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The competition in the market for personal premium credit cards has been heating up since the Chase Sapphire Reserve debuted with great success in 2016. Many cards now have annual fees between $400 and $500+ — and all of them claim to offer the holder unmatched benefits and service. Consumers can choose between the Platinum family of cards from American Express, the Citi Prestige Card, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card and the Luxury Card family from Barclays. Often overlooked is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®. Today I’ll review all the benefits of this American Airlines cobranded card to help you decide whether you should consider carrying it in your wallet.
Who Is This Card For?
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is ideal for those who fly American Airlines enough that they wish they had elite status but don’t actually fly enough to earn it. The perks the card offers are a lot like having status, but without the first-class upgrades. And even if you want actual elite status, the card offers an opportunity to fast-track it. Plus, being among the few US carriers to not fully implement dynamic award pricing — yet — it can’t hurt to pick up a stash of AA miles.
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, worth $700 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. For an idea of what the bonus can get you, a round-trip ticket to Hawaii is 40,000 miles at the MileSAAver level.
The card carries a $450 annual fee and there are no foreign transaction fees.
Earning and Redeeming
With the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, you will earn 2x miles on each dollar spent with American Airlines and 1x miles on all other spending. That’s on par with the premium-level Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, but these returns are rather disappointing if you consider that AA’s Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard also earns 2x miles at restaurants and gas stations. There’s no cap on how many miles you can earn in a year.
Although American appears to be moving toward dynamic award pricing, it hasn’t made the switch completely, unlike Delta and United. This means that most awards have fixed prices, regardless of what the cash rate is. For instance, a one-way economy award ticket to Europe costs 22,500 miles at the MileSAAver Off Peak level and 30,000 miles at the MileSAAver level. The lowest round-trip tickets in the US start at 7,500 miles one way (not including reduced mileage awards or economy web specials) for flights less than 500 miles long at the MileSAAVer level, meaning that the sign-up bonus is enough for as many as six one-way economy flights. Alternatively, you could get a ton of value redeeming your AAdvantage miles for premium-cabin awards on partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Finnair.
What sets this card apart from the competition is that it provides complimentary Admirals Club access. The primary cardholder receives a full Admirals Club membership, which allows you and your immediate family (including children under 18) or two traveling companions access to the club when you have a same-day boarding pass for American or one of its partners. Your credit card will be tied to your AAdvantage account number, so you don’t even have to carry the card with you to get club access. Cardholders also gain access to a number of partner lounges, including Alaska Board Rooms when flying Alaska or AA, but do not receive Flagship or Arrivals lounge access.
Admirals Club membership ordinarily costs between $650-$550 depending on your status level with American. That means the annual fee without all the other benefits covers the lounge access — but it gets even better. You can add up to 10 authorized users to your account for no additional cost. Each authorized user receives Admirals Club access for themselves and up to two traveling companions. That means you could add 10 authorized users, all travel together, and 33 people could have a great time in the Admirals Club. Just be aware that authorized users only get Admirals Club access, as opposed to to a full Admirals Club membership so they don’t get access to partner lounges.
Here are some other valuable perks the card offers:
- Enhanced Airport Experience — Up to eight customers traveling with the primary cardmember on the same reservation will also get priority check-in (where available), priority airport screening (where available) and priority boarding privileges. You can even check in at any business-class check–in position (or first-class check–in when business class is not available), regardless of the class of service in which you’re traveling.
- First Checked Bag Free on Domestic Itineraries — On domestic itineraries flown by American or any regional subsidiary, the first checked bag for you and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation is free. The flight must be marketed, sold and operated by American in order to get the free checked bag.
- Access to Reduced Mileage Awards — TPG covers these cheap award routes in depth each quarter they’re released. The MileSAAver discount is 7,500 miles round-trip or 3,750 one way for flights greater than 500 miles in distance. If the flight is less than or equal to 500 miles in distance, which qualifies for a short-haul MileSAAver award, the mileage discount will be 2,000 miles round trip or 1,000 one way. You must fly to or from the airports listed in the current quarter’s promotion in order to get a discount.
- 25% Off Eligible Inflight Purchases — This essentially means 25% off inflight food and beverages when you pay for them with the card (not including inflight Wi-Fi).
- Bonus Elite Qualifying Miles — Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year. EQMs earned do not count toward million miler status, and you can only earn the bonus EQMs once per year.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Fee Statement Credit — Get a $100 statement credit when paying the Global Entry fee with the card or an $85 credit when enrolling in TSA PreCheck. You’ll receive the credit once every five years. Because you also receive TSA PreCheck when enrolling for Global Entry, there’s no real reason you should ever just enroll in PreCheck.
Which Cards Compete With the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard?
American is not a transfer partner of any of the major transferrable points programs, so the biggest competitors of this card are the other cobranded American Airlines cards — and there are a lot of them. All of the other cards have lower annual fees and most still come with perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, 25% inflight savings and 2x miles on AA purchases. These cards include the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. What those cards don’t offer, however, is Admirals Club access, so you’ll need to decide whether that benefit is worth the substantially larger annual fee for you.
If you’re not an avid AA flyer who values Admirals Club access and are simply looking to earn a lot of travel points and miles, it could make more sense to stick to a premium travel-rewards card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or Citi Prestige® Card. With the exception of Admirals Club access and priority services, both cards’ benefits match or beat the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard on the majority of fronts. Both cards allow you to earn up to 5 points per dollar on airfare and take advantage of myriad airline transfer partners. Although American isn’t a transfer partner of either of the programs, you could still use points earned with these cards to book AA flights by transferring them to partners like British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Etihad.
With the price of an Admirals Club membership increasing this past February, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard quickly came back to the center of many American flyers’ attention. If you want Admirals Club access and want to boost your AA mileage balance by 50,000 miles while also possibly becoming 10,000 EQMs closer to the next status level, it seems like a good idea to pick up this card. However, you might want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a card that will give you a good return on your spending.
Additional reporting by Richard Kerr
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