I recently cancelled my Citi / AAdvantage MasterCard.
- I have the Citi Executive card, because I want the ability to spend and earn elite qualifying miles. Every year I think I’ll travel less in the coming year than the year before and I never do. At the start of the year 100,000 miles seems like a lot, but having flown well over 100 segments by the end of August it somehow creeps up on me anyway. As a result I waste $40,000 in spend (for 10,000 EQMs). But I’m not likely to change that any time soon.
- I also have the Barclaycard Aviator Red card, which is very similar to the basic Citibank American co-brand.
The biggest reasons to keep either the Citibank or the Barclaycard base-level cards:
- Regular American flyers who don’t fly enough for status will value the free checked bags and priority boarding.
- You get a 10% mileage rebate on redemptions each year, up to 10,000 miles back. I value the 10,000 miles more than the annual fee on the card.
The Barclaycard version is $6 cheaper ($89 vs $95, though both were $0 the first year) and has waived foreign transaction fees. You can’t double dip on the 10% mileage rebate.
You can’t get the Barclaycard version of the card anymore, now that American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles have combined into a single program. Barclaycard had been the card issuer for US Airways (something they grabbed away from Bank of America when the card deal helped fund America West’s acquisition of the airline) and gets to keep servicing those cards as American cards.
My legacy Barclays card has 10,000 bonus miles on cardmember anniversary as well, something not all of the cards had.
So I was 10,000 miles better off keeping the Barclaycard version of the card rather than the Citi one.
Citibank did just close one of the gaps between the products after November 15, however.
Via Points With a Crew, Citibank is making two changes to the card:
- Eliminating foreign transaction fees
- Eliminating the $100 American Airlines flight discount earned after $30,000 spend
I’ll bet they found that a $100 flight discount wasn’t actually motivating incremental spend on the card the way United Explorer bonuses 10,000 miles each year a cardmember reaches $25,000 spend on the card. So I don’t view these two as direct tradeoffs (elimination of a flight discount funding the end of foreign transaction fees). Instead I see them as separate changes being implemented at the same time.
Chase led the way eliminating foreign transaction fees on travel-related cards because they found these fees were costing them money. Cardmembers would put the cards away when traveling abroad, and wouldn’t take them back out when they returned to the U.S. Foreign transaction fees kept their cards from being top of wallet, for those customers likely to travel internationally.
Perhaps Citi has learned the same lesson (Citi ThankYou Premier eliminated foreign transaction fees…), or perhaps they’ve decided for competitive reasons they need to keep up. Cardmember expectations are now that a premium credit card should not charge these fees. But they’ve eliminated one of the differentiating factors between their American AAdvantage product and the card issued by Barclaycard. I’d still make the same decision, however, on which one to keep.