Should Nick upgrade to the Aviator Silver card?


About 3 months ago, my wife and I opened American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Red cards. We’d both had the card before and closed them years ago. We were both instantly approved again and received our welcome bonuses soon after opening our accounts last fall. Recently, we’ve both been targeted with offers in our Barclays logins to upgrade our Aviator Red cards to the Aviator Silver card. The Aviator Silver card is only available as an upgrade from an Aviator Red card and Greg has said that it is the best American Airlines credit card. Given the opportunity to upgrade so soon, should either of us do it?

Aviator Silver card key details & benefits

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
FM Mini Review: $25 per day of in-flight food & beverage credits is pretty interesting. If you fly AA enough to make good use of this, this card is well worthwhile.

$195 Annual Fee
Earning rate: ✦ 3X AA ✦ 2X hotel and car rentals ✦ 1X everywhere else
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Travel: 2X (2.6%)
Brand: 3X (3.9%)
Card Info: Mastercard World Elite issued by Barclays. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Earn $99 + tax domestic companion certificate for up to 2 companions with $20K membership year spend. ✦ Earn up to 15,000 bonus Loyalty Points per status qualification period: Earn 5K bonus points at $20K spend, $40K spend, and $50K spend
Noteworthy perks: $25 per day in-flight food & beverage credit ✦ First checked bag free ✦ Priority Boarding ✦ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ✦ 25% off in-flight purchases ✦ $50 wifi credit per membership year ✦ Round up purchases to earn more miles

The Barclays Aviator Silver card is officially available “by invitation only”. Some cardholders eventually see an offer within their login to upgrade to the Silver card (this might be under the heading “offers” in the menu near the top or you may find it sort of in a frame on the sides of the screen when logged in to your account on desktop).

I’ve also seen numerous reports of people who were able to upgrade to the Silver card simply by calling Barclays and requesting the upgrade.

The key reasons to be interested in this card over the Aviator Red (which you need to have first in order to have the chance to upgrade) are:

  • It offers an extra 5K Loyalty Points at each of the following spending thresholds: $20K, $40K, $50K.
  • Earn a Companion Certificate good for up two companions at $99 each plus taxes after $20K cardmember year spend
  • $25 per day food & beverage credit
  • $50 WiFi credit per cardmember year

The card otherwise offers similar benefits to the Aviator Red (free checked bag for you and your companions on the same reservation, priority boarding, etc).

Why consider upgrading?

The Aviator Silver card comes with double the annual fee of the Aviator Red card. Is it worth another hundred bucks for the benefits noted at the end of the previous section? In my case, I’m considering it for several reasons.

First, I have quite a bit of spend coming up over the next few months. While I have cards that offer a more rewarding return than 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent, I have enough spend that I want to spread it over multiple cards / issuers, so as it is I’ve already been putting some spend on my Aviator Red card and will likely continue to do so (It is also worth adding that I both value American Airlines miles and I enjoy the chase for elite status without flying). I was probably already going to spend my way to at least the Companion Certificate level ($20K spend). With the Aviator Red card, that $20K spend would get me a Companion ticket good for one companion for $99 + taxes. With the Aviator Silver, I’d get two companions for $99 each plus taxes. I’d also get a bonus 5,000 Loyalty Points after $20K spend (and again at $40K and $50K spend if I continued to spend on the card).

While the Aviator Silver has an ongoing $199 annual fee, I’ve learned from reading up a bit at Flyertalk that when you upgrade, the benefits start with next statement period….but the increased $199 annual fee isn’t charged until next anniversary. That actually makes some sense. I was initially surprised by the upgrade offer; due to wording in the CARD Act about not increasing your card’s fees in the first year, most issuers will not allow an upgrade to a more expensive card until you’ve passed your one year anniversary. I therefore thought the chance to upgrade after having only had the Aviator Red for ~3 months was surprising, but now it makes sense: they aren’t increasing the fee until next anniversary (presumably in order to stay compliant, but they don’t want to deny you the chance to lock in that higher fee for future years).

Since I opened the card in October, that means I would get the Silver-level benefits for the next ~8 months for free. Based on my reading, the ideal timing for an upgrade is right after your annual fee posts in order to essentially get most of a year of Silver benefits for the cost of the Red card. My timing for an upgrade wouldn’t be perfect, though eight months of the Silver card for the $99 I paid for the Red still might not be bad.

I’m further intrigued by the possibility of extending my elite status given the spend that I will have in the coming months. I’ve had American Airlines Platinum Pro status for the past few months thanks to the targeted (and long ago expired) Hyatt Globalist / American Airlines instant status pass of last fall. I need 42,000 Loyalty Points by February 1st to keep my Platinum Pro status until June 1, 2024. If I’m able to eke that out (which is indeed still an if at this point, more on that in a future post), I’ll have status until June 1st. If I want to extend that another 4 months to October, I’ll need to earn another 42K Loyalty Points by June 1st.

To be clear, I don’t really need American Airlines elite status. In large part, I’m just enjoying the thrill of the hunt. That said, I’m hoping that once I re-up my Platinum Pro status, I’ll be able to match to Turkish Miles & Smiles Elite status in short order for Star Alliance Gold benefits for a coming trip (and then I’ll hopefully be able to extend that Star Alliance Gold status for two years as that status would be much more useful to me). I like to play games like that, so having elite status can be helpful in situations which have nothing to do with actually flying American Airlines but everything to do with having elite status in general.

If I decided to continue to pursue my Platinum Pro status for a few more months, getting 5K Loyalty Point bonuses at $20K spend and $40K spend would shorten the path on that.

My questions

a green question mark on an island in the middle of the ocean

As I considered this plan, I had a couple of questions that I thought would influence my decision:

  • When you upgrade to the Aviator Silver card, does your anniversary date change and is the new annual fee pro-rated or charged in full or how is that handled? As indicated above, my reading on Flyertalk indicates that the Aviator Silver fee is not charged until next anniversary, so there would be no immediate impact apart from gaining the benefits starting with my next statement cycle.
  • Are the Companion Certificates useful? The jury is still out on this. My first instinct was that two $99 companion certificates would likely be very useful since domestic airfares have gotten so expensive, though we tend to mostly fly Southwest Airlines domestically (where we have the infinitely-repeatable Companion Pass). Still, I’d think that we’d stand to save enough with a couple of AA Companion Certificates that it would be worth choosing AA for a trip, but I keep reading comments from those who have these certificates about how highly restrictive they are in that there are apparently a pretty wide set of blackout dates. I am therefore uncertain whether we’d be able to use the Companion Certificates, particularly now that we’re at least somewhat beholden to the school schedule, and that has me somewhat hesitant. Balancing that hesitation some is the fact that I was probably already going to put $20K spend on my Aviator Red card and get a Companion Certificate anyway. Based on what I’ve read now, maybe I wouldn’t have found a use for that Companion Certificate, but I guess better to have two companions than one if I’m going to do the spend anyway?
  • Does spend I’ve already done on the Aviator Red count toward the benefits at $20K cardmember year spend if I upgrade? This was my biggest question and according to Flyertalk the answer is yes. I’ve already put about $8K in purchases on my Aviator Red card since opening it. Therefore, if I upgrade to the Aviator Silver, the next $12K spend (which will bring me to $20K cardmember year spend) would yield an extra 5K Loyalty Points and an extra Companion Certificate beyond what I was planning to get with the Aviator Red (since I likely would have hit $20K spend anyway).
  • Are the onboard food & beverage credits useful? At first glance, $25 per day in statement credits for food & beverage purchases on American Airlines sounds pretty good, particularly as a parent traveling with young kids (you can never have enough snacks for travel days). I don’t actually fly American Airlines very often, but we would likely take at least one family trip on American this year if we end up with a couple of companion certificates. I’ve seen comments indicating that American doesn’t often have food and beverage for purchase on domestic flights. I wouldn’t be looking to use the credits on alcoholic drinks but rather on snacks. Would this end up being useful? I’m skeptical.
  • Is the $50 cardmember year WiFi credit useful? I almost always get the WiFi and get work done while I’m flying. However, I have T-Mobile Magenta Max, which gets me free in-flight WiFi for the entire flight on many American Airlines flights. It is therefore hard to know how useful this credit will be: there’s a decent chance that I’ll have access to free WiFi, but I’ve also taken a few American Airlines flights over the past year where I didn’t get free WiFi (I think it depends on the WiFi provider and AA doesn’t have the same one for all flights). I wouldn’t place any value on this in advance but could rather only really figure out what it’s worth in hindsight (which works out OK since I don’t need to pay the annual fee until next renewal).

For me, the key question was whether the $8K spend I’ve done since October would count toward the benefits at $20K spend. Since I’m almost halfway there, I think that the chance to get an extra Companion Certificate and an extra 5K Loyalty Points makes it worth accepting a free-for-now upgrade.

Would I keep the Aviator Silver long-term for $199? I think I’d only keep it long-term if I either intended to put $20K spend on the card and I thought the extra Companion Certificate and 5K Loyalty Points at $20K spend was worth more than $199 (the additional $100 I’d pay in annual fee + the $99 cost of the companion seat) or if I were flying American Airlines often enough that I thought I’d get regular use out of the WiFi and food & beverage credits. I’m not sure about either of those things, but I look forward to getting a couple of Companion Certificates so I can test them out and write about whether or not I think they are worth chasing.

Bottom line

I was surprised to get an upgrade offer to switch from the Aviator Red card to the Aviator Silver after less than 4 months of having the Red card. At first glance, I didn’t think I was interested in locking in a higher annual fee right now. However, when I dug in to how the upgrade works, I found that I won’t have the pay the new annual fee until next renewal and the spend I’ve already done should count toward the big spend bonus thresholds on the Aviator Silver card. That combination is enough to make me think that I should accept this upgrade offer. I’m a little concerned that the Companion Certificates won’t be as useful as I’d hope, but in my case that will make for what I hope is a useful story either way from a blog standpoint, so I’m leaning toward accepting the offer to upgrade my card. Not mentioned so far in this post though is that my wife’s card has already seen $11K spend this cardmember year — should we be upgrading her card, too? Hmm…..

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[…] Frequent Miler – Should Nick upgrade to the Aviator Silver card? […]


After upgrading to the Silver are you able to open another Aviator Red Card for the Bonus. If so how long should you wait to apply.


I am pretty sure they got rid of blackout dates for 2023 and beyond? I was looking into this for my Citi AA Companion cert and there was none. We flew on 12/31/23 and 1/3/24. But is it possible that was just a Citi thing?

And also, the total for the companion for the domestic flight was $136.23. Fairs were $600+ so it was a good deal for us.

And you’re right, they only have snacks available for purchase on longer flights (think 3 hours + or so). My 2hr45min flight never has but my 4 hour flights do.

Last edited 2 months ago by Josh

I’m cancelling my Aviator Silver for these reasons: 1. AA rarely sells food. I struggle to use the daily $25 perk ever. 2. I get free wifi from T-Mobile. 3. The “2” companion passes are 1 pass for 1 flight with 2 companions, you can’t split them up, they are for the continental 48 in economy and have blackout dates. So for me it’s way overpriced at $199. I am EP on AA so the other card benefits don’t really apply. This card looks interesting at first glance but it’s not for many.


Hi Nick — Great article. I’ve been following your journey and playing along with you from the Hyatt-Bilt Globalist challenge to the AA Instant Status Pass. I recently traveled to Asia and got tremendous value from the OneWorld Emerald status during my trip, with visits to Cathay’s first class lounge in Hong Kong (simply incredible) and JAL’s first class lounge in Tokyo Haneda. I am now chasing AA status (already qualified for Executive Platinum during phase I of the Instant Status Pass).

I also opened an Aviator Red card about 3 months ago (October 2023), but I have not received the offer to upgrade to Silver. I called Barclays today but the agent was unable to upgrade me (she said it’s only possible if the offer has been added to my account). If possible, could you share when you actually opened your Red card, and if you have any insights into how I might increase my chances of getting the offer?

Many thanks!


Of course, as soon as I posted my comment, the upgrade offer magically appeared on my account and I upgraded!

FWIW, it was an easy decision for me because I’m going after AA status and the bonus Loyalty points will be valuable to me. Also, my Jetblue Plus card just renewed, so I took this opportunity to cancel that card, and will use the saving to offset the higher cost of the Aviator Silver going forward.

Last edited 2 months ago by J T

I also have been sitting on my Aviator Silver upgrade offer … don’t think I’ll go for it, just based on the amount of annual spend I make, and my plans to churn a few additional cards this year. If this was my primary card, I would absolutely think about it.

Hoping that you sign up so that I can look forward to your future reviews of the Silver Aviator card.


How long does it take for the upgrade to take effect? I selected the offer but my account still says my card is a Aviator Red card.


How would the upgrade affect one’s ability to sign up for a new Red card with a new SUB? If memory serves, as long as you closed the card 6+ months ago, you can usually get a new SUB, I wonder if the same applies to an upgrade.


Try it and report back. Experimentation is how we learn


“To be clear, I don’t really need American Airlines elite status. In large part, I’m just enjoying the thrill of the hunt.”

No offense to Nick but every time he makes a statement like this I’m bewildered. The entire point of points/miles is to get outsized value? If it’s just for the hunt, isn’t one essentially saying “I’m being played by the loyalty program and I love it”?


I think he accepts that he’s “being played” as part of his job, which is to find and demonstrate ways for readers who DO need elite status to obtain it.


That’s a reasonable way to look at it. Thanks.


Very good reply Nick, I appreciate a window into your way of looking at it. I do value AA miles and you obtain more overall value from points and miles than I ever will. I just found the seeming aberration from the norm somewhat interesting. Thank you for your thoughtful clarification.


I’ll add to/echo Nick’s thorough response above, that a lot of points/miles/status decisions I make without knowing if/when I’ll be able to benefit from them. We all probably do this when accumulating points/miles, signing up for a SUB, etc. We’re “taking it on faith” that we’ll probably be able to use these points/miles for outsize value, but you never know. If you know for sure that you needed points/miles from a SUB for a specific redemption, it probably doesn’t make sense to pursue that path – since award availability could be gone or an award chart could have changed by the time you earn the SUB.

My example – I pursued the Bilt Hyatt Globalist fast track even though I had low single digit “organic” Hyatt nights during the challenge period and only 1 future Hyatt stay booked. I was fortunate to have several Cat 1 hotels near me, but I didn’t have a ton of specific value in mind that I’d get from Globalist vs. the points and effort I’d have to spend mattress running. But I “took it on faith” that I’d probably see good value, and little did I know that pursuing that status would give me AA Plat Pro (like Nick!), which I was able to use on a flight I had already booked. So “I don’t really need XYZ elite status” could be restated as “I don’t have any specific needs for certain status right now, but if it’s easy enough to pursue, there’s a good chance I’ll find some good value out of it.” And if this status chase doesn’t pan out, the next one might.


I had opened an Aviator Red last June and accepted an upgrade offer about 2 months ago with similar logic. The first $20K of spend on the Aviator Silver looks quite appealing – earning 20K redeemable miles, 25K LPs, and the double companion voucher. We are a family of three so the double companion voucher is a good fit and it doesn’t seem like it would be hard to get at least $200 of value for each companion after pricing out some sample flights. All told $700+ in value from the companion vouchers and redeemable miles plus the LP boost to have some level of AA status. The extra credits should largely offset the extra $100 in annual fee.

Being a Mastercard I’m considering setting up our mortgage payments with Plastiq to meet a bulk of the $20K annual spend. It would still come out ahead after the fees and that frees up spend to continue earning other bonuses.

I have not been charged the updated annual fee after upgrading (card anniversary still 5 months out). You’ve probably seen it but Barclays has a nice tracker under “Rewards & Benefits” -> “Rewards Activity” that shows your usage of WiFi credits and spend towards the companion vouchers and loyalty point bonus thresholds.

In our case we’re at a Southwest and American hub so I’m going to either chase AA status or hold a $99 fee card to get free AA bags regardless. We have done a lot of Southwest flying with the Companion Pass but are shifting to more AA flights as WN has been having more issues around flight delays and boarding recently. Our daughter is also on the edge of too old to do family boarding and I’ve been unable to use the Upgraded Boarding benefit from the Priority card on a lot of recent flights – it would be more useful as 4 Early Bird Check-In credits. Pre-selecting seats with AA to ensure the three of us can sit together is more appealing.


I tend to believe (without actually having done the math) that the opportunity cost of spending $20,000 to earn 5,000 LPs exceeds the cost of obtaining those LPs via shopping, hotels, or tax payments.


Yes, $5k at 1.82% vs $20k at a minimum of 2%. Plus, you’d also get 5k of redeemable miles as well, worth at least $50.

So, $400 of opportunity cost vs $41 to generate via taxes, using conservative values. Is my logic off anywhere?

David Hanson

Larry, FWIW I’m not following your reasoning in this post. How do you get $41?

The $20k in tax spending on the silver card would earn 25K LP plus the 2 person CP. That can include the fee, so for $20k in gross payment, (20K / 1.0182) for a total of $20k


Regarding the Loyalty Point bonus, your spending toward that threshold resets to 0 on 3/1:

Ts & Cs:
”The primary cardmember may earn additional Loyalty Points (as defined in the AAdvantage® section of if spend thresholds detailed below are met during the status qualification period. The status qualification period will be the twelve-month period beginning on March 1, and running through the end of February of the following year.”

I also received this offer with entirely the same timing as you, including similar timing on an Instant Pass through Hyatt. I have already spent $20k on the Red card and qualified for EP in the initial period that ends for me on 2/6. Here’s what I THINK will happen for me, but I don’t have confirmation:

My card converts to Silver benefits on 2/16 (the day after the closing date of my current statement period). On that date, I would get 5k LPs based on the spend I’ve already accumulated. If I were on a normal qualification year and had requalified already that would be useless, but that should count towards phase 2 of the Instant Pass. Also note that if I hadn’t qualified for EP, I don’t think the LPs would have helped for Phase 1 since they post after my Phase 1 end date.

In your case, you will have until 2/29 to get to the $20k qualification level based on cumulative Red/Silver spending, but if you don’t, it all goes back to zero.

That’s my read at least!


I’m going to push back here. I just looked at the Ts & C’s again and here’s the next section after the one I quoted:

The primary cardmember may earn an additional 5,000 Loyalty Points if they spend $20,000 on Net Purchases made with the Card Account with a transaction date during the status qualification period.

That sounds pretty specific that all spending needs to happen with a transaction date during the status qualification period to count.

Also the Flyertalk thread you link to has a wiki at that the top that specifically addresses this:

Aviator Silver Bonus Loyalty Points: Bonuses are based on spend during status year, not anniversary year. When upgrading to Silver your Red spending will carry over. Five thousand Loyalty Points after spending $20k/$40k/$50k. You cannot stack multiple Silver accounts to earn this multiple times.


As an Aviator Silver card holder for several years:

  1. Anniversary date did not change
  2. The AA companion certificates are my favorite for domestic carriers. You can actually use them on almost any AA domestic flight. As you pointed out can take two companions instead of just one. Delta’s restrictions on fare classes and Alaska’s limited East Coast footprint make them much harder to use, for me.
  3. Yes, the spend made so far will count towards the annual spend to get bonus Loyalty points.
  4. The food credits work well, if your flight offers food. During the past few years of the pandemic this was pretty useless, but as on board options are returning should be more useful. As long as the card is used the food/beverage can be bought by anyone- it’s a straight reimbursement by Barclays. If you only fly First Class then this “benefit” is useless.
  5. Wi-Fi credits work well. Again, it’s a straightforward reimbursement.

I like the card, and it has been key for me to getting EP status the past two years. Moving forward, if you can use the Companion Cert its worth keeping.


Better deal for those living in Hawaii or Alaska, as the companion certificate will work to fly to the lower 48.

Repeat Offender Captain Greg

You can always cancel at anniversary (or downgrade), right? In that case, there’s no reason not to upgrade both players.

The AA cards are the weakest of the major airline cards and I can’t justify keeping them past a year. All similar cards for other airlines give free checked bags, but jetblue and United Biz (with a no fee personal card) give 5k points at anniversary. United biz also gives two club passes per year. Delta platinum card is the sweet spot for them with the companion pass. As you’ve highlighted before, the southwest cards have lots of benefits. Alaska has the companion pass for much less spend. AA needs to add more to get me to keep their card, but I get the impression they get enough people to sign up for their weak benefits because they push their cards so hard.


Worth remembering also that the free checked bag from Aviator is only available on domestic itineraries, which for me is rarely useful.