Get your next flight for free with this travel card's rare welcome bonus

I've written dozens of credit cards over the years, but a travel card recently caught my attention. While most credit cards have strict minimum spending requirements to qualify for a welcome bonus, this airline card's welcome bonus can help you pay for a flight or hotel stay without spending thousands of dollars.

Advantage® pilot® Red World Elite Mastercard® * is one of our picks for the best American Airlines credit cards. You also get a 50,000-mile welcome bonus. All you have to do is make your first purchase (no minimum amount) and pay the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days of owning the card. These bonus miles can help lower the price of travel or accommodation for your upcoming summer vacation.

Here’s a little more about the card and some of the flights I found that make the welcome bonus worth it.

Where can I go with 50,000 AAdvantage miles?

50,000 miles can help reduce the cost of your summer travel in a number of ways. Here are some examples of what I found when looking at flights from Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale

I was able to earn enough points through the welcome bonus to cover the cost of round-trip airfare (plus applicable taxes) for a friend and I from Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale, FL, July 15-18 ). Plus, I have 14,000 points left to spend on another trip.


American Airlines/CNET screenshot

Charlotte to Toronto

to be honest. A trip to Toronto over Father's Day weekend (June 14-16) may offer some respite from the hot weather. I wouldn't get either flight for free, but for a trip for two I would only have to pay about $735 out of pocket, plus tax (based on a point value of 1.7 cents each). If I had paid out of pocket, the airfare would have been nearly double — $1,300.

CLT to Canada

American Airlines/CNET screenshot

Charlotte to New York

I could even travel to New York City during the 4th of July and pay about $120 out of pocket (based on a point value of 1.7 cents each) to cover the remaining costs not covered by the 50,000 points, plus taxes and fees.

CLT to New York 28,500

American Airlines/CNET screenshot

Other ways to redeem AA miles

In addition to booking flights directly with American Airlines, you can redeem welcome bonus miles through its OneWorld partners and other partners, including British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia and Qantas. But you'll want to make sure you redeem your miles at an equal or higher price to get the best value. You can also redeem summer travel miles through the following methods.

Hotel accommodation

If you book a hotel through AAdvantage Hotels, you can stay at designated hotels and enjoy reduced mileage discounts. For example, if I am an AAdvantage credit card member, I can use 42,700 miles to stay at Resort B at Disney Springs Resort for three nights (June 20-23).

This means that even if you have AAdvantage's minimum gold status, by earning 40,000 miles, you will also have Aviator® Earn interest rates with the Red World Elite Mastercard. You can reach Gold status with 40,000 miles, so the bonus should more than help you achieve that goal.

Screenshot April 29, 2024 at 4:14 pm

AAdvantage Hotels/CNET Screenshot

car rental

American Airlines/CNET screenshot

You can also cut your car rental costs with bonuses if your flight is covered, you'd rather drive or you have extra miles. You can redeem miles for vehicles at a number of rental companies, including Budget and Avis.

As with American Airlines' hotel partners, you can redeem fewer miles if you have AAdvantage status and are an AAdvantage cardholder. For example, on a three-day trip to New Orleans (June 19-22), you can only redeem 21,800 miles for a midsize vehicle (such as a small SUV). When you buy a lower-end car, you'll use it for less miles.

Should I get the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard*?

In addition to the one-time welcome bonus, the card has several other benefits, including:

  • First checked bag free
  • Priority boarding
  • Up to $25 in bill credit for inflight Wi-Fi, food and beverages
  • If you spend $20,000 on purchases and your account remains open 45 days after your anniversary, give one guest a $99 companion gift certificate (plus tax)
  • travel insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

If you're a frequent American Airlines flyer or live in an American Airlines hub city, you may benefit from these benefits. But the rewards rate isn’t as lucrative as other cards. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles per $1 on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 on other purchases. Use the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®* to earn 4x miles on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases, but the card has a $595 annual fee.

If you're not a big fan of American Airlines, you might get more value from one of the more versatile best travel credit cards, which allow you to earn rewards at higher interest rates in certain categories and offer more Flexible redemption options.

*All information about the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is independently collected by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective, independent assessment of our authors and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It is not provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services provided by our partners.

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