barclaycard's aviator cards

Good and Bad: Barclaycard’s New Aviator Cards

If you haven’t heard, American Airlines is merging with US Airways. Usually, when a big airline merger happens, it means that the credit cards for the airline being phased out will also disappear.

In this case, Citi has been offering American Airlines credit cards, while Barclaycard has been offering US Airways cards. Since the US Airways brand will be going away, some thought that the Barclaycard credit cards associated with the combined carrier would also disappear. After all, that’s what happened with the recent acquisitions of Northwest Airlines, Continental, and AirTran.

Surprise!

Someone over at Barclaycard decided to offer a new line of credit cards associated with the American Airlines AAdvantage program.  The new cards are called the Aviator Silver and the Aviator Red. Let’s see if they are worth considering.

The Aviator Red card

This is an entry-level card. It offers double miles on purchases from American Airlines and US Airways, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Benefits include:

  • traveler’s first bag checked for free for you and up to four travel companions.
  • 10 percent back on redeemed miles (up to 10,000 miles per year).
  • a $100 flight discount each year for those who make at least $30,000 in purchases.

Other perks include priority boarding and a 25 percent discount on in-flight purchases. There’s a $89 annual fee for this card.

The Aviator Silver card

Silver ups the ante with 3-times miles on purchases from American Airlines and US Airways, double miles for hotel and car rental charges, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

You can also reach “elite status” more quickly: Earn 5,000 elite qualifying miles for each $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 elite qualifying miles per year). And instead of the $100 flight discount, you can earn a $99 companion certificate for up to two guests by spending $30,000 in a year.

There’s a $195 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.

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Which is better?

I’ll pass on the Aviator Red card because it’s similar — and inferior to — the Citi/American Airlines Platinum Select card, which offers a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening. The Citi card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, but the Red card has no such offer at this time.

The Aviator Silver card offer is much more attractive. For $100 more than the Citi Platinum Select card, cardholders can get 3 times the points on flights and double points for airlines and hotels. For frequent travelers, that can add up real quick. I also think that the companion pass can be valuable, as well as the ability to earn elite qualifying miles. Finally, I would use this card overseas, since it has no foreign transaction fees.

Final word

Having two banks offering cards affiliated with the same airline program can be confusing, but more competition is a good thing. By looking at these cards and comparing them to their counterparts from Citi, you can pick the right product for your needs.

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