The easiest way to get American Airlines airport lounge access (and share it, too)

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If you’ve flown with American Airlines, you’ve probably encountered their Admirals Club airport lounges during your travels. They’re a comfortable place to hang out before your flight or during a connection, with free food, drinks (including alcohol), Wi-Fi and quiet spots to relax and work.

Unlike Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, which comes with many credit cards, getting into Admirals Club lounges isn’t as easy. You’ll generally need to pay for access, unless you’ve got qualifying elite status and/or are flying on certain flights.

But one of the best credit cards for travel– the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® – that has American Airlines Admirals Club access as a perk. It can save you a ton of cash if you’re a frequent American Airlines flyer – especially if you travel with others or have a large family.

There’s something else really cool about the card – it has an extra superpower you might have forgotten about! Its unique perk makes the Citi AAdvantage Executive the perhaps the best American Airlines credit card.

Getting American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access just by having a credit card translates to huge savings for frequent flyers, especially if you travel with family. (Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

Don’t pay for American Airlines Admirals Club membership – get the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card instead

Visiting airport lounges when you travel can make the journey much more civilized. That’s why many of us in the miles and points hobby carry the best credit cards for airport lounge access.

American Airlines Admirals Club lounges are great for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the airport and unwinding before (or between) flights. You’ll find light snacks, soup, and free beverages (including adult drinks), plus complimentary Wi-Fi and areas to get work done. Some locations have showers, a business center, and made-to-order treats like guacamole (which is amazing, by the way). And you’ll save money compared to paying for pricey food and drinks in the terminal.

Normally, to gain access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges, you’d have to be:

  • A paid Admirals Club lounge member (yearly memberships are as high as $650 for individuals depending on elite status, $1,250 for household memberships)
  • Flying on a qualifying international or transcontinental First or Business Class flight marketed or operated by American Airlines or a oneworld airline
  • An AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, or Executive Platinum member flying on a qualifying international flight marketed or operated by American Airlines or a oneworld airline (in any cabin)
  • A oneworld Emerald or Sapphire elite customer flying on flights marketed and operated by American or a oneworld airline, in any cabin (American Airlines Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum customers traveling only on North American itineraries don’t qualify)
  • Admirals Club day pass ($59 per day) holders
  • U.S. military personnel traveling in uniform
New members without elite status will pay $650 per Year for individual Admirals Club membership, $1,250 for household memberships.

You’ll have to have a boarding pass for same-day travel on American Airlines or partner airlines to enter Admirals Club lounges.

Paying cash for an Admirals Club membership is expensive, especially if you purchase a household membership. It makes far more sense to sign-up for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, because it comes with Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder, plus Admirals Club access (not a full membership) for authorized users. Primary cardholders and authorized users can bring in two guests or immediate family (spouse/domestic partner and children under age 18).

There’s a $450 annual fee, but as you can see from the above graphic, that’s a significant savings over purchasing a membership.

And here’s the card’s superpower – you can add up to 10 authorized users for free.

That’s an incredible deal for folks who want to share Admirals Club access with friends and family. Most other cards that offer lounge access, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, charge an additional fee to add authorized users.

Suppose you and your partner fly American Airlines frequently (and not always together). If one person were to get the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and add the other as authorized user, you could both have access to Admirals Club lounges for the cost of one annual fee. The same principle applies if you have a friend, parent, child, or coworker who’d like to share the benefits of Admirals Club access with you. Just keep in mind you’re responsible for any charges they make to the card, so be sure to only add folks you trust completely.

Here’s an important note – only the primary cardholder gets a full Admirals Club membership, which also includes access to certain partner lounges (you can see the list of lounges here). Authorized users get Admirals Club access, but aren’t able to enter partner lounges, or get discounts on meeting rooms or other promotions.

I’ve got a buddy who has the Citi AAdvantage Executive because he flies on American Airlines for work a couple of times a month, so the perks are more than worth it for him. He’s added a few (trusted) coworkers who travel similarly to his account as authorized users, and they’re all enjoying the benefits of Admirals Club access without having to pay for a membership, or another annual fee.

Earn 50,000 AA miles with the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

The Citi AAdvantage Executive isn’t just about Admirals Club lounge access. When you apply for the card and spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, you’ll earn 50,000 American Airlines miles.

There is no AA award chart, but American Airlines miles value can be extremely high if you know how to use American Airlines miles. For example, for 50,000 miles you should be able to book two round-trip coach domestic flights, a round-trip coach flight to Hawaii, and plenty more!

Read our post on the best use of AA miles.

You’ll also get:

  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (every five years)
  • First checked bag free (for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation) on American Airlines domestic itineraries – save $60 round-trip per person
  • Priority check-in, security (where available), and boarding
  • 10,000 elite-qualifying miles if you spend $40,000 or more on the card in a calendar year
  • 2 American Airlines miles per $1 you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1 American Airlines mile per $1 you spend on everything else
  • No foreign transaction fees

If you don’t fly American Airlines often enough to take full advantage of Admirals Club lounge access and other perks, the Citi AAdvantage Executive likely won’t make sense for you given the $450 annual fee. Instead, if you’re looking for cheaper ways to earn AA miles, you could consider other cards, like:

Here’s our complete guide to American Airlines miles. And be sure to read our post about Citi American Airlines application rules.The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

Folks who fly American Airlines often might consider paying for an Admirals Club airport lounge membership (especially if they don’t have elite status or aren’t traveling on qualifying flights that get you access to the lounge). But Admirals Club membership is not cheap – the initial membership fee for non-elite travelers is $650 for the year, or $1,250 for a household membership.

A far more cost-effective way to access these lounges is by opening the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®. For a $450 annual fee, the primary cardholder gets full Admirals Club membership (which includes certain partner lounges), and authorized users get access to Admirals Club lounges. Best of all, authorized users (up to 10) are free to add. So you can share the perks and comforts of lounge access with a partner, family members, or friends without paying anything extra.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive also comes with 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus you’ll receive a slew of other perks, like a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100), priority boarding, and a free first checked bag on American Airlines domestic itineraries for yourself and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

You can apply for the Citi AAdvantage Executive card here. And subscribe to our newsletter for more little-known credit card tips that can save you hundreds.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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