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

This card's high annual fee is actually still cheaper than buying an Admirals Club lounge membership.
Sean Cudahy
By Sean Cudahy 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is perhaps best known as the only American Airlines co-branded credit card that comes with an Admirals Club membership.

However, the card carries a host of other benefits that can enhance your travel experience and help you save money on everyday purchases — travel and otherwise.

That’s especially true after the July 2023 changes to the card. In addition to adding new benefits for cardholders, American also raised the annual fee from $450 to $595.

Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

On top of that, American Airlines has ended a key benefit of the card. Previously, for no cost, members could add authorized card users — each of whom would be able to access Admirals Clubs, too. Now, card members will have to pay at least $175 for authorized users.

Here’s what to know about the card, its benefits and drawbacks as you consider whether it’s worth adding to your wallet.

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. Here’s the current offer: Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

(To be eligible, you must not have received a welcome bonus for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® in the past four years.)

Keep in mind NerdWallet values AAdvantage miles at about 1.7 cents each, but booking premium cabin flights will often increase the miles’ value.

Earn miles on purchases

With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll earn AAdvantage miles that you can redeem for flights and more.

  • Earn 4 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases. Members who spend at least $150,000 in a calendar year will be eligible to earn 5 AAdvantage miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases for the remainder of the year. 

  • Earn 10 AAdvantage miles per dollar on eligible car rentals booked through

  • Earn 10 AAdvantage miles per dollar on eligible hotel stays booked through

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

Earn Loyalty Points on purchases

American awards elite status based on how many Loyalty Points a member earns through a combination of flying, shopping with partner companies and spending on co-branded credit cards like this one.

The card earns 1 Loyalty Point per base mile earned through purchases. The caveat is you won’t earn 4, 5 or 10 Loyalty Points per dollar, even on purchases that earn 4, 5 or 10 AAdvantage miles per dollar. You’ll earn 1 Loyalty Point per dollar.

For example, if you spend $100 on groceries, you’d earn 100 AAdvantage miles and 100 Loyalty Points. If you spent $200 on an eligible American Airlines purchase, you’d earn 800 miles, but just 200 Loyalty Points.

Extra boost toward elite status

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® can provide an extra boost toward American Airlines elite status with the opportunity to earn up to 20,000 additional Loyalty Points by hitting certain thresholds:

  • Card members can earn a 10,000 Loyalty Point bonus after earning 50,000 Loyalty Points or spending $40,000 on the card in a status qualification year.

  • Card members can earn an additional 10,000 Loyalty Point bonus after earning 90,000 Loyalty Points in a status qualification year.

Assuming you’ve spent $40,000 on the card, you would have already earned 40,000 Loyalty Points and achieved AAdvantage Gold status (which kicks in at 40,000). The 10,000-point boost would mean you have to earn another 25,000 Loyalty Points to reach AAdvantage Platinum (which kicks in at 75,000).

Complimentary Admirals Club membership

As a holder of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, 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.

Even with American raising the price of a new Admirals Club membership to $850 for new non-elite AAdvantage members, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®’s $595 annual fee is still cheaper.

However, as part of the most recent changes to the card, American is devaluing one of the most noteworthy perks. Previously, cardmembers could add numerous authorized users to their account who were then eligible to access Admirals Club lounges (and bring up to two guests in).

Going forward, cardmembers will have to pay $175 annually to add as many as three authorized users. Each additional authorized user beyond the first three will cost another $175.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Another benefit of this premium airline credit card is the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years. By applying for either Trusted Traveler program and paying the enrollment fee with your Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll receive a statement credit of $78 for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry.

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 benefit is worth $15 to $20 per year.

First checked bag free

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

Normally, American Airlines charges $30 per checked bag, per flight on domestic routes, which means that you can save $60 per round trip just on your own flight. For a family with four checked bags traveling on the same reservation as the primary cardholder, that’s a savings of $240 for one domestic round trip.

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 you can save lots of time by not having to stand in long lines at the airport.

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.

Trip protection

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® now includes travel protections, a feature offered by numerous other premium travel credit cards.

Coverage includes protections for trip cancellation, interruption and delay, as well as lost baggage and worldwide rental car insurance.

This can help you offset costs incurred from unexpected travel disruptions.

Other perks

As part of the suite of new benefits tied to this card, you will also get some cost-saving perks beyond travel on American Airlines.

Rental car savings

On top of awarding a hefty haul of bonus miles for car rentals booked through American’s online portal, you can also enjoy cost-savings on car rentals. Cardholders can get up to $120 back annually on eligible car rentals with Avis or Budget.

Food delivery service credits

Cardholders can also get up to $120 back annually on eligible purchases at food delivery service Grubhub. Specifically, you can get up to $10 back on Grubhub each month, which would be sufficient to cover a monthly Grubhub+ membership, which wipes out delivery fees.

Lyft ride credits

Members can also get up to $120 annually (up to $10 monthly) in Lyft credits. Keep in mind, though, that this credit is available only after taking three eligible rides in a month.

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.

Is it worth the annual fee?

An individual Admirals Club membership costs $850, so if that’s a cost you were otherwise willing to pay, that benefit alone would offset the annual fee.

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’re able to take advantage of the Avis/Budget rental car, Lyft and Grubhub credits, that could offer you an additional $360 in annual savings. You’ll want to fully read the terms of each benefit, though, since each has its own rules to claim the savings.

The complimentary checked bags and priority boarding benefits provide value only if you check bags on occasion and you’re not already an AAdvantage elite member (since those are some of the first perks you’ll receive with gold status).

And, of course, the card includes accelerated AAdvantage mileage earnings and Loyalty Points boosts to help you earn higher tier status. The value you’ll get out of that depends on how much you plan to spend on the card per year.

Plus, if you run into travel trouble and are able to take advantage of the card’s trip protections, this could offer significant savings thanks to your membership.

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

With its $595 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® certainly doesn’t come cheap. And, because it’s an airline credit card, a majority of its benefits are directly tied into your experience with American Airlines.

For that reason, travelers choosing this card will want to make sure they fly frequently with American and its partners — enough to justify choosing this card over another premium travel credit card that offers more flexible perks across numerous loyalty programs.

But for those who fly with American or other Oneworld airlines on the regular, and who can frequently take advantage of the card’s complimentary Admirals Club membership, this card can save you money and improve your travel experience along the way.

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 2024, including those best for:

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