I’ve Had My AAdvantage Aviator for Almost Two Years. Now What?


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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    • I don’t believe you can apply for it anymore. Replaced by the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard (which I have).

  1. You get 10% of miles redeemed in a year up to 10,000 points. So that makes it worth a little in this example

  2. I cut mine loose even though they offered to waive the annual.

    I wasn’t spending on it and wanted to get the number of cards I’m holding down.

    I’ll get the Citi version sometime next year.

  3. Glad for the tips. Last year, when the Citigold offer prompted me to charge $30,000US against the Aviator Red (which I wouldn’t call “spending” per se), I accepted Barclay’s offer was to upgrade my card to the Silver and waive the $195 fee for that. Coming round again.

  4. Would you have canceled it if you got no offer? Or did you just call to see if you could get an offer? (Your wording implies the former.)

    If so, I’m curious as to why – assuming you redeem 100k miles year, you get 10k back per year (10% of what you redeem), so that’s worth $150 right there.

    Then you get the “regular” perks (priority boarding, free checked bags) which should be worth something (but maybe close to zero, depending on how often you check bags and how much you value boarding early).

    Finally they offer occasional bonuses, some of which can be quite lucrative. For example, right now I’m in the middle of a “spend $2500 per month for 6 months and get 30,000 bonus miles” deal, which effectively makes it a 3x card for everyday spend. My wife got something crazy like 15,000 bonus miles for spending $500 a month for 3 months.

    So keeping it seems like a no-brainer – do you disagree?

    • I definitely don’t redeem 100k miles per year. I also don’t fly AA very often, so I don’t consider those airline perks as super valuable, but sure, they’re worth something. I also haven’t gotten any crazy good offers via email–perhaps via mailers but I live abroad and my address on credit card apps is my parents’ home. My parents can’t spend tons of time relaying messages about every credit card mailer I get. That would probably be enough work for a part-time employee! 😉

      So it wasn’t a no-brainer for me. But it also wasn’t a hard decision once I received the 5k bonus for 1k spending offer, especially when I consider the miles I’ll get rebated and AA airline perks on top of all the other pros I listed in the article.

  5. I still get the 10,000 anniversary bonus, though it is of less value since it is almost impossible to find non BA flights between the US and Europe…Not sure why I would want more useless miles with AA???

  6. Coming up with the value of a card is a very personal and situational decision. It’s not a one size fits all.

    In general though, I would not include the $15 of value from the $1,000 spend to get the retention bonus. That’s spend I would put on a more valuable card like the CSR (dining) or Amex Plat (flight purchases) so there’s opportunity cost there.

    The 10% miles back would only be applicable if you 1) redeem AA miles 2) have no other AA cards that offer this (such as the Citi cards)

    “Regular perks” don’t apply to everyone. For instance, if you have status (I’m Exec Plat) those perks and more are already guaranteed regardless of card ownership.


  7. Barclaycard didn’t have any issue with approving you for this new aviator red while you were currently holding the same card (albeit a converted one)? Were you auto-approved or had to call recon?

      • Ok thx! What did you say to make the agent feel comfortable approving you? I’ll probably just say i want to keep personal and biz spending separate, but would appreciate hearing your angle. Despite the fact that i have great credit score and few HPs on my TU, they gave me the third degree to get the A+ (even though i only had one card with them).

  8. When I called Retention a couple of months ago, I learned that, because I had signed up for a modest promotion online, I was not eligible for any retention bonus. Key learning: With Barclay’s, don’t sign up for promotions if you plan to ask for a retention bonus!!

    I’m keeping my card because it’s the only “chip and pin” card I have (which can save the day in Europe), and the benefits when flying AA (10% mileage back, free checked bag, early boarding) have some value for me.

  9. Sarah, The only Barclay’s card I ever was AA Aviator which I got when it was about to close two years ago. My Annual Fee is coming up and I didn’t know if I should even bother to keep the card since I have Citi AA business (approved without 24 mo rule) and Citi AA Personal. Way over 5/24.

    I didn’t know if I should apply for some other Barclays card (prefer business) before I closed this down or kept it based on retention. Thoughts?

  10. I was going to be canceling my card last year when I hit my anniversary but I never even had to ask for a retention bonus. Barclay sent me a spending bonus offer in the mail right before my card anniversary – $500 in spending on the card in each of the 3 months straddling my anniversary and I got 15000 bonus miles. No brainer to keep the card. They regularly send me promotions of a few thousand bonus miles in certain categories throughout the year, so they’ve generally made the card worth keeping for me without even asking for a retention bonus. I also have Citi’s AA card, and they were the ones I had to talk to. If I charged $95 (the annual fee) to the card, they would give me a $95 statement credit. No brainer there.

  11. As an AA ExecPlat, I kick myself for cancelling that card. That thing had 10,000 elite qualifying miles per year. The new AAdvantage Aviator has that but requires $40k spend. 🙁

  12. Same situation here I had the US Airways card they offered more – lounge pass, companion certificate. Every year I say I’m going to cancel this card than I don’t! The couple of times I’ve flown AA I’ve had to pay baggage fees no one on the phone can tell me how to use this benefit not even at the airport or materials they mail. Can someone please tell me?? Also if you cancel do you keep your miles??

  13. Since the offer I got with last year’s retention call, I haven’t seen any great promotions come my way from Barclays on the Aviator Red card. I called this year and was able to get the AF waived again and a 2x on groceries, gas and utilities. I might move my water bill just to put spending on it for a while. All in all, it was a pretty painless retention call to save $89.

  14. Thanks for the review of this situation! And, I found these comments to be very helpful. Still a little confused though… I have the:
    Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
    AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard (former US Airways card)
    (I got these for the big 100k bonus before the USAir–AA merge)
    I’d like to get the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard to take advantage of the easy sign-up bonus. I plan to call in a few months and ask about retention options for the Platinum Select and the Aviator Red, but I do intend to cancel at least one of these three. (3 of basically the same card seems redundant! All I want is the rebate on redeemed miles and the reduced mileage awards which I can get from any one of the three, I won’t spend >$10k on any one of these cards either). Any thoughts on which one to drop first? Which to drop second?


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