Which Card is Better? Citi AAdvantage vs. Barclays Aviator

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There are a number of Barclaycard and CitiBank credit cards that earn American AAdvantage miles. Here we’re going to take a look at the Barclay Aviator Red and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, the most popular options to earn AAdvantage miles.

Citi AA Platinum and Barclays Aviator Red
Which card deserves a spot in your wallet?

Current Sign-Up Bonus

The Barclay Aviator Red card currently offers 40,000 miles after your first purchase on the card.  The Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select offers 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card.
Citibank AAdvantage vs Barclay Aviator Red sign-up bonus

[Thanks to the readers that pointed out we had mixed up the two minimum spend requirements so we could correct it.]

Winner:  Based on the industries valuations of miles and points, the Aviator Red’s bonus is valued at $600 while the Citi Platinum’s is about $750. If you can swing the minimum spend the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select is for you, if not go for the Barclay Aviator Red.

Earning Structure and Rewards

Both cards earn the same number of points for every $1 you spend with American or on everyday purchases.  The difference comes with the bonuses earned for meeting specific thresholds.  Barclay Aviator Red will earn you up to $3,000 EQDs (Elite Qualifying Dollars) when you spend $25,000 on the card.  The Citi AAdvantage will give you a $100 discount on a future flight after spending $30,000 on the card.

I also like that American Airlines will rebate you back up to 10,000 miles each year when you have either of these cards.  The 10,000 miles isn’t much, but the miles add up year after year towards another free flight!
Earning Structure

Winner: These rewards and cards structures are almost identical, but I’d give the edge to Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select due to the ability to earn $100 off an American flight and the reduced mileage awards. Both are bad cards to consider for everyday purchases.

Benefits

Both cards offer some great benefits that will help you save money on travel.  You get a free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions on the same itinerary, which will save $25-$35 per person each way.  And if you’re going to buy food or drinks on your flight, using the card will save you 25%.  When traveling internationally, both cards do not charge foreign transaction fees.

This doesn’t save you money (unless you were planning on paying for early boarding), but it will save you time and give you a head start on overhead bin space.  Both cards provide Group 1 Boarding on domestic flights.
Benefits

Winner: While they are very similar cards I give the edge to the Barclay Aviator because you can upgrade it to the Aviator Silver!

Aviator Silver

This is the premium Barclay American Airlines card. You can only get it by upgrading your Aviator Red, and it comes with some sweet benefits such as

  • 5,000 elite-qualifying miles for every $20,000 you spend annually (up to 10,000 miles each year)
  • Earn $6,000 elite-qualifying dollars when you spend $50,000 on purchases each calendar year
  • Companion certificate good for up to 2 guests at $99 each, issued annually when you spend $30,000 or more in purchases
  • $100 Global Entry Fee Credit
  • 3 AA miles per $ spent on AA purchases
  • 2 AA miles per $ spent on select hotel and car rentals
  • Group one boarding for you and up to 8 companions

Spending $50,000 in a year with the Aviator Silver would net you

  • 50,000+ AA miles
  • A companion ticket
  • 6,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)
  • 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)

A pretty good haul for a $195 Annual Fee, right?  Just the Companion Ticket alone would be worth the increase in annual fee.

Pro’s of Each Card

Sign up Bonus and AF

Which Card is Better?

Choose the Barclay Aviator Red if you’re chasing elite status, have had the Citi AAdvantage Platinum in the last two years, don’t know if you can spend $3,000 in three months, and the Aviator Silver interests you. Choose the Citi AAdvantage Red if you’d like to avoid paying an annual fee, want better travel protection, or haven’t opened or closed the any Citibank American cards (personal or business) in the last 24 months.

If I had to choose one and could earn the sign-up bonus on both, I’d choose the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select. The card has a better sign-up bonus, the discounted award flights and the annual fee waived the first year, every other benefit is about the same.

What are your thoughts? What card would you guys choose?


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6 COMMENTS

    • Rick, that is a nice perk! And Barclaycard sends me offers for spending challenges on a regular basis. I just finished another $2500 a month for 6 months challenge where I’m receiving a 30K mile bonus. Score!

  1. Today is Oct 23, 2018 and the offers for each have now changed:

    1. Citibank Platinum is 40,000 miles initially after $2000 spend within 3 months (+10,000 extra after $20,000 spend during first year), f$95 annual fee waived
    vs
    2. Barclay Aviator Red’s 60,000 miles after a single first purchase (could be a pack of gum!) and $95 fee NOT waived.

    I would like an AA card simply for the checked bag credit and the preferred boarding (neither card offers boarding in group 1, which would be priority boarding, but rather both offer group 5 preferred boarding). I guess I could always cancel the Citi card (or call to see if they would waive the fee a second year) after first year..?
    On the other hand, I do love those extra 20,000 miles with the Aviator card – it is just that fee kills me since I have never had a fee card in all my life.

    **Do you know about the Penfed credit union Pathfinder AMEX card? No annual fee but it still offers $100 airline incidentals credit per year and $100 global entry fee credit 1/5years – and 3x (4x for military) for travel purchases, 1.5x other purchases. I love this card!

    • Hi Dauphine, the offers change all of the time. I’ve learned that, if you see an offer you like, you need to jump on it right away, because it may not be there even one day later.

      I like the Barclays card better simply because Barclays is not as restrictive as Citibank about getting the card bonus multiple times. And, as you said, the bonus is currently bigger with Barclays.

      Essentially, you are buying 20K miles for $95. With average economy domestic tickets at 30K miles, would you take a flight for $150? That’s what you’re doing by paying the $95 the first year to get the Barclays over the Citi card.

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