In July 2017 I lose Admirals Club access from the Citi Prestige card. I have since decided the best way to regain access is with the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card. Although the $450 annual fee (without any travel credit) is quite high in today’s premium card market, the cost is still cheaper than paying the “New” membership fee of $550. Additionally, there are a few benefits which make opening the Citi AAdvantage Executive card worthwhile despite the $450 annual fee.
Full Admirals Club Membership
Unlike the Citi Prestige card, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card offers full Admirals Club membership. Even better, the Admirals Club membership links to your AAdvantage frequent flyer number. This means the primary cardholder is not required to have the card with them to access the lounge. That being said it is smart to have it just in case. Additionally, any authorized users also gain Admirals Club access at no additional charge. That being said, authorized users must carry the physical card to gain access to an Admirals Club lounge. Admirals Club members can bring immediate family or up to two guests regardless of which airline you or your guests are flying. Further, cardholders and guests are not required to travel together when accessing the lounge.
Admirals Club access have proved incredibly valuable over the years. Generally club agents (aka AAngles) are significantly more polite at assisting with OneWorld itineraries. On several occasions I have received a more favorable routing to get me home earlier for no added fees. In fact, the only fee I ever paid was when I purchased a 500-mile upgrade sticker years ago and even then the agent reminded me doing so online was free.
50,000 AAdvantage Mile Sign-Up Bonus
After January 1, 2017, AAdvantage award miles become increasingly difficult to those who pay for the cheaper seats. Award miles are now based on a combination of price paid, fare class flow, and status held. Because of these changes, credit card signup bonuses may be the best way to earn additional AAdvantage miles. Citi and Barclaycard both offer a variety of American Airlines co-branded credit cards.
The current Citi AAdvantage Executive sign-up bonus is 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Keep in mind, 50,000 miles is enough to get from Chicago to Hawaii and back in economy with a few miles to spare.
The signup bonus alone is not worth the $450 annual fee, but because I primarily value the Admirals Club membership I view the bonus as American giving me free miles for something I was already going to do if the bonus did not exist. It is important to note this bonus is NOT available for anyone who has opened/closed any Citi AAdvantage card in the past 24 months.
Enhanced Airport Experience
This card grants cardholders “Priority AAccess” when traveling on American Airlines and most OneWorld partners. Services vary based on the airport, but generally cardholders can expect to receive access to priority TSA screening lanes, priority boarding, and free checked bags for up to 8 (yes 8) travel companions.
Overall, this benefit is great to have, especially with the introduction of American’s basic economy fares. Additionally, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card comes with a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit. Both of these benefits should allow a little extra time at the airport to visit an Admirals Club location.
Elite Qualifying Miles
Currently the Citi AAdvantage Executive card is the only card which you can apply for which earns Elite Qualifing Miles with American Airlines. After spending $40,000 within a calendar year card members will earn 10,000 AAdvantage EQMs.
10,000 EQMs could prove incredibly valuable as they represent a decent transatlantic round trip, but $40,000 is a lot of money to spend on a card with such poor points earning potential. The card only earns 2x AAdvantage miles when making purchases directly with American and 1x points on everything else. I would much rather punch such a large amount of annual spending on a card like the American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Citi Prestige. That being said, I would also prefer to actually fly the 10,000 miles which many older readers may not want to do.
Free Authorized Users
This is the most overlooked perk of this card. Premium credit cards ($450/fee) generally also charge a reduced fee for authorized users. Understandingly since authorized users enjoy nearly all of the same benefits as the primary card holder. With the Citi AAdvantage Executive card there is NO ADDITIONAL FEE for up to 10 authorized users and all authorized users receive Admirals Club access. Per OMAAT, authorized users do not receive Admirals Club membership, but rather access. Unlike the Citi Prestige, access, is not limited to those who also have a same-day American or OneWorld boarding pass.
Although authorized users do NOT receive Admirals Club membership (which offers access to some other OneWorld lounges etc.), they do receive complimentary access to Admirals Club lounges for themselves and up to two guests. For authorized users, Admirals Club access is not linked to your AAdvantage account. This mean authorized must physically swipe the card to get in. Based on a few tests done by OMAAT authorized users should get in to Admirals Clubs without a hitch after swiping their cards.
Personally have several colleagues and friends (I mostly trust) I would consider adding as authorized users to give them this privilege. Authorized users have no immediate impact on your credit score for adding or removing, but their card activity can affect your credit score. If I opened that can of worms I would probably do so under the condition of not actually allowing them to use the card for purchases.
Final Thoughts On The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is not for everyone. Many readers will find they try to minimize time in the airport, but traveling for work I often do not have that luxury. I often find myself working at the airport while trying to get on an earlier flight or during a long layover which helps me justify the $450 annual fee. For those who find themselves running to the jet bridge when traveling this card probably is not a good fit.
There are a few other benefits (such as the $100 TSA PreCheck / Global Entry Credit, 25% off inflight purchases, no foreign transaction fees, and reduced award mileage rates) which I did not dive into, mostly because they add little value to me personally. For me, the only reason the card makes sense is due to the Admirals Club Membership. Have I mentioned that? For nearly the same cost of paying for membership outright you also get the ability to add up to 10 authorized users!
Luckily, this card is part of a range of co-branded cards. So if the card no longer makes sense to the cardholder the card can easily be downgraded. Other Citi card options include to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card or the Citi ThankYou Premier card. If a phone agent gives you a hard time when trying to convert to a different product, hang up and call again.