3 reasons why this is the best card for Admirals Club lounge access when travel returns


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While no one is accessing airport lounges right now (let alone airports in general) due to a global pandemic, travel will return in the months ahead. Airport lounge access is crucial for many travelers, either to relax before a journey ahead or to stay productive and get work done.

(Photo courtesy of American Airlines)Source: The Points Guy

American’s Admirals Club lounges are currently either shut down or open with significantly reduced service, depending on the location. However, when people start taking to the skies again, the best ways to access Admirals Clubs is through one specific credit card — the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

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In fact, this is the only card that can get you into Admirals Clubs. While it does come with a $450 annual fee, the lounge access makes it a card to seriously consider.

Why this card is a winner

If you can’t get access to an Admiral Club from elite status or the class of service you’re flying, one option is to purchase a membership. Here is annual pricing broken down by AAdvantage level:

Admirals Club Membership Cost DollarsSource: The Points Guy

1. Cheaper than paying for an Admirals Club membership

However, the best way to guarantee entry into Admirals Clubs is to have the Citi AAdvantage Executive card. You’d actually save money by having the card versus paying for any of the membership options.

For instance, say you were considering purchasing an Admirals Club membership as a general AAdvantage member (no elite status). Instead of paying $650 for access per year, you’d be better off applying for the Citi Executive card and paying $450 per year, plus getting other credit card-specific perks.

The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, worth $700, based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

2. Authorized user access

DFW Terminal E Admirals Club (Courtesy of American Airlines)Source: The Points Guy

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard allows you to add up to 10 authorized users to the account at no charge. That’s huge.That means up to 10 other people you know could potentially use the card’s special access to Admirals Clubs. This applies whether the primary cardholder is flying with that person or not, a fantastic perk that is notably different from similar premium cards offered by other U.S. carriers.

Note that while primary cardholders have access to all Admirals Clubs (about 50 worldwide) and partner lounges (about 60 worldwide), authorized users only get access to American’s Admirals Clubs. However, both the primary cardholder and each authorized user can bring immediate family members or up to two traveling guests into the lounge. If you do the math and include potential guests, a single card could get 33 people into an Admirals Club.

3. Other Citi Executive card perks

With the Citi card, you’ll also get 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases and the ability to earn 10,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 a year. The card comes with Group 4 priority boarding and your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

In addition, like a lot of other premium cards, this one also offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. You’ll get up to a $100 statement credit once every five years to reimburse your application fee.

Note that in 2019, Citi eliminated most travel and shopping protection benefits so your best bet is to put travel spending on another card that offers more security.

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)Source: The Points Guy

Admirals Club restrictions

In November 2019, American Airlines began requiring a same-day boarding pass for American or one of its partners to access to an Admirals Club lounge before or after a flight. While this move was said to be meant to reduce overcrowding in the lounges, it’s undeniable a devaluation for elite members and paying customers alike.

This new rule was instituted regardless of how you earned access — whether through a credit card or paid outright for an annual membership. That means that you’re not at a disadvantage with this Citi AAdvantage Executive card over other club members.

Bottom line

The Citi AAdvantage Executive card is unique in that you can spread the benefit of the annual fee with friends and family in a way that you can’t do with just an Admirals Club membership. Note, however, that while American announced a six-month extension on Admirals Club memberships due to coronavirus, this does notapply to those with this card.

While no one is flying or accessing lounges right now, keep this card at the top of your mind if you plan to fly American with any frequency in the future.

Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel and credit card deals and content because we should all use this time to think about and plan what’s next. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until late this year — and even then, be mindful of travel cancellation policies.

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