Is the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard Worth Its Annual Fee?

If lounge access is important to you, this card's high annual fee is actually a deal.
Anya Kartashova
By Anya Kartashova 
Edited by Jeanette Margle

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is the only co-branded American Airlines credit card that comes with Admirals Club membership and a number of other perks. Although its $450 annual fee might deter you from applying, don’t make up your mind about this card until you’ve looked at the benefits that, for some travelers, make this card worth the fee.

Welcome bonus

When choosing the right moment to apply for a credit card, the size of a welcome bonus plays a major role in the decision. Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

NerdWallet values AAdvantage miles at about 1.5 cents each. Booking premium cabin flights will often increase the miles’ value.

Earn miles on purchases

You’ll earn miles just for making charges to the card:

  • 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases. For a limited time, earn a total of 4 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases through December 31, 2022.

  • 1 AAdvantage mile per dollar spent on qualifying purchases everywhere else.

The card also earns 1 Loyalty Point per 1 eligible mile purchase — the only metric that matters for earning elite status in the airline loyalty program.

Complimentary Admirals Club membership

As a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® holder, you’re eligible to enter Admirals Club lounges. You just need to show a boarding pass for that same day on an American Airlines or a Oneworld partner flight. Family members or up to two guests are included in the membership. And if this isn’t generous enough, authorized users added to your account are also eligible to use the benefit even without the primary cardholder present.

Individual Admirals Club membership costs $500 to $650, depending on elite status and whether you pay for a new membership or a renewal. So the card’s annual fee of $450 is offset by this perk alone if you value lounge access and can make enough visits per year.

Global Entry / TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Another benefit of this premium credit card is the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. By applying for either "trusted traveler" program and paying the enrollment fee with your Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® every five years, you’ll receive a statement credit in the amount of $85 for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry. Note that the TSA PreCheck application fee was recently lowered to $78.

Although many credit cards offer this perk, and you might hold one of them already, it’s possible to use the benefit to enroll a family member or a friend in one of the programs. At face value, this perk is worth $17 to $20 per year.

First checked bag free

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® also comes with a free checked bag on an American Airlines-operated domestic flight for the primary cardmember and an additional eight companions booked under the same booking reference.

Normally, American Airlines charges $30 per checked bag in one direction, which means that you can save $60 per round trip just on your own flight. Depending on how many flights you take annually, this can save you a hefty amount of cash.

Enhanced airport experience

By simply holding the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation are eligible for expedited check-in by using a priority line. You can also go through a priority airport security screening line if available and board the aircraft in a priority boarding group on American Airlines-marketed flights.

It’s difficult to assign a cash value to this particular benefit, but time is money and you can save lots of time by not having to stand in long lines at the airport.

Elite qualifying miles

Although the earning rates on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® leave a lot to be desired, one additional benefit might make you consider swiping it daily.

If you make at least $40,000 in purchases with the card within a calendar year you will earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles. These EQMs put you on your way to earning elite flyer status with the airline. For example, one of the criteria to become a Gold-level elite member is accumulating 15,000 EQMs. So this card puts elite status and all its perks within closer reach. If you don’t already have any status or you are a lower-tier member, you could reach the next elite tier by making everyday purchases with the card, provided you also meet the elite qualifying dollars requirement.

Again, this perk doesn’t have hard cash value assigned, but by holding status, you’ll earn more redeemable miles on each flight, be able to check more bags and qualify for upgrades. You'll also get some reciprocal elite status benefits when flying with JetBlue via the Northeast Alliance partnership.

25% discount on in-flight meals and drinks

Using your Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® to pay for in-flight meals and premium beverages will save you 25% in the form of a statement credit applied to your balance after the flight.

This perk was more useful before the coronavirus impacted air travel, when meals and beverages were available for purchase in the main cabin. Unfortunately, it’s no longer the case on transcontinental flights and flights to Hawaii, and meals on most international flights are already included in the ticket price.

No foreign transaction fees

Speaking of international travel, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® charges no foreign transaction fees, which saves you from paying about 3% more on every transaction you make overseas. Think of it as saving $3 for every $100 you spend in a foreign country when borders open to international travel again.

Is it worth the annual fee?

Once the welcome bonus miles are redeemed, it’s up to the ongoing benefits to make a premium credit card worthwhile. So how much value can you get out of this card every year?

As discussed above, an individual Admirals Club membership runs between $500 and $650. So on average, this benefit is worth $575. By enrolling in either TSA Precheck or Global Entry and getting the enrollment fee credited back to your account, you’ll get another $17 to $20 worth of benefits every year. If you already have elite status with American Airlines, the checked bags and priority boarding benefits do nothing for you, and you won’t be able to get a 25% discount on in-flight meals when you fly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, receiving upwards of $600 worth of benefits out of a $450 credit card puts you ahead without even accounting for a welcome bonus worth $500 and the small perks you might or might not be using when flying with American Airlines.

Who is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® right for?

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is a good option for those who fly American Airlines or its partners regularly and who make at least 10 visits to Admirals Clubs (or fewer if flying with companions). It’s a good choice for non-elite flyers who can make use of the other small benefits, such as a free checked bag and priority boarding. However, elite flyers can also benefit from spending enough on the card to boost their status.

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 2023, including those best for:

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