In this episode of “Keep or Cancel,” we’ll look at the Barclays AA Aviator Business card (not a referral link). We recently received a statement where our $95 annual fee on the card posted.
Each time an annual fee posts on one of our cards, we go through a full analysis of whether to keep the card, cancel it, or product change (although in this case, there were no product change options). In addition, we also make a call to the card issuer to see if there are any retention offers available, unless there’s a good reason not to make that call. We always like to share on Middle Age Miles our thinking and strategy with respect to these “Keep or Cancel?” decisions and our data points on retention calls.
We decided to keep our Barclays AA Aviator Business card for a rather specific individualized reason. The decision was made easier by a nice retention offer.
Details and Analysis
We were approved for the Barclays AA Aviator Business card in January 2018, and this was its first anniversary. Our spend on the card during the year was about $8,000 – an initial flurry immediately after approval to meet the minimum spend requirement, and then several thousand more during a Plastiq promotion in the fall. We actually very purposely spent on the card during the Plastiq promotion, which required using a Mastercard, in hopes of currying some favor with Barclays and hopefully leading to a decent retention offer when renewal time rolled around.
In short, the card’s primary benefits are:
- Current sign-up bonus: 60,000 AA miles after $1,000 spend within 90 days
- Bonus categories of 2x AA miles on purchases at AA, office supply stores, telecom charges, and car rental locations; 1x everywhere else
- 5% AA mileage bonus each year upon your account anniversary
- Note that we received this before we had to pay the annual fee
- Earn $3,000 AA Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year
- First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 companions when traveling domestically on AA + 25% savings on in-flight food & beverages + preferred boarding for cardholder and up to 4 companions
- Companion Certificate for one guest at $99 + taxes/fees (all-in, about $135), if you spend $30,000 in your cardholder year
- This is received after you pay the annual fee for your next cardholder year
None of the spend categories are best-in-class, so there’s really no reason to put ongoing spend on this card – unless you need the EQDs to qualify for a higher elite status level on AA.
But if you need the EQDs to reach Executive Platinum status, this is an extremely valuable benefit.
Deciding Whether to Keep or Cancel
Normally, and for most people, we believe that it’s a straightforward decision to cancel the Barclays AA Aviator Business card rather than pay the annual fee. There is no best-in-class earning with this card for ongoing spend.
Also, we believe this card is at least theoretically churnable (that is, you can cancel, then re-apply a few months later and get another sign-up bonus) – if you can manage to get re-approved by Barclays. (Our primary data points for this conclusion come from the comments to this Doctor of Credit article.) That said, getting re-approved by Barclays is no small hurdle. We’ve certainly known people to give up on the application process because of the business verification documentation that Barclays requested.
No product change options are available for this card, to our knowledge.
In our view, there are two possible exceptions to our default recommendation to cancel this card:
- You use the card for free checked bags on AA and don’t have any other options for getting this benefit (through elite status or another card).
- You need the 3,000 EQDs from spending $25k, for purposes of obtaining a higher level of elite status with AA.
We doubt that the first exception really applies to anyone. If you need free checked bags, it would be easy to apply for a Citi AA Platinum personal card. Even if you’re ineligible for the sign-up bonus (and even that is questionable; mailers with no 24-month restriction are available), you could still get the card. Approval is usually easy with Citi. You’d get the first-year annual fee waived, and you’d get the free checked bags benefit.
We fall squarely within the second exception. Based on our projections for 2019, Philly and I will both need a 3,000 EQD kicker from credit card spend to get to the newly-raised 15,000 EQD threshold to re-qualify for Executive Platinum status on AA. I have two choices to get this:
- Spend $50k on the Barclays AA Aviator Silver personal card; or
- Spend $25k on this Barclays AA Aviator Business card.
We calculate that the extra $25k spend on the personal card would have a net cost for us of about $312. There is also the time, inconvenience and potential challenge associated with generating that extra spend inorganically, which is probably what we’d have to do. There would be some benefits along the way if we put the $50k spend on the personal card – 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) at the $20k spend mark, earning a 2-person Companion Certificate at the $20k spend mark (if we pay the next year’s annual fee), and earning an additional 5,000 EQMs at the $40k spend mark. But I’m not sure I’ll need the EQMs, and I’m also not sure we’ll want to pay the annual fee again in 2020.
Bottom line, we’re likely to choose to earn the EQDs I’ll need by spending $25k on the Aviator Business card. And in any event, I want to keep this option. This is worth the $95 annual fee to me.
Thus, for us – in our narrow set of individual circumstances – the Barclays AA Aviator Business card is a “keep” for this year. We come to this conclusion somewhat begrudgingly given that we hate paying annual fees when we don’t get any ongoing spend benefits. But the benefits of Executive Platinum are so valuable to us that it’s worth it here.
Did We Get a Retention Offer?
Yesterday, I called the customer service number on the back of my Barclays AA Aviator Business card to see if we could get a retention offer. As usual, I told the agent that we recently received the statement where our annual fee had posted, we were trying to decide whether to keep or cancel the card, and we wondered whether there were any offers on the card that might help us decide to keep it.
The agent first reiterated the benefits of the card. I was afraid we were headed nowhere, but she then said she’d check to see if she could waive the annual fee. After a brief hold, she came back and delivered good news – Barclays will waive the $95 annual fee for us. Woo hoo!
The agent said that this is a one-time credit within 12 months. As best I understood, this leaves the door open to ask for an annual fee waiver again next year.
Recall that we spent about $8,000 on the card during our cardholder year, including several thousand in spend beyond meeting the minimum spend requirement. The agent did not specifically mention this on the call, but typically Barclays likes to see some spend, and I feel pretty sure that our decision to put some extra spend on the card during the Plastiq promo paid off here.
We’re keeping the Barclays AA Aviator Business card for a very specific reason that is based on our own individual circumstances. If you don’t have a specific reason like ours, you’ll probably want to cancel (and perhaps re-apply in a few months to try for another sign-up bonus).
And we were delighted to get the $95 annual fee waived as a retention bonus. This data point serves as yet another reminder to call the credit card company any time an annual fee posts to see what offers might be available.
Do you have anything to add to our analysis, or any other data points on retention offers for the Barclays AA Aviator Business card? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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