Editorial Review

Citi AAdvantage Executive Review: Your Key to the Club

Frequent American Airlines flyers have one big reason to consider this $450-a-year card: It comes with access to the carrier's exclusive airport lounges.

Gregory KarpJuly 8, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

3.7

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: If access to Admirals Club airport lounges is a high priority for you, then this is your card. If you could take it or leave that access, then look elsewhere, because you can get better rewards for a lot less money.

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

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$450

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$450
Annual Fee
$450
Intro APR
N/A

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Admirals Club membership

  • Sign-up benefits

  • Free checked baggage

  • Early boarding group

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons
  • Has annual fee

  • Needs excellent credit

Alternate Pick: Flexible rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Use rewards to pay for any travel expense

If you spread your flying among multiple airlines, you're probably better off with a general travel card. This card gives you 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases. Miles can be redeemed at 1 cent apiece for statement credit against any travel expense. There's a great sign-up bonus, too. Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$450

Annual Fee

$95

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

N/A

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

For frequent flyers of American Airlines seeking respite from the harried atmosphere of the airport gates, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® delivers: It provides access to the carrier’s exclusive Admirals Club airport lounges.

It’s less expensive to get this $450-annual-fee airline credit card than to pay cash for a lounge membership. And the card provides the coveted lounge perk to up to 10 authorized users on the card, a feature not offered by similar club cards from airline competitors. That’s potentially worth hundreds of dollars compared with buying multiple or household Admirals Club memberships.

The card is full of features and perks, including a generous policy for free checked bags. But ultimately, the decision comes down to whether you want Admirals Club access, something no other credit card can provide.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Basics

Card type: Airline.

Annual fee: $450

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. (Note that you can’t get the sign-up bonus for this card if in the past 24 months you opened or closed any Citi AAdvantage card, other than the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card or the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®.)

Rewards:

  • 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

  • AAdvantage miles are worth 1 cent each on average for domestic travel, according to NerdWallet valuations. The best redemption options for AAdvantage miles are award flights and seat upgrades on American and its Oneworld partners.

Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Other benefits:

  • Admirals Club membership.

  • First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation.

  • Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year.

  • VIP airport treatment: Priority check-in, airport screening (where available) and early boarding when flying American Airlines.

  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck application credit: Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every five years, as reimbursement for your application fee.

  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

  • Access to American’s Reduced Mileage Award program: If you use frequent flyer miles to book certain round-trip domestic MileSAAver award flights, you can get a discount of 7,500 miles on longer flights or 2,000 miles on shorter ones.

Where the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® shines

Admirals Club membership

Getting in. Admirals Clubs have over 50 locations worldwide, along with 60 partner lounges. The card gets you into the lounge, along with your immediate family or up to two traveling guests. There, you'll have access to free snacks, drinks, showers, office space and personalized travel assistance. Starting Nov. 1, 2019, the airline requires same-day boarding passes on American Airlines or partner airlines for entry. So if you’re at the airport to fly United Airlines, for example, you wouldn't be able to use the American Airlines lounge.

Savings. Without the card, a one-day pass costs $59. If you value the card solely for lounge access, you would have to use the lounge eight times a year to make up its annual fee. The cash cost of an annual membership varies, but a regular frequent flyer without elite status would pay $650 a year. By that measure, the $450 annual fee of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® seems like a bargain.

Authorized user benefit. For no extra cost, you can add up to 10 authorized users who get their own cards and can get into lounges without the primary cardholder present. That can be a huge benefit over buying multiple memberships. Read the fine print, though. Authorized users don’t get some membership benefits, such as access to non-Admirals Club partner lounges or special pricing on conference rooms in the lounges.

A path to elite status

If you’re striving for elite status and willing to spend a lot on the card, you’ll get 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year. To learn more about elite status in the frequent flyer program, see NerdWallet's complete guide to the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

Sign-up bonus

Bonuses change, but this card generally gives you enough miles to get a free domestic award flight, or at least enough to get close to one. That could translate into savings of several hundred dollars.

The current bonus is: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

How it compares with other American Airlines cards

Among American Airlines credit cards, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® is the most premium. It comes with the richest benefits — and the highest annual fee. If you're looking to earn miles with American Airlines but want to pay a lower annual fee, consider going with one of the other cards. For more analysis, read NerdWallet's comparison of American Airlines credit cards.

Here's how the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® stacks up with some of its sister cards on key benefits.

Why you should choose a different card

High annual fee

You can get a lot of value for the annual fee of $450. But that hefty price will be a non-starter for some. You can find travel credit cards that charge a lesser annual fee or none at all, but you'll miss out on some of the luxury perks offered by premium travel cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.

One that will defray the cost of occasionally getting into airport lounges — though, not Admirals Clubs — is the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card, which has an annual fee of $95. It comes with up to $200 in travel statement credits, including one $100 credit toward a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee, and a $100 annual credit for airline incidentals, for purchases such as seat upgrades, checked baggage fees and day passes to lounges. If you want a card that helps you cover the cost of getting into another airport lounge, this could be a good pick. The sign-up bonus is also generous: Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Low ongoing rewards rate

The card is a mediocre tool for racking up frequent flyer miles. You get 1 mile per dollar spent in most cases and double miles for eligible American Airlines purchases. Even the more basic American Airlines cards come with additional bonus categories.

Lack of flexibility

If you spread your flying among multiple airlines, a general travel card might be a better fit. For those looking for premium perks, including travel transfer partners, good choices include the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® right for you?

Frequent flyers on American Airlines have one primary reason to get the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Admirals Club airport lounge access. It’s an easy decision to forgo paying cash for the stand-alone club membership, which is more expensive, and instead get the card, which carries the same benefits. You’ll also get enhanced perks over the lower-fee American Airlines co-branded cards.

But if American isn’t your go-to airline, a general travel card — some of which have premium features and similar fees — might suit you better.

Information related to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.