Savvy Saturday: Easiest way to get American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounge access (and share it, too)

Aug 21, 2021

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Editor’s note: Some travel cards come with awkward benefits that are difficult to maximize. This article is part of a series that shows you unique, fun and unintended ways to use your credit card benefits. If you’ve got any questions or have an example of a creative way to maximize a credit card perk, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Visiting airport lounges when you travel can make your journey much more enjoyable and productive. That’s why many frequent travelers carry at least one of the best credit cards for airport lounge access.

You’ve almost certainly meandered past the sliding glass doors of an American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounge during your travels. They’re great for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal and unwinding before (or between) flights. During typical times, you’ll usually find light snacks and free beverages (including alcohol), plus complimentary Wi-Fi and dedicated work zones. Some locations have showers and made-to-order food like guacamole (they’re famous for it).

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Unlike Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership offered by many credit cards, getting into Admirals Club lounges isn’t as easy. You’ll generally need to pay for access unless you are flying in a premium cabin on a qualifying flight.

There’s one other great way to get into Admirals Clubs, though, that you might not be aware of: Carrying the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. The card confers American Airlines Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder as one of its main perks. There’s something else really cool about the card — a unique perk that probably makes it the best American Airlines credit card. It can save you hundreds if you’re a frequent American Airlines flyer – especially if you travel with others or have a large family.

The Citi®/ AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is an example of a World Elite Mastercard. (Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

The secret: the Citi / AAdvantage Executive can amplify Admirals Club access

American Airlines Admirals Club access rules

Normally, American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access requires you to meet one of the following conditions:

  • You’re a paid Admirals Club lounge member (yearly memberships are as high as $650 for individuals depending on elite status, $1,250 for household memberships)
  • You’re flying the same day on a qualifying international or transcontinental first or business class flight marketed or operated by American Airlines or a oneworld airline
  • For a limited time starting Apr. 1, 2021, qualifying international flights will also include flights between the U.S. and Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico
  • You’re an AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, or Executive Platinum member flying the same day on a qualifying international flight marketed or operated by American Airlines or a oneworld airline (in any cabin)
  • You’re a oneworld Emerald or Sapphire elite customer flying the same day on flights marketed and operated by American or a oneworld airline, in any cabin (American Airlines Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum customers traveling only on North American itineraries don’t qualify)
  • You purchase an Admirals Club day pass ($59 per day) holders
  • You’re U.S. military personnel traveling in uniform

The credit card workaround

As you can see, paying cash for an Admirals Club membership is expensive — especially if you purchase a household membership for $1,100-$1,250, depending on your elite status and if your membership is new or renewed. However, you can obtain Admirals Club membership much more cheaply by opening the Citi /AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard instead. Its annual fee is just $450, and it comes with Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder, which means they can get in and bring immediate family or up to two guests on visits.

Related: Citi / AAdvantage Executive review

But the real value proposition of this card lies in the ability to add authorized users so that they can access Admirals Clubs when traveling, too. Cardholders can add up to 10 authorized users for free — and all of them will also enjoy Admirals Club access for themselves and two guests or immediate family (defined as a spouse/domestic partner and children under age 18). That means you could get 11 cards including the primary one and 10 additional ones for the single $450 annual fee and get up to 33 people (the cardholder plus two guests per card) into Admirals Clubs…granted, with a lot of flight and schedule coordination involved.

That’s an incredible deal. Most other cards that offer airport lounge access charge an additional fee to add authorized users, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express. Other airline cobranded credit cards that include lounge access among their benefits also limit that perk much more stringently.

For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card charges a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) with additional cards costing $175 apiece (see rates and fees). For that, only the primary and additional cardmembers get access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. Cardmembers can bring up to two guests or immediate family, but at a cost $39 per person, per location. Not nearly as generous as with the

Adding users

Although Admirals Club membership at a discount is probably reason enough to pick up this card if you are a regular lounge visitor, it can pay to strategize about adding authorized users and sharing the gift of lounge access with a wider circle of friends and family.

For instance, suppose you and your partner fly American Airlines frequently, but not always together. If one of you were to open the Citi / AAdvantage Executive and add the other as authorized user, you could both have access to Admirals Club lounges for the cost of one annual fee. The same principle applies if you have a friend, parent, child, or coworker who’d like to share the benefits of Admirals Club access with you. Just keep in mind you’re responsible for any charges they make to the card, so be sure to only add folks you trust completely.

One other important note: Only the primary cardholder gets a full Admirals Club membership, which also includes access to certain partner lounges (you can see the list of lounges here). Authorized users get Admirals Club access, but aren’t able to enter partner lounges or get discounts on meeting rooms or other promotions like full membership confers.

I’ve got a friend who has the Citi / AAdvantage Executive because he flies on American Airlines for work a couple of times a month, so the perks are more than worth it for him. He’s added a few (trusted) coworkers who travel similarly to his account as authorized users, and they all enjoy the benefits of Admirals Club access without having to pay for a membership beyond the card’s annual fee.

Bottom line

The fact that the Citi / AAdvantage Executive doesn’t charge a fee for up to 10 authorized users is wildly generous. The card can potentially save you several thousand dollars on Admirals Club lounge access, depending on how many authorized users you add. This is one of the biggest credit card benefit sweet spots in the game.

Read our Citi / AAdvantage Executive review to see the other great benefits of this card. And let us know if you use this trick for your friends and family!

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, click here.

Featured photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy.

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