Best Credit Card For American Admirals Club Access?

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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.

AmEx-Centurion-Lounge-Miami-Airport-08

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.

Admirals-Club-LAX-3

Difference in card perks

Both cards have $450 annual fees and generous sign-up bonuses:

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:

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.

Alaska-Board-Room-LAX-04

Bottom line

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?

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Comments

  1. The Citi Executive has been my weapon of choice for a while now. Being that 90% of my flights are international I am granted access regardless to the lounge and flagship lounge though on the few domestic flights that I take the lounge access always comes in handy to pass the time at comfort and unwind so that’s when I pull the Citi executive out and my access is granted and I still keep my Amex plat to enjoy the perks it offers for the centurion lounges specially while connecting in DFW for my Asia flights.

  2. $250 credit oer calendar year so if you get the card now effectively $500 back so of course one gets the Prestige card.

    As long as you planned on buying $250 in tickets now through December and $250 after 1/1/16 you get a $50 “refund” to get the Prestige.

  3. I use 3000 AA Business Extra points for my AC annual membership.Seems easier than trying to find free flights or upgrades.If I didn’t use them this way the BE points would just expire worthless.

  4. I don’t think it’s fair to use the Board Rooms as a benefit of the Executive card, when Prestige gives you Priority Pass, and pays for the use of it, which means you also get free Board Room access with that card.

  5. One benefit that the Executive card has is trip interruption coverage, which the Prestige card does not. That can quickly become a big deal if you are stuck in transit. They were great about paying for a hotel and taxi fare when we were diverted overnight due to weather this past March.

  6. Specific question about the American lounges at O’Hare. Does the Prestige card allow access to the Flagship Lounge? Or only Admirals Club?

    Lucky: I just reread your review of the Flagship Lounge from May. Would I be better off using one of the Admirals Clubs in T3 rather than the Flagship Lounge anyway? I don’t need a shower… will be flying home (coach to SFO) after a work trip to Chicago. A bit of fresh food and a glass of champagne/wine is all I need.

  7. @travel4b: The Prestige card does have Trip Delay Protection, which would have covered what you discussed here.

  8. Don’t forget, with the Citi Advantage Executive, you get 10,000 *Elite Qualifying Miles* when you reach $40,000 spend in a year. This has been a huge perk for me, as I fly an intermediate amount, and it put me over the top into Platinum status on American. I know of few other ways to earn miles that qualify you for status upgrades.

  9. One big difference between the 2 that I believe you failed to mention, is that with Prestige you earn Thank You points. While the Executive card earns miles for your AA account.

    My understanding is that you can book AA award flights through the Thank You website…but you won’t be able to transfer the Thank You points to your AA account.

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