Should you keep, upgrade, or downgrade your AAdvantage Aviator card? Do you have a choice?

My wife and I have four AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCards.  Yep, we have two each.  Before American Airlines and US Airways merged their loyalty programs, the Barclaycard US Airways MasterCard offered a terrific signup bonus: 50,000 miles after first purchase.  At times, the bonus was a bit lower – 40,000 miles, if I recall correctly.  And, sometimes the offer included 10,000 anniversary miles.  To complicate things a bit, sometimes the 10,000 anniversary miles were promised for every anniversary.  More recently, the miles were promised only for the first anniversary.

Today, the US Airways cards have been (or, for some, are in the process of being) converted to AAdvantage Aviator cards.  They now earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles.  And, importantly, the cards are no longer available for new applicants.  That said, considering how good the signup bonus was while it was available, I’m sure that a large percentage of readers have at least one Aviator card.

What type of anniversary bonus, if any, do you have?

Yesterday, Point me to the Plane showed how to determine if your card is eligible for a 10,000 mile anniversary bonus.  I checked my accounts and confirmed they were as I expected:

After logging in, I clicked “View rewards”:

AAdvantage Aviator card

Then, I clicked “How my rewards work”:

AAdvantage Aviator card

Both of my cards and one of my wife’s cards showed the following:

AAdvantage Aviator card Earn10KAnnually

The text shown above indicates that the account is eligible for an anniversary bonus every year.  My wife’s second card, had a different message:

AAdvantage Aviator card Earn10K1stAnniversary

My wife’s second card is eligible for the anniversary bonus only once.  The text specifically says (bolding is mine): “Earn 10,000 AAdvantage anniversary miles in your first cardmembership year after payment of the annual fee.”

Bonus Mile targeted offers

One of the best features of the old US Airways card was that card members frequently received targeted offers for bonus miles.  My favorite offers were for 15,000 bonus miles after $500 (or $750) spend per month for three months.  Fortunately, even after converting to the Aviator card, people are still receiving offers like these.  Checkout this Quick Deal for details about recent offers.

AAdvantage Aviator card

To see if you’ve been targeted, check for emails sent from: email@offers.aviatormastercard.com.  It might even help to add that to your address book to reduce the chance of those emails being sent to your spam folder.

Many Aviator flavors

Barclaycard went bonkers creating new options for cardholders.  There are now four different versions of the AAdvantage Aviator personal card (and, there’s a business card too).

Most people will have been automatically converted to the Red card.  Doctor of Credit has a great post summarizing the four card types (found here).  Here’s my summary of his summary:

Aviator Aviator Blue Aviator Red Aviator Silver
Annual Fee $0 $49 $89 $195
Earning Rate 1X AA, .5X elsewhere 2X AA, 1X elsewhere 2X AA, 1X elsewhere 3X AA, 2X hotels & car rentals, 1X elsewhere
Major Perks 10% rebate on awards; free checked bag; Priority boarding 10% rebate on awards; free checked bag; Priority boarding
Other Benefits Reduced mileage awards (5K discount) $100 flight discount with $30K spend; Reduced mileage awards (7.5K discount) 5K EQMs with $20K spend; 5K more for $40K spend; $99 Companion certificate after $30K spend; Reduced mileage awards (7.5K discount)
Eligible for continued anniversary bonus Yes Yes Yes Yes

I find the last row of the table the most surprising.  Apparently if you are already eligible for anniversary miles, you’ll continue to receive those miles with the no fee card.

Can you switch?

I had assumed that Barclaycard would make it easy to switch from one Aviator card to another, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  I called Barclaycard yesterday and asked if I could downgrade one of my Aviator Red cards to the no fee Aviator card.  The rep I spoke with checked both of my cards and, in both cases, she told me that downgrading (or upgrading to Silver) was not an option for that card.  I then asked to speak to a supervisor.  After a very long wait, the supervisor told me the same story.  According to that supervisor, my options are:

  1. Keep the cards as-is.
  2. Cancel one or both cards.
  3. Wait and call again in the future to see if any downgrade or upgrade options have been made available.

I’ll go with option 3.  I’m certainly not willing to cancel since I highly value both the 10,000 anniversary miles and the occasional 15,000 mile promotions.  That said, if I could continue to get the anniversary miles with a no fee card at some point in the future, I’ll gladly do that.

MileCards suggests that card changes may become easier once US Airways and American Airlines complete their merger.  They wrote:

We’re also hearing there may be more broad availability of product changes by November, when US Airways and American Airlines fully merge systems.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but you never know.  At the very least, the completion of the merger can be a reminder to me to check my options with Barclaycard once again.

Which card is right for you?

In the unlikely case that you are offered a choice between cards, here are my recommendations. Pick the sentence that best represents you:

  • You are a heavy spender and you want to earn (or keep) AAdvantage elite status: Get the Aviator Silver card.  This is the only Aviator card that offers AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) with high spend.  Note: Some think that you can increase your chance of being offered the upgrade to the Silver card if you put a lot of spend on the Red card.
  • You often fly American Airlines without elite status: Keep the Aviator Red card.  For $89 per year, you’ll get a free checked bag for yourself and up to 4 companions; Group 1 boarding; and a $100 AA flight discount if you spend $30K per year on the card.
  • You often book AAdvantage awards: Keep the Aviator Red card.  For $89 per year, you’ll get 10% of your miles back when you book awards (up to 10,000 miles per year).  Plus, you get access to AA Reduced mileage awards.
  • Everyone else: Downgrade to the no fee Aviator card.  Don’t use it for spend, just keep it in a drawer for the following reasons:
    1. To keep anniversary bonuses coming (if eligible)
    2. To keep the ability to upgrade to a different Aviator card in the future if/when your goals change
    3. For the possibility of receiving lucrative targeted offers (I don’t know if Barclaycard will offer these to no-fee cardholders, but its possible).

Should you cancel?

If you have an Aviator card, but you don’t want to pay the annual fee, I recommend checking first to see if you can downgrade to the no annual fee card.  If not, then consider the following factors:

  • Do you think you’ll ever want an Aviator card?  Since Barclaycard doesn’t offer these to new account holders, its unlikely you can ever get one again once you cancel.  So, if you only have one Aviator card and you think there’s a chance you’ll want one in the future, you should probably keep it for now.
  • Is your card eligible for anniversary miles each year?  If so, the $89 annual fee is, in my opinion, a very good price to pay for 10,000 miles.  Keep the card.
  • Are you often targeted for 15,000 miles after three months of $500 (or $750) spend?  If so, keep the card.

If none of the above factors apply to you and you’re not getting more value from the card than its $89 annual fee, then you might as well cancel it.  I’d recommend waiting until the annual fee comes due, though.  Often, the best targeted promotions are offered right around that time…

Last updated on November 13th, 2015

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Kenny
Guest

Trying to decide between the AAviator Red and the Citi Plat Select. I have 2 of the former, 1 of the latter. Probably will keep 1 AAviator and cancel the rest. Any argument for keeping the Plat Select card?

Miles
Guest
Miles

FYI – Rumor is that upgrading/downgrading the card will cause you to lose any anniversary bonus.

@Kenny – Not really.

Andrew G
Guest
Andrew G

Does the red version of this card do anything the Citi AA Platinum doesn’t (or vice versa)? Going to be flying AA quite a bit over the coming years, but I’m quite sure I don’t need to keep both cards long-term.

DJ
Guest
DJ

The Citi AA Platinum charges ForEx fees, the Aviator doesn’t. If you’re not eligible for the 10K anniversary bonus w/ the Aviator, that’s really the only advantage to keeping the Aviator.

Andrew G
Guest
Andrew G

Brilliant, thanks much, DJ. Just checked and my card is eligible for the 10k anniversary bonus just once, and my wife’s card not at all (sigh). Oh well!

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Our two haven’t been converted to Aviator cards yet. We’ve gotten the postcards in the mail saying that they will be, but at the moment we still have the USAir ones. We got ours just before they stopped being offered. Hopefully once they convert, we will get the targeted spend bonus.

JC
Guest
JC

I called to cancel my aviator red card as my first yr of the waived fee was coming up and since I also have the AA Advantage card. They offered to waive the fee for the next yr and gave me 500 miles as a “good gesture” for being a loyal customer. Did they just cheat me out of 10k miles?

Tucker
Guest
Tucker

FrequentMiler, I had a similar call with Barclays when calling to downgrade my wife’s Arrival Plus–no downgrade option; however, the rep did tell me that oftentimes the downgrade offers (and other offers) appear in their system 60 days prior to the annual fee posting. I plan to call back in that time frame and see if they change their story, I have downgraded an Arrival Plus to the no fee Arrival before. Are you within that 60 day window?

DJ
Guest
DJ

Where is the Aviator business card? I’ve heard rumors but never actually seen this…

RS_WI
Guest
RS_WI

You didn’t note that the AAviator Silver has a major perk at the $30k mark also: companion certificate on AA metal.

“Receive a companion certificate good for up to 2 guests at $99 each, issued annually after your account anniversary when you spend $30,000 or more in purchases (taxes and fees apply). Buy a ticket for an American Airlines flight, and two of your friends or family members can fly with you for $99 each (plus taxes and fees).”

This is why I would upgrade to the Silver and find the AF difference worth it. I don’t, however, want to lose the 10k anniversary miles… hrrm… decisions decisions.

a$]-[u
Guest
a$]-[u

You need to remember, this is domestic companion only. $30k spend for a companion pass seems too much to me.

Erik
Guest
Erik

Very helpful post, I thought that I had the 10K annual bonus miles but was unsure how to confirm it (other than calling Barclays).

Theresa
Guest
Theresa

I called Barclay 2 days ago and WAS upgraded to the silver card. I have been a long time Barclay credit card customer, over 10 years; not sure if that is a factor. I did the 30,000 mile Chairman Challenge last year and am now spoiled so want to get those 10,000 EQMs.

JB
Guest
JB

I called today (July 1, 2015) and was offered to have my annual fee waived for the next year. That’s nice, but was also offered to upgrade for free to the Silver card for a year (no credit pull either). The silver offers 10-15k MQM miles after some pretty high spend…but you need 25k MQM’s just to quality for the lowest elite tier and I don’t fly that much (just a few times internationally on points). So it’s probably not worth the upgrade to the Silver at this point. If anyone thinks I’m wrong, please let me know. Thank you

JayP
Guest
JayP

If you don’t have Global Entry you can get the fee waived with the Silver card. Plus the companion certs if you find those useful.

Dee
Guest
Dee

Thanks for showing how to check the anniversary bonus. Mine has the 10,000 anniversary bonus every year.

I had two Aviator Red cards and called to combine the credit limit into one account when the first annual fee posted. I have Citi Aadvantage personal and business cards, too. Enough AA cards! I foresee using AA less after this year. My daughter plans to move back to the US from Japan in Spring ’16. I find AA miles better for travel to Asia, but not great to Europe because so many of their flights are BA with huge fees. And I won’t need to go to Asia every year now.

I called to ask if I have the 15,000 miles after $500 spend for 3 months on my card. The rep said no. I’ll email too. It can’t hurt.

JA
Guest
JA

Last week I received the targeted AA offer of Platinum status for earning 12K EQM or EQP by October 9. If I upgrade to the Silver card will those EQMs post before October 9th?

will
Guest
will

I have one of the holdover Aviator no fee cards, and frankly, I’m thinking to dump it soon. Followed your guidance to check, but no offer of a 10K bonus, nor have I received any offers of miles for spending. What do you mean when you write, “if eligible?” Yes, I get that some will counsel to keep it for the credit record. But Barclays is notorious for being stingy with new credit cards — and I’m seeing other Barclay’s cards that have more practical benefit to me (even the Wyndham card), and I don’t want to hazard getting turned down for a new card because of hanging on to a card with no current utility whatsoever.

a$]-[u
Guest
a$]-[u

I don’t have anniversary offer, just this:

Receive 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back into your AAdvantage® account. (10,000 miles maximum each calendar year).

I earned 50k miles so that’ll be 5k bonus, I’ll cancel the card!

Mary
Guest
Mary

My aunt just tried to call in to cancel her AAviator Red card. I would not have advised this, but that’s what she wanted to do. She was told that if she cancelled they would take back any of the miles that she had earned through their program. I know this is generally un-heard of, so I researched in my paperwork and there IS indeed some language that indicates that they reserve the right to take back any miles for several different reasons listed in the paper (which is not in front of me at this moment), including if you close your account.
Is this even possible? I mean if the miles are already in her American Airlines account, and if some of them have even been used already, then how would they be able to get them ‘un-deposited’?
She called American Airlines and that representative said they had never heard of anything like this.
She has decided to keep the card for the moment, and I advised that maybe when she calls again closer to her anniversary date that she ask for a downgrade instead of closing the account.
Any thoughts about this, or anyone have a similar experience?

jake
Guest
jake

Just called and could not get the Anniversary bonus or get the annual fee waived despite numerous attempts. Was transferred to a manager, and was told the same thing and had her explain my benefits again. After some discussion, she finally capitulated and waived half my annual fee. Keeping the card mostly for the free checked bag on American for four folks.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Jake, was this for Aviator Red? I was going to cancel my Red, but based on this article I will pay the $89 annual for the 10k bonus anniversary points which I confirmed I will still receive. Please clarify if you have the red card as you should be eligible for 10k bonus annual miles, EVERY year hereon after, not just the 1st year (at least in my case), thanks.

Dan W
Guest
Dan W

my wife and i both have red cards that were switched over from us airways cards that we got to get the 50k bonuses….i never use the card. i dont fly aa that often either but like that i have it in case we do soi can get free luggage. had the fee waived on both cards once already. my question is if i manage to get them downgraded to the no fee cards would it still allow me to keep my aa miles from expiring? even if i dont fly them within the 18 months or whatever time they allow you to keep them for? that would be my main concern for keeping the cards at all.

Valentina
Guest
Valentina

I’ve had this card for quite some time. Will I lose the miles earned if I cancel?

trackback

[…] 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? […]

eli
Guest
eli

hey my rewards says that im eligible for 10% of redeemed points back every year i redeemed 50k this yr all i would get back is 5k is that worth it for a $89 annul fee

a$]-[u
Guest
a$]-[u

Was about to shut down the card as annual fees came close, just received 15,000 miles offer by mail for $500 spend Feb – March every month! No registration needed.

hitherandyon
Guest
hitherandyon

From my UPGRADE OFFER on my Home page of the Red card it explains the Silver upgrade, then clicking Tell Me More I found this:
By accepting this upgrade offer, you will no longer be eligible for the 10,000 anniversary miles benefit available through your current reward program.
So, no more anniversary miles if you upgrade to Silver.