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With The Recent And Future Changes To AA, Should You Apply For AA Cards?

Written by Charlie

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Disclosure: I do not receive a commission for these cards.

Yesterday saw the first step in alignment between US Airways and American Airlines with their award calendars. While it was not a sweeping overhaul (yet), the changes targeted some of the most lucrative parts of the AA and US Airway award calendars. With these changes behind us (enacted immediately) and more changes coming, many have wondered if it is still a good time to apply for AA cards. Hopefully, this will help you with that decision.

Should You Apply For AA Cards?

The short answer is YES! Yesterday took some great things away from the award calendar, like the stopovers in gateway cities on award tickets and oneworld Explorer awards. Many of you had actually been saving for those Explorer awards so that is very tough to handle for sure.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 2.35.13 PM

But, the charts are still relatively unchanged for saver awards (capacity controlled award seats). US Airways did lose their 90,000 business class gem to north Asia, but otherwise their calendar has stayed intact as well. Changes will be coming to these calendars – make no mistake about it. But for now, the good news is that you still have time to accrue miles and book those trips you have in mind.

Citi Executive AAdvantage Card – 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in 3 months – Application Link  (I do not receive a commission from this card)

Citi Platinum AAdvantage Card – 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months – Application Link (I do not receive a commission from this card)

The Bonuses

The great thing about the current card offerings are that they are big bonuses. There is the 100K Citi AAdvantage Executive card and the 50K Citi AAdvantage Platinum card that are still working and available. If you were to start from scratch, within a couple of months, you would have over 160,000 AA miles (counting minimum spending)! That is enough to go just about anywhere in the world that AA and their partners fly – in first class, round-trip! For domestic use, that is enough for six tickets anywhere in the US. For off-peak awards, that is enough for four tickets to Europe from the US. And that is if you are starting to earn AA miles from scratch! You could be booking any number of these awards within two months time (if you meet the minimum spending quickly).

My feeling is that AA will eventually gut their partner redemptions in premium cabins (like United). I do think we are at least a couple of months off from that, however. That means that you still have some time if your goal is to travel on one of AA’s fantastic partners in business/first class. But, you need to get applying if that is the goal!

The Redemptions

For most travelers, economy class travel is just fine. For those of us who do not mind it, we will more than likely be ok, even with the new changes. AA is probably going to be following a lot of the playbook from Delta and United and neither of them had bumped economy class redemptions much at all. In fact, neither of them even touched domestic award redemptions. As good of a deal as it is for many of us to be able to redeem miles for domestic award tickets, the airline finds it to be an even better deal. They are making out pretty well with the cost of sitting an award ticket on their own domestic planes. No partners to pay, no great premium cabins (with a couple of exceptions), no huge difference in cost from miles required to actual ticket cost, etc. So, the airline will not mind at all that you continue to book in domestic. Award chart here.

Domestic Redemptions

Why is that a good thing? Most people may not have a desire to travel internationally. Believe me, there is plenty in the good, old USA that I have yet to see and wouldn’t mind redeeming miles to visit! There are many races all over the country that would be great to run and miles help us get that done. There are many people that would never redeem 25,000 miles for a $300 domestic ticket. But, it is not bad to do! If domestic travel is your goal, then you are still saving a lot of money in your redemptions! Let’s assume that you apply and receive the 100K Citi card offer. You have to pay the net fee of $250 for the card ($450 minus the $200 statement credit), so you have paid $250 for those 100,000 miles. But, those 100,000 miles give you four tickets anywhere in the US! That means that you have only paid $62.50 per ticket. If you are going on trips that are averaging $300 per ticket, you will have received $950 in value from that Citi AA card (after subtracting the $250). I think that is an exceptional deal!

That is not taking into account that there are some trips, domestically, that would have cost much more than $300! So, your value could be over $1,100! For instance, I found an itinerary that could take me to Alaska – for 25,000 miles and $10 instead of $700!

AA Citi

This same itinerary would be over $700!

Of course, there is also the fact to consider that you may very well have never taken any of those four trips if you had not received all of those miles. In that case, you have been to four places that you would never have been able to visit otherwise. We can use the Alaska trip again – most people would never dream of being able to travel to Alaska but you can do that four times with that credit card offer (or take three friends/family members). That is the real fun in miles!

International Redemptions

Then we come to international redemptions. If AA were to announce tomorrow that they are requiring 300,000 miles and up for all business and first class redemptions, the miles earned from these AA cards still have tremendous value! Using their off-peak dates, you can travel to many countries and regions around the world – all for less than 50,000 miles round-trip. Even if they scarf those off-peak dates eventually, the regular pricing is not that much either. You can still fly to Europe for 60,000 miles round-trip, or Japan for 65,000 miles round-trip. (Award chart here)

Prices above are one-way and the highlighted ones are for off-peak dates.

Prices above are one-way and the highlighted ones are for off-peak dates.

Yes, those amounts are for coach travel. However, I have spent much of my international flying in coach and I still get to the same destination as everyone else! I am able to exit the plane and stand fully upright and I even sleep! 🙂 Seeing the world via economy travel is far better than never seeing it all. These Citi AA cards can still get you all this and more!

Get The Cards!

There is really no reason to not apply for one or both of the Citi AA cards (as long as you have at least a week between applications and no more than 2 within 61 days). You are going to get a ton of miles and those miles can open doors that you may never otherwise go through. Is it premium international travel you want? These cards can give it to you now or put you just within reach of your goal. Get them now!

While I am thoroughly unhappy with the way AA/US slipped these changes in, I am still happy that miles can still take me places. Unless they release an industry-first redemption program that bases miles on fare price (Southwest/JetBlue do this but do not fly to most of the world), we can expect to still be able to redeem for economy travel for quite a while. This amount of miles will help you get that done.

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

10 Comments

    • Yes, you should be able to do that. However, a better idea would be to apply for the Platinum AAdvantage card within the next year and then move your whole credit line from the Executive card to the Platinum before closing the Executive. That way, you get the bonus from the AA Platinum card plus the first year fee waived on that card (the Plat – it won’t be waived if you simply downgrade to it).

  • Are all the boardingarea bloggers on the AA payroll? You have got to be kidding me. By the time you get those 100,000 miles they will have devalued again (with no advanced notice I might add). The idea right now is to burn all of your AA miles not get more. The answer is not yes for most people I can assure you of that. American Airlines cannot be trusted. That is a proven fact. They are heading down the delta path in stages. Just saying!

    • 1) No, I am not paid by AA. I am very clear in all of my disclosures and this post clearly says I do not earn a referral.
      2) You must have missed my post yesterday where I brought out what I foresee is the result of this road AA is marching down – I am not living with blind trust in them at all.
      3) Even if AA were going to go to a revenue based redemption plan like Southwest, please tell me what is wrong with getting a card that gives over $1,000 in straight redemption value? The Executive card is the highest bonus card out there right now, why should people not take advantage of it.
      4) If AA were to follow Delta, every point of this post would still be valid. Delta barely touched the economy redemptions. It will be the same with AA. They are not going to blow by United and Delta to make themselves even worse to the average flyer/traveler.
      5) Unless you cannot fly anything but first class, there is and will be value with AA miles. Go ahead and burn them all if you want. I agree, that is a smart thing to do. However, what are you applying for that is going to give as much value as these cards? Devaluations are here – time to learn to work with them. That is the point of this post.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  • I understand the general rules with Citi AA cards. Here is my question. I just got the Executive two weeks ago, will Citi still give me the Platinum card? Somehow I remember reading a comment on FT that you need to get the Platinum first and then the Executive. Any comment? TIA!

    • I have heard of others doing that and getting the bonus. From what I understand (and have experienced), if you are approved, you will receive the bonus. Worst case scenario – you do not get the bonus, you will still have a fee-waived card for a year that gives you the 10% rebate on award miles each calendar year. That is up to 10,000 miles back per year that you would not get otherwise.

  • I would argue that the American/USAirways changes and soon to come further devaluation of its miles (especially, as was stated above, with partner premium award flights) that the AA Citi cards will have less value in the future than the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. If you apply for the Citi cards and get your 100k or 50k bonus in 3-6 months only to watch as AA/US devalues the miles you just earned, I’d argue that the 100k or 50k miles bonuses you just will have earned will not truly be as valuable THEN (when you can actually use them) as they are NOW. That is what both AA/US and Citi are counting on.

    Chase UR cards, however, transfer points directly to British Air on a 1:1 basis. Their bonuses of 40k or 50k miles will end up being worth more or be equivalent to the AA miles in the end once the inevitable AA/US partner award devaluation comes. In addition, the BA award chart is still a sweet spot for redemptions on AA (and now US), often comparable or better to that which is offered on AA. Shortly, those BA award redemptions will be better than the AA redemptions–and at least you know that BA isn’t as likely to change/devalue its award chart anytime soon.

    Chase retakes the mantle of top awards points with this latest AA/US move and the concomitant further devaluation that EVERYONE knows is coming (including here). Not only can you use Chase UR points for OneWorld flights with AA (and all other OneWorld partners), but the AA redemptions do not have fuel surcharges, and you can use UR points toward UA, BA, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean, as well as SWA. That accesses all three major alliances with airlines that have pretty good award availability for partners. AA’s points do not do nearly the same, and will be worth far less in the coming months.

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