In July 2017 I will lose Admirals Club access from the Citi Prestige card and have 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 $500. As far as premium credit cards go, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card is definitely not the most valuable, but if Admirals Club access is your goal there is no better way to get access. Below are a few reasons to consider applying for the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card.

Admirals Club Membership

Unlike the Citi Prestige card which offers Admirals Club access when traveling with American Airlines or OneWorld partners, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card comes with full Admirals Club Membership. Even better, membership is recognized via your AAdvantage frequent flyer number which means you are not required to have the card with you in order to gain access (although it is smart to have it just in case). Admirals Club agents can look you up in the system by using your AAdvantage number and a photo ID. Admirals Club members are allowed to bring immediate family or up to two guests regardless of which airline you or your guests are flying. Further, cardholders and guests do not even need to be traveling together to gain access.

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 Signup Bonus

After January 1, 2017, AAdvantage award miles become increasingly difficult to those who pay for the “cheap seats.” Award miles will derived by a combination of price paid, fare class flow, and status held. Credit card signup bonuses through the various Citi AAdvantage products and upcoming Barclay’s AAdvantage cards may be the best way to earn additional award miles going forward. Although the 50,000 mile bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months of card membership is not as incredible as the 100,000 mile offer from months ago, it is still a very sizable bonus. For example, 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, but I would imagine majority of cardholders would maintain some form of status with American (at least Gold) which would already give them all of these benefits. Also, because the card comes with the standard TSA PreCheck credit, I would hope majority of cardholders have the ability to bypass security and use the TSA PreCheck lanes. That being said, if someone is switching from another airline and making American Airlines their primary carrier, this benefit could be very valuable at first.

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 cardmembers 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, but I would also prefer to actually fly the 10,000 miles which many older readers may not want to do.

Free Authorized Users

This may be 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 cardholder. 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. It seems access is not linked to your AAdvantage account, so authorized users do need to physically swipe the card to get in, but 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

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 only travel for pleasure and find themselves running to the jet bridge when traveling the card may not be 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.

Luckily, this card is part of a range of co-branded cards so if the card no longer makes sense or proves to not be as valuable as initially though, the card can either be downgraded to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card or converted to another Citi product (if you get a nice phone agent).