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

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

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. Interestingly the No Fee version of the Barclays Aviator card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees when I always thought it did. This was confirmed during a recent trip to Poland.

    Only mentioning here because the MileUp card charges 3% FTF.

  2. This card also offers a 24 month extended warranty on purchases (or did last time I checked). This is a pretty big deal these days.

  3. If you’re spending a non-trivial amount, I would think you’d want the Aviatior Silver or Citi Executive, given the loyalty point boosts.

  4. the for-fee AA citi cards really need to be revamped. There’s not reason to pay the $95 fee and the bonus categories are so weak. and there is not much differentiation between them and the fee-free cards.

  5. Gary, how come this wasn’t in your 3 most important cards in your wallet article instead if the Citbusiness AA card? Not trying to dis you, just want to understand the thinking between the 2.

    “For the third spot Bilt World Elite Mastercard if I were a renter, but since I’m a homeowner I’ll say the The World Of Hyatt Credit Card or CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® so I can earn credit towards the two statuses I care most about. “

  6. This card has a foreign transaction fee attached, be warned. I incorrectly assumed that basically all cards dont have foreign transaction fees but i was sure wrong when i went to canada and used this card.

  7. Putting aside the relative value (or not) of the AA miles vs. 2% cash back or 2points/$1 offered on other cards, does this really make sense?

    If you are flying AA enough to benefit from status then presumably you would not need to waste $ on this card vs. other more lucrative ones.

    For a pure ROI perspective the bonus offered by Hyatt, Hilton and others (free nights @$15k plus the usual points) would appear to be a better deal.

    Really this only makes sense for people close to the next elite tier, or for those who have no better options for earning through spend.

  8. No Fee version of the Barclays Aviator card also gives 1 LP per dollar spent. ( If you really plan to “purchase” the status)

  9. Wait — no mention of the THREE.PERCENT FEE whenever you buy anything outside of the US????

    NO card with such a fee can remotely be close to being “the best” for a traveler.

    This is NOT a review, but a deceptive sales piece.

  10. Doesn’t the $99 or $95 card also offer a $125 voucher when you hit a certain spend level. And 2x on restaurants and gas? Depending on your spend patterns those certainly can offset the fee.

  11. If you spend a lot on AA flights and hotels, the Aviator Silver is a viable option. It is the only AA card that earns 3x AA. Only Amex Platinum (5x) does better without having to go through a travel portal. Earning 2x at hotels is also notable, given that non-branded CC hotel earning is usually 2x (Preferred, Venture X, Spark Miles) or 3x (Reserve, Ink Preferred, Amex Green, Citi Premier). It can earn a lot of loyalty points without having to give up redeemable points.

  12. Isn’t Citi denying applications if you have a lot of unused credit, or applied for a card even months ago from a different bank? Ben from OMAAT, and many of his readers including yours truly, have been caught up in this…despite 800+ credit scores.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *