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Nowadays the best option for gaining lounge access on domestic US flights is typically through a credit card.
While US airlines sell lounge memberships (and sometimes even let you redeem miles for them, which represents a terrible value), there are quite a few credit cards out there which come with lounge access and have lower annual fees and often additional perks.
For example, the The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN come with access to Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Lounges, and Airspace Lounges. With an annual fee of $450 and a $200 annual airline fee credit, that translates into a pretty low cost for access to a large variety of lounges.
But which credit card is best specifically for accessing American Airlines Admirals Clubs? There are two credit cards which give you access to them, and I figured I’d talk a bit about the differences between the two:
Difference in lounge access
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is American’s co-branded premium credit card. It’s the only credit card which comes with a full Admirals Club membership. That means if you have this card it’s the same as a paid Admirals Club membership. This means:
- You don’t have to be flying American to use the Admirals Club (you can be flying another airline, though you do need to be able to access the terminal)
- You can take two guests or your immediate family members
- You get reciprocal access to Alaska Board Rooms
Meanwhile the Citi Prestige® Card comes with Admirals Club access, and not specifically an Admirals Club membership. How does Admirals Club access work with the card?
- You do have to be flying American same day to use the Admirals Club
- You can also bring in two guests or your immediate family members
So if your primary goal is to access Admirals Clubs when flying American, there’s not much of a difference between the two cards.
If you often use Admirals Clubs when flying on other airlines or use the partner lounge access offered with a membership, then the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® might be a better option.
Difference in card perks
Both cards have $450 annual fees and generous sign-up bonuses:
- Citi Prestige® Card — 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of cardmembership
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® — 75,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $7,500 within the first three months of cardmembership
So both sign-up bonuses are great, though the minimum spends do differ significantly.
Ultimately if it’s perks and overall value you’re after, I do think the Citi Prestige® Card offers a more compelling value proposition. Specifically, it offers the following perks:
- A $250 annual airline credit
- Access to American Admirals Clubs
- A fourth night free hotel benefit
- The most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card
- A $100 Global Entry fee credit
That $250 annual airline credit can even be applied towards the cost of airfare. When you think of the fact that there’s a $450 annual fee and you get a $250 airline credit, for mental accounting purposes that sort of reduces the “out of pocket” to $200 (assuming you value the airline credit as face value). So that means in terms of overall “value” you’re out of pocket less than half using the the Citi Prestige® Card over the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®.
Keep in mind the Citi Prestige® Card also comes with a Priority Pass membership with free guesting privileges, which gets you access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms, for example. That adds even more value to the card.
In my opinion, both of these cards are considerably better options than outright paying for an Admirals Club membership.
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers a great sign-up bonus and an actual Admirals Club membership. Meanwhile the Citi Prestige® Card offers Admirals Club access, and an all around better value proposition, in my opinion. Given that you get a $250 annual airline credit plus a Priority Pass membership, you really are sort of getting the best of both worlds.
Do you use either of these cards for Admirals Club access?