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For a frequent traveler, signing up for a high-end rewards card is a great way to enhance the travel experience. Unfortunately, premium cards come with a premium price tag — annual fees on these cards are in the $450 to $550 range. However, once you take all the perks into account, the card could be worth the fee.
As such, American Airlines flyers should take a look at the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, which has an annual fee of $450.
The credit card comes with an array of benefits:
Admirals Club membership for the cardholder and authorized users.
One checked bag for up to nine travelers on the same reservation on domestic flights.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck enrollment fee credit.
25% discount on in-flight purchases.
10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles when you spend $40,000 on the card every calendar year.
There’s also an attractive welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
Here’s how you can get the most out of your Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best premium credit cards
Visit Admirals Clubs
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® comes with Admirals Club membership. As members, American Airlines passengers can visit about 50 Admirals Club lounges at airports across the world and about 60 partner lounges in select destinations. The membership includes access for up to two guests as well.
The best part about this membership is that authorized users can access Admirals Clubs on their own (membership excludes access to partner lounges). In other words, the primary cardholder doesn’t have to fly. An even better part is that authorized user cards are free to add.
Entering an Admirals Club requires holding a same-day boarding pass on a flight operated by American Airlines, Alaska Airlines or any Oneworld airline. Day passes are available for $59, so membership can be worth the price if you visit lounges often.
Admirals Club membership (worth $650 annually) alone is enough to offset the cost of holding this card.
Check bags at no cost
As a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® holder, you and up to eight travelers booked on the same reservation can check one bag per person for free on domestic itineraries.
A checked bag on a one-way domestic flight costs $30. By checking a bag for you and just one companion, you save $120 every time you fly round-trip. The savings add up even more for multiple trips per year and for multiple passengers on the same reservation.
Enroll in Global Entry or TSA Precheck
Enroll in Global Entry or TSA Precheck to add even more dollars back in your piggy bank. You’ll get reimbursed $100 for a Global Entry membership good for five years, which is how often the reimbursement resets. This means that you can’t receive the credit every year, but it’s another $20 shaved off the real cost of your membership fee every year. The TSA Precheck reimbursement is $85 — the cost of a five-year Precheck membership.
If you hold other credit cards that offer this perk, use your Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® to enroll a family member or a friend and save them the cash they would have spent on the enrollment fee.
Save 25% on in-flight purchases
Did you skip snacks at the Admirals Club because of a short connection? Feel free to buy a meal or a premium beverage onboard to celebrate the start of your vacation, pay with your Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, and receive 25% back to your account as a statement credit. Be sure to take your card with you when you fly.
Get closer to elite status
Paying just 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile on everything else, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®’s earning structure is rather poor. However, looking at the big picture and making your everyday purchases on the card can be beneficial.
If you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31), you’ll receive 10,000 Elite Qualification Miles, or EQMs, in your AAdvantage account. Those EQMs can help you reach the next elite tier. Being an elite member can get you cabin upgrades, mileage bonuses and airport benefits, such as free checked bags, priority check-in lines and priority bag delivery.
» Learn more: Should you aim for airline elite status?
The bottom line
It’s easy to ignore premium co-branded airline credit cards because of their high annual fees. We get so caught up in the card’s cost that we forget to evaluate its benefits and analyze how we can turn that cost into profit. However, by being strategic, it’s possible to get good value out of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® if you're a frequent American Airlines flyer.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card