Co-branded credit cards are big businesses for airlines, and in many cases, a majority of their profits come from frequent flyer programs, and the lucrative arrangements they have with banks.
When thinking of premium credit cards (let’s say those with annual fees of $450 or more), the first cards that come to mind are probably The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees) or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
However, there’s a premium airline credit card that arguably gets me just as much value as either of those cards, if not more. In this post I wanted to take a detailed look at this card, which is in a league of its own when it comes to airline credit cards offering lounge access.
Citi AAdvantage Executive Card Basics For September 2021
American Airlines has cards issued by both Barclays and Citi, and the most premium card in the portfolio is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. This card offers the strongest lounge access perk of any airline credit card, to the point that it’s almost ridiculous how generous this card is.
Let’s look at all major aspects of this card, like the sign-up bonus, return on spending, benefits, and more.
Sign-Up Bonus Of 50K AAdvantage Miles
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months.
Personally, I value American miles at ~1.5 cents each, so to me those miles are worth about $750. That’s a solid bonus for a card. Then again, think of the sign-up bonus as just an added incentive here. There is a much bigger reason you’ll want the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card.
Note that the bonus miles aren’t available to those who have received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 48 months (however, you are eligible if you’ve had a different American Airlines credit card, including if you’ve received a bonus on a different AAdvantage card).
Then there are the typical rules for Citi credit card applications, including that you can apply for at most one card with Citi every eight days, and at most two cards every 65 days.
$450 Annual Fee
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card has a $450 annual fee. You can add up to 10 authorized users to your card at no extra cost, which is my favorite perk of this card, as I’ll discuss in greater detail in a bit.
When it comes to actually spending money on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card, don’t get too excited. The card offers 2x AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1x AAdvantage miles on all other purchases.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card has no foreign transaction fees, so this can be a good option for purchases you make abroad.
Citi AAdvantage Executive Card Lounge Benefit
The real reason you want to get the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is because of the incredible lounge access perk that it offers. Having this card is the best way to access Admirals Clubs. Here’s how it works:
Receive An Admirals Club Membership
The primary cardmember on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card receives a full Admirals Club membership. That in and of itself is a reason this card makes sense.
Ordinarily, if you buy an Admirals Club membership you’ll be paying anywhere from $500 to $650 per year, depending on your AAdvantage status, and also depending on whether you’re a new member or are renewing your membership.
By getting an Admirals Club membership with the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card you’re saving $50-200 right off the bat.
Note that while you can redeem miles for an Admirals Club membership, this represents a terrible value, as you’re getting just a cent of value per mile.
This is a full Admirals Club membership, so you don’t even have to bring your credit card, as your membership will be linked to your AAdvantage number:
- You can access Admirals Clubs worldwide when flying American Airlines or a oneworld partner airline the same day
- You’re allowed to bring immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18) or up to two guests
- Admirals Club members also receive access to Alaska Lounges, as well as access to dozens of other partner lounges, including lounges of British Airways and Qantas (you can find the full lounge directory here)
Note that Admirals Club members don’t get access to Flagship Lounges, as that access is determined based on the ticket you purchased rather than any membership.
How Soon Is The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card Admirals Club Membership Activated?
Many people may be considering applying for the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card shortly before taking an American Airlines trip. How soon after being approved for the card does your Admirals Club membership kick in?
Since the primary cardmember gets a full Admirals Club membership, it’s linked to their AAdvantage account. Many may be surprised to learn that this membership could very well kick in before you even receive your credit card in the mail, and you don’t even need your card to enter a lounge.
Fortunately there’s an easy way to tell if your Admirals Club membership has been activated. To figure it out, pretend that you’re signing up for an Admirals Club membership. Go to this page, enter your AAdvantage number, last name, and password.
If your account has already been updated to reflect the Admirals Club membership, you’ll see that the next page shows “1-Year Citi AADV Exec CC Membership.”
If it hasn’t been updated, you’ll see that it gives you the option of choosing what kind of membership you want to purchase.
Note that this only works for the primary cardmember. Since the authorized users don’t get a full Admirals Club membership, they wouldn’t show up as being eligible online. Authorized users need to present the physical Citi AAdvantage Executive Card, since there’s no membership linked to their AAdvantage account.
Give 10 Authorized Users Admirals Club Access
This is where the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card goes from solid to unbelievably good. You can add up to 10 authorized users on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card at no extra cost, and each of the authorized users also receives Admirals Club access.
Note that authorized users receive Admirals Club access and not a membership, so there are the restrictions:
- They’ll need to present their authorized user card to access the lounge, since they don’t have a membership tied to their AAdvantage number
- They need to be flying American Airlines or a oneworld partner airline the same day to access lounges
- They can bring immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18) or up to two guests
- They can’t access partner lounges, including Alaska Lounges
For the purposes of accessing Admirals Clubs this is more or less the same as an outright membership.
This is such an outrageously good benefit, since it means that just about all of my family and some of my friends get Admirals Club access when they fly. When you split my $450 annual fee 11 ways, I’m basically paying just over $40 per person per year for Admirals Club access. That’s less than the cost of a single day pass.
How To Add Authorized Users To The Citi AAdvantage Executive
Adding authorized users to the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is super easy, and can be done directly on Citi’s website. Follow this link to access the part of the Citi website where you add authorized users, and then log into your account.
On the next page, you’ll be able to manage authorized users, including adding and removing them.
You’ll just need their name to add them, and you have the choice of whether or not you want to give them permission to access your online account.
Make sure you trust all your authorized users, since any charges they incur will be your responsibility.
Citi AAdvantage Executive Card Benefits
The primary reason to get the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is because of the Admirals Club benefit, though the card offers some other perks that could add a lot of value for card members. These perks range from priority check-in to early boarding to a TSA Pre-Check fee credit.
So here’s what you need to know about all the other perks of the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card.
First Checked Bag Free
Receive a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation. There’s no need to actually pay for the ticket with your Citi AAdvantage Executive Card — you just have to make sure it’s linked to your AAdvantage account (this benefit applies for the primary cardmember only).
American ordinarily charge $30 for the first checked bag, so that’s a $60 value per person roundtrip (and if you had eight companions all checking a bag, that would be a value of $540).
Priority Check-In, Priority Screening, Early Boarding
For being the primary cardmember on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card you receive several valuable airport benefits, including priority check-in, priority airport screening, and early boarding. These are all features that can save you time and money.
Earn Elite Qualifying Miles
While the above two perks are valuable for non-elites, here’s a benefit that’s valuable for AAdvantage elite members. The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card offers 10,000 elite qualifying miles after you spend $40,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Personally, I’d only spend that much on this card if you’re in a bind, because there are better cards for everyday spending. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t offer any opportunity to earn elite qualifying dollars.
For 2021, spending can be more rewarding if you’re looking to retain your AAdvantage elite status. You can retain your AAdvantage status by spending $15,000 on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card:
- You can use this to requalify for AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, or Executive Platinum
- You must spend at least $15,000 on your cards between July 15 and November 15, 2021
- This is valid on AAdvantage credit cards issued by Citi and Barclays, as well as AAdvantage credit cards issued outside the United States
- Spending across cards qualifies, so in theory you could spend $7,500 on each of two cards
Global Entry Or TSA Pre-Check Credit
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every five years. Simply charge the purchase to your card and it will automatically be reimbursed. You don’t have to be the one signing up — you can always pay for a friend or family member who is signing up instead.
Personally, I always recommend applying for Global Entry, because Global Entry automatically comes with TSA Pre-Check, while the inverse isn’t true.
World Elite Mastercard Perks
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is a World Elite Mastercard, meaning that it comes with quite a few benefits you may not be familiar with. In addition to the concierge service, it also offers perks like $5 worth of Lyft credits when you take three rides in a calendar month and pay with your card.
Is The American Executive Card Worth It?
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is a fantastic card that I personally have and also recommend, but only if you’re a frequent flyer with American. If you fly American with any frequency then an Admirals Club membership is super valuable, and this is the best way to access Admirals Clubs, hands down.
Not only is the card’s annual fee lower than the cheapest Admirals Club membership fee, but you get the additional perk of lounge access for 10 others.
Is This The Best Card For Lounge Access?
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is the best card for lounge access if you’re a frequent flyer on American Airlines. However, if you fly a variety of airlines, I think going with another premium card is a better option:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve (review) offers a Priority Pass membership, which gets you access to 1,300+ lounges around the world
- The Amex Platinum (review) offers a Priority Pass membership, access to Amex Centurion Lounges, and access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same day
Note that neither of those cards gets you access to any American Airlines Admirals Clubs, though.
Citi AAdvantage Executive Card Summary
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a frequent flyer on American then you shouldn’t consider this card. However, if you are a frequent flyer on American then this card is totally for you.
While Admirals Clubs aren’t anything to get too excited about, there’s still huge value in the complimentary snacks and drinks, free Wi-Fi and quiet places to sit, and access to an agent in the event your flight has irregular operations.
I’ve had the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card for years, and love it. The Admirals Club membership is awesome, while the Admirals Club access for up to 10 authorized users is the icing on the cake. This card is truly in a league of its own when it comes to lounge access.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).