate and already have status benefit. My one hesitation was the 10% Miles refund, but now that it’s gone this card has now value.

  16. @Lucky – do you have any inside sources at Citi that might know if they’re planning to discontinue the 10% mileage rebate too? I got the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card in March 2018 and the Barclays Aviator Red in September 2018 to get a total of 110,000 AA miles in bonuses. I was literally about to call Citi yesterday to do a product change since I’m coming up on the anniversary, and I don’t need both AA cards. However, now I’m glad I didn’t, as I find the 10% rebate so valuable. I’ll now ditch the Aviator Red by September.

  17. It’s been report on other blogs that the 10,000 miles anniversary bonus for grandfathered US Airways cards is going away. I believe you get the bonus 1 final time when the annual fee jumps to $99…

  18. Ah, another Major Devaluation by DisAAdvantage. 🙁

    Not only will we no longer get a 10% rebate of booked award miles, we will be spending lots more miles for the same award, before not getting the rebate.

    Due to the total lack of FC Saver awards, the last few years we’ve been going TATL on Anytime awards. 140K miles each way most days. Now I see that the new going rate is 175K, and frequently 215K miles. Yes, there are a few days in some months still at 140K, but for all of April and May, and then again all of September and October, the lowest award is 175K, and often 215K. A few 140s start opening up again beginning in November.

    But for months at a time the lowest award is 175K. So a mere 350K miles, and much of the time 430K miles, for a single TATL FC RT Award. Seriously?

    Those are increases of 25%, and 50%, over the previous already absurd Anytime price. Why no one on the Travel Blogs is screaming about this is beyond me. Maybe the expectations for DisAAdvantage have become so low no one even cares anymore?

  19. I keep seeing news articles from leading economists who all seem to predict a recession in mid 2020. It will interesting to see how these card and loyalty programs respond if and when demand and spending starts to drop off. I’m hoping we’ve seen the bottom.

  20. AA was makings tons of money from their credit card business. It looks like the USAir management decided to be “innovative” and squeeze more profit from CC business. It is likely that they have hired another consulting firm for that. Their idea that eliminating 10% rebate and 10K anniversary bonuses will cut their expenses and everyone will be spending at least $20K to get the useless certificates (so both banks will be buying more miles from AA). Good luck with that strategy! The mostly useless cards are now becoming really weak and I doubt AA will be making more money after the changes. Next month I will be without AA-branded CC first time in ca. 10 years…

  21. I have the Red Aviator but will certainly give it up at year end. It was nice getting the 60,000 acquisition bonus but without the 10M mile rebate, I’m done.

  22. Any changes to reduced mileage awards?

    Overall I’d say the changes to the cards suck as an EXP. I’m more likely to just cancel the card then ever spend a dime on it again.

  23. I downgraded my card a few weeks back to the free version and feel even better about it now.

  24. I got the Red last May for the 50K bonus, but I’m cancelling it before renewal. It required only one purchase but charged the annual $95 fee. Other cards waive the first year fee.

    I liked the added car rental insurance (extra coverage in the event if an accident), EQM and 10% rebate. I don’t see a good reason to keep a card that promised an advantage that is a disadvantage now.

  25. I’ve only kept the card for the 10k anniversary miles. If that goes away I will cancel. I don’t use this card anyway, but the points are worth the annual fee to me

  26. You say here that the 10% rebate is if the cardholder redeems “at least” 100k miles, but it’s 10% of miles redeemed up to a limit of 10k back–a very different value proposition.

  27. People are confused by the fact that you have to spen $1 to earn 1 Mike but are getting 25 miles by spending 50 cents. What they are missing is that these are two completely differ3nt things. When you spend $1 on the card, you are getting $1 worth of goods or services plus 1 mile. When you round up your purchase you are spending 50 cents but getting nothing but 25 miles.

    So, Lucky, your brain is working righ5. It is just a purchase of miles for 2 cents each.

  28. I’m just getting tired of having to re-evaluate whether a card is worth keeping year after year.

    I’m currently EXP so I’m flying AA through the end of the year to take advantage of that, but I’m status-matching over to Alaska next year. Already getting canceled is the Citi World Elite because I’m going to “backdoor” an Admirals Club membership by buying an Alaska Lounge membership at the reduced rate for elites. At a minimum I’ll downgrade the Aviator from Silver to Red, but even that I’m not sure is worth it. I value the WiFi credit at $0 because even though I’ll use it, it’s not a perk I care about. AA is one of the only options for a route my wife and I fly at least once a year; the $100 in checked bag fees cover the cost of the Red card, but I’ll be Platinum next year at a minimum so the only value I’ll get from the card in 2020 are the double miles. So keep the card for a year until I have no AA status and need the checked bag allowance?

  29. I had this card for the miles refund, but now I might keep it for the food credit, not sure. Maybe I’ll use the full $50 on wifi. I’m not getting the companion cert or doing the flight cents or buying AA flights with this card. Say I have 8 flights that I want to get a sandwich or drink on, then that’s 8 x ~8 = $64. It’s going to be a bit of eating/drinking to get up to $150.

  30. I just got the letter. Anniversary Bonus Miles is discontinued. Cardholders will receive one more anniversary bonus after May 1, 2019. This is terrible, who do I complain to?

  31. I can confirm that my 10K benefit is gone. Card is a complete piece of trash now. Will spend the rest of my AA miles and switch all flights to a blend of Alaska and Delta, which is where I was leaning anyways.

  32. I just got an email from AA about changes to my Aviator Silver Mastercard. According to the email, the 10% refund on redeemed miles will be discontinued, effective August 1, 2019. I’d originally assumed this would end May 1, so you may have more time to make award bookings this year to take advantage.

    It’s also possible I was grandfathered into the EQD changes. My email states: “Effective January 1, 2020, you will earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $50,000 on purchases each calendar year*” and the fine print reads “*Through December 31, 2019, you will earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $25,000 or more on purchases with your card and an additional $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 or more on purchases ($6,000 maximum EQDs this year).”

    Other than those two points the details line up with everything else Lucky outlined.

  33. Marsh…. How were you able to downgrade your Red card to a no fee card? I asked and was told ‘no,
    you must apply for a brand new card, we can’t downgrade.’

  34. Received a mailing listing the 10% refund on redeemed miles as a benefit of the card. The website does note 10% Miles Back – This benefit will end May 1, 2019, though. Not a good thing.

    Redeemed 150,000 AA miles for two Qatar Airways flights recently and received the 10,000 for 2018. A good thing.

    I would be much happier with 12 months notice, not 3 months notice.

  35. If you have both the Aviator Red and the Citi Platinum Select, is the total rebate for award miles capped at 10000 or is it 10000 per card?

    I’ve redeemed for one trip and noted that the rebate per flight is capped at 10%, so the rebate was 5% for each credit card.

  36. Has anyone had any recent experience with downgrading from the Red to the no-fee version? I called and asked today, and the Barclay rep told me that option is only attached to some accounts as a “downgrade offer”, and that my account didn’t have that offer attached to it. If that’s true, my only option is to close the account.

  37. I have an old Red AA card from Barclays where I get 10,000 AA miles each year (and it comes a few days BEFORE the annual fee hits). I have just received the 10,000 miles and expect the annual fee to post in the next week or two. Has this benefit gone away?

    This has nothing to do with the 10% discount for using miles which I receive as well.

    This was an easy way to pay $95 and get 10,000 miles with no spend.

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