Review: CitiBusiness/ AAdvantage World MasterCard

By Peter Andrew

It could have been a lot worse. But at the time, last Sunday, it felt pretty bad. First, the delayed-take-off announcement. Then, the news that the airport to which we were flying was snowed in, and the flight had to be diverted. Next, on arrival, the three-hour bus trip (in a vehicle that had clearly been designed with the leg-room needs of seven-year-olds in mind) to the original destination. And, finally, the seemingly inevitable flu that comes from flying a budget airline that, in order to save a few bucks on fuel, endlessly recirculates the virus-laden cabin air.

If I still flew frequently, I'd cheerfully pay a few hundred dollars a year for one of those high-end airline credit cards that allow you to jump lines with priority check in, security screening and boarding, and give you free access to tranquil, comfortable lounges. But I don't, and those three-digit annual fees are impossible to justify for a few hours of discomfort each year. So perhaps I should consider something more affordable but with fewer privileges: something like the CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® World MasterCard®, which is currently offering 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles as a sign-up reward, providing you spend on it at least $1,000 in purchases in the first three months after your account is opened.

Airline credit cards with privileges

This Citi product doesn't entirely take the sting out of air travel, but it does -- in exchange for its $95 annual fee, waived for first 12 months -- give you: Priority boarding with Group 1 privileges for you, which means you're among the first on the airplane, alongside those elite frequent fliers. A full waiver for the cost of your first eligible checked bag. It, along with those checked bags of up to four companions traveling on the same reservation as the primary cardholder, flies free. A 25-percent discount on certain in-flight purchases on American Airlines (AA) airplanes when purchased with the CitiBusiness/ AAdvantage World MasterCard. This applies to food and beverages, but not to wi-fi or duty free.

It's important to note that at least the first two of those apply only to the principal cardholder. If you provide employees with secondary cards, they're liable to board with the unprivileged masses, and pay for all their checked bags.

Airline credit cards with rewards

The CitiBusiness/ AAdvantage World MasterCard has some good features that can allow you to build your mileage bank quickly. You get those 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles for signing up and making the necessary level of purchases in the first three months of cardmembership. Two American Airlines AAdvantage miles for every dollar you spend on eligible AA purchases and at certain car rental merchants, certain office supply and telecoms merchants. A 5-percent mileage bonus based upon eligible purchases made during the previous 12 months each time you renew your annual membership. A companion certificate each year worth $99 against a main-cabin, domestic round trip -- but expect to chip in up to $44 in taxes and fees. You're only eligible for this particular perk when you renew your cardmembership, and if you've charged $30,000 or more to your card account in the previous year.

Is this product right for you?

No credit card is perfect, and this one is no exception. To start with, it's a business card, which means it lacks many consumer protections. And you can find airline-branded products with lower APRs, without foreign transaction fees, and with fewer complicated terms and conditions. Moreover, its $95 annual fee may be on the high side for some -- although maybe not if you use the card enough to earn that companion certificate. Annual fee of $95 is waived for first 12 months.

Worse, it won't stop you having to endure delayed and diverted flights. But, if you want a better and less expensive flying experience, and you don't take to the skies often enough to justify a more costly top-end airline card, then the CitiBusiness/ AAdvantage World MasterCard could prove to be the Goldilocks plastic (not too hot; not too cold; just right) for you.

Peter Andrew has over 25 years of experience writing about marketing, advertising and management. He regularly covers consumer credit card topics for IndexCreditCards.com and other personal finance publications including Fox Business, TheStreet and MSN Money. He also writes frequently about mortgages and auto loans. Peter has spent extended periods living overseas, in the UK, France and Africa. He lives with his partner of 20+ years, and wastes too much of his time on cryptic crosswords.

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