Maximizing American Miles With Credit Card Bonuses

In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out my advertiser policy for further details about our partners, including American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi, and thanks for your support!

Update: These offers for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®  have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.


If you read my rundown on the best credit cards for earning American AAdvantage miles, you already have a good understanding of how to take advantage of bonus categories on your everyday spending.

However, we all know that the welcome bonus that comes with a new card is going to be the easiest way to get your hands on a big chunk of American miles. To make it easier to see what your options are, I’ve compiled a list that of your options that we hope to keep updated as we see increases and decreases.

Current bonus offers to earn American AAdvantage miles

Thanks to co-brand partnerships with Citi and Barclays, you’ll have 6 cards from which to choose if you want to take AAdvantage — yeah, I said it — of a welcome bonus. Ideally, you’ll be able to apply when the bonus for one of these cards is at its peak.

We discuss this below but don’t forget that Citi has rules regarding bonus eligibility that you’ll want to review. They aren’t too complicated, but we’ll make sure you don’t get tripped up.

Now, let’s take a look at your options.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

The Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard often provides one of if not the highest welcome bonus of the co-branded American cards. Here’s the current offer and some other perks of the card:

  • Earn 75,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months
  • Admirals Club membership – 2 guests may join you
    • Authorized users also receive access to Admirals Clubs with the card
  • 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Early boarding, priority check-in, priority airport screening (if available)
  • 1 free checked bag for you and up to 8 others on your reservation on domestic flights
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 10% rebate on redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles
  • $450 annual fee

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

The welcome bonus offered by the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select increases and decreases more often than the other options so make sure you time your application right, if possible. The current offer and benefits are:

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in 3 months
  • 2X miles on purchases at restaurants and gas stations
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 1 free checked bag for you and up to 8 others on your reservation on domestic flights
  • Preferred boarding (Group 5 of 9) for you and up to 4 others on your reservation
  • 10% rebate on redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles
  • $99 annual fee, waived the first year

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select is the other card that generally offers the highest welcome bonus. It’s very similar to the personal version above but there are some distinguishing aspects to it. This is the current offer:

  • Earn 70,000 American miles after spending $4,000 in 3 months
  • 2X miles at telecom merchants, cable and satellite providers
  • 2X miles at gas stations
  • 2X miles at car rental merchants
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 1 free checked bag for you and up to 8 others on your reservation on domestic flights
  • Preferred boarding (Group 5 of 9) for you and up to 4 others on your reservation
  • $99 annual fee, waived the first year

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

The newest card of American’s co-brand family is the MileUp Card. While the bonus isn’t anything to write home about, it does have one particularly useful bonus category.

  • Earn 10,000 miles plus a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in 3 months
  • 2X miles at grocery stores
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 25% off inflight food and beverage purchases
  • No annual fee

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

From Barclays, the Aviator Red card comes with many of the same perks as the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select but earning the bonus is where this card sets itself apart. Here’s the current offer:

  • Earn 60,000 American miles by making one purchase within 90 days and paying the annual fee
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 25% off inflight food and beverage purchases
  • 10% rebate on redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles
  • $3,000 in Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year
  • Preferred boarding (Group 5 of 9) for you and up to 4 others on your reservation
  • 1 free checked bag for you and up to 4 others on your itinerary on domestic flights
  • $95 annual fee

AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®

As you would expect, the Aviator Business card is quite similar to the CitiBusiness AAdvantage card but the sign-up bonus is much easier to earn. Here are the details of the current offer:

  • Earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after your first purchase made within 90 days
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines
  • 2X miles at office supply stores, telecom merchants and rental car merchants
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • $3,000 in Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year
  • 5% bonus on miles earned through purchases with the card
  • 25% off inflight food and beverage purchases
  • Preferred boarding (Group 5 of 9) for you and up to 4 others on your reservation
  • 1 free checked bag for you and up to 4 others on your itinerary on domestic flights

Citi rules for receiving the sign-up bonus

Before you apply for a co-branded card issued by Citi, make sure you are eligible to take advantage of the welcome bonus. It would be tragic to be approved for a new card only to find out later you aren’t eligible for the bonus.

Citi only allows you to receive one welcome bonus within a card family within a 24-month timeframe. This is calculated from the time you open or close a card from within the family — pay special attention to the fact that closing a card resets the 24-month clock.

Citi considers two personal co-branded American cards to be within the same family: the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the Citi AAdvantage Executive. The CitiBusiness AAdvantage is not considered to be part of this family, nor is the MileUp at this time.

3 great ways to use your American miles

There are a bunch of great ways to use American AAdvantage miles to fly around the world, but I thought I’d touch on three really fun options that you could book thanks to one sign-up bonus if you play your cards right.

Qatar Airways business class to the Maldives

I’m not sure I entirely understand the obsession some have with the Maldives, but I hear about it all the time. With that in mind, American miles provide a great way to get there in business class.

While American has all kinds of weird routing rules, you’re allowed to connect in Doha (DOH) on your way to the Maldives. This means you can book a one-way business class award on Qatar Airways for 70,000 miles and fly there in style.

Qatar operates out of several U.S. airports and the highly-rated Qsuites product has already been put on a few of these routes. Even if you find yourself sitting in the “older” business class product on the A350-900, you’ll still have a blast.

Japan Airlines business class to Japan or Korea

Whether you’re on a 777-300 or 787-9, flying Japan Airlines business class is going to be quite the experience. Not only will you have a comfortable lie-flat seat but JAL has a well-deserved reputation for its amazing service.

At 60,000 American miles for a one-way business class award, it’s hard to be disappointed. As a point of comparison, you’d need 80,000 United miles to fly one-way business class on its Japanese partner All Nippon Airways (ANA). Both are great airlines, but if I can save 20,000 miles, I think I know what I’d be doing.

Qatar Airways business class to South Africa

Finding award flights to South Africa that don’t incur steep surcharges can be tricky, especially if you’re flying through Europe. However, if you book awards on Qatar Airways with American miles you won’t have to worry about that.

For 75,000 miles, you can fly business class from the U.S. to Johannesburg (JNB) or Cape Town (CPT). Personally, I’ve found award space to be better to JNB than CPT. In fact, I was even able to book 4 people in business class on the same Qatar flights on both segments.

If you need a connection on American to catch a flight on Qatar Airways, you won’t need any additional miles either. Of course, domestic first class availability can be tough to find so you might need to connect in economy.

Bottom line

While it’s a shame that American doesn’t partner with one of the flexible points program such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards, I appreciate that its co-branded cards can really jump-start your travel.

If you take advantage of a welcome bonus when the time is right, you’ll be close to if not ready to book a one-way business class award to just about anywhere you could want to go. The only real decision is where you want to go!

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. that’s so funny you chose to include pics of Qantas and Cathay F… the two awards that are nearly impossible these days…

  2. cathay F is hardly impossible. i’ve had no real trouble finding availability for multiple trips in the next year.

  3. CX only releases one F seat in advance. I need two for YVR-HKG-YVR and I don’t see two F seats in advance on that route. My ideal redemption would be 2 CX F seats on YVR-HKG-SYD-HKG-YVR for 2x140k US DM, but that looks impossible, and once USDM merges into AAdvantage in Q2 2015, the 140k rate will be gone.

  4. Just applied for the Platinum Card. Was asked to call the Reconsideration line, and was rejected, since I already have an American card with them. Boo hiss. Any thoughts about what I should say when I get the letter. (I have one Exec card, having cancelled the other before the $450 fee hit.)

  5. So I was pissed and decided to try for Barclay, even though I already have one. Immediate approval. Since I just spent 40k on two coach tix from Europe (Sorry Lucky, I know that pains you), basically I’m back to where I started for $89. (I am flying over Biz via WAW on the Dreamliner–45k on Aeroplan can’t be beat.)

  6. all those nasty comments… please look at Cathay F availability from JFK to HKG… there are 6 seats total available for the rest of the year… two of those are tomorrow and one is on Christmas. not much better next year. so please stop it.
    and no, i don’t want to transfer in Chicago or anywhere else.

  7. @ Lantean — Cathay first class is far from impossible. It’s the best use of American miles, and also what I use most of them for. Qantas first class is fairly readily available out of London.

  8. @ Lantean — To clarify, you’re judging Cathay Pacific first class award space based on one route over two months? Have you looked at options way in advance, or otherwise options with a connection?

  9. I have the distinct impression that CX First and Business space is less available no matter what the route and including last minute space. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just more difficult than before. Maybe it’s increased competition from fellow searchers. I would be happy to be proven wrong and also happy to hear any suggestions for better success.

  10. @Lucky

    it’s a little better in advance but not by much.

    and like i said, i don’t want to connect… unlike you i have limited vacation days and all my trips are planned with a very tight schedule… a missed connection could possibly mean i would have to cancel the trip completely… i don’t want to risk that.

    two days ago you admitted yourself CX F availability to/from JFK is terrible… now you changed your mind?

  11. @ Lantean — I’m not saying it hasn’t gotten harder (it has), but I am disagreeing with you calling it “nearly impossible.” If you have limited vacation time and want to fly nonstop, you shouldn’t have trouble finding that space if planning much further in advance then.

  12. You say theses aren’t cards you would put a lot of spend on. Why not? What cards do you put a lot spend on instead?

  13. Lucky, somewhat related: a question only you can answer.
    What are the best seats for a couple traveling together on QF 380 F?
    I think I prefer side by side (F&K) over two “A” seats, but judging by your pictures, it seems like the rows on F & K are offset so you can’t really see the other person? Would getting say 3F and 4K make more sense than 3F+3K?
    Or are the “A” seats the way to go?
    Thanks a ton!

  14. @ BD — The F & K seats are so far apart that you really won’t be able to talk regardless of which combination you choose. I’d really recommend two window seats, because if you’re not going to be able to talk while sitting you might as well both have a view and privacy on one aisle, in my opinion.

    Enjoy the trip!

  15. Thanks Lucky! We picked 4A+5A (the other A’s are taken). Miraculously found two F seats on SYD-DXB, so should be a good ride. And for 60k AA miles, it’s a steal.

  16. Lucky;

    1) I have 57,000 AA EQM. I have two Usairways credit cards. Theoretically, if I were to spend 25K on each in 2014, that would give me 20,000 Usair Preferred Miles. So I would have a total of 77,000 EQM when the programs combine. Does that mean I would need to fly 23,000 miles by Dec 31 to qualify for exec plat til Feb 2016? That seems like a better option for me than the challenge.

    2) Do all USairways credit cards come with the EQM offer? I am not seeing it on the current sign up page.

    3) When does the USairways credit cards and citi AA Exec card renew itself… can you requalify for the EQM’s each calendar year or based on 12 months from initial sign-up?

    Thanks for helping out. So many ways to get Exec Plat right now.

  17. Lucky, I have AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard which I got in April, will i get signup bonus if apply for Platinum Select now? Are they considered same product?

  18. @ Charles —

    1) Yep, that would work, and is probably your best bet.
    2) Yep, it’s now a standard offering on the card.
    3) You should be able to earn the EQMs on each card each calendar year.

  19. @Lantean – So you don’t have flexibility with routes or dates, and then conclude that CX F is impossible? Okaaay.

  20. @Lantean – Your requirements are what make the miles game inappropriate for some people. If you have little flexibility with dates and/or destinations flying on award tickets doesn’t work IMO.

  21. Lucky, Do you know when the 5000 mile discount on UsAir awards will go away when you use a UsAir Barclay’s Mastercard?

  22. @Dan

    like i said, i have some flexibility with dates, but i prefer not to transfer unless i have to, especially on the outbound (on the return a missed connection is usually much less of a problem)… but even with the dates flexibility that i have… there were 6 seats TOTAL available from JFK for the rest of the year… does that seems plentiful to anyone?

    all this used to be so much easier two years ago… ANY flight from JFK to HKG had at least 2 F seats,

  23. @ Lantean — Right, the “rest of the year” = two months, and two weeks of that are among the busiest travel period of the year. If you’re not willing to connect then I’d generally recommend trying to book more than two months in advance, so you can maximize the chances of getting the flights you want.

    I agree all of this used to be easier, but I don’t think anything is to blame here. Cathay Pacific has only six first class seats, and all things considered continues to be extremely generous with releasing space.

    I just think it’s important to distinguish between a product being “nearly impossible” to snag, and them just not releasing space on your exact preferred routing (which also happens to be their highest yield route) with advance notice within two months of departure. The two are quite different, in my opinion.

  24. So i did some work for find out JFK-HKG F availability for next year:

    jan 0
    feb 0
    mar 1
    apr 1
    may 0
    jun 0
    jul 3
    aug 6
    sep 4

    how is this considered plentiful??? can someone please enlighten me?
    thx

  25. How does Barclay feel about an application for a second US Airways card if you currently have one (kept it because of the 10k anniversary bonus)? I heard that it used to be possible. I applied around 20 months ago for my first one.

  26. @ CardinalandGoldFan — Many report luck getting a new card even when the previous one is still open, so I’d give it a shot.

  27. Sorry I missed this when it first appeared. I have had the Citi Amex and Visa AA cards (personal) for a few years. I assume since this plat MC is a new product I would qualify for the bonus. But I wonder if they would approve me since I already have 2 AA products that I barely use.

  28. @ RakSiam — There’s a good chance they would approve you, though they are sometimes inconsistent. So can’t guarantee it, but think there’s a very good chance.

  29. Is this a copy and paste job? All the Comments are from 4 years ago despite being posted on the main page with today’s 2018 date.

    Might wanna take a look at that…

  30. @lucky- From your experience, what the is best US Gateway for Cathay F and Qantas F? I know you mentioned Qantas F was London and in that case how do you get to London from US? Thanks!

  31. @Evan. I also have the same question….. looks like ancient comments, especially the USAir Barclay one…

  32. It’s not copy and paste. They just re posted it since it’s still relevant information and it’s not worth re writing it. I believe the date on the top is the date of when they published it.

  33. @ Evan @ Donna — All the information in the post has been updated as of today. Things have changed dramatically since it was first published in 2014, but it’s still a question that people have, so we thought refreshing the info made the most sense. We wanted to keep the same URL, but didn’t want to delete the comments, as you guys share lots of useful information, so here we are. Sorry if that made it confusing!

  34. Wife and I applied for all of the above in the last year (except for MileUp).
    SMF-FLL J, FLL-SMF E AA
    SMF-SKB E, MIA-SFO J (With lie-flat) AA
    HKG-HND F, CX

    Remaining miles we intend to spend SYD-AUH-JFK EY Apartments
    Hopefully that option will still be available in 2020 :-p

  35. One used to be able to book two Cathay F tickets far in advance but now they only release one and you have to wait by your computer two weeks in advance to hope to snag the other one. Not the way I want to plan our vacation. So sadly Cathay F is no longer an option. And now Korean F is out the door…. slim picking these days…

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