The original travel rewards credit cards were often co-branded with the airlines. After all, who can resist the offer of a free flight? Yet over the last 30 years, the market for airline rewards credit cards has grown so much that the chance to earn a mere free flight is no longer enough to compete. Banks and airlines now offer credit cards with not just miles, but priority service, fee waivers, and host of other benefits.
Citi and American Airlines offer such a card with the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®. It combines valuable mileage offers with a wide range of other benefits normally reserved for elite frequent flyers.
- Sign-Up Bonus. New cardholders earn 30,000 miles in American’s AAdvantage program after spending just $1,000 on the card within the first three months of opening an account. This is enough for one round-trip domestic flight.
- AAdvantage Miles. You earn one mile per dollar spent on most purchases, with two miles per dollar spent with American Airlines and on purchases at certain office supply stores, telecommunications purchases, and car rental agencies. You also get another 5% mileage bonus of the miles you earned that year when you renew your card.
- Checked Bag Fee Waiver. You and up to four other people traveling receive a free checked bag.
- Priority Boarding. Just by being a cardholder, you get to board early and snag the scarce overhead luggage space.
- Companion Certificate. Earn a $99 companion certificate every year when you spend at least $30,000 in addition to the 30,000 miles you normally earn. These certificates are good for round-trip domestic flights within certain fare categories.
- 25% Discount on In-Flight Purchases. This benefit only applies to food, beverage, and headset rentals.
- Fees. There is a $95 annual fee that is waived the first 12 months*. There is also a 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside of the United States.
- Free Flight. No airline card is complete without the offer of a free flight, and this card is no different. 30,000 miles is enough for a domestic round-trip award.
- Great Award Availability. I found that American has, by far, the best award flight availability at the lowest mileage levels.
- Extra Perks. Not only do you get a free checked bag, but you get to board early, just like the elite frequent flyers.
- Companion Pass. If you travel with a companion, you can save a lot of money by using this feature just once.
- Lots of Fine Print. You have to expect a lot of terms and conditions with such a great offer. For example, the companion certificate does not apply to flights to Hawaii or Alaska, unless you are a resident of those states. Also, the 25% discount on in-flight purchases does not apply to Wi-Fi. Finally, benefits such as free bags and priority boarding do not apply to partner flights, even when you purchases them from American.
- Not the Lowest APR. As with all rewards cards, you cannot expect to find the low APRs that you see in non-rewards cards. Therefore, anyone who routinely carries a balance should not be using this or any other rewards card.
- Foreign Transaction Fees. Many credit cards aimed at travelers have no foreign transaction fees. Unfortunately, this card still does.
- High Annual Fee. Although the $95 annual fee is waived the first 12 months, it is still higher than many other travel rewards cards.
Airline travel is getting increasingly more expensive and uncomfortable. And while elite members of frequent flyer programs receive all the perks, everyone else continues to suffer. By using a card like the CitiBusiness AAdvantage World MasterCard, you can enjoy free flights and many of those same perks without being on the road all the time.
Have you used the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®? What has your experience been like?