Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Review

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AT A GLANCE

Rating: 3.9

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®

Published or updated: August 16, 2016

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is an exclusive travel rewards credit card with a $450 annual fee, a solid miles-earning program, and a slew of luxury perks and convenient benefits for frequent American Airlines travelers. Though the annual fee may be startling for people used to lower-cost credit cards, these benefits can more than make up for the expense when used to the fullest.

The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard is comparable to other high-end, travel-focused rewards cards, such as the American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige, Diners Club Elite, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, American Express Delta Reserve, and United MileagePlus Club. It’s also comparable to lower-end airline loyalty cards, including the United MileagePlus Explorer, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select, and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, as well as general-purpose travel rewards cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards.

Key Features

  • Sign-up Bonus: When you spend at least $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you get 60,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. Depending on redemption routes and dates, that’s reliably worth anywhere from $600 to $900, though exact redemption values vary.
  • Earning AAdvantage Miles: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite earns an unlimited 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on American Airlines airfare and incidentals. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 mile per $1 spent.
  • Redeeming AAdvantage Miles: You can redeem your accumulated AAdvantage miles for airfare with American Airlines and its oneworld carrier partners, such as Cathay Pacific and British Airways. Redemption minimums start as low as 7,500 AAdvantage miles for contiguous U.S. and Canada one-way flights less than 500 actual miles, and 12,500 AAdvantage miles for contiguous U.S. and Canada one-ways greater in distance than 500 miles. However, these lower-priced flights (known as MileSAAver) come with blackout dates and seat restrictions. To avoid blackout dates, you can opt for higher-priced AAnytime redemptions, which require 20,000 AAdvantage miles for all contiguous U.S. and Canada one-ways. Depending on when and how you redeem, AAdvantage miles are reliably worth between $0.01 and $0.015 apiece, and sometimes more, for flights in North America. Miles redeemed for travel with international oneworld partners, such as LAN Airlines and Cathay Pacific, can be worth significantly more at redemption – upwards of $0.03 per mile – though these redemptions require greater numbers of miles.
  • Admirals Club Membership: This card comes with complimentary membership (normally up to a $500 value) with Admirals Club, American Airlines’ airport lounge. Membership entitles you to free entry and use at any of the 50 or so Admirals Club locations, which offer free WiFi, comfortable seating, personalized attention from American Airlines staff, and various food and beverages. All of your immediate family members (spouse and any children under 18) are allowed to accompany you for free. If you’re not traveling with your family, you can bring up to 2 ticketed traveling companions for free.
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: When you spend at least $40,000 in one calendar year, you get 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). This is in addition to any EQMs you earn through regular airfare purchases. EQMs get you closer to American Airlines AAdvantage’s various elite status tiers, which this card doesn’t automatically qualify you for, and which confer progressively more generous benefits not available to regular fliers. For instance, Gold status, which requires 25,000 EQMs, entitles you to complimentary class upgrades on flights 500 miles or less and 50% off Main Cabin Extra (basically, economy-plus seats).
  • Additional American Airlines Benefits: The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard confers a host of additional benefits for American Airlines travelers, including a $100 statement credit for either the TSA Pre? or Global Entry application fee (one credit every five years), an unlimited 25% off in-flight purchases with American Airlines, your first checked bag free, as well as priority check-in, security screening, and boarding.
  • Other Benefits: The Citi / AAdvantage Executive’s other benefits include Citi Price Rewind (which refunds up to $300 per item if you find a lower price within 60 days of purchase); lost baggage protection (up to $3,000 per trip); 24/7 concierge service (including travel and event booking assistance); and complimentary loss and damage insurance for rental cars charged in full with the card.
  • Regular APR: The purchase and balance transfer APR is 15.49%, variable with prevailing interest rates. The cash advance APR is 25.49%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
  • Important Fees: This card comes with a $450 annual fee. There is no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount, while cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Late and returned payments both cost $35.
  • Credit Required: This card requires excellent credit and a demonstrated ability to manage high credit limits responsibly.

Advantages

  1. Excellent Sign-up Bonus. When you spend at least $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you get 60,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. That’s more than enough for a free round-trip flight anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada (including Alaska), even with the AAnytime option, and enough for 2 round-trip flights with the MileSAAver option.
  2. Awesome Airport and In-Flight Perks. This card has a slew of airport and in-flight perks. The complimentary Admirals Club membership (and free access for immediate family members or up to 2 ticketed traveling companions), TSA reimbursement, 25% in-flight purchase discount, and priority check-in/screening/boarding are more than enough to offset the card’s annual fee. Some popular competitors, including Diners Club Elite ($300 annual fee), focus exclusively on airport lounge access and offer limited additional benefits.
  3. Solid Rewards Earning Rate. This card earns 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on American Airlines airfare and an unlimited 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. That’s a better earning rate than competitors, including United MileagePlus Club.
  4. Elite Qualifying Miles for Heavy Spenders. If you spend at least $40,000 per year with this card, you get 10,000 bonus EQMs in addition to the EQMs you already earn on airfare. That gets you 40% of the way to Gold Elite status (25,000 EQMs required), and is probably enough to push you into that tier if you haven’t gotten there already.

Disadvantages

  1. Hefty Annual Fee. The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard has a hefty annual fee: $450. While the Admirals Club membership and other airport and in-flight benefits more than offset this fee for frequent American Airlines flyers willing to take full advantage of them, the fee is a deal-breaker for those who don’t fly American Airlines often. If you’re not super-loyal to American Airlines or simply don’t travel enough to make this card’s benefits worthwhile, consider a lower-priced general travel rewards card such as Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) or Capital One Venture Rewards ($59 annual fee).
  2. Fewer Airport Lounges Than Some Competing Cards. There are only about 50 Admirals Club lounges out there. While most major U.S. airports have one, travelers who frequently pass through smaller airports aren’t likely to regularly encounter Admirals Clubs. For an airport lounge benefit with greater reach, consider the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card ($395 annual fee), which offers access to several hundred lounge clubs worldwide.
  3. Restrictive Rewards Redemption. AAdvantage miles must be redeemed for American Airlines or oneworld partner airfare. You can’t redeem for hotel stays, car rentals, non-travel items, or cash. If you’d like a more generous, versatile rewards program, opt for American Express Platinum ($450 annual fee) or Citi Prestige ($450 annual fee) instead.
  4. No Hotel Benefits. This card’s travel benefits are restricted to air travel. Some competing cards, including Citi Prestige and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, offer hotel benefits too: Prestige offers a 4th night free at any hotel worldwide, while Ritz-Carlton Rewards offers complimentary upgrades to Ritz-Carlton Club Level (an exclusive lounge found at some Ritz-Carlton properties).
  5. No Airline Travel Credit. Citi / AAdvantage Executive doesn’t offer an airline travel credit – a useful benefit for travelers who want to further boost their spending power in the air. By contrast, Citi Prestige offers a $250 travel credit that’s good for airfare, upgrades, and incidental purchases – a more flexible alternative to this card’s 25% in-flight purchase discount.

Final Word

Like many branded airline rewards cards, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® isn’t for everyone. Setting aside the hefty annual fee and high sign-up bonus threshold, this card’s appeal is limited by a very basic fact of life: geography. Though American Airlines is one of the world’s largest and most popular airlines, it’s not ubiquitous. If you live in one of the many cities or towns without decent American Airlines or partner routes, you’re unlikely to get your money’s worth out of this card. On the other hand, if you’re an American Airlines die-hard, there’s probably no card you’d rather carry in your wallet.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  • davemha

    Wait, “the first calendar year” only for the 10k EQMs? I understand I would have to spend $40k in a calendar year in order to earn 10k EQMs that year, but I was under the impression that offer was in effect every year I hold the card. Am I wrong?

    • Deb Shinder

      I think what the author means is that unless you apply for the card at the very beginning of the year, you might not be able to get those 10K EQMs that first year because there wouldn’t be time to spend $40K (but you could still get them in subsequent years).

  • Mike

    Amex Platinum no longer gives you access to the Admirals Clubs. This is the only card that gives you access if I heard correctly