I believe that this will be our shortest “keep or cancel” article ever. We’re paying the $450 annual fee and keeping Philly’s Citi AA Executive card open. For us, it’s a no-brainer given that it comes with a full Admirals Club membership for Philly and Admirals Club access for the authorized users (AUs) on the card – all 5 Middle Age Miles kids and me!
For Us, the Admirals Club Benefit More Than Justifies Keeping the Citi AA Executive Card
As we mentioned in the Executive Summary, the key benefit of the Citi AA Executive card is the full Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder, plus Admirals Club access for up to 10 AUs. The cardholder and each AU can also bring up to 2 guests into the Admirals Club. There is no extra annual fee for the AUs. That’s an exceptional value for any regular AA flyer and/or anyone who can leverage the Admirals Club access for AUs.
For us, the Admirals Club benefits easily justify the $450 annual fee, and then some. As AA loyalists/captives here in DFW, we use the Admirals Club regularly. Middle Age Miles daughter KB is on a first-name basis with the Admirals Club staff at DEN. And Middle Age Miles son Dylan recently started a job in Dallas that will require lots of travel, so he’s been enjoying the benefits more as of late.
In addition to the snacks, soft drinks, comfy seating, and reliable & stable WiFi, it’s very nice to have access to the Admirals Club agents in the event of irregular operations. The in-club agents tend to be friendly, helpful and very skilled when we’ve needed to call on them for help.
Philly’s full Admirals Club membership has also been quite helpful to us because it includes access to Alaska Lounges, including guesting privileges for up to 2 guests. Between Philly’s work and the fact that Middle Age Miles daughter Maria is in college in Seattle, we’re regulars at SEA. Those early return flights from SEA to DFW are much more bearable after I’ve tasted the fruits of the Alaska Lounge’s famous pancake machine!
On the Admirals Club front, one unfortunate upcoming change is that, as of November 1, 2019, same-day boarding passes on AA or a partner airline (oneworld members plus Alaska) will be required for Admirals Club entry. This won’t impact Philly and me much, as the vast majority of our flying is on AA or a oneworld partner. But it’ll have some impact on the MAM kids, as 4 out of 5 of them are living in cities that aren’t AA hubs and they mostly shop around among airlines, based on price.
The Only Other Benefit of the AA Executive Card That We May Use Is the Ability to Earn EQMs
Another potentially useful and almost-unique benefit of the Citi AA Executive Card is the ability to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) on AA, with $40,000 in spend on the card in a calendar year. (The only other card that comes with the ability to earn EQMs is the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver card, which also allows you to earn up to 10,000 EQMs in a calendar year through spend.)
We used this benefit for Philly during 2017 and 2018, to get her to the 100,000 EQM threshold to qualify for Executive Platinum status.
In 2019, however, the calculus changed a bit, when AA increased the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) threshold for Executive Platinum from 12,000 to 15,000 EQDs. This year, it’s been harder for us to hit the 15k EQD threshold than to amass 100k EQMs. As a result, we’ve been spending on Philly’s Barclays AA Aviator Silver, to get her to $50k spend on that card, which will generate 10,000 EQMs and 3,000 EQDs for her, plus a 2-person companion certificate after she renews the card and pays the annual fee next year. Thus, we’re not using the 10k EQM/$40k spend benefit on her AA Executive card this year.
Still, though, it’s nice to have the option to earn additional EQMs through spend on this card, if we need it (even remembering that the opportunity costs of putting spend on this card are relatively high, given that it is earning only 1x AA mile per dollar (worth about 1.25 cents at our baseline value) on unbonused spend).
Other Key Benefits of the Citi AA Executive Card
The current sign-up bonus for the Citi AA Executive card is 50,000 AA miles after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening (not a referral link; we don’t have one for this card). This is on the low end for this card. In the recent past, we’ve seen sign-up bonuses of 60,000 AA miles, and at times the bonus has been as high as 75,000 AA miles. As we’ve discussed, for regular AA flyers it’s a great card to have – but unless you have some particular urgency, you’re better off to wait for a better sign-up bonus offer.
Aside from the Admirals Club membership/access and the ability to earn 10k EQMs with $40k spend, the other key benefits of the card are:
- Category earning:
- 2x AA miles for each dollar spent on AA purchases
- 1x AA mile for each dollar spent on everything else
- Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee credit
- Up to $100, once every 5 years
- “Priority” boarding (Group 5) on AA flights
- Access to AA priority check-in and screening lines, where available, for cardholder and up to 8 travel companions
- First checked bag free on domestic AA itineraries, for cardholder and up to 8 travel companions on the same reservation
- 25% savings on in-flight food & beverage purchases on AA flights
- Dedicated Citi concierge service
- No foreign transaction fees
For AA elite members, none of the AA-related card benefits are particularly useful. The card is not anywhere near best-in-class in any category for points-and-miles earning on purchases.
For us, the only potentially useful benefit from this list is the $100 Global Entry or Pre-Check credit once every 5 years.
You may recall that the Citi AA Executive card historically has included a set of travel protection benefits as well as a price rewind benefit. As with all Citi cards, these benefits are being stripped from the AA Executive card as of September 22, 2019. For what it’s worth Citi says that it “will soon be announcing exciting new card benefits”:
We Didn’t Make a Retention Call on This Card
We decided not to make a retention call on this card. We’re not sure if they’re offered but don’t recall reading positive data points. In any event, we were going to keep this card, and Philly doesn’t like making retention calls (even when it’s just to authorize me to speak and hand the phone over). We decided to keep our powder dry on this one and look to Citi for a retention offer on some other card.
If you have data points on retention offers on the Citi AA Executive card, please share them in the Comments – thank you!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our “keep or cancel” article on the Citi AA Executive card. In our view, $450 for full Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder and Admirals Club access for up to 10 AUs, including guesting privileges, is one of the best deals in the credit card and points-and-miles world – if you’re a frequent AA flyer and/or can utilize the AUs. We’re looking forward to continuing to have Admirals Club access for another year to come!
What’s your take on the Citi AA Executive card? Do you have any data points on retention offers? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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