The No Annual Fee American Card May Now Be The Best – And Make Sense To Spend On

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The American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® Card offers 10,000 AAdvantage bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in purchases within the first three months after account opening. That’s not a huge up front bonus, but it’s a no annual fee card that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

For elite AAdvantage members, I think changes to how status is earned at American Airlines beginning next year mean that this card makes more sense than ever. It makes more sense than the main consumer AAdvantage card with its $99 annual fee. And it finally makes sense to spend on the card, too.

The American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® Card earns 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores and 1 full mile per dollar everywhere else. Gone are the days where no annual fee cobrands earn just half a mile per dollar, and this even has strong earn for grocery spend.

There are two basic contentions,

  1. Loyalty points mean spend on an American card matters for those with elite status. You earn one loyalty point per dollar spent on a cobrand credit card, and loyalty points are how status is earned. Loyalty points also matter for upgrade priority.

  2. Elite frequent flyers have no good reason to go for the primary consumer card with its annual fee, since the benefits (free checked bags, earlier boarding) duplicate elite benefits.

That means the card that makes the most sense to carry is either,

  • The Citi Executive card if you want to bundle buying Admirals Club access
  • The MileUp card because you’ll earn loyalty points for your spend without an annual fee at all

The American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® Card gives you mileage-earning for you card spend without the annual fee. And the benefits on the more expensive mass consumer card don’t really accrue to an elite in a meaningful way anyway. So why spend the annual fee? Go with MileUp for Loyalty Points earning.

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. 1) AA Mileup has always been a strong card given you can apply for the card outright, and get a 50K Citi bank account signup bonus as well

    2) Consumer card makes sense for those that won’t get AA status, but fly with family and check bags (a very big population)

    3) AA will be a secondary program for me relative to Delta. It should be pretty easy to get Platinum through spending on the Citi Executive Card plus some occasional Mileup spending (I have all three of these cards). The issue is that 2x grocery (MIleup), 2x restaurant (Consumer) and 2x AA (any of these cards) pale in comparison to earnings on the Amex Platinum / Gold combo. Then in 2023/2024 it may may sense to downgrade the Citi Executive if I don’t need the Club access

  2. Brodie

    1) 10K sign up bonus associated with the card
    2) 6 months later, get a letter from Citibank that gives you a 50K sign up bonus for opening up a new Citi Priority checking account associated with that card

    So 60K total. Repeat with the two other cards

    The bank account offers were pre pandemic, so not sure if they are back

  3. It has an annual fee but the Barclays Aviator Silver might marginally win out if you’re putting a lot of spend on it: “Earn 5,000 Bonus Loyalty Points if you spend $20,000 on purchases, another 5,000 Bonus Loyalty Points if you spend $40,000 on purchases, and another 5,000 Bonus Loyalty Points if you spend $50,000 or more on purchases.”

  4. I use this for most of my grocery spend.
    2 AA miles = 3.5% for me, which is a good
    return for that category

  5. Also, if you have the Citi Miles Ahead Savings account, and keep a minimum of $10,000 balance on that, you get 25% bonus on ALL earned AA miles from your Mile Up card spending.

  6. The advantage of the consumer card with benefits is AUs if they don’t travel with you. Otherwise, you are right.

  7. Does this car provide priority boarding and free checked bag for the cardholder and one or more people traveling with them?

  8. The Platinum Select AA card offers 2x on gas. For some folks like me that spend a lot on gas it pays off more than the Mileup no fee card. I can put groceries on other non-AA cards for better value.

  9. I have a feeling that the Aviator silver is going to have to improve on 1x toward loyalty points in future years. The added spending thresholds for 2022 obviously were a stop gap but I just don’t see where they are going to be able to compete at a $200/annual fee price point without 1.5x going forward (or keeping the tiered earning in future years) unless they add other benefits. The AA Executive card gets lounge access at least. With the elimination of EQDs and EQSs, the value proposition of the silver evaporates if they don’t do something.

  10. I’ve been mulling over what AAdvantage card to get, so this is very timely. I’ve always earned Platinum the “old-fashioned” way, and while I recognize that under the new regime it will be easier for those who already have status to re-up than for noobs to get there for the first time, I’m still going to need to combine cc spend with my AA flying. One question – is there any good reason to wait a bit longer to make that decision ? Will the AA card landscape likely get more competitive in the coming weeks ? Couldn’t there be a lot of AAdvantage members out there like me who haven’t previously needed AA cards but, starting 1/1/22 will be heavily incentivized to get on board (which seems to be exactly what AA was trying to accomplish with this program shift …) ?

  11. Thanks Gary! I used your referral link and was approved. I have the red Barclays card but I don’t need the checked bags or priority boarding so this is awesome!

  12. Also, the Mileup card still offers 2x warranty extensions vs the 1 year extension many cards have gone to.

  13. I’m a fan of the Aviator Silver card – the bonus loyalty points for spend gets your more loyalty points if that’s you’re purpose here. It comes with a $195 fee – but some nice discounts if you do fly American. The Wifi Credits are great, and buy-on-board credit (if it returns), and my favorite part is the companion certificates. Take 2 companions to for $99+tax is a great perk – and if you go with friends and family and would spend $200/more roundtrip on non-blackout dates, there is your refund on your annual fee.

    The Executive Card also has awesome Admirals Club perks – and it gets even sweeter with the CitiGold discount on the annual fee.

  14. Will the Mile Up card earn 2 loyalty points per dollar at grocery stores in addition to the 2 miles per dollar it earns?

  15. “The Executive Card also has awesome Admirals Club perks – and it gets even sweeter with the CitiGold discount on the annual fee.”

    What is this – are you referring to the legacy (now called) AA Citi Gold card? It is $50 per year. Used to be the card with your picture in the plastic card – going back to mid 1980s. Does this card give you discount on Exec card?

  16. “Gone are the days where no annual fee cobrands earn just half a mile per dollar”. Must be missing something, since that is exactly what my Barclays AA no annual fee card is earning.

  17. Interesting thread. I would like to just get confirmation that this mile up card does not provide priority boarding and a free checked suitcase. Is that correct? That would be the major downside of switching for those of us who are not elite AA members

  18. I have the $95 Citi AA card and keep it for free bag check and preferred boarding (when I can travel) which the No AF card doesn’t have. But for me the biggest benefit of the AF card is the additional access to award seats on flights, which has been helpful in the past. That isn’t available with the No AF card either as far as I know. If that one feature was on MilesUP card I’d go for it.

  19. Thanks to Jack NYOC for the confirmation and the additional point about award flights. That’s really helpful and much appreciated.

  20. Updating my comment on this from last year. My Citi AA Platinum Select does earn 2x on gas but it’s 1x loyalty and 1x bonus miles, sadly. So you really only get 1x on gas toward status. This card seems to provide 2x on grocery but I wouldn’t be surprised it they treat that the same based on the loyalty points rules on status earning.

  21. I hold both the MileUp card and the Aviator Basic card both of which have no annual fees. The MileUp has a pretty decent earning structure while the Aviator Basic is terrible. I only use that card when they do promotional periods such as last year where it offered 5x on dining for a few months. Aside from that the 0.5 mile per dollar is abysmal.

  22. The only reason I read this post was to see what kind of pro-Trump card the “American” card was

  23. I killed my $99 AF Citi AA card and red Barclays AA card a few years ago to partially offset (justify;)) the AF on the $450 Exec card with AC access. I recently added the Milesup card to get the bonus and double miles (but not loyalty points) on grocery spend. Waiting to see if i get the invite for the AA checking or savings accounts. I am already a Citigold banking customer (which might or might not matter.)

  24. Citibank transitioned me from their Citi AAdvantage American Express card to the Mileup MasterCard over a year ago. Some I already had their AAdvantage Gold MasterCard ($50/yr), they said the Mileup card would not have an annual fee. I need to review these cards as I really don’t need two AAdvantage Mastercards.

    BTW, as lifetime Gold, my account says I need 75,000 loyalty points to get to platinum status for the year. Does AAdvantage start you out at zero each year even with lifetime gold? I thought I would just need to add 45,000 for platinum as I’m already at gold??

  25. Anthony — all of the AA credit cards issued in the United States earn 1 base point per dollar — each base point becomes 1 Loyalty Point and 1 Award Point. For spend categories that earn in excess of 1X per dollar, the excess are bonus points — bonus points do not become Loyalty Points, only Award Points.

    It’s worth restating Jake’s note: the MileUp card — like virtually every other no annual fee card — does impose foreign transaction fees. Although, I wouldn’t call it a scam as it is par for the course with NAF cards.

  26. I couldn’t agree more. My AA Mile Up card was valuable for the grocery store spend (currently suspended because my Chase Freedom earns 5 x $ for groceries through July.

    But 2 x $ for the card and 2 X $ for the AA portal means 4 x $ for groceries. And up to 7 x $ when dining.

    Even nicer, a recent email offer made the card more valuable. I earned 5 X $ for the first $500 I spent on a new Mac Book. So, that was 2,500 AA plus 2,000 for the recent AA portal bonus offer (ended May 15) PLUS 1,000 AA miles for base spend. 5,500 AA miles takes a bit of the sting out of having to buy a new lap top. And for no annual fee.

  27. Bill Dwyer — which AA portals are you using for groceries and dining? Thanks.

  28. Randy — as was mentioned, CitiGold is the banking relationship just above Priority checking. If a person has a CitiGold banking relationship, the program grants a statement credit against the annual fee of certain Citi credit cards. Call it a statement credit. Call it a discount. A person has a lower net cost of a card — nice when applied to the Prestige and combined with the annual travel credit — it just about zeroed out the cost of the card.

  29. I don’t totally disagree but with the moderate annual fee AA Platinum cards, you’ll also earn 2x (1x LP and 1x BP) on Biden-priced gasoline and 2x on restaurants. Plus you’ll get the other benefits like checks domestic bags plus World Elite MC misc. The only reason to get the Mileup AA card is if you need more AA sign up non-loyalty points. What AA doesn’t seem to make clear on either card T&C’s is that (in my experience) only give you the loyalty points on the 1x. Items that earn 2x like gas only credit as 1x LP and 1x Bonus per $1. They need to change that.

  30. Is it just me or does anyone find it odd the Executive Card has no category bonuses aside from AA purchases while the Mileup has 2x on groceries?

  31. If you want to keep this card, better use it at least occasionally. Citi just closed mine with no warning. (I stopped spending on it once I got the bonus, was keeping it just for occasional mile expiration prevention, but haven’t needed it for that due to Bask Bank.)

  32. Just to clarify, there are Loyalty Points and there are Miles.

    Credit card spending on all AA co-branded cards issued in the US earn only ONE Loyalty Point per dollar . . . nothing more . . . irrespective of bonus category Miles earn rate.

    For the $100 MileUp grocery purchase, you will earn 100 Loyalty Points and 200 Miles.

  33. Someone had to interject “Biden priced” gasoline Wonder what they would call Russian Ukraine invasion energy prices on gasoline purchased in Europe or elsewhere? Just stupid or willfully ignorant?

  34. Paul, I wonder if Biden-priced gas is due to Biden-based strong consumer demand driven by Biden-based low unemployment.

    Certainly, they wouldn’t admit it.

    Whether an argument comes from the right or the left, the proponents cherry-pick data points solely to support themselves. They are slaves to their dogma and intellectually dishonest.

  35. Señor Leff,

    Republican US Senator Marshall and Democratic US Senator Durbin are teaming up on a bill to change the bank card charging space. Mastercard and Visa aren’t happy about it.

    It could have an impact on bank card miles and points earnings. Surely you remember what the Durbin bill did to earning points from debit card transactions.

  36. You can’t easily find out but they have a 3% international transaction fees. Learnt it the hard way 🙁

  37. I know this is an old post that gets brought back every now and again but I continue to be surprised that Barclays has not announced anything to replace the ability to earn extra loyalty points. I just don’t see the value proposition in their aviator cards once that goes away. I guess they are going to pitch their food and wifi credits and I guess the $20k companion pass to justify the annual fee. But I agree that if they don’t add anything else, Mileup is the way to go for loyalty points.

  38. The exact reason I downgraded to the United Gateway card. I’m Gold for life and don’t need the free baggage. The Gateway is no fee and still unlocks the Saver fares.

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