Admirals Club membership: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard review

Apr 29, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. Citi is a TPG advertising partner. 

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® overview

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is best for American Airlines flyers who value lounge access. It provides a full Admirals Club membership, as well as a number of other benefits that make flying American Airlines more enjoyable, such as a free checked bag, priority check-in, priority airport screening and priority boarding privileges, along with a boost toward elite status. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

While there are a number of credit cards that offer airport lounge access, the types of lounges each card gets you into can vary greatly. There’s only one cobranded credit card that includes complimentary access to the American Airlines Admirals Club lounges: the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. The card has a $450 annual fee, which might seem steep, but is still much less expensive than a membership. Today, we’ll review all the benefits of this American Airlines cobranded card to help you decide whether you should consider carrying it in your wallet.

New to The Points Guy? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

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 quite fly enough to earn it. The perks the card offers are a lot like having elite status — but without the first-class upgrades. And if you do want elite status, the card offers an opportunity to fast-track it.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus

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. This bonus is worth $700 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

For an idea of what this bonus can get you, a round-trip ticket to Hawaii starts at 40,000 miles at the MileSAAver level. You can also redeem 25,000 miles per person for a round-trip, off-peak economy-class ticket to the Caribbean.

The card carries a $450 annual fee and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Use your AAdvantage miles to book a trip to visit Kaanapali Beach in Maui. (Photo by ejs9/Getty Images)

Main benefits and perks

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 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 it with you to get club access.

Admirals Club membership ordinarily costs between $550 and $650, 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. Just be aware that authorized users only get Admirals Club access, as opposed to a full Admirals Club membership.

Related: Alaska Airlines officially joins Oneworld

AA has been working hard to refresh many of its lounges at airports around the U.S. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Here are some other valuable perks the card offers:

  • Enhanced airport experience — You and up to eight travelers on the same reservation will 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.
  • 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).
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee statement credit — Get an up-to-$100 statement credit when paying the Global Entry fee ($100) with the card or when enrolling in TSA PreCheck ($85). 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.

Finally, the elite qualifying dollar requirement is waived for 2021 by spending $30,000 or more on an eligible Citi / AAdvantage card. This means you can get to AAdvantage Gold, Platinum or Platinum Pro status even faster.

How to earn points

(Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images)

With the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, you will earn 2x miles on each dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x miles on all other spending. That’s on par with the premium-level Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, 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. However, there’s no cap on how many miles you can earn in a year.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

How to redeem points

Like Delta and United, American has moved to dynamic award pricing. At the moment, however, 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 U.S. start at 7,500 miles one-way for flights less than 500 miles long. In other words, the sign-up bonus is enough for as many as six one-way economy flights.

Web specials previously offered include domestic cross-country flights for 5,000 miles each way in economy or 15,000 miles each way in first class, flights to Europe from 9,000 miles each way and flights to Brazil from 15,000 miles each way. Alternatively, you could get a ton of value redeeming your AAdvantage miles for premium-cabin awards on partner airlines including Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Finnair.

Related: How to redeem miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage program

(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)
Redeem 70,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-way business-class flight to the Middle East on Etihad. (Photo by Javier Rodriguez/The Points Guy)

Which cards compete with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard?

American is not a transfer partner of any of the major points programs, so the biggest competitors of this card are other cobranded American Airlines cards — and there are a lot to choose from. 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 eligible American Airlines purchases.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

These cards include the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the Barclays 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.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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 such as 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.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Both cards allow you to earn up to five points per dollar on airfare (when booked directly with the airline or Amex Travel for the Platinum card) and take advantage of myriad airline transfer partners. On the Platinum card, you’ll earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. 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 Oneworld partners like British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Etihad.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Bottom line

Since the price of an Admirals Club membership is at least $550 each year, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard should catch the eye of any frequent American flyer’s attention. If you want Admirals Club access and to boost your AA mileage balance by 50,000 miles (while also easing elite status requirements), this card might be a good fit. 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 Stella Shon.

Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.