The Benefits of American AAdvantage Credit Cards

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What might be the most valuable benefit of American AAdvantage credit cards is also among the least recognized and appreciated.

Holders of the various AAdvantage-affiliated credit cards can book awards to selected U.S. and Canadian destinations at discounted prices. The discount varies, according to the card type, and the list of discount-eligible destinations changes according to the month.

For the Platinum, World Elite, Select, and other higher-annual-fee cards, first-class award prices are reduced from 25,000 miles to 21,250 miles each way; and coach awards are discounted from 12,500 to 8,750 miles each way. That’s a 15 percent discount for first class and an even heftier 30 percent discount for coach.

For Gold and Aviator Blue cardholders, the first and coach awards are discounted by 10 and 20 percent, to 22,500 and 10,000 miles each way, respectively.

For the month of March, there are 87 discounted cities on the list. The lists of discounted destinations for January and February are even longer.

The discounts range from decent, at 10 percent, to compelling, at 30 percent. Most high-demand destinations are absent from the list—no discounts on award flights to New York or Orlando, for example. But San Francisco flights are discounted during January and February, and depending on the month, there are plenty of other cities well worth visiting: Houston, Monterey, Nashville, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, and Vail.

The discounted awards must be booked by phone. There’s no fee to make the booking via American’s toll-free reservations number, but there will be a $35 service charge for non-Executive Platinum elite members booking at a ticket office or airport location. There is a $75 fee for tickets booked less than 21 days before departure, waived for elite AAdvantage members.

If you have a Citi AAdvantage or a Barclays AAdvantage Aviator card, have a look at the list of discounted award destinations. You might just find a city on your bucket list.

And if you’re thinking of adding any of the following AAdvantage credit cards to your collection, consider the award discounts among the reasons for doing so.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 for other purchases.
  • Annual fee: $95, waived the first 12 months.
  • APR: 17.24% to 25.24% based variable, depending on credit.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Welcome offer: 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Travel perks: free first checked bag, preferred boarding, discounted award prices.
  • Disclosure: Citi is an Airfarewatchdog advertiser.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 for other purchases.
  • Annual fee: $450.
  • APR: 16.99% to 24.99% based variable, depending on credit.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Travel perks: free first checked bag, preferred boarding, Admirals Club lounge membership, discounted award prices.

Editor's Note: This content is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the aforementioned entities.

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