Battle of the authorized users: Comparing benefits on three premium travel credit cards
If you tend to travel in groups — whether that's with family members, friends or coworkers — you're likely aware of the value of adding authorized users to share premium credit card benefits such as lounge access or complimentary travel protections.
Three top travel cards come to mind when it comes to the best authorized user benefits: the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and The Platinum® Card from American Express.
All of these cards come with considerable annual fees, ranging from $395 to $695 per year (see rates and fees for the Amex Platinum). But most cardholders can usually justify these costs if they have any authorized users to add who can share in these primary cardholder benefits.
We'll compare the benefits and costs to help you determine which card is the best for adding authorized users.
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Overview of authorized user benefits
|Capital One Venture X||Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||Amex Platinum|
|Welcome bonus||Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.||Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.|
|Annual fee||$395||$450||$695 (see rates and fees)|
|Authorized user fee||Free for up to the first four users.||Free for up to the first 10 users.||$175 to add up to three additional card users, then $175 per card thereafter (see rates and fees).|
|Authorized user benefits|
Related: Credit cards with the greatest value for authorized users
Capital One Venture X authorized user benefits
The Capital One Venture X offers some heavy-hitting travel benefits for both the primary cardholder and authorized users. For the lowest annual fee on this list ($395 per year), Venture X cardholders can add up to four authorized users for no cost. If you take advantage of adding all four authorized users onto this card, that's like paying $79 per year, per person — a great deal considering the excellent list of benefits that come with the card.
Here's everything that a Venture X authorized user will receive with the card.
- Airport lounge access: Authorized users get unlimited access to Capital One lounges (currently only one location at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport) and 1,300-plus Priority Pass lounges worldwide and can even bring up to two guests. Plus, at participating airport restaurants, your authorized user can get $28 to $30 toward food and drink — also for up to two guests. That makes the Capital One Venture X one of the best bargains for sharing lounge access — with potentially up to 15 people.
- Hertz President's Circle elite status: By registering through your Capital One account, your authorized user can enjoy top-tier status with Hertz car rentals, which offers a guaranteed one-class car upgrade, 50% bonus points, access to a broader range of cars and a dedicated customer service line. Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.
- Travel and purchase protections: There are almost too many to list here, but authorized users will receive complimentary trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement with common carrier tickets, cellphone protection, primary rental car protection, manufacturer's extended warranty and return protection (Benefits available for Visa Infinite cards). You'll never know when you need to file a claim for one of these coverages, but if that happens, your authorized user could potentially save hundreds of dollars.
Related: You and 14 friends can all access the airport lounge with this card
Citi / AAdvantage Executive authorized user benefits
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is American Airlines' top credit card offering and comes with a $450 annual fee. One of the main benefits of this card is complimentary Admirals Club access for you and up to two guests — but this benefit can be shared with up to 10 authorized users for no additional cost.
Considering that Admirals Club membership alone costs $650 per year for basic AAdvantage members (with no elite status), paying a $450 annual fee for one membership is already a great deal. But the ability to share this access with up to 10 authorized users and their two guests each? That's like getting up to 33 people into the Admirals Club for free. While it's unlikely that you have this many people to add as authorized users or even bring to the lounge, never say never, and this card is truly among the best for those who frequently travel in large groups.
You answered, we listened: The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard even won this year's reader's choice award as the best premium credit card in the 2021 TPG Awards.
Unfortunately, authorized users of this card won't get other benefits like Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement, free checked bags or priority boarding when traveling without the primary cardholder.
Related: Easiest way to get American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounge access (and share it, too)
Amex Platinum authorized user benefits
The last card of the bunch is the Amex Platinum, with the most expensive annual fee of almost any consumer card on the market. The $695 annual fee becomes even steeper when you add authorized users. There's a flat $175 fee to add up to three users (so roughly $60 per person) and $175 per user thereafter.
Note that you can request Gold cards for your authorized users and not pay additional fees. But don't confuse these authorized user cards with the American Express® Gold Card, as these authorized user cards won't get any of the benefits listed below.
Though the fees may seem costly at first glance, the benefits awarded to the authorized users on the Amex Platinum are quite valuable:
- Airport lounge access: Your authorized user can visit the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which won the 2021 TPG Editor's Choice Awards for Best Card Perk, so the ability to share this amazing benefit is huge. Access also includes American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights and more, making this the most comprehensive lounge access worldwide. Guest policies depend on each type of lounge. For example, your authorized users can bring up to two guests to the Centurion Lounge for free (well, for now). To enroll in the Priority Pass lounge benefit, authorized users will need to call the number on the back of their Platinum card.
- Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement: Every four years for Global Entry and every 4.5 years for TSA Precheck, your authorized user can charge their application fee to their card and get reimbursed for either trusted traveler program.
- Complimentary hotel elite status: In both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, authorized users can call the number on the back of their card to get Gold elite status with these hotel loyalty programs. Both levels will get you room upgrades (if available), bonus points and additional amenities.
- Complimentary car rental elite status: Authorized users can enroll in complimentary elite status through Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive on Amex’s website.
Related: Why you should add authorized users on your Amex Platinum
While adding authorized users won't give them all of the benefits that you enjoy as the primary cardholder, you'll get to share a decent number of benefits — sometimes for no additional cost.
If you're thinking of applying for a premium credit card for the sake of authorized user benefits, be sure to review the perks to help you decide which card presents the best long-term value for your travel habits.
If you're a frequent American Airlines flyer, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card is a no-brainer. If your goal is to share lounge benefits with your immediate family members without incurring an additional fee, the Venture X offers unbeatable value. Finally, if you don't mind paying a higher cost to get and give the best lounge access worldwide, the Amex Platinum wins on that front.
Official application link: Capital One Venture X.
Official application link: Citi/AAdvantage Executive.
Official application link: Amex Platinum.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.