AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Review

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Jul 30, 2019

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s rewards can earn you more than 90,000 American Airlines frequent flyer miles your first year, along with a free bag on every flight and priority boarding.

What makes the card unique is that it’s actually one of two American Airlines credit cards you can sign-up for, the other being the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. American is the only airline to do this, therefore putting emphasis on choosing wisely between the Aviator, the Platinum Select and four other cards we’ll compare later in this review.

For now, we’ll discuss the Aviator Red’s rewards, its added travel-day benefits as well as the card’s rates and fees. After that, we’ll tackle a comparison between this card and other popular airline rewards cards. We’ll finish up with a section of research-based conclusions about the card’s pros and cons and who we think it’s good for.

How the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s Rewards Work

If Barclays, the bank who issues this card, tells you that they’ve approved your application, then you can start earning rewards miles as soon as the card arrives in the mail.

The easiest and fastest way to earn miles is to use your card to make one purchase. When you do, Barclays will send 60,000 AAdvantage miles to your AAdvantage account in four to six weeks. This is what’s known as a “sign-up bonus.”

“AAdvantage” refers to American Airlines’ frequent flyer program. If you don’t have a frequent flyer account, they’ll create one for you when you fill out your application.

This is a huge benefit of this card, as all other major airline rewards cards require that you spend a certain amount of money in order to get the sign-up bonus.

In addition to getting a sign-up bonus with your first purchase, you’ll immediately earn spending rewards. The Aviator Red gives you two miles for every dollar you spend with American Airlines and one mile for every dollar you spend on everything else.

The fine print for this card says that the following purchases qualify as “American Airlines purchases:”

  • AA.com
  • American Airlines reservation department
  • American Airlines vacation bookings
  • American Airlines ticket counters

Assuming that you spend $1,000 per year on airline purchases and $29,000 on everything else, we think this card can earn you 31,000 miles a year.

This yearly miles total is pretty low compared to other cards. We’ll cover that in the comparison section. For now, we want to show you how many miles you’d need to book the three most popular flights in the U.S. (cash price of flight in parenthesis):

  • New York (EWR) to Los Angeles: 25,000 miles ($308.00)
  • Los Angeles to San Francisco: 15,000 miles ($127.00)
  • New York (EWR) to Chicago: 25,000 miles ($207.00)

Your 31,000 yearly points will be enough to book a rewards fight. Your first-year points (sign-up bonus plus yearly rewards) are around 91,000 miles, which is good enough for three round-trip cross-country flights.

We see this being an excellent benefit if you’re looking for ways to save money on a U.S. vacation. Another great benefit is that, for the New York to Chicago flight, you can book business/first-class seats for 50,000 points, which means you could potentially give yourself a pair of free first-class tickets if you plan ahead.

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s Travel Perks and Benefits

Another area of value this card provides is travel benefits and perks not related to earning rewards. Here’s a quick list of those benefits and perks:

  • $99 companion ticket in the first year
  • $99 companion ticket every year you spend $20,000
  • Priority boarding
  • 1 free bag
  • $25 in-flight Wi-Fi purchase credit
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • American Airlines Flight Cents program

Along with the United Explorer Card, we believe this is one of the better airline rewards cards you can find.

The companion ticket is a huge benefit if you fly often or take yearly vacations in which you and a partner or spouse travel together. Paying $99 for a ticket plus taxes and fees (usually $11.20, at the time of publishing) is less than half the price of two of the three flights we mentioned earlier.

Priority boarding is a great perk at the gate because it allows you to get on the plane before general boarding. You’ll be able to store your carry-on luggage and personal items without a crowd of people around you.

Like several of the leading airline cards, the Aviator Red gives you one free checked bag on every flight. This perk has a $30 value each way.

The next benefit is a unique one because most cards either give you a percentage back on in-flight purchases or they don’t give one at all. None of the leading cards give you additional cash credit.

The fine print points out the 25% only applies to food and drink, not Wi-Fi and entertainment purchases. So, if you spend $50 on in-flight food and drink, you’ll get a $12.50 credit on your statement within four weeks of the purchase.

Furthermore, at the end of the year, you’ll get the $25 credit mentioned in the list.

The final perk on the list—Flight Cents—is unique to American Airlines and could provide profitable if you fly enough to take advantage of it.

When you sign up for Flight Cents, all purchases you make are round up to the next dollar. American will then award you the miles equivalent of half the round-up amount. So, if you make a purchase for $4.50, American will round that purchase up to $5. You’ll earn 25 miles for the $0.50 you rounded up, then an additional four miles for the regular reward rate you get for non-American Airlines purchases.

The Flight Cents program is voluntary. Knowing this, we want to present some data to help you decide if you should sign up. Let’s say you end up spending $50 more per month because of the round-ups. Fifty dollars equals 5,000 cents, or 2,500 additional miles.

In our opinion, paying for miles at a rate of $50 for 2,500 miles is not advantageous for you. For example, the flight from Newark to Chicago we mentioned earlier cost 25,000 points or $207. Basically, the cash value of your points on this flight is about 0.83 miles per cent, whereas the Flight Cents program is 0.5 miles per cent.

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard’s Rates and Fees

In general, airline credit cards offer excellent rewards and benefits. However, compared to the average cash back credit card, their rates and fees tend to be very high. The following list highlights the most important rates and fees you should know:

  • Interest rate for purchases and balance transfers: 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24%
  • Interest rate for cash advances: 27.49%
  • Penalty interest rate: None
  • Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
  • Cash advance fee: $10 or 5%, whichever is greater
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Late/returned payment fee: Up to $39
  • Annual fee: $99

Of note is the card’s three APR’s. “APR” stands for “annual percentage rate”. This is the interest rate Barclays will charge you for whatever balance you have after you pay your monthly bill.

The lower your credit score, the higher your APR will be. The higher your APR, the bigger the interest payment you’ll make each month if you don’t pay off your balance in full.

The next chart shows you how much interest you’ll pay in a year according to five different average daily balances and the Aviator Red’s three APR’s:

18.24% APR for one year 22.24% APR for one year 27.24% APR for one year
$1,000 daily balance $182.40 $222.40 $272.40
$2,000 daily balance $364.80 $444.80 $544.80
$3,000 daily balance $547.20 $667.20 $817.20
$4,000 daily balance $729.60 $889.60 $1,089.60
$5,000 daily balance $912.00 $1,112.00 $1,362.50

This chart is important because it shows you real-world numbers reflecting how much you’ll pay in interest if you carry a balance.

Keep in mind that, once you carry a $3,000 daily balance, there’s a good chance the interest you pay will exceed the cash value of what you save on a free rewards flight and a companion pass. This is why it’s so important to stay out of debt by paying off your card balance every month.

How the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Compares to Other Airline Rewards Cards

If you just focus your attention on one card, it can be easy to get a skewed perspective of its value. To help widen your scope, we’ve created a comparison chart in which we put the Aviator Red next to six other popular airline rewards cards:

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard United Explorer Card Frontier Airlines World Mastercard Gold Delta SkyMiles Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card JetBlue Plus Card Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Sign-up bonus 60,000 miles 40,000 miles 40,000 miles 35,000 miles/$50 statement credit 40,000 points 40,000 points 50,000 miles
Rewards rates 2x/1x 2x/2x/2x/1x 5x/3x/1x 2x/1x 2x/1x 6x/2x/1x 2x/2x/2x/1x
Yearly miles/ points on $30,000 spending 31,000 35,045 40,730 31,000 31,000 42,428 36,420
Number of free bags 1 1 None 1 2 1 1
Priority boarding Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Global Entry/ TSA PreCheck No Yes No No No No No
In-flight discounts $25 per year/25% 25% No 20% No 50% 25%
Annual fee $99 $0 first year/$95 after $79 $0 first/$95 after $99 $99 $0 first year/$99 after
APR 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% 18.24% to 25.24% 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% 17.99% to 26.99% 18.24% to 25.24% 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% 18.24% to 26.24%

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard is, in our opinion, a superior card to the Frontier World Elite Mastercard, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard.

The Aviator Red’s sign-up bonus, $99 companion ticket the first year and in subsequent years in which you spend $20,000 are its two biggest advantages over those three cards.

The competition is a bit tougher when it comes to the United Explorer Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card and the JetBlue Plus Card. The JetBlue Card has the benefit of great yearly rewards coupled with cheap rewards seats, not to mention JetBlue’s fame for having excellent customer service and in-flight amenities.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards PremierCard has no priority boarding or in-flight discount perks but the airline’s bags-fly-free policy actually gives you more free bags than the Aviator Red.

We’d say the Explorer Card from United is the best card in the group, mainly because it provides you with more points per year, two free United Club lounge passes each year and a waived annual fee the first year.

While we believe the Aviator Red isn’t the best card in the chart, we do think it gives you enough rewards and benefits to be a close second.

The Bottom Line: Pros and Cons, and Who This Card Is Good For

We believe there are several strengths to the card. First, the 60,000 sign-up bonus was better than any other major airline rewards card at the time of publishing. Second, the $99 companion pass is a huge benefit if you often travel with a friend, partner or spouse. Third, our research revealed some great values for business-class rewards seats.

The card’s weaknesses are that its middle and high APR’s are high and you don’t get any reimbursements for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck programs like you do with the United Explorer Card.

In general, we think this card is an excellent fit for someone who has a vacation coming up in the next year. The card’s first-year points are incredible and the $99 companion pass is a must-have if your flights will include another person.

We’d say this card is not a good fit for someone who has credit scores near 650. The high APR you get is a full two percent higher than the worst APR on the United Explorer Card.

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Read 4 AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 1.8
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 0 4 star: 0 3 star: 1 2 star: 1 1 star:  2
Bottom Line: 0% would recommend it to a friend
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  • Dispute department is worthless

    • Maryland,
    • Nov 15, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I had a dispute with a merchant. I provided Barclay Aviator Red Card Department with two contacts to collaborate my dispute. After two months, they never contacted my provided people. Then, told me they could not help because I provided the merchant with my credit card. Isn't that what the dispute department there for?

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • Be aware

    • Pennsylvania,
    • Sep 19, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I signed up for this card in-flight because it came with many bonus miles that I hoped to use to go to a friend's wedding. I asked the flight attendant if the miles would be released for use immediately and she assured me that they would. This is a lie. Do not get the card if you have a specific nearby trip in mind. The credit card company itself is completely useless and does not have compassion for its customers.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • Frustrating

    • Charlotte, NC,
    • Jan 26, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I’ve now used this card for several years. While I do appreciate the miles I’ve accrued and the fact that there is no charge for overseas use, I would not recommend this card.

    The problem I consistently have is the card is often rejected when I’m out of the US. Even though I notify them of my travel plans and dates, the card is still refused regularly. It is such a hassle to call them from outside the US, not to mention the stress I feel every time I go to use the card, and I have to wonder whether it’ll be accepted.

    I’m currently looking for a different card that I can use overseas and when I find the right one I’ll be closing this account.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Lower the limit - not impressed anymore with the AA Aviator

    • Dallas, TX,
    • Jun 5, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    As any new relationship, great card. My limit was $8,000. I got the 40,000 miles the first time I used it (and paid the $95 membership).

    However, two months down the road, I had a family emergency and used credit cards to pay for the medical bills, since there was no time to get the money. My mother passed away (on top of medical bills, now it comes funeral bills), and there was nothing we could do.

    Next month, my limit was dropped (I received a letter from the bank a week later) from the $8,000 to $2,700, leaving only $330 available. The previous month I dropped the balance from the upper $6,000 to the lower $3,000 (I am glad I did, otherwise, I would have been "over my credit limit," and I would have been charged fees too, kind of scam to me). It was not an issue to pay the balance. I was working on the payment of all the other credit cards also.

    I called AA Aviator/Barclaycard to inquire about this. I received the "sorry for your loss" and nothing we can do. By lowering the limit, my credit FICO dropped, so now they put me on the "non-preferred" interest rate of 24.95% (Really? All my credit cards, the ones that have interest, are on the preferred 14.9% or lower). I am not late on any of my payments with any credit card or lender, and I went from the upper 700 on the FICO to the mid 600 after the medical emergency. I am now on my way up to get my FICO in the upper 700 as before. I have no problem, and I will get it back in about three to four months.

    So, I was disappointed, perhaps an isolated case with the Aviator credit card, but received no sympathy from the bank (they never had it). I was Platinum with AA, so I did not care much about the Priority boarding or the bags flight free, now I am Gold. I applied for the Sapphire CC from CHASE, what a card! It cost you $450 a year, but you get money back on "changing a flight," fees, and others (up to $300 a year). In addition, it comes with the Priority Pass to the Club, any of the Priority Pass Clubs that are available in many airports (AA Aviator doesn't even give you one or two passes per year as the United Airlines credit card, at least AA Aviator should give you a one or two passes per year). I did not even have to renew my Admiral Club Card this year (just expired last month $450 a year for the last five years, I don't need it anymore).

    I am happy with the Sapphire, it has three times the limit of the AA Aviator, and it comes with a lot of points that I can use for miles, any airlines, anytime, no blackouts, hotels, and more. Perhaps an isolated case, the AA Card was good for me at the beginning, but thanks to Barclaycard Bank, I found Sapphire. I will keep the AA card for a year since I paid for the membership, but once I reach $0.00, it is gone!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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