3 reasons why this is the best card for Admirals Club lounge access when travel returns
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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel and credit card deals and content because we should all use this time to think about and plan what’s next. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until late this year — and even then, be mindful of travel cancellation policies.
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While no one is accessing airport lounges right now (let alone airports in general) due to a global pandemic, travel will return in the months ahead. Airport lounge access is crucial for many travelers, either to relax before a journey ahead or to stay productive and get work done.
American’s Admirals Club lounges are currently either shut down or open with significantly reduced service, depending on the location. However, when people start taking to the skies again, the best ways to access Admirals Clubs is through one specific credit card — the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.
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In fact, this is the only card that can get you into Admirals Clubs. While it does come with a $450 annual fee, the lounge access makes it a card to seriously consider.
Related reading: The ultimate guide to Admirals Club access
Why this card is a winner
If you can’t get access to an Admiral Club from elite status or the class of service you’re flying, one option is to purchase a membership. Here is annual pricing broken down by AAdvantage level:
1. Cheaper than paying for an Admirals Club membership
However, the best way to guarantee entry into Admirals Clubs is to have the Citi AAdvantage Executive card. You’d actually save money by having the card versus paying for any of the membership options.
For instance, say you were considering purchasing an Admirals Club membership as a general AAdvantage member (no elite status). Instead of paying $650 for access per year, you’d be better off applying for the Citi Executive card and paying $450 per year, plus getting other credit card-specific perks.
The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, worth $700, based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
2. Authorized user access
The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard allows you to add up to 10 authorized users to the account at no charge. That’s huge. That means up to 10 other people you know could potentially use the card’s special access to Admirals Clubs. This applies whether the primary cardholder is flying with that person or not, a fantastic perk that is notably different from similar premium cards offered by other U.S. carriers.
Note that while primary cardholders have access to all Admirals Clubs (about 50 worldwide) and partner lounges (about 60 worldwide), authorized users only get access to American’s Admirals Clubs. However, both the primary cardholder and each authorized user can bring immediate family members or up to two traveling guests into the lounge. If you do the math and include potential guests, a single card could get 33 people into an Admirals Club.
Related reading: The best credit cards for airport lounge access
3. Other Citi Executive card perks
With the Citi card, you’ll also get 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases and the ability to earn 10,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 a year. The card comes with Group 4 priority boarding and your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.
In addition, like a lot of other premium cards, this one also 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.
Related reading: Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?
Admirals Club restrictions
In November 2019, American Airlines began requiring a same-day boarding pass for American or one of its partners to access to an Admirals Club lounge before or after a flight. While this move was said to be meant to reduce overcrowding in the lounges, it’s undeniable a devaluation for elite members and paying customers alike.
This new rule was instituted regardless of how you earned access — whether through a credit card or paid outright for an annual membership. That means that you’re not at a disadvantage with this Citi AAdvantage Executive card over other club members.
The Citi AAdvantage Executive card is unique in that you can spread the benefit of the annual fee with friends and family in a way that you can’t do with just an Admirals Club membership. Note, however, that while American announced a six-month extension on Admirals Club memberships due to coronavirus, this does not apply to those with this card.
While no one is flying or accessing lounges right now, keep this card at the top of your mind if you plan to fly American with any frequency in the future.
Additional reporting by JT Genter.
Featured photo by author.
Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.