A Roundtrip Business Class Ticket With Two Airline Credit Cards

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Update: This offer for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is expired. Learn more about the current offers here.


For those who are new to points, I think it often helps to provide a simple strategy that allows people to earn a lot of miles quickly, so they can see the value in points. After all, if people can experience the benefits of redeeming miles firsthand, they’re much more likely to be engaged in the future. In general I prefer cards that earn transferrable points currencies for my everyday spend, though there are some airline credit cards that have big sign-up bonuses, as well as valuable perks for holding onto the cards.

Of airline cards, there’s no airline that allows you to earn as many miles in a short period of time as American, given that they have co-brand credit card agreements with both Barclaycard and Citi. That means two banks are competing for your business, rather than just one. The three most compelling sign-up bonuses are as follows, and allow you to earn 180,000+ miles (these are all best-ever offers):

I think the advice can be simplified even further for those who aren’t eligible and/or who don’t want to apply for business credit cards.

If that’s the case, then the simplest way you can earn the most miles directly in a single airline program quickly is by applying for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard the same day:

  • The Citi card offers 60,000 miles after spending $3,000, and has the first year’s annual fee waived
  • The Barclaycard offer 60,000 miles after making one purchase, and has a $95 annual fee

Altogether you’d need to spend $3,000 plus make an additional purchase, and you’d pay a total of $95 in fees the first year. Then you’d have 120,000+ AAdvantage miles.

That’s enough for a roundtrip business class tickets to many points in the world, and for other destinations you’ll be within 15,000-30,000 miles of having enough for a roundtrip ticket.


115,000 miles is enough for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe

As a reminder, here’s American’s partner award chart for one-way travel in business & first class:

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Business ClassFirst Class
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 25,00050,000
Canada & Alaska30,00055,000
Hawaii40,00065,000
Caribbean27,50052,500
Mexico27,50052,500
Central America27,50052,500
South America Zone 130,00055,000
South America Zone 257,50085,000
Europe57,50085,000
Middle East / India70,000115,000
Africa75,000120,000
Asia Zone 160,00080,000
Asia Zone 270,000110,000
South Pacific80,000110,000

Since one card is issued by Barclaycard and one is issued by Citi, you can be approved for both cards the same day.

If you don’t have one card or the other, I think this is a great strategy to take. 120,000+ miles with limited spend and limited annual fees the first year is pretty awesome. That’s why I recommend the combination of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard.

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Comments

  1. Good info! but doesn’t American Airlines charge a gasoline tax? (I heard this can get up to as much as 600-700 dollars). Also I don’t believe American lets you do open stops. Can you confirm any of this? Its just things I have heard. Thanks you in advance!

  2. If you have a glutton for punishment, 2 credit cards that yield 120,000 bonus miles can equal about 5 round trip domestic economy trips. That would be so un-Lucky!

  3. @Lucky Question: My wife has only lived in the US for a few years and I recently thought it would be a great idea to start building up her credit. I have good credit and have a few nice reward cards (with chase) and would like her to both build her credit and learn about earning rewards — after all, it becomes very costly traveling in premium cabins when only one ticket is covered. I suppose I could start by co-signing on a card that can provide a nice sign up bonus but not sure what she could be approved for. What would you suggest? Thank you

  4. I try to tell as few people as possible about business class tickets. The best value for points on the planet. Go and trade for a microwave, just stay outta my seat.

  5. Lucky – quick question: The Barclaycard can earn EQD while the citi cards don’t. is that correct? I’m AA elite but want to apply for a card that can earn AA EQD. Thank you!

  6. I applied for both a month ago and completed spend but was wondering do I need to wait to apply for the Business card or is it safe to jump right in?

  7. In theory this sounds great. In practice, finding availability that isn’t on BA is a pain in the rear. I’m sitting on 300k or so of AA miles and haven’t found any good biz tickets to europe in a long time. I’m sure it’s origin dependent as well, but just be aware of what you’re getting into with AA miles.

  8. Giving it an other try, as my last question remained unanswered, hoping that you do also care about international readers:

    Are there any US or international CC with interesting sign up bonuses that are available for non US citizen? For example via a cash deposit, equivalent to the spending limit?

  9. @QTang I have the Barclay Aviator Silver card and can confirm you definitely do earn EQD’s after a certain spend level as well as EQM’s after meeting spend requirements. I was able to maintain Gold status this way. Don’t know if it is unique to the Aviator Silver or not.

  10. @ed It very much is origin dependant, but the remedy I’ve found is just using positioning flights. Sometimes I use revenue tickets and sometimes I use awards to get to the origin I need, but it still beats flying to Europe in coach or on BA and paying their ridiculous fees.

  11. @ Nicolas — As far as I know, while some banks might allow secured cards to be opened without a US SSN, none of the travel rewards cards offer that as an option, unfortunately. Others may chime in with different experiences though.

    This is a good starting point for identifying the best offers that might be available in your country, as sadly we can’t keep track of them all: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/07/30/choose-credit-card-outside-us/

  12. @ ed — I booked LAX-LHR using my AA miles this morning. It can make sense to set alerts on Expert Flyer or just keep checking a range of dates, but Europe is definitely the toughest place to use AA miles. Other regions are much better 🙂

  13. @Tiffany Agree that ExpertFlyer is the way to go for looking for hard to find Milesaaver Awards. I would suggest that Business/First Milesaaver flights to Hawaii are the toughest to find. I was able to snag 2 Business/First Milesaaver seats to Kauai just a couple of weeks ago thanks to ExpertFlyer alert – first time in 10 years of going to Hawaii I’ve been able to do that!

  14. I’ve had the AAviator card as a legacy US Airways cardholder from way back. I thought that when it converted to the AAviator that I’d have this exclusive card nobody could ever apply for ever after, but that wasn’t the case. Anyway I had the Citi AA card once then converted it to some other Citi card after the first year to avoid the fee, but they eventually canceled it for non-use. When the Citi 60,000-mile thing happened I applied again and got it! So I’ll pay my rent for a few months with it, bank the miles, then cancel or convert it before the annual fee hits. Repeat in 3-4 years.

  15. AA miles are gold to Asia. Easily locating these days first class Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific availability from all over the US, let alone business class.

  16. I agree that AA miles are most useful to Asia. It’s better to use a different program for Europe.

  17. thanks for the link, it is indeed difficult to get good bonuses outside of the U.S. BOA gave me a cash reward card after depositing the card’s spending limit, but no sign-up bonus let alone mile collection. I will soon start a PHD program in the U.S. and hopefully with a SSN I will get some of the nice cards. However, I do not have any income in the U.S. just abroad, do you think I will be eligible for some decent cc?

  18. My question is, how do you book the partner airline award tickets? Is it just through the American website or do you go to the partner websites? I have the points I need, just trying now to figure out how to actually book the best flight.

  19. Finding AA metal Saver Bus awards to Europe from the US is easier than capturing a Unicorn, or even getting a high quality photo of Big Foot. But just barely…

    Honestly, unless you don’t care what cities you are flying out of and in to, and are totally flexible on dates, when booking nearly a year in advance, what is actually reasonable is to get all 3 cards, then use the 180K miles for a Bus Anytime award one way, and a Econ award the other way.

  20. @ Daryl — Typically applying for a Citi business card would get you closer to the 5/24 limit. It’s Amex business cards that generally don’t count towards that limit.

  21. @ Marie — You always book award tickets with the program with which you have miles. So you’d use American’s website, or for their partners that they don’t show online (Cathay, Etihad, JAL, Qatar, etc.), you’d have to call to book.

  22. Thanks for this! As a young person with only a little over one year of credit history, I was able to be approved and get the 60,000 miles. Looking forward to my first business class flight for next to nothing!

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