2014 Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard Review

Posted by CreditCardGuru

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.

 
Executive AAdvantage card
Citi ExecutiveSM / AAdvantage® World EliteTM MasterCard®
AAdvantage Platinum Card
Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®

Annual fee$450 (which is NOT waived for the first year)$95 (which is waived for the first year)
Free first eligible checked bagYes, for yourself and up to 8 additional passengers under the same reservationYes, for yourself and up to 4 additional passengers under the same reservation
25% savings on eligible in-flight purchasesYesYes
Priority check-in and airport screening (where available)YesNo
Priority boardingYesYes
Annual spend bonusEach calender year you spend at least $40,000 you get 10,000 AAdvantage elite qualifying milesEach 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 purchasesYesYes
1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchasesYesYes
Foreign Transaction FeesNoYes
Earn 10% of your redeemed miles backNoYes, up to 10,000 miles back each calender year
Cap on how many miles you can earnNoNo
Admirals Club membershilpYes. Allows entry for you and your immediate family traveling with you (or up to two traveling guests that are with you)No
Signup bonus30,000 miles after $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership30,000 miles and 2 Admirals Club Passes after $1,000 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

inside of Admirals ClubIf 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.

3. Rewards

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.

AmEx partner airlinesAlso, 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.

transferring SPG Starpoints to AAdvantage miles

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


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

11 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Michael August 6, 2014 at 6:15PM

    I wonder whether anyone else has noticed this. I missed it, even though I thought I had read everything carefully. A big reason I got the ’100K miles point executive CITI card’ was to get the 10K extra elite miles to help me get to exec platinum faster. However, I always have many more points than miles because I fly first whenever possible (purchased), so I tend to get 1.5 points for each mile flown. Can you see where this is going? Based on this, I always get to platinum, and likely exec platinum, on elite points – and never never never get there on elite miles. So, the 10K award elite miles to me has value 0. For example, I was at 56K elite points and about 37K elite miles before the 10K elite miles was awarded – and am now at 56K elite points and about 47K elite miles after the 10K elite miles were awarded. So, the 10K elite miles they gave me are worthless to me. Those elite miles will never help me get to next level because I will always already be there on elite points. Let’s extrapolate. This is happening to all their very best customers who have this card – big spenders, frequent fliers. When they find out, if those 10K elite points were important to them (as they were to me), they will not be happy. More consequences: a) this reduces the incentive to meet that magic $40K dollars spent which buys you this offer (which is worthless in these scenarios); b) those 10K elite miles come each year, but now there is less incentive to keep the card after you get their 100K miles or to spend $40K on this card; c) it is not smart to mislead people who spend a lot of money on your card – they will start looking elsewhere. keep them happy, they stay loyal. pull something like this, and they start thinking twice about other cards. Enough said – I did not read the fine print. let the buyer beware. wonder how many other people noticed this? I asked CITI to also give me points – got back a ‘that is the way AA does it’. I asked AA, and they said I had to talk to CITI. This does not bring credit to AA or CITI.

  2. Frank2112 June 10, 2014 at 11:52AM

    Amex has gone downhill – I have been a Platinum card holder (both business & personal cards) since 2005 and am downgrading to the basic Green Amex card for $50/year. Why? Lounge access is pretty much gone – Delta is the only airline lounge that still accepts Amex. Living in Dallas, we almost exclusively fly American since DFW is their headquarters and primary hub.

    Airport lounge access was really the only thing I used the Platinum card for. So with that in mind I dumped the $495 annual fee and bought the AA Executive card for $450 which not only gives lounge access but also 1st Class security line access and priority boarding.

    On the same note I have a friend who is canceling his Centurion for the same reasons, Delta is the only remaining airline in Amex’s upgrade program with Centurion so unless you live in Atlanta and exclusively fly Delta, it’s largely irrelevant now unless you’re status-obsessed and really need a black card.

  3. Lily Gold May 22, 2014 at 10:49AM

    Very disappointed with the Aadvantage Citi World Elite MasterCard !
    It only gives access to the Admirals Club to the primary card holder, and not to the extension card holder, unless we are together.
    We are a married couple, which meand I am also paying half of the $450 annual fee ,without getting the full benefits.
    Not using the card until they change it!
    Love my Amex platinum! Doesn’t make me feel like a second class citizen!

  4. L Mccaleb May 15, 2014 at 7:52AM

    Is there anyone out there who knows the expiration date of the 100,000 bonus miles promotion for this $495 card? I can easily see prepaying phone service, computer access, utilities, yard maintenance…for a year and coming up with $8000 in charges immediately. Spending another $2000 in three months would not be a problem at all. My credit is good, so I see few downsides for me if I can get into this offer. Thank you!

  5. L Mccaleb May 14, 2014 at 8:56PM

    Does anyone know when this 100,000 bonus offer will end? Thanks!

  6. danny =) May 8, 2014 at 1:52PM

    The AMEX Platinum no longer gives you Admiral’s Club access; no card does other than the Citi Executive AAdvantage. Additionally, the 100,000 mile bonus for spending $10,000 in the first three months is very appealing. Maybe not for everyone, but I signed up despite also having an AMEX Business Plat. I also agree that the wider acceptance of MasterCard over AMEX is another factor for me.

  7. Frank J. Kloht May 7, 2014 at 1:35PM

    Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® does this Card have
    (has) no Foreign Transaction fees and offers Primary Car Insurance(no Car Rental be able to come after my personal car insurance)in the event of an Accident.

    What are some of the other benefits, one year free, 40,000 miles, priority check-in, other, please advise. Thank you

    Frank

  8. Scott February 6, 2014 at 3:54PM

    I just got the Citi Exec AA card as it was offering 100,000 miles after 3 months with $10,000 spend. I can do that and it is worth it to me as a business class award ticket on AA to Europe is $100,000 on the lower tier and I found alot of availability. The $$ cost of that ticket is over $5,000 so do the math. Additionally, Mastercard is more widely accepted than Amex and if you go through the benefit booklet that comes with the card, I found it offers everything the Amex card does, except for the Centurion and Priority lounges, which aren’t in places I fly to anyway. And because AMEX will not be allowed in USAIrways lounges or Admirals lounges, or both combined in the future, this card makes excellent sense as I live in Charlotte and it will all be AA soon. BTW, I also have the Amex Delta Reserve card, so I am covered there as well as both are my preferred airlines.

  9. wsj December 11, 2013 at 12:50PM

    Couple of points:

    1) FYI, there was a recent announcement that AMEX Platinum card holders will no longer have access to AA/Admiral lounges, beginning in early 2014 (this was after your article was published).

    2) Not sure that the article adequately distinguishes between redeemable miles and the 10,000 EQM that are available under the AA World Elite/Executive (after $40k in spend). EQM are not, of course redeemable for rewards, but they are one of the ways to qualify for AA elite tiers; and unlike many other programs, AA is pretty stringent about elite status, in that it generally has to be earned by actual flying. This card is one of the few ways to “shortcut” that process. And 10,000 EQM can make an enormous difference in the quality of the flying experience, if it takes one from no status to Gold, Gold to Plat, or especially Plat to Exec Platinum. Having been at every step along this status spectrum over the years, I hope I never return to “no status.”

  10. Case November 7, 2013 at 8:52AM

    While AMEX may give you more lounge access, it also gives you lots of headaches when trying to use it overseas. Mastercard (and Visa) are usable at thousands and thousands more locations than AMEX. Try using Amex in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or Asia–even some of the fanciest restaurants and hotels do not accept it. And forget about using Amex at smaller places.

    If you do any off-the-beaten path travel, your MC or VISA will serve you much, MUCH better than an Amex. If you stick to big cities and stay near/in airports, Amex works well. Otherwise, MC and Visa are better options (though not necessarily Citibank, as pointed out in this article). This past summer in Jordan, my colleague was bragging about how great his Amex was, but when it came to using it, we found only a couple of places he could. My MC was accepted everywhere.

    The other thing to consider is the smart chip. Almost every country on Earth (except the US!) uses this technology, and without a chip in your card, good luck using it at a gas stations or convenience store in a foreign country (and especially if you don’t speak the language). They just don’t use the magnetic strip anymore. Citibank cards can have the chip, while some other banks don’t have it yet. On a recent month-long driving trip through Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech, Slovenia, Croatia) smart chip cards were the only kind allowed at gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and shops in most places.

    Yes, Amex is exclusive and may offer better redemption and awards. But earning them may be more difficult if traveling abroad.

  11. k byrd August 16, 2013 at 6:29PM

    I have the platinum and just came back from a trip to cancun and found out there’s more than priority boarding.
    Access to Business class priority check-in and access to business class lounges are included.
    I didn’t know until reading in the American Way magazine.
    The regular check-in counter had a long line and so I went to the priority with no line and showed my cc and it worked. I wish I had known about the lounge.

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