Middle Age Miles

New Sign-Up Bonus on the Barclays AA Aviator Red Card – 50,000 AA Miles Plus a $99 Companion Certificate

barclays aa american airlines aadvantage aviator red card sign-up bonus companion certificate
Barclays AA Aviator Red Mastercard

Yesterday we noticed a new sign-up bonus available for the first time ever on the Barclays American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard – 50,000 AA miles plus an “introductory Companion Certificate.”

The Companion Certificate is good for one guest at $99 plus taxes and fees when the primary traveler pays the regular published fare for an AA domestic economy flight (in the contiguous US unless you live in AK or HI). Barclays discloses that the taxes and fees can run from $21.60 up to $43.20. In our experience, taxes and fees have been $36.03, which means that the Companion travels for a total of $135.03.

You earn the sign-up bonus on the Aviator Red card by (a) making one purchase using the card within the first 90 days after you’re approved for the card; and (b) paying the first-year membership fee for the card, which is now $99.

Since this card was introduced about 2½ years ago, the sign-up bonus on this card has generally been either 40,000 or 50,000 AA miles after first purchase within 90 days. At several points, including as recently as last month (ending April 30), there’s been an enhanced sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles. But the Companion Certificate has never been available as part of the sign-up bonus on this card. In our opinion, 50,000 AA miles plus the Companion Certificate is the best bonus ever on this card.

Note that this is the card that is incessantly hawked by the flight attendants on every AA flight. We haven’t flown since this new sign-up bonus went into effect, but we suspect it will be available through the in-flight offers. In addition, in-flight offers typically have an additional bonus of 500 AA miles if you apply for the card in-flight. We’re not sure if the additional 500 AA miles will be attached to this new bonus, but we think it probably will be.

Details of the Companion Certificate

By chance, earlier this week we published a complete guide to Barclays AA Companion Certificates:

Be sure to read this article if you’re interested in this new sign-up bonus on the Aviator Red card. You can get a lot of value out of a Companion Certificate (we saved about $500), but there are a lot of details and nuances to using a Companion Certificate that could easily disappoint you if you’re uninformed.

Relevant Link

Here’s a link to the landing page for the Barclays AA Aviator Red Mastercard, where you can find more information and apply for the card with the new sign-up bonus attached (not a referral link):

Ongoing Benefits of the Aviator Red Card

Beyond the sign-up bonus, the primary benefits of the Barclays AA Aviator Red card are:

  • Bonus Category: 2x AA miles per dollar on AA purchases
    • 1x AA mile per dollar of spend on everything else
  • First Checked Bag Free: On domestic AA itineraries for the primary cardholder and up to 4 companions on the same reservation
  • Preferred Boarding on AA Flights: Also for the primary cardholder and up to 4 companions on the same reservation
  • In-flight Wi-Fi Credit: Up to $25 statement credit per cardholder year for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases on AA flights
  • In-flight Savings: 25% rebate as statement credit on food & beverages when you use your card on AA-operated flights
  • Anniversary Companion Certificate: Receive a Companion Certificate good for one guest at $99 plus taxes and fees, if you (a) spend $20,000 during your cardholder year; and (b) keep your account open for at least 45 days after your anniversary date
    • Note that the 45-day requirement means that you will have to pay the next year’s annual fee of $99 in order to actually receive the Companion Certificate earned through $20k spend in your previous cardholder year
  • No foreign transaction fees

Our View on the Sign-Up Bonus and the Card

This is a great sign-up bonus, and it’s available with one purchase. To us, if you’re an AA flyer at all and have any use for the Companion Certificate, this sign-up bonus is the one to get on this card. Note that your 5/24 status and plans may impact your strategy.

On an ongoing basis, however, it’s quite hard to justify putting spend on this card. Even with a 2% cash-back card, you’ll do far better than 1 AA mile per dollar on your spend (we give AA miles a baseline value of 1.25 cents per mile).

Could the next year’s Companion Certificate justify putting $20k spend on the card and keeping it? Perhaps, but not likely. Sparing the detailed math, the “net cost” of putting $20k spend on this card would be about $250, plus you’d have to pay the next year’s annual fee of $99. So, you’re looking at about $349 to earn the Certificate, and then the Companion would still cost another $135, for a total cost of the Companion ticket of roughly $484. Is it possible to get that much value out of the Companion ticket? Yes. In fact, our uses of Companion Certificates have been worth about $600 each time. But we fly a lot, sometimes on expensive domestic routes. Is it likely that you can count on at least $484 in value from the Companion Certificate each year? No way.

In terms of likelihood of getting approved for the card, we did some additional research in addition to our base of knowledge, and the results are somewhat inconclusive. In general, it seems like Barclays has something of a 6/24 rule, but you’ll also find exceptions to that rule, particularly for co-branded cards. Barclays also seems to have a more nuanced underwriting procedure, where a higher number of new recent accounts can hurt you and evidence that you’ve spent well on Barclays cards can help you.

And in terms of churning the card, it appears that you won’t be approved for the Aviator Red card if you currently hold one, but you have a chance of being approved if you’re not a current cardholder and your prior account has been closed for several months.

In any event, if you’re over 6/24 and/or if you have some recent new accounts on your report and/or if you’ve held the Aviator Red card in the past, we highly suggest doing additional research to assess your chances of approval before you apply.

Will you apply for the Aviator Red card with its new sign-up bonus including a Companion Certificate? Where do you want to go with your Certificate? Please share with us in the Comments!

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