Compared: Citi / AAdvantage Card vs. Gold Delta SkyMiles Card

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 Citi AAdvantage and Gold Delta SkyMiles have a lot in common, on the surface. Both are airline specific travel rewards programs. That means they offer airline miles that can be redeemed for trips based on your spend and have other travel-specific benefits. However, when you look at the fine print, one barely comes out on top. So if you’re getting ready to travel and want to pick the best card, keep reading.

Reasons People Sign Up for a Travel Rewards Program

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. The company 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 which offers even more perks and rewards but with steep fees.

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

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 fees that match the level of service they provide.

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 prospect of a moderate annual fee will not be a big deal for you. Similarly to the AAdvantage card, you'll earn more points for spending on purchases with the matched airline. In this case it’s Delta.

How the Services Compare

What are the core services offered by Citi AAdvantage and Gold Delta SkyMiles? They offer very similar services. Both of these cards share a core service. Both provide rewards redeemable 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 not the lowest, but it's not the highest either. The range is pretty standard for a card of this caliber. As a result, you should try to avoid carrying a balance on this card. Just use it so you can earn the rewards, and pay it off in full every month. Moreover, 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. Like all cards, the APR on purchases with the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card is based on creditworthiness. But the range tends to be above average, and similar to Citi AAdvantage. Also like Citi, this isn’t designed to be a balance transfer card.

The takeaway is this: 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.

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

You're covered when you travel. The card also comes with some great protection 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, 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 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 major takeaway is both cards provide customers with excellent services while traveling with the airline. But we're going to give this one to the Citi AAdvantage card for stronger insurance protection for travelers.

Domestic Market Share of Leading U.S. Airlines

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

As far as, Gold Delta SkyMiles, digital services are present here too. 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.

While extra online safety with Citi AAdvantage is a big 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.

The Verdict: Citi AAdvantage is Stronger, but Barely

All things considered, we’ve concluded Citi AAdvantage is a slightly better pick for the average traveler and credit user. Here’s why:

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 some of the points you redeem on flights back. That's a great little boost towards paying for an annual vacation. There are also deals known as MileSAAvers for specific American Airlines destinations if you pay by redeeming your points. Additionally, we like the extra digital security feature.

But then again, if you prefer to fly Delta, get the Gold Delta SkyMiles because the differences are negligible. So, pick up one of these cards today and access all the travel benefits of a great rewards card.

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