Many airline credit cards cost less than $100 per year, but not this one. Is Citibank’s American Airlines Executive card worth the $450 price tag?
This is the highest tier available in the AAdvantage card series and it’s a whopping $355 more than the next tier down — the Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard, which has an annual fee of $95.
So if you’re paying roughly four times more for the Citi Executive AAdvantage, are you really getting four times the benefit value? This review compares these cards side by side.
Citi ExecutiveSM / AAdvantage® World EliteTM MasterCard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
|Annual fee||$450 (which is NOT waived for the first year)||$95 (which is waived for the first year)|
|Free first eligible checked bag||Yes, for yourself and up to 8 additional passengers under the same reservation||Yes, for yourself and up to 4 additional passengers under the same reservation|
|25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases||Yes||Yes|
|Priority check-in and airport screening (where available)||Yes||No|
|Annual spend bonus||Each calender year you spend at least $40,000 you get 10,000 AAdvantage elite qualifying miles||Each year of cardmembership you spend at least $30,000 you get a $100 flight discount certificate/code|
|2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases||Yes||Yes|
|1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases||Yes||Yes|
|Foreign Transaction Fees||No||Yes|
|Earn 10% of your redeemed miles back||No||Yes, up to 10,000 miles back each calender year|
|Cap on how many miles you can earn||No||No|
|Admirals Club membershilp||Yes. Allows entry for you and your immediate family traveling with you (or up to two traveling guests that are with you)||No|
|Signup bonus||30,000 miles after $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership||50,000 miles and 2 Admirals Club Passes after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership|
In a nutshell…
When it comes to the AAdvantage Executive versus the Platinum Select, the biggest differences are the following five things.
1. Admirals Club Access
If you were to pay cash for a yearly membership, you’d pay anywhere from $350 to $500, depending on your AAdvantage tier status and whether you’re renewing or purchasing a new membershipl. Alternately, one-day passes are available for $50 a pop.
So does this benefit alone make the Executive World MasterCard worth the $450 annual fee?
Maybe, but maybe not.
The American Express Platinum Card also has a $450 annual fee, but it also gives you access to:
- Priority Pass Select. Enroll for access to 600+ lounges worldwide. Your access is complimentary, and guests may enter with you for a fee of $27 per person.
- Centurion Lounges, currently at Las Vegas (LAS), Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW) and LaGuardia (LGA). These are the first of several American Express airport lounges that will open in major U.S. cities.
- Airspace Lounges in New York (JFK), San Diego (SAN), Cleveland (CLE) and the Baltimore-Washington International (BWI).
The lounge access thru Citi Executive AAdvantage versus the American Express Platinum Card is different, obviously. But if you are OK with non-AA lounges, then the AmEx Platinum may be the way to go since you get access to clubs for Priority Pass Select + Centurion + Airspace.
2. Priority check-in and screening
Maybe you hate waiting in line so much that a card that gets you priority check-in and security screening seems like a good deal, whatever the annual fee.
However, I don’t think the Executive card is worth it for just this benefit alone. Why? Because many airports do not have priority screening available.
Even when it is available – such as when I have used it at LAX on first-class flights – I have found that there’s still a line for it and sometimes, it’s not much shorter than the general screening line.
You could easily make the argument that the $95 per year Platinum Select AAdvantage MasterCard is a better deal. It offers you:
- The same sign-up promotion (though keep in mind that could change).
- 10 percent of your redeemed miles back. When you use your AAdvantage miles, you automatically get back 10 percent of them to use again – up to 10,000 per year. For some reason, the AAdvantage Executive MasterCard doesn’t have this benefit.
Aside from that, both of these credit cards earn 2 miles per dollar spent with AA and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.
As for the annual spend bonus of a $100 flight discount versus 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles, which is better? It depends if you’re after elite status, which can normally only be attained by flying. Those 10,000 EQMs could get you nearly half way to Gold status or push you into an even higher tier. But less-frequent fliers would probably benefit more from the $100 flight discount — and remember that the spend requirement to get the EQMs is $10,000 more ($40,000 in annual purchases instead of $30,000) than the requirement for the $100 discount.
4. Foreign transaction fees
I hate paying these and I’m sure you do to. But given that there are no-annual-fee cards with no foreign transaction fee, this benefit by itself isn’t worth paying a $450 annual fee for.
5. Free checked bags for eight versus four travel companions
Both cards offer the benefit of getting your first checked bag for free. The difference is that the Platinum Select card offers it only for yourself and up to four additional passengers under the same reservation, while the Executive offers it for eight.
The question is… how often do you really travel with eight other people? If you frequently do, then by all means you should apply for the Executive. But for most individuals and families, getting it for yourself + four others (that’s five total) is likely sufficient.
Verdict = Executive is not worth it
Is it better than the Platinum Select? Absolutely! But with an annual fee that’s over four times the price, do you think the Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard is four times better? I don’t.
If you’re not chasing elite status and don’t care about lounge access, I think Citi’s $95 version makes a lot more sense. Especially when you consider its sign-up bonus and the fact that the annual fee is waived for the first year.
And if you want lounge access, the American Express Platinum Card is another choice to consider.
Also, did you know that you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to a number of airlines and hotels? This list of transfer partners is shown on the right.
American Airlines is not an option, but interestingly enough, you still can convert your AmEx Membership Rewards Points to AAdvantage miles if you’re willing to do a little legwork.
How so? You can transfer your AmEx points to Starwood Preferred Guest. From there, you can transfer them to your AAdvantage account.
So ultimately, you can earn — albeit indirectly — AAdvantage miles with your purchases made on your AmEx Platinum Card.
The downside, though, is the conversion: 1,000 AmEx Membership Rewards points = 333 Starpoints. So this is not the best use of your points considering that other airlines and hotels in their program offer 1-for-one conversions.
Even with that caveat, the Platinum still could be a better bang for your buck, especially considering the business- & first-class companion airfare benefit you get on international flights with nearly 20 carriers.
This post was written or last updated Sept. 30, 2014