There are numerous American Airlines branded credit cards and I’ve had several of them in my credit card points game career, but in most cases, the best cards are ones that earn transferable points, i.e. they are flexible.
If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points (earned through a “premium” card like the Sapphire or Ink) or American Express Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to numerous hotel and airline programs. So then when you are planning a vacation, you can search for reward nights and flights across a variety of brands and find the best bang for your points. But American Airlines is not a transfer partner of either Chase or Amex. But don’t despair!
British Airways is a transfer partner and since American Airlines and British Airways are both part of the oneworld alliance, you can book American flights through British Airways after transferring your Chase or Amex points to BA at a 1:1 ratio (sometimes even as good as 1:1.5 when Amex runs bonus offers). The great thing about using British Airways Avios (their reward currency) toward American flights is you can often score some sweet deals, especially on short haul nonstop flights.
Any flight* of less than 1,150 miles can be had for 7,500 Avios. So you can fly from New York to Miami for what is essentially $75 worth of points when looking at the cash value of redeeming points for straight cash back or a statement credit. To book the same flight with American Airlines points would cost 12,500 miles.
Another huge benefit of booking AA flights with Avios: there is no close-in booking fee. Book an American flight with AA miles within 21 days of departure and you need to pony up a $75 fee. And that just ain’t cool. You can book the same flight with Avios, even just a few hours before takeoff and there’s no fee.
* Any flight that has seats available at the MileSAAver level when you search for reward flights on the American Airlines website.If you see they are available at the Super Saver level, then they should be available to book on the BA website. Frankly the BA website is awful and glitchy so I highly recommend searching for flights on AA first.
My wife and I flew business class on American to Cancun for our honeymoon in 2012 by redeeming 20,000 Avios + $20-30 in taxes. No way we would have paid $400 in cash for that one-way flight, but that’s the beauty of this game: you can live large in business class with those hot towels, a nice three-course meal and all the alcohol you can drink included and you barely spent a dime out of your own pocket.