Barclaycard or Citibank: Which American Credit Card Should You Keep?

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Reader Darla asks,

Just received my new American AAdvantage World Mastercard in mail that replaced the US Airways card. Have not activated or cancelled it yet..should I or wait for a good signup bonus with this card? I have other American cards to keep collecting miles…card has yearly fee of $95.00…

The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard replaced the US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard. (There are actually four different American AAdvantage cards issued by Barclays. Aviator Red is the one that replaced the basic US Airways card. The card’s annual fee is $89.)

You can no longer sign up for Barclaycard-issued American AAdvantage credit cards. If you cancel your card, you can’t get it replaced.

That’s because Citibank is now the exclusive issuer of new American AAdvantage cards. So while there are no more Barclaycard signup bonuses, you can still get signup bonuses for Citibank’s cards.

Holding onto a Barclaycard-issued American card does not preclude you from getting a Citibank American Airlines card. And it does not preclude you from getting the bonus on that Citibank-issued card, either.

There’s no reason to hold off activating the Barclays Aviator Red that was sent to you.

As for which card to keep, I actually like the Barclaycard Aviator Red better than the Citi Platinum / AAdvantage Card. Aviator Red has a $6 lower annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and you can’t get a new one if you cancel. Otherwise their benefits are similar.

Choosing between the two I’d keep the Barclays Aviator Red — then in a couple of years if you decide you want the Citibank card, perhaps the product improves or your banking preferences change — you can sign up for that again later (and probably be eligible for another signup bonus).

Both cards are good for benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding on American — valuable if you fly American regularly but not enough for elite status. If your goal is to earn American Airlines miles though neither one is your best bet.

That’s because the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns points which transfer to American Airlines miles. When you transfer points to 20,000 miles you receive 5000 bonus miles (which is like 1.25 miles per dollar for your spending, far better than you get with the American Airlines co-brand credit cards). And you retain the flexibility to use the points for hotels or transfer to airlines other than American if you prefer.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. One other datapoint- I haven’t been able to cancel my Barclays AA card yet as they keep agreeing to waive the annual fee. The first year that made sense- I had a lot of business charges, and needed AA points, so I had a good volume. The second year, I hardly used the card at all, and so expected them to just let me cancel when I called 3 months ago. But again, they offed to waive the fee, so I kept the card for another year.

    So perhaps you just keep which ever card is willing to waive their annual fee?

  2. I have three of each and haven’t paid an annual fee for any in several years. Just keep calling retention. Also, each of the barclays cards has offered some limited-time promo (3x and drug store etc) so there’s reasons to hold on to all the cards for the occasional incentives or retention offers.

  3. Do we know if the Barclays card will continue to give us 10k American miles a year? Or is that done? Because that would obviously be a reason to keep it

  4. Gary, I am wondering the same thing as James. The 10k miles each year on anniversary was a very nice perk of the US Airways card…..i tried reading through the aviator terms and don’t see any mention of that so am i correct to assume this benefit has been enhanced away?

  5. I decided to stick with Barclays, as I believed they will do anything to keep you from canceling, last month as my annual fee was coming up, I got a email and letter with a special offer, I only need to spend $500 for 3 months and they are giving me 15k bonus miles

  6. @Adam those who had this benefit (it wasn’t on all US Airways cards, so wouldn’t be in the aviator terms) still have it. When I go pull up my benefits after logging into my account it’s still there.

  7. @James K – i didn’t list it as a reason to keep the card because many people do not have that benefit, it’s a function of whether it was a part of your signup offer

  8. Gary I have the aviator red and just got the biz spg card on the current promo. I just can’t find any reason to keep the aviator although I hate to cancel it since I can never get it back. I’m surprised anyone is getting the fee waived on this card with Barclay’s. I know they don’t waive it for the arrival plus but maybe they are actually doing it for aviator. A lot of people are not getting offered AF waivers. Should I pay the $89 even though I have spg now?

  9. Wife and I had no trouble at all getting our annual fees waived, though it might have been the “pre-Aviator” US Air card at the time.

    Gary: Where exactly do you see the 10,000 annual bonus benefit online? I have looked all over the rewards and benefits listing for 2 accounts and can’t find it. I have always received the 10,000 annual bonus miles in the past for both of my accounts, most recently on my March statement, (though the $89 annual fee didn’t bill until the April statement).

  10. @Charlie if you don’t see it under your account send them a secure message. Remember there were two different version of this — 10k at first card anniversary and 10k at each card anniversary. You should still be receiving this.

  11. Another reason to keep the Barclays Red Card is that you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade to the Silver. It costs more, but it potentially gives you both an annual Companion Certificate and an extra stackable 10K elite qualifying miles. The Silver isn’t for me — the opportunity cost of hitting the spending thresholds is too high — but it apparently floats some peoples’ boats.

  12. Gary you are missing one of the biggest benefits of the Aviator card, it is a true Chip and Pin card, so when going to Europe you wont have ANY problems using the card over there, Citi does not offer that feature.

    I have the Executive card as well as the Aviator card (silver) I like the fact that the Silver card I can get a Companion pass, I also like being able to get 5,000 elite qualifying miles for each $20,000 in annual purchases, now, can I get these EQM off BOTH cards? Since they are issued by two different banks?

  13. Barclays Aviator Card is also supposed to give u 10% miles rebate on award travel. We’ll see since I just booked an award flgt ✈️

  14. Another thing to consider. My Barclays card worked flawlessly in Europe as a chip and pin card in unmanned locations. When used at a restaurant or store it asked for a signature but when used in kiosks in train stations, subway stations and bicycle rentals it prompted for a pin and always worked ( I selected the pin when I activated the card). It’s the first U.S. chip card that had actually worked everywhere I used it.

  15. Interesting data points from all the comments above. I’ve actually had the opposite experience with my Barclays Aviator Red. I called a bunch of times to see if they would waive the AF, and not a single time was it even a possibility. I also never received any interesting spend offers, like the one they offered some card members where if they spent $500 for three months they get 15K AA miles. So I actually went ahead and cancelled the card. I don’t care if I won’t ever be able to get it again. It really wasn’t giving me much and I certainly wasn’t going to pay for the AF if I already have the Citi AA Platinum card, where I’ve actually gotten some interesting spend offers. So in my particular case, it made total sense to cancel the Barclays Aviator Red and keep the Citi card.

  16. The Barclays card can be set up to use as a true Chip + PIN card so you can use it at unattended payment kiosks (like gas or train tickets in Europe). Note that at attended payment places, it still requires a signature.

  17. If you spend $30k in one year on the Aviator you get a $100 certificate to spend on airfare. Most people won’t spend that much given your good advice to put the spend on the SPG. But it is one more difference.

  18. And thanks to everyone for the chip and pin reminder. I would have left the Aviator card at home, but will take it when we go to Europe in couple of weeks.

  19. Not everyone, particularly in Europe, accepts AMEX. An increasing number of merchants here in the US are refusing AMEX citing the high fees. When we remodeled our bathroom, our tile contractor had a clear sign posted in his showroom that b/c of the high fees AMEX would not be accepted. The same problem must present itself, in even greater dimensions, in Europe where VISA is clearly the card of choice.

    Yes, the SPG bonus is fine, but you can get just as many miles, if not more with the VISA, and possibly with lower spend limits, particularly on the Business Card. A recent SPG promotion offers 30K miles with $5K spending in the first 3 months. Even with the generous conversion, you’re only getting 25K AA miles – 30K during special promotions.

    By comparison, the Citi AA Advantage Platinum Select Visa gives you 35K points after only $1500 in spend. It seems the better deal and without the “do you take American Express” hassle.

  20. @James K. @Adam

    Look through your email for an email in October 2014 entitled “Keep enjoying 10,000 bonus anniversary miles.” That email states, “We’re happy to let you know that once the US Airways and American Airlines loyalty programs combine in 2015, you’ll continue to receive this benefit in the form of 10,000 AAdvantage® miles.”

    From an email in December 2014 entitled “Make the most of your card benefits”: “Your US Airways Dividend Miles® MasterCard® will become an American Airlines AAdvantage® MasterCard®” “Continue to enjoy these great benefits:” “Receive 10,000 bonus miles every year on the anniversary of your account opening”

    @Rob D

    However, many unattended kiosks will also accept No CVM (signature or pin) if enabled by the vendor/merchant. The Citi cards are programmed to allow that as a fallback method, it’s up to the kiosk to allow it. Also, if it is an “online” P.O.S., Citi will let you use Chip + PIN as the CVM fallback method next in line.

  21. In my mind, Barclay’s is better off waiving the AF for anyone wanting to cancel for as long as they see these card lines as valuable. Since they can’t get new members via sign up, if they want to keep a certain number of memebers, waiving the fee when they ask to cancel is their only chance.

    @rob d

    If it defaults to a signature when possible, that is quite the opposite of a TRUE chip and pin. A true chip and pin would/will never default to signature. That makes this just like the Arrival, which I’ve always had awful luck using at unmanned kiosks in Europe and Asia myself.

  22. The Barclay Aviator “retention” folks won’t waive the annual fee but the customer service folks will. With my red Aviator card, I’m getting 2X miles from fuel, restaurants, department stores (including Walmart, etc.) Oct.1 -Dec. 31. They always seem to have some kind of promotion.

  23. I just called the customer service for both cards, starting with Barclay. They waived the fee no problem. Citi would not waive the fee, but would agree to a $95 statement credit (stipulation that I had to spend at least $95 in the next month). So effectively both fees were waived. Very easy way to save ~ $200

  24. @ Dee, in August, you stated you were going to Europe and were going to take your Aviator card due to chip and pin technology. Did you find the majority of the vendors utilizing chip/pin? My citi card has chip but not sure about the pin is an option with my card? I’m going to Eurpoe myself in a few weeks.

  25. LIz no Citi cards have Chip and Pin, I used my Silver Aviator card all over Europe and had NO issues I tried my SPG card once and the sale did not go through, after that I just used my Aviator card with no problems. We drove around Europe and in toll booths used the aviator card without problems.

  26. When I first called Citi to see if they could waive the fee on theirs, I got a no. I called back and said I’d likely cancel, so then they did waive the fee. Barclays agreed to waiving the fee the first time I called. Next year, when it’s time for renewal, I’ll check with both of them again.

  27. Just received Aviator Card. Signed up on recent American Airlines flight. Said we’d get 60,000 miles ., does that show up after using card.
    Didn’t see anything in paperwork that came with card

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