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TPG reader Connor has the American Express Platinum card and misses access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs, which the card used to have as one of its benefits, but which it lost March 22, 2014. Now he wonders if it’s worth getting the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard to get back into the Admirals Club when he flies. Here was the question he emailed me:
“How do you obtain access to the Admirals Club when flying coach, now that the Platinum card no longer grants access? Is the Citi Executive card a valid option for Platinum card holders – nearly $1,000 a year in credit card fees is a lot.”
Apart from credit cards, there are a number of ways to get access to the Admirals Club. If you have Oneworld status, certain levels will get you in. Sapphire tier (AA Platinum) frequent flyers are welcome in business class or frequent flyer lounges, and Emerald tier (AA Executive Platinum) frequent flyers can use first class, business class or frequent flyer lounges. Emerald and Sapphire members may invite one guest to join them in the lounge. The guest must also be traveling on a flight operated and marketed by a Oneworld carrier. Now, this will work when you’re flying internationally on a Oneworld carrier, even in coach. But when traveling solely on North American itineraries within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean, you don’t get access. So you can’t just wander in anytime you fly American around North America, otherwise all Platinums and Executive Platinums would be hanging out there all the time.
In terms of credit cards, if you value Admirals Club lounge access and maximize it, then the current offer on the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard is a great deal with a 100,000-mile sign-up bonus when you spend $10,000 in 3 months and full Admirals Club membership as long as you’re a cardholder. However, it does come with a $450 annual fee that is not waived the first year. Also keep in mind that with this card, all your spending banks miles directly to your American AAdvantage mileage account, so you don’t have the flexibility to transfer to a variety of other travel partners like you do with the Membership Rewards points you earn on your American Express Platinum card.
As Connor mentions, the Amex Platinum card comes with its own hefty $450 annual fee, which starts adding up to a lot. However, remember that this card also carriers a slew of value-added benefits like a yearly $200 qualifying airline fee rebate, Global Entry application reimbursement ($100), access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, and more. The card also still offers the primary cardholder Delta SkyClub access, and Priority Pass Select access to over 600 lounges worldwide among other benefits, so those are all good perks that justify the annual fee.
I would actually suggest getting the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard for the lounge access, but making sure you keep an Amex card that earns you Membership Rewards points so you can put your spending on it instead. So if you want to downgrade, you could always pick up the Premier Rewards Gold, whose $175 annual fee is waived the first year, and which will still earn you Membership Rewards points that you can transfer to program partners, plus it earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines, 2 points per dollar on US supermarkets, and 15,000 bonus points when you spend $30,000 on purchases in a calendar year. Or you could get either of the new EveryDay cards, one of which has a $95 annual fee, and the other has no annual fee, and they also earn category bonuses at gas stations and supermarkets plus points bonuses based on how many transactions you make on them in a month.
Before you make your final decision, I would suggest calling Amex and asking for some form of compensation for the loss of American and US Airways club lounge access. Many readers have reported calling in and getting airline rebates in addition to the $200 annual one that automatically comes with the card, and some folks received targeted offers of up to $500 to offset club membership fees. I personally received a $100 airline reimbursement credit and 25,000 bonus Amex points, which made keeping the card worth it to me. So if you haven’t called up the customer service number on the back of your Platinum card yet, I’d do so soon to voice your discontent at the ending of the AA/US lounge benefit, and see what American Express will offer you. It never hurts to ask!