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Compared: Citi AAdvantage vs. Gold Delta SkyMiles

Learn how to tell the difference between an airline rewards credit card and a travel rewards card. You'll find out everything you need to choose between Citi AAdvantage and Gold Delta SkyMiles. Make the right decision by picking your favorite airline and rewards program.

The Verdict

Citi AAdvantage is better than Gold Delta SkyMiles because you get more miles from the very beginning

If you're a frequent air traveler, you might be the perfect candidate for a credit card that offers the chance to earn points towards travel with your favorite airline.

Depending on what airline you prefer, the Citi AAdvantage or the Gold Delta SkyMiles travel rewards credit card might be a good fit for you.

The Leading Airlines Worldwide (2017)

The intro offer seals the victory. The Citi AAdvantage airline credit card offers 60,000 bonus miles for signing up as long as you use the card to spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Gold Delta SkyMiles airline credit card has an introductory offer of 30,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

An intro offer of 30,000 more points is enough to award this comparison to Citi AAdvantage.

Why Citi AAdvantage is Stronger than Gold Delta Skymiles

You can get some of the points you redeem back

Not much difference other than the airline. When it comes down to it, these two cards are very similar in almost every way.

The main criteria you should use if you're going to pick one of these cards is whether or not you are OK with being loyal to the associated airline.

Citi AAdvantage earns points towards American Airlines flights and services. Gold Delta SkyMiles collects miles for flights and service from Delta Airlines.

Get your points back. But if you need to make a decision based on criteria other than your airline of choice, Citi AAdvantage has another advantage over Gold Delta SkyMiles.

You can get 10% of the points you redeem on flights back (up to 10,000 points per year). That's a great little boost towards paying for an annual vacation.

People love Citi AAdvantage because of the perks with American Airlines

If you fly American Airlines a lot, this card will make you happier. Cardholders get priority check-in privileges, including preferred boarding, a 25% discount on in-flight expenses, and your first bag checked free.

There are also deals known as MileSAAvers for specific American Airlines destinations if you pay by redeeming your points.

With Citi AAdvantage, you can only redeem points for travel with American Airlines or one of its affiliates

Not a lot of choice. Many of the other travel rewards cards don't restrict you to earning or redeeming points with one airline.

With the Citi AAdvantage card, you can only redeem with American Airlines or an affiliate.

Affiliates include British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, LAN, Air Berlin, Qatar Airways, and a few others.

Credit Card Annual Fees (2017)

The takeaway

Go for it if you love American Airlines. If you fly American Airlines a lot then this card will be very valuable for you.

But if you're not comfortable sticking with one airline you might want to check out some travel rewards cards that let you redeem points for any airline.

Then again, Gold Delta SkyMiles is great for people who prefer to fly Delta

If you prefer to fly with Delta this card is for you. The Gold Delta SkyMiles card is very similar to the Citi AAdvantage card. It doesn't give you the chance to get 10% of your redeemed points back like Citi AAdvantage.

But the airline perks are comparable.

People love Gold Delta SkyMiles because they enjoy the Delta perks

Many of the same features the Citi AAdvantage card offers for American Airlines are offered for Delta with the Gold Delta SkyMiles rewards program.

Several Delta perks that make the airport a breeze. You get your first bag checked free, and you get priority boarding. You also get 20% off in-flight expenses like food and beverages. You can redeem your points for special flight deals known as Award Travel.

One difference is that Gold Delta SkyMiles customers can access a special airport lounge called the Delta Skyclub.

The biggest customer complaint about Gold Delta SkyMiles is the annual fee

The $95 annual fee might be a deal breaker. The question that people ask themselves when they consider this card is whether or not the $95 annual fee is worth it.

When you sign up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles card it gives you get the first year for no fee. But after that, you're going to have to earn 9,500 points just to cover the annual fee.

Annual fees come with the territory. It is fairly common for a travel rewards credit card to have an annual fee. In fact, Citi AAdvantage also charges $95 a year after year one, which is also free.

The takeaway

Delta lovers should apply. If you're a loyal Delta customer, there is no reason you would choose the Citi AAdvantage over the Gold Delta SkyMiles card. But be ready to pay a fee for whichever one you choose.

How the Cards Compare

Citi AAdvantage Gold Delta Skymiles
How high of credit score do you need?

>633

>624

Average APR?

20.99%

21.24%

Annual fee?

$95 (waived year 1)

$95 (waived year 1)

How big of sign-up bonus do you get?

60,000 bonus miles

30,000 bonus miles

How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?

$3,000 in the first 3 months

$1,000 in the first 3 months

How many points do you get for every dollar?

2 points for every dollar spent on American Airlines

1 point for everything else

2 points for every dollar spent on Delta Airlines

1 point for everything else

Any restrictions?

Can't earn points on fees, interest, balance transfers or cash advances

Can't earn points on fees, interest, balance transfers or cash advances

If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars?

$2 for $100 spent with American Airlines

$1 for $100 spent on everything else

$2 for $100 spent with Delta Airlines

$1 for $100 spent on everything else

How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)?

$4,750 spent on American Airlines

$9,500 spent on everything else

$4,750 spent on Delta Airlines

$9,500 spent on everything else

About the Companies

They're both airline-specific travel rewards programs

Make sure you're choosing the right kind of travel card. There are two types of rewards credit cards you can use to earn points towards travel:

The first is the "travel rewards" card. With these cards, the rewards points you earn can usually be spent on any airline.

Reasons People Sign Up for a Travel Rewards Program

In contrast, the two cards we are comparing here are examples of "airline rewards" cards.

These cards generate points that can be redeemed only for travel with the specific partner airlines. Purchases from these airlines earn higher points for cardholders.

About Citi AAdvantage

It has partnered with the biggest airline. The Citi AAdvantage Air Miles credit card is one of many credit cards offered by Citi.

Citi has partnered with American Airlines – the largest airline in the world – to offer travel rewards for AAdvantage cardholders.

There is a higher tier called the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. That card offers more perks and rewards but has a whopping annual fee of $450.

You're the perfect customer for Citi AAdvantage if you travel a lot with American Airlines

Globetrotting is rewarded. If you travel a lot with American Airlines you are going to spend enough to easily cover the $95 annual fee.

When you purchase airfare or other services from American Airlines with the Citi AAdvantage card, you earn double the miles (2 points for every dollar spent).

About Gold Delta SkyMiles

Amex has partnered with Delta. Gold Delta SkyMiles is an American Express credit card.

There are two higher tiers of Delta SkyMiles cards — the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card and the Delta Reserve Credit Card. These cards have more perks and rewards but come with an annual fee of $195 a year and $450 a year respectively.

You're the perfect customer for Gold Delta SkyMiles if you fly a lot with Delta

The fees are worth it if you fly Delta consistently. If you are a frequent Delta flier, then the $95 annual fee will not be a big deal for you. You'll earn double points for your spending on Delta flights and services.

The annual fee will be covered quickly, and you'll be on your way to earning free flights.

How the Services Compare

What are the core services offered by Citi AAdvantage and Gold Delta SkyMiles?

Very similar services. Both of these cards share a core service. Both provide credit cards that earn rewards that are redeemed with a specific airline.

Neither of these cards is designed to have a low APR so we would not recommend carrying a balance.

The good and the bad about Citi AAdvantage's core services

Use it for the rewards. Based on creditworthiness, the variable APR is 16.99-24.99%. It's not the lowest APR card out there, but it's not the highest either.

You should try to avoid carrying a balance on this card.

There is also no intro offer for a lower or 0% APR, so this is not a good card for transferring a balance.

Just use it so you can earn the rewards, and pay it off in full every month.

The rewards and benefits are ideal for people who travel, which is highly appropriate for a travel rewards credit card.

The good and the bad about Gold Delta SkyMiles's core services

Don't carry or transfer a balance. The APR on purchases with the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card is 16.74-25.74% based on creditworthiness.

That means its lowest possible APR is just slightly under what's offered by the Citi AAdvantage.

There is no introductory period with a 0% or lower APR. So just like we concluded with the Citi AAdvantage, this is not a card for carrying or transferring a balance.

The takeaway

It's a draw. These are not balance transfer or low APR credit cards. Since the core services each card provides are so similar, neither comes out on top under comparison.

Rewards and Bonuses

Both cards are all about the rewards

Frequent fliers who are loyal to the airlines get rewarded for their loyalty. In both cases that includes giving them a big bonus for signing up.

Citi AAdvantage rewards and bonuses

Double your points when you book with American Airlines. With the Citi AAdvantage card you earn one point for every dollar you spend on the card.

When you use the card to spend on American Airlines travel expenses, the rate is doubled.

What Do Consumers Think About American Airlines?

Big, big bonus points. People who sign up for the card get 60,000 bonus rewards points once they've spent $3,000 within the first three months.

Win points back. When you redeem your points for flights with American Airlines you get 10% of them back. There's a limit of 10,000 points given back each year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles rewards and bonuses

Double points with Delta. The Gold Delta SkyMiles card also rewards purchases at a rate of 1 point for every dollar spent. When you use the card to purchase travel through Delta, the points rate doubles.

A pretty hefty sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus for the Gold Delta SkyMiles card is 30,000 points. You need to spend $1,000 in the first three months to qualify, which is significantly less than the $3,000 you have to spend to get the Citi AAdvantage bonus points.

Get a $50 statement credit. Something that's unique to the Gold Delta SkyMiles card compared to the Citi AAdvantage is an added bonus for signing up. If you use the card in the first three months to purchase travel from Delta, you get a $50 statement credit. That's pretty much as good a cash!

The Gold Delta SkyMiles card doesn't give you the chance to earn back any of your redeemed rewards points like Citi AAdvantage does.

The takeaway

When it comes to rewards and bonuses both of these cards are great for earning points towards a flight with the partner airline.

More points with Citi. But we like the Citi AAdvantage best because it gives 10,000 more intro bonus points than Gold Delta SkyMiles and you get 10% of your redeemed points back when you use them for travel on American Airlines.

Benefits

Airline perks are key.

It makes sense that both cards offer significant advantages for cardholders when it comes to traveling on a partner airline.

Citi AAdvantage benefits

Feel special when you fly American Airlines. When a Citi AAdvantage cardholder travels with American Airlines they are well taken care of.

The first checked bag is free for up to four people on a booking.

That's a couple of hundred bucks saved every time a family of four flies together.

Preferred boarding means cardholders don't have to wait in long lines to get on the plane.

And when they get on the plane and use the card to purchase food and beverages, they get 25% redeemed in savings.

You're covered when you travel. The card also comes with some great protections for people when they travel.

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are included. Worldwide travel accident insurance comes with the card.

You'll also get refunded for lost items if a bag is lost or stolen.

Cardholders get access to travel and emergency assistance 24/7 anywhere in the world by phone.

Gold Delta SkyMiles benefits

You'll enjoy elite status as a Delta VIP. When people who have the Gold Delta SkyMiles card fly with Delta, they get elite status treatment.

The first bag is checked for free. For a discounted rate of $29 each, travelers can lounge in the Delta Sky Club as they wait for their flight.

When the gate is open they get priority check-in boarding. Food, drink and headset purchases in-flight get a 20% discount in the form of a statement credit refund.

Some more support while you travel. Other benefits for travelers using the Gold Delta SkyMiles card include car rental loss and damage insurance.

There's also a Global Assist Hotline to provide assistance like medical or legal referrals when you're abroad.

The takeaway

Both cards provide customers with excellent services while traveling with the airline.

Domestic Market Share of Leading U.S. Airlines

We're going to give this one to the Citi AAdvantage card for stronger insurance protection for travelers.

Costs and Fees

Good news and bad news. Both cards are good for travelers with no foreign transaction fees. But they get you with an annual fee after enticing you with an offer of $0 for the first year.

Citi AAdvantage costs and fees

No foreign transaction fees. As a card designed for people who travel, it makes sense that the Citi AAdvantage card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee.

Annual fees hurt. But one of the negative features of this card is its annual fee. Although you don't get charged an annual fee for the first year, after that it's going to be $95 a year.

For a card that is chosen to earn rewards, that's a big cost to cover every year.

There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3%, whichever is higher.

The cash advance fee is either $10 or 5%, whichever is greater.

You don't want to be late with a payment with this card.

Late and returned payment penalty fees are up to $35. And if you're late with a payment, the card company can charge you a penalty APR as high as 29.99%.

Gold Delta SkyMiles costs and fees

Foreign transaction fees don't happen. Gold Delta SkyMiles also doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee.

That's significant for travelers who could get hit with a $3 foreign transaction fee with other cards.

Identical annual fee. The Gold Delta SkyMiles card doesn't do any better than the Citi AAdvantage when it comes to the annual fee. It's exactly the same – no fee for the first 12 months, then after that it's $95 every year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles charges $5 or 3% for balance transfers fees. The cash advance fee is less for this card than for the Citi AAdvantage at $5 or 3%.

But it charges even more for late fees. The late payment and returned payment penalty fees are up to $38. And the penalty APR is identical at up to 29.99%.

The takeaway

Not much difference. The two cards are pretty much identical when it comes to the fees they charge. We don't like the annual fee but it's very common among travel rewards cards.

The only difference is that Gold Delta SkyMiles charges half of the fee charged by the Citi AAdvantage on a cash advance.

But then the Gold Delta SkyMiles card charges a few bucks more than Citi AAdvantage in penalty fees.

We're going to call this one a tie.

Customer Service

These cards are both designed to reward customer loyalty to their respective airlines.

But how does each card treat the customer?

Citi AAdvantage customer service

Online reviews for the Citi AAdvantage are lukewarm. The main problem customers complain about is the lack of flights that are available for redeeming points.

Loyal customers report that there are fewer and fewer American Airlines flights that they can redeem their points for.

That's a big problem when that's the only airline they can use their points with.

American Airlines Group's Operating Revenue

Gold Delta SkyMiles customer service

A lot of the reviews for this card give it a high score for customer service. But several online reviews talk about problems qualifying for the Gold Delta SkyMiles introductory bonus miles.

A person will sign up for an account, but the card takes weeks to get to them.

The rule is that you have to spend $1,000 in the first three months to get the 30,000 point bonus.

But the clock starts ticking the day you're approved for the card.

By the time they get theirs they find they have a lot less time to reach the $1,000 spending goal. Customer service reps are not helpful when they are contacted about this issue.

The takeaway

Gold Delta SkyMiles wins with the customers. Customers who sign up for this airline rewards card do it because they are loyal to the airline.

So when the Citi AAdvantage customers complain that there aren't available flights for redeeming points that's a major problem.

For customer service, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card gets the win.

Key Digital Services

What special digital features can you expect with both Citi AAdvantage and Gold Delta SkyMiles?

Pay with your phone. In this day and age, it's expected that your credit card can be loaded on to your phone for convenience when paying.

But Citi AAdvantage has an additional feature to secure online credit card payments.

Citi AAdvantage digital services

Citi has a mobile app that lets you manage your accounts through your phone.

Citi AAdvantage cardholders can also link their credit card with Apple Pay so they can pay using their phone.

Feel safe shopping online. But the unique digital service you get with the Citi AAdvantage card is called a virtual account number.

This free service assigns your card with a randomly generated account number that's different from your actual account number.

When you use the temporary virtual account number when shopping online no one can ever steal your information.

Gold Delta SkyMiles digital services

Load it into a digital wallet. Amex has several digital services that make it possible for cardholders to pay using their phone. Whether you use an Android, iPhone, or Samsung you can activate your card as part of a digital wallet.

The takeaway

Extra online safety with Citi AAdvantage is a plus. Both cards give you the chance to use a digital wallet for payment.

But Citi AAdvantage's virtual account number service is an additional benefit that protects cardholders from having their information stolen when they are shopping online.

Getting Started

Time your sign-up

Both cards require you to spend a bit before you qualify for the intro bonus points.

You might want to consider that when you're timing your sign up.

Best way to begin with Citi AAdvantage

Get all those bonus points. With the Citi AAdvantage introductory offer, you get 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

You need to make sure you're putting about $1,000 in purchases a month on the card for the first three months so that deal doesn't evaporate.

Apply for the Citi AAdvantage online or call a customer representative at 1-800-514-8501.

The best way to begin with Gold Delta SkyMiles

Spend less to earn fewer points. Gold Delta SkyMiles only requires you to spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months to qualify for the 30,000 intro points.

Sign up when you know you're booking a flight. But it's trickier to qualify for the $50 statement credit. You need to make a purchase with Delta in the first three months to receive it.

We recommend you sign up for the card when you know you will be booking travel with Delta soon. To get started with the Gold Delta SkyMiles card you can apply online or call 1-800-297-3276.

Airline Passengers of Delta Airlines

How to Cancel

Your credit score takes a hit when you close existing credit cards.

But if you absolutely have to cancel your best advice is to call the customer service lines.

Canceling with Citi AAdvantage

Don't let your points expire. AAdvantage points expire 18 months since the last activity on the card.

It would be smart to time your cancellation for when you know you can redeem the remaining points you have.

It's also a good move to make sure you time your cancellation so you haven't just paid the annual $95 fee.

When you're ready to cancel call 1-800-514-8501.

Finishing with Gold Delta SkyMiles

Points are still valid after cancellation. Fortunately, the Delta SkyMiles you earn are still valid with the airline after you've canceled your Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex.

Just pay your balance and call 1-800-297-3276 to shut your account down. It's always good to get a written letter of confirmation too.

FAQ

  • Are there blackout periods for redeeming points for flights?

    With Gold Delta SkyMiles there are no blackouts with Delta Airlines. However, some of the partner airlines are subject to blackout periods.

    With Citi AAdvantage, you can redeem through the AAnytime Awards program and there are no blackout periods.

    If you would like to take advantage of flights that are available at reduced points (called MileSAAver award flights), you have to check availability.

  • Are these cards good for balance transfers?

    We would not recommend either of these cards for a balance transfer.

    Both charge a balance transfer fee, and neither has an introductory offer of a lower APR for balance transfers. And the APR on both is pretty high so carrying a balance is not recommended.

  • Do these cards offer purchase protection?

    The Citi AAdvantage card gives cardholders purchase protection against damage or theft of an item purchased with the card.

    It also offers Price Rewind, which actually monitors vendors in case a better price comes up within 60 days. If a better price does come up, you get reimbursed.

    The Gold Delta SkyMiles card offers protection against loss or damaged items purchased using the card. But you have to call the number on the back of the card to activate this purchase protection.

  • What is the APR for cash advances with these two cards?

    With the Gold Delta SkyMiles card the cash advance APR is 26.24%. With the Citi AAdvantage card, it is also 26.24%.

  • What kind of credit scores do you need to qualify for these cards?

    For the Citi AAdvantage card, the typical lowest score that could be approved is 633. The average cardholder score is 716.

    For the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, the lowest typical score that gets approved is 624. The average score is 675.

Are you a Delta person? Or an American Airlines person?

You need to pick which airline you want to stick with when you're choosing between these two cards.

Citi AAdvantage has a minor advantage over Delta Gold SkyMiles with 10,000 more intro bonus points and the chance to earn 10% of points back when you redeem them for American Airlines travel.

But ultimately your choice should be based on what airline you like to fly the most.

That's because the only way to earn a lot of points is to stick with the card's airline and to fly as frequently as possible with it.

Do you use either Citi AAdvantage or Gold Delta SkyMiles?

How has it worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.


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Editorial Note:

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