Want Admirals Club Access? Consider Citi’s AAdvantage Executive Card

Jul 5, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi PrestigePremier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, The Platinum Card® from American Express

For those of us who fly American Airlines often, the Citi Prestige perk of Admirals Club access when flying AA has been great. Unfortunately, that benefit — and quite a few others — went away effective July 23.

Perhaps you’re like me and got habituated to enjoying a drink, some snacks and a power plug before — and/or between — your AA flights. Perhaps you’re also like me and don’t want to pay $450-550 or 60,000-85,000 AAdvantage miles — depending on elite status — for an Admirals Club membership. Well, there’s a better way to get an Admirals Club membership: by signing up for the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

The card’s annual fee of $450 sounds steep, but it compares favorably to purchasing an Admirals Club membership. Even better, you can spread this cost over friends and family in a way that you can’t do with just an Admirals Club membership. In addition to the primary cardholder, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card allows authorized users special access to Admirals Clubs.

While authorized users aren’t full Admirals Club members like the primary cardholder, they do get full access to Admirals Clubs — even when flying on another airline. This isn’t a perk that Citi Prestige cardholders got. Plus, both the primary cardholder and the authorized users can bring in immediately family members or two guests. Best of all: Authorized users are free to add, and the primary cardholder can add up to 10!

Here’s a look at Admirals Club access when you’re flying AA or another airline, across the two cards and with a membership purchased outright:

  Flying American Airlines Flying Another Airline
Admirals Club Members Yes Yes
Citi Prestige Yes until 7/23 No
Citi AAdvantage Executive primary cardholder Yes Yes
Citi AAdvantage Executive authorized users Yes Yes

Already have an Admirals Club membership? If you have at least 60 days left on your membership, AA will automatically prorate your existing membership and issue you a refund when you sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Executive card.

If you’re a current Citi Prestige cardholder, now is a great time to apply for the Citi AAdvantage Executive card.

Other Benefits

Admirals Club membership Citi AAdvantage Executive
Price $450-550 $450
Guesting Immediate family members or up to two guests
Access for family and friends n/a Up to 10 free AUs
Sign-up bonus N/A 50,000 miles
Global Entry or PreCheck fee credit N/A Once every 5 years
Priority check-in/security/boarding N/A Yes
Free checked bags N/A 1
EQM bonus for spending $40,000 N/A 10,000 EQMs
Reduced Mileage Awards N/A Yes

While Admirals Club membership is the marquis benefit of this card, there are plenty of other benefits that give this card the edge over just buying club membership outright. First, the 50,000 AAdvantage mile sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months is a good start. This sign-up bonus alone is worth $700 based on the current TPG valuation of AAdvantage miles.

In addition, this premium credit card offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. You’ll get up to a $100 statement credit once every five years to reimburse your application fee. And, you’ll get the credit even if your application is denied. Just remember to use the Citi AAdvantage Executive card to pay for the application fee.

For those without a checked baggage allowance from elite status or by booking a premium cabin, the Citi AAdvantage Executive offers a first checked bag free. Similarly, cardholders get priority access throughout the airport: priority check-in, priority security and priority boarding.

For spending purposes, this card doesn’t provide a lot of value: 2x AA miles on purchases of American Airlines flights and 1x AA miles on all other purchases. You’d do a lot better putting travel purchases on The Platinum Card from American Express (5x Membership Rewards), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x Ultimate Rewards points), the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (3x Membership Rewards) or the Citi Prestige (3x ThankYou points).

However, this card comes through if you’re a big spender and find yourself a bit short of the required Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) needed for your next level of elite status. If you spend $40,000 on this card in a calendar year, you’ll get a 10,000 EQM boost. That’ll save you quite a few hours in the air — but don’t forget that you’ll also need to get enough Elite-Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) to qualify for elite status.

Last but certainly not least, this card will get you access to the Reduced Mileage Awards list. The RMA program allows cardholders to book domestic award flights to or from listed airports for just 17,500 miles round-trip — or just 13,000 round-trip for nonstop flights under 500 flight miles. While the pickings are slim during the summer, there are 92 airports on the current list for September — including a handful of Florida destinations, Austin and a couple dozen other Texas destinations and traveler favorites like New Orleans.

Bottom Line

Now’s the time to sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Executive if you were relying on the Citi Prestige’s Admirals Club access benefit — as that benefit no longer exists. Or, if you’ve been paying for an Admirals Club membership, you should consider if the Citi AAdvantage Executive would provide you better benefits for potentially less cost.

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