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American Credit Card Offers Solid Discounts

American and Citibank co-promote the AAdvantage-affiliated credit cards by offering cardholders discounts on award tickets.

The discounts are route-specific, and change quarterly. And since second-quarter discounts can be booked now, for travel between April 1 and June 30, they’re worth a look.

There are four types of consumer AAdvantage credit cards available to U.S. residents: Platinum and Gold, both offered in either Visa or MasterCard versions, and two American Express-branded cards, the Select and regular.

Holders of the more expensive Platinum and Select cards save 15 percent on first-class round-trips, paying 42,500 instead of 50,000 miles. And they save a hefty 30 percent for coach round-trip awards, paying 17,500 instead of 25,000 miles.

The less-expensive cards offer a lesser discount: 5,000 miles off both first-class and coach round-trips. So first class awards will cost 45,000 miles, a 10 percent discount; and coach will be 20,000 miles, a 20 percent discount.

Either way, the discounts are significant enough to be potential deal-makers. Assuming, that is, the flights on offer are to worthy destinations. Are they?

Let’s begin with a regional breakdown of the discounted cities. There are four in the Northeast; 17 in the Midwest; 15 in the Southeast; 23 in the Southwest (mostly Texas); one in the Mountain region; only two on the West Coast (Monterey and Santa Barbara); and five in Canada.

So far, not so good. And it gets worse. The list is overweighted with cities that (with apologies to their boosters) have probably never been featured on any major publication’s “Top 10 Destinations” list. Peoria, Illinois; Waco, Texas; Texarkana, Arkansas; Dubuque, Indiana. Not exactly Orlando or San Francisco or New York City.

There are some interesting contrarian plays. I’ve featured Charleston and Memphis in my monthly roundup of award-travel recommendations. They’re both discounted for spring travel. And I’ve also been pushing Canada as a smart mileage move on and off for months (good prices, plenty of award seats).

But overall, the list isn’t likely to send anyone scurrying to pack up the RollAboard and call SuperShuttle for a pick-up.

There’s another fly in this ointment, buried in the terms and conditions:

Redemption of Reduced Mileage Awards applies only to bookings made by phone through American Airlines Reservations or through airport or city ticket offices. All such award travel is subject to an additional payment of $20. The above amount does not apply to AAdvantage Executive Platinum members and AAirpass customers.

An incentive that forces you to pay an extra fee? Talk about mixed marketing messages!

There may be good reasons to keep a Citibank AAdvantage credit card in your wallet, especially if AAdvantage is your primary mileage program. But unless Granny lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the award discount shouldn’t be one of them.

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