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Coming to American AAdvantage: More Credit Card Choices

While American’s AAdvantage program and US Airways’ Dividend Miles program were consolidated into a single program more than a year ago, following the American-US Airways merger, the question of which of the two programs’ credit-card partnerships would remain in place was left unresolved. Would it be Citi, which has issued co-branded AAdvantage cards since 1987? Or would it be Barclays, the issuer of Dividend Miles cards?

That question was answered today. And the answer is: both.

That will make American the only U.S. airline offering co-branded credit cards from two different banks. Each bank, however, will have its own sales “territory.”

Under the new agreements, Citi can continue signing up new customers for its AAdvantage-linked cards online, via mobile, direct mail, and in airport lounges.

And Barclaycard US will have the exclusive right to promote its AAdvantage cards in airports and inflight, beginning next year.

Most consumers are bank-agnostic when it comes to credit cards. What matters isn’t which bank issues the card, but what program the card is linked to, and the card’s value-adds, such as bonus miles, extra services, award discounts, and the like.

What American has done, intentionally or not, is set up an internal competition between Citi and Barclay cards. All are linked to AAdvantage, so that’s a wash. But there’s plenty of room for the issuers to expand the bundles of benefits associated with their respective cards, to increase cardholder numbers and engagement.

And, if the invisible hand of the marketplace has its way, having two companies fighting for their business can only be good for AAdvantage credit-card customers.

Reader Reality Check

What do you look for in a travel-rewards credit card?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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