Citibank Tries to be More Like Barclaycard, Changes Two Features of AAdvantage Card

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @civet five
    That’s not double dipping. Each card would be separately capped at 10k if you had just one. So you can’t do any better by having both.

  2. Gary, you keep missing some of the biggest plus for the Aviator card, it is a Chip and Pin card. Not everybody has the Arrival card, which _I_ wont get, I just returned from Europe and loved using the Aviator card over there never had a problem with it, even asked for a PIN… To me that is one big + for the card. I had the Red Card which has that feature, so does Silver (which I upgraded to.)

  3. That $30000 spend to get the free Radisson night is a real motivator too—and what happened to the free night they said they would send me?

  4. Agree with @Tony. Leaving for Europe in a few weeks and the Aviator card is one of the two cards we are taking because of the chip+pin feature.

  5. This might be targeted, but in my Red Card panel online under “Barclaycard Extras” is an “Upgrade Your Account Benefits” button that takes me to a Silver upgrade page. $195 annual fee, but it apparently comes with a Global Entry application fee credit, too.

  6. Gary, can you explain how the 10% mileage rebate on redemptions each year works, how request it, and when that benefit started?

  7. In your post, it first says ‘both have waved foreign transaction fees’ but when you write what changes citi has made you say one of the changes is that it eliminates foreign transaction fees’. So my question is, what real difference does that make? I’m curious to know because I have recently opened up a citi aadvantage platinum select card and it said that there are no foreign transaction fees but I see one charge in my statement that is labeled: ‘foreign transaction fee’ so I was curious. Any responses help, thanks!

  8. As two different products from two companies. I never understood why I shouldn’t get the mIle rebate from both banks if I meet the requirements.

  9. @DaninMCI You’re not getting the miles rebate from the bank. You’re getting it from AA, who knows if you have their cards. They see you have this or that card and give the rebate almost immediately after your booking. They don’t care if you have one or both type of AA cards or two Citi cards or whatever, they only offer the rebate up to 10k once.

  10. I considered the major benefit of both cards to be the 10K AA mileage rebate, so I canceled the Citi card and kept the Barclays card when I realized I was only getting a maximum of 10 K even with multiple cards. Since it is my only Barclays card (Arrival+ not worth the AF), I also viewed it as a way to spread my business among bank card issuers, allowing me more credit line on Citi to add other cards – which I’ve done.

  11. How does the global entry fee actually get reimbursed? I charged it so long ago, do I need to shuffle back to see which card I used then see if that card reimburses? I’m unclear.

  12. Regarding: “The Barclays version is $6 cheaper ($89 vs $95, …)…”

    I just got the bill for my wife’s CITI AAdvantage VISA card and the annual fee posted as $85, not $95. CITI must read your blog.

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