Which Are the Best Credit Cards for Earning American Airlines Miles?

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Million Mile Secrets reader Mike comments:

I’m trying to figure out the best credit card for accruing miles for the American Airlines AAdvantage program.  I travel quite a bit and charge about $15,000 to $20,000 per month.  I charge just about everything I can to my current card (AMEX) and I pay my balance off in full each month.  My credit is solid.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

There are a lot of ways to earn American Airlines miles through credit cards.  Mike has some choices to make!

Which Are The Best Credit Cards For Earning American Airlines Miles

Want to Fly American Airlines? There Are Lots of Credit Cards for That!

Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard

Link:   Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard

By far the best way to earn a lot of American Airlines miles easily is through the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard.  You’ll get 100,000 miles after completing the minimum spending requirement.  That’s enough for a round-trip Business Class ticket to Europe!

You’ll get:

  • 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the 1st 3 months
  • 2 miles for every $1 you spend on American Airlines
  • 1 mile for every $1 you spend on everything else
  • $200 statement credit
  • Access to American Airlines Admirals Club and US Airways Club lounges
  • A free checked bag, priority check-in (where available), and priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip-and-signature technology (good for overseas travel)
  • Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying miles after spending $40,000 in a calendar year
  • Annual fee of $450, not waived for the 1st year

The $450 annual fee is quite expensive, but you’ll get $200 in statement credit.  So this is really a $250 annual fee card ($450 annual fee – $200 statement credit).  I’ll gladly pay $250 for 100,000 American Airlines miles and access to lounges!

Here’s my full review of the card.  And remember, even though $10,000 in spending over 3 months sounds like a lot, there are lots of ways to meet minimum spending requirements!

But What About Regular Spending?

Mike says he charges between $15,000 and $20,000 per month.  So he’ll meet the minimum spending on the Citi Executive AAdvantage card quickly, and get 100,000 American Airlines in his account.

Regular spending on the Citi Executive card earns 1 mile per $1 you spend, so $20,000 a month in spending would earn him 20,000 American Airlines miles.  That said, some folks have been able to get more than 1 Citi Executive card.

Beyond getting the sign-up bonus (and the perks from this card), there’s another card that’s better for earning American Airlines miles for regular spending.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Personal)

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Business)

Did you know the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express earns you more American Airlines miles from your regular spending?

That’s because for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to American Airlines, you get a bonus of 5,000 extra miles.  So you’re earning 1.25 American Airlines miles for every Starwood point you transfer!

Until June 30, 2014, the sign-up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express cards is increased to up to 30,000 points.  And Starwood points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to American Airlines.  This card gives you:

So if you signed-up for both the personal and business versions of the card, you’d have 60,000 Starwood points.  If you transfer Starwood hotel points to American Airlines miles, you’ll get 75,000 American Airlines miles (60,000 miles + 15,000 mile transfer bonus).

That’s enough for 2 round-trip coach tickets to the Caribbean!

And if Mike spends $20,000 a month on this card, he’ll end up with 25,000 American Airlines miles (20,000 miles + 5,000 mile transfer bonus).

That’s a better deal for regular spending than the 20,000 miles he’d earn for the same amount of spending ($20,000) on the Citi Executive card.

Bottom Line

Mike has a few ways to earn American Airlines miles from his regular spending through credit cards.

He’ll get a lot of miles quickly with the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard because of the large sign-up bonus.  But he’ll only earn 1 mile per $1 he spends afterwards on his regular spending.

His better choice for regular spending is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.  The sign-up bonus is less, but he’ll effectively earn 1.25 American Airlines miles per $1 he spends because of the 5,000 mile transfer bonus for each 20,000 Starwood points he converts.

So for regular day-to-day spending, the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is a better choice.  But the sign-up bonus on the Citi American Airlines card is better.

Thanks for commenting, Mike!

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14 responses to “Which Are the Best Credit Cards for Earning American Airlines Miles?

  1. He can also try to do any purchase spending through the AA shopping mall. I agree the AA Exec card is the way to go for sure.

  2. How about the Banco Popular AAdvantage Visa Infinite card for 1.5 AA miles per $1?

  3. I got both and will apply for another Citi Executive card eight days after applying for the first.

  4. Michael Wilson

    @Beat4Me

    Wow thanks a lot for that info. The Infinite edition does give 1.5 AA miles. Much better than the SPG card with 20k transfer.

    I doubt Darius will put as much emphasis on this card as the SPG card, because I don’t think Banco Popular will pay much for commissions.

  5. Citi Executive hopeful

    After clicking the link for the Citi Executive card, the page that you land on makes no mention of the 100k miles, and TPGs link goes to a “Expired” page. Can anyone confirm that the offer is still valid?

  6. Isn’t Banco Popular AAdvantage Visa Infinite available in PR/VI only?

  7. I also want to know whether Citi will honor the 100K offer at the link provided, since the public offer expired several days ago.

  8. 1) 100K offer link is dead for me too.
    2) Banco Popular AAdvantage offer only for PR residents

    • @Beta4Me @Michael Wilson – The Banco Popular card is not available for most US residents. But it would be a good choice otherwise.

      @Citi Executive hopeful – I applied using the link on the blog and it worked.

  9. You say in the comments its valid and then u mention on top of the post its not. Which is which?

  10. Just applied using the 100K link on the blog. Landing page did not have any info on 100K bonus miles. Applied anyway, got decision pending. Called and was approved in less than a 5 min after CS verified phone number (no question asked just the phone number) and she verified that I have 100K sign up bonus after spending 10K along with other card benefits.
    So looks like this offer is still alive.

  11. Banco Popular will make you submit evidence of Puerto Rico residency in order to get the card. I had to bring a utility bill, proof of income, and an ID that showed an address in Puerto Rico to the branch in order to apply.

  12. The Banco Popular Infinite Visa does indeed give both a decent (37,500 miles 1st purchase + an additional 12,500 if you purchase all the way up to $50,000 in the first year-probably better way of getting an extra 12,500 miles.) However, you have to have a verifiable PR or USVI address, like a drivers license. It’s a VERY difficult card to get and I have been turned down 3 times. Tey want not even one 18 mponth old 30 day late payment on your credit report, it has to be completely perfect! Also, they are looking for 750 and above, alhtought I would think they would consider above 700 FICO scores if you FICO credit report is PERECT, and I mean PERFECT. Then you will inded get 1.5 miles for the rest of your life, and it’s the only way to get an infinite Visa as a US resident (Albeit a PR or USVI one.) I will try again in about 6 months once the 18 month old 30 day late falls off.

    They are sticklers, but their card is well priced ($195 including the better Black Lounge Club card with 900+lounges wouldwide free, and afree primary rental car coverage as well as a lot of trip delay and cancellation/baggage insurance soverage.) All in all benefits that are often given to people who pay $450 a year for a card, and sometimes not as inclusive (like the AMEX Platinum requiring $19.95/rental for primary rental car coverage if I am not mistaken.) You also get starwood Gold ststus for free, etc. It’s really worth it if you fly AA, as I do, but the benefits of flying AA are soon going to mostly those who pruchase full fare buiness and first, if you buy a discounted coach gone will be you 100% platinum award benefit, even if you have flown well over 2Million lifetime miles. I am seriously thinking of trying to get UA to match my Million Mile status, but am not holding my breath out for that benefit. I am sure they will gladly give me a 1K challenge in 2018 (5 years after my last 2013 challenge, whcih I did not achieve but it didn’t really matter as living in Miami I didnt use the Platinum 75K membership once, even for a lounge visit. SHAME.