Can I Use My Annual Travel Credit for an Airline Lounge Membership?
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TPG reader Benjamin sent me a message on Facebook to ask about redeeming a credit card benefit:
“I know the Sapphire Reserve card comes with Priority Pass, but I'm also interested in getting Admirals Club access. If I purchase a membership, can I use my $300 annual travel credit to help cover the cost?”
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers what I think is the best travel credit benefit available among premium rewards cards. You get up to $300 in statement credits annually as reimbursement for travel purchases, and Chase has a pretty broad definition of what qualifies as travel. Airline purchases are included on the list, so if you buy lounge access directly from your carrier of choice, the Sapphire Reserve credit should apply. Benjamin could effectively get a $300 discount on an Admirals Club membership this way, but I think there's a much better option.
A new Admirals Club membership normally costs $550. You get a discount for having AAdvantage elite status, and the cost to renew is $50 less than when you first sign up, but in most scenarios you'll be paying at least $450 each year for an individual membership. For that same annual fee, you could instead sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which offers the same Admirals Club membership plus a lot more.
For starters, you get lounge access for more people. Admirals Club members are allowed to bring up to 2 guests or immediate family into lounges when traveling together. Those same rules apply to AAdvantage Executive cardholders, but authorized users also receive access, so they can get into the lounge even when they visit without you. There's no cost to add authorized users, so the $450 annual fee is much less than what you'd pay for a household membership.
The card also comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening. We've seen larger bonuses in the past (with higher spending requirements), but 50,000 AAdvantage miles is worth $750 based on my most recent valuations, so it's still a huge improvement to your overall return. Finally, you get benefits like a free checked bag, early boarding, and a $100 statement credit to cover a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, none of which come with a normal Admirals Club membership.
Of course, you can't use your Sapphire Reserve credit to pay the annual fee on the AAdvantage Executive card, but so long as you can apply the credit to some other travel expense, I think that's the best way to get an Admirals Club membership. You could use a similar strategy with Delta or United, since both airlines also have co-branded cards that offer lounge access.
For more on the AAdvantage Executive card and lounge access in general, check out these posts:
- 6 Reasons to Get the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
- Does the Amex Platinum Airline Credit Cover Lounge Access?
- Is Lounge Access Worth the Price of a Day Pass?