A Simple Model to Understand Citi’s Mistake This Weekend With The AAdvantage Executive Card

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® had a glitch over the weekend where Citi’s website was showing $175 to add an authorized user instead of.. zero. This was a mistake, but it led to much concern over the future value of the card.

The Citi Executive Card has a $450 annual fee, currently offers 50,000 miles after $5000 spend within the first 3 months of cardmembership, and has what I see as its two key features.

  1. The card comes with American Airlines Admirals Club membership – and it offers authorized user cards at no additional annual fee, with authorized users getting access to American Airlines clubs as well. (You can have up to 10 authorized users, and both the primary cardmember and each authorized user can being in two guests free of charge, capacity permitting, so that’s up to 33 people into the lounge.)

  2. Earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles after $40,000 spend

I rely on club membership during flight delays. Agents in my home club in Austin (and in my former home club at Washington National) are amazing getting me rebooked and on my way. And food offerings are much-improved.

United charges $650 for club membership (down to $550 for top elites). Delta charges $545 without free guests ($845 with guesting). American charges $650, down to $550 for top elites, and $50 less for renewals. $450 is comparably inexpensive club membership even without adding additional access for no extra charge.

The ability to give access to authorized users on the account for no extra charge is one of the best deals in all of travel.

When this change happened there was much consternation on twitter, message boards and some other blogs.

  • The change seems plausible. $0 additional cardmembers is simply too good to be true.
  • Even if it was rolled out in error, these things are usually just released online ‘too early’ and a giveaway about future plans.

Citi was quick to share that this was a mistake and even that they hadn’t sorted out why this happened. Unlike many other observers I don’t expect that this was a giveaway of a change coming soon. However I do expect something like this to happen in the medium-term.

The very best deals in travel do not last. You have to jump on them while you can. American is currently in discussions to re-up its co-brand deals with card issuers. If I had to guess I would say this opportunity doesn’t last into a new card deal.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m not entirely sure this was on accident. I can see it as a sign of things to come and companies sometimes do this to gauge public sentiment.

    Regardless even if implemented, 450 for Admirals club access is still a good deal. They shouldn’t let you, not should you need to sign up 10 AUs.

  2. @Stvr – that the best deals never less, mean reversion is real, so expect this to change. And if there’s a logical time it would be with the re-up of the co-brand deal. [As I write in the post]

  3. More questions left unanswered in this post than answered:

    1. When, precisely, does the Citi deal come up for renewal?

    2. At that time, do you expect all accounts, including already established authorized users, to lose their access, or only new accounts / newly added authorized users?

    3. Do either the primary card holder or the authorized users need to be traveling on AA the same day to access the lounge? (AA lounge access has particularly good use case at my local airport, LGA, where I frequently fly Southwest from Terminal B and there is a good Admirals Club and no longer any Priority Pass options).

    4. What is the simple model that explains this glitch?

  4. @LarryInNYC – I have written recently on #1. The current deal, which I believe is just 5 years, was announced in mid-2016. I assume it began in 2017, but renewal is being discussed early and new terms could go into effect once that happens.

    2. I would expect that existing authorized users would see the new fee at their next renewal, probably starting no earlier than 90 days in the future.

    3. Starting November 1, yes they do, as I’ve covered extensively recently.

    4. See the post and my response to that question above.

  5. Citi was very aggressive in marketing this card to AAdmirals Club members. I have received multiple e-mails with an invitation to sign up and an offer to refund remaining Club annual fees. Only AA would know how many did switch. At the end I am wondering how much Citi is paying AA for the Club membership and whether the deal is worth for AA.

  6. What morons thought “10 authorized users” was a good idea? And what moronic manager actually signed off on it?

  7. I assume based on the horrific decision making of citi executives this is the future of the card with additional fees for authorized users based on a sneak preview of whats next to come
    I rarely fly American ever despite being lifetime Platinum since their service culture has been destroyed by Doug Parker
    AA miles almost value wise are typically as bad as Delta with some partner exceptions ironically .the Middle Eastern carriers
    Once I cant get into the Alaska Clubs the card is toast and I’m done
    Prestige is gone now too/cut up as they killed the golden goose

  8. The citi AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard is a JOKE!!! I currently have the Barclay’s AAdvantage Silver MasterCard (which upped its annual dues last April). On top of that, I have a separate Admirals Club for which I pay a reduced annual rate because of my “Platinum for life” status with AA. So, in lieu of paying the increased annual fees for my Barclaycard & a separate Admirals club membership, it made Financial sense to apply for the Citi’s World Elite MasterCard Which covers the Admirals Club and thus cancel my Barclaycard. The bozos at Citi turned me down and instead sent me the Citi MasterCard Platinum Select. I tore up the card and asked them to stuff it, you know where. The guys are playing games.

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