My wife and I have a total of four Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCards (we have two each). The cards began life as US Airways cards before the big airline merger. Three out of four cards are long term keepers. We signed up for these cards when Barclaycard offered an annual 10,000 mile bonus with each card. Paying the annual fees is like buying 10,000 AA miles for $89, every year, with each card. That amounts to less than a penny per mile and is a good deal even after accounting for AA’s upcoming award chart devaluation.
One of my wife’s cards, though, is different. This card offered a one time 10,000 mile anniversary bonus:
If you have an AAdvantage Aviator card, you can see if your card qualifies for a 10,000 mile anniversary bonus by logging into your account, clicking “View rewards”, then clicking “How my rewards work”. More details can be found here: Should you keep, upgrade, or downgrade your AAdvantage Aviator card? Do you have a choice?
For the card with the one time anniversary bonus, the 10,000 mile bonus posted on December 10th. And, the $89 annual fee appeared on December 31. My wife could now cancel the card to avoid the annual fee. Since the 10,000 miles have already posted, the miles would remain in her account.
15,000 mile bonus
On December 21, my wife received the following offer via email (and later by snail-mail):
Keeping the card
To qualify for the 15,000 mile bonus shown above, my wife will have to spend $500 or more each month. That’s not hard. But, she’ll also have to pay the card’s annual fee. Since we’re willing to pay annual fees on the other cards in order to keep getting 10,000 miles per year, it’s clearly worth it to pay $89 one time more on this card in order to get another 15,000 miles.
Automatic retention bonus
Barclaycard has been known to send out offers like these fairly regularly. In my experience, the best offers usually coincide with the card’s annual fee. I suspect that the bank has an automated process to detect when accounts are rarely used. Promotions like these accomplish two things for Barclaycard: they encourage customers to pay their annual fee (as in the example above), and they encourage customers to use their cards more often. The hope is that my wife will start using the card for everyday spend in order to meet the $500 per month requirement, and then will continue to use the card going forward. It’s smart.
In our case, we’ll be smarter. We have a number of cards that offer better rewards for spend. So, we’ll setup an automated process to spend $500 per month (as we recently did with a similar offer) and the card will once more get sock-drawered until the next annual fee comes due.