A few years ago I opened the U.S. Airways MasterCard from Barclays. It was one of my first travel credit card applications. Scott had given me the advice to sign up for the U.S. Airways card as well as the Citi AAdvantage cards, as it was 2014 and the companies were on the brink of merging. If I signed up for and met the spending requirement on both, the accounts would merge and I would be flush with American Airlines miles in no time. So I did.

Then my U.S. Airways card was automatically converted into an AAdvantage Aviator Red World MasterCard, which I still have open today because they waived the second annual fee.

AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, the card you were probably automatically converted to if you previously held Barclays U.S. Airways card.
AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, the card you were probably automatically converted to if you previously held Barclays U.S. Airways card.

Whenever I open a new card with an annual fee, I set a Google Calendar alert to email me a reminder 11ish months past the date I opened it. The email arrived in my inbox a couple weeks ago reminding me to call Barclays in regards to my AAdvantage Aviator card’s impending annual fee.

What You Should Always Do to Prepare for a Retention Bonus Phone Call

Before calling Barclays, I scanned Flyertalk for what other people were being offered as retention bonuses for their AAdvantage Aviator Red World MasterCard. I recommend always doing this, as you’ll be better prepared for what the rep is going to say and can wait it out (thanks, that sounds good, but can you offer me anything else?) until you receive a worthy offer offer you’ve seen someone else receive recently.

What I was Offered to Keep My Card Open

Barclaycard customer service # listed on back of AAdvantage Aviator card: 866-928-3075, Int'l collect: 302-255-8888
Barclaycard customer service # listed on back of AAdvantage Aviator card: 866-928-3075, Int’l collect: 302-255-8888

I was hoping the retention specialist would waive the annual fee waive right out of the gate, like has happened to a few others who have reported their experiences on FlyerTalk. Organizationally it would be easy to manage. I could put the card aside for another year and set an alert for my Google calendar to ping my email 11ish months from now and remind me to call Barclays again.

But hey, you can’t always get what you want. The first thing I was told by the retention specialist over the phone was, “We’re sorry but unfortunately we cannot waive your annual fee today”.

The first offer I was given was 5,000 bonus American Airlines miles for spending $1,000 on my card within three months.

I was expecting a 5k bonus for $1k spend as it’s been a common offer recently, but decided to push the specialist a little further to see if they had any tricks up their sleeve. I told them it was a fine offer but I was curious if they could offer me anything else.

I barely paid attention to what the specialist said next as they started their next offer with, “How about a lower interest rate?” I don’t hold balances on my travel rewards cards long enough for interest rates to matter, so this offer meant nothing to me.

My Decision

I took the 5,000 miles for $1k spend in 90 days.

I value American Airlines miles at roughly 1.5 cents each, so 5,000 miles is worth $75. I’ll also earn 1,000 base miles as the retention offer is a bonus on top of the 1x base for everyday spending. I value 6,000 American Airlines miles at about $90. The annual fee is $95.

I recently received the bonus on the newer (and from what it appears, different) version of the AAdvantage Aviator Red World MasterCard, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard. It came (and still does come) with a 40k bonus for making one purchase. I haven’t spent much on the card yet so my balance of American Airlines miles is around 40k. 45k would be a nice, round balance. For example, it costs 22,500 miles to fly to Europe on American Airlines during Off Peak travel time (January 10 – March 14, November 1 – December 14).

The only minimum spend I’m working on meeting at the moment is for the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express, and I’m 80% of the way there, so the prospect of earning 5x for everyday spend after finishing with that minimum spend was appealing (I don’t plan on opening a new card until April, when I’ll nab the SPG personal Amex before the elevated 35k bonus drops on April 5). Not to mention the Business Gold Rewards Card is an Amex, not nearly as accepted internationally as MasterCard (I live in Buenos Aires), so 5x spending on a MasterCard was especially appealing.

The final factor is that I intend on opening another Barclaycard Arrival Plus within the next year. I closed my old Arrival Plus a couple months ago, because the general consensus is that you can get approved and receive the bonus on a repeat Arrival Plus but your previous card must be closed for at least six months before applying again.

My original AAdvantage Aviator Red World MasterCard is my oldest reward card that I hold with Barclays, so keeping it open another year is also a play for maintaining my relationship with the bank so they approve me for another Arrival Plus. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

Bottom Line

After two years of holding the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard it was time to call Barclays to see what kind of retention offer I could extract that might allow me to keep the card open another year. I ended up taking the best offer I was given: 5,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 on my card within three months. To me, that bonus is worth $75, and the base miles another $15. The annual fee is $95. I’m 100% ok with paying $5 to keep the card open another year for the sake of a little extra credit health and to help maintain a relationship with Barclays as I intend on opening another Barclaycard Arrival Plus within the next year.

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