American Raising Club Prices In 9 Days — But You Can Get In For Next to Nothing

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As someone who flies American Airlines regularly, I place a high value on lounge access. It’s the people who keep me going especially during irregular operations, going above and beyond to get me where I’m going. As a result I’m very interested in the best way to get American Airlines club access.

For instance, agents have regularly double booked me giving me ‘backup’ flights just in case I misconnect. And I’ve even gotten a proactive call from a lounge about a delay, they had booked me as a backup on a new flight (that had looked sold out to me, and it was the last one of the night). And I’m not a Concierge Key member.

best way to get American Airlines club access
Entrance to American Airlines Admirals Club Austin

US airlines only charge for club access via historical accident rather than giving access to premium cabin customers domestically and to elite frequent flyers — but since they do credit cards have become the best way to access the lounges.

And that’s becoming even more true.

American Airlines Club Prices are Going Up $50 – $100 July 25

American Airlines is raising prices for its lounge memberships by $50 per year for individual memberships and $100 for household memberships on July 25.

American is also discontinuing 30 day memberships at the same time.

Yet the annual fee for the premium co-brand credit card that comes with club membership won’t be going up at that time (and when you get the card you are locked in for the first 12 months anyway, it is illegal to change rates and fees during the first year of cardmembership anyway… and that includes annual fee).

Or Bring 33 People into the Club for Just $450 a Year

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® comes with an Admirals Club membership and has a $450 annual fee.

In December American started giving access to all authorized users of Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® cards.

How big is that?

  • Primary cardmembers can have up to 10 authorized users on their account.

  • Each authorized user is allowed to bring in with them either immediate family members (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18 years of age) or up to two guests traveling with them.

Buenos Aires Admirals Club

Each of 11 Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® cardholders — primary and 10 additional — could bring in their spouse and minor children, or could bring in two guests in addition to themselves. That’s at least 33 people who can get into a lounge at once for a single credit card annual fee which is currently $450.

60,000 bonus miles after meeting minimum spend requirement certainly is worth a lot more than the card’s fee. And it comes with priority check-in boarding; first checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 travel companions on the same domestic reservation; and a reimbursement up to $100 for Global Entry.

I carry the card even though I have a Citi Prestige® Card which offers Admirals Club access because it lets me give access to others and because it lets me spend $40,000 and earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles. I always think I’m going to need those miles to re-qualify for elite status (even though I don’t wind up needing them) and it’s cheaper and easier than mileage running.

Get Your Lounge Access and Make a Profit Instead of Paying the Membership Fee

The Citi Prestige is one of the very best all-around credit cards in the market. Here are 15 things I love about the card.

While it’s been reported that the offer will change on Tuesday, until then there is a signup bonus of 50,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months — which can be transferred to various airlines or used as cash at 1.6 cents apiece towards American Airlines airfare — you get triple points on air and hotel and double points on restaurants and entertainment.

Citi Prestige lets you access American lounges when flying the airline and also gets you lounge access via the Priority Pass Select card. The card comes with a $100 Global Entry application fee credit and a $250 airfare credit.

best way to get American Airlines club access
Putting Green, American Airlines Admirals Club Austin

So how do you make money on your lounge access in the first year? Signup bonus aside, the $250 airline fee credit can be used for the purchase of tickets charged to the card. It is granted each calendar year. So you use it in 2016, and you use it again at the beginning of 2017. That is $500 in airline credits during your first cardmember year which costs $450. And you get lounge access. And you get points, golf, and all the other benefits like 4th hotel night free.

It just seems crazy for someone who can get one of these cards to pay for an Admirals Club membership. Especially at these new higher prices. For Citi Prestige at least, it’s advisable to apply before Tuesday.

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, 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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. interesting to read this and think about the Citi Prestige Card making changes next week. A guess would be something with lounge access being limited with AA.

  2. I guess that lifetime membership that I bought for something like $250 or less in the early 1980’s was a good purchase.

  3. Does citi/aa mind that u pimp out this 33 people benefit? It’s obvious u have connections with both companies, but I’d love to know what your contacts think when they read your weekly “33 people in the Admirals club” posts. They usually follow your OMG AA/citi devalued……

  4. Isn’t there a problem if you’ve received any mileage bonus already from Citi? If I sign up for either card, will I still get the bonus miles when I get the card….I already have a citi AA MasterCard,

  5. Gary could you comment on whether you can use the aa card to get lounge access when not flying aa (or codeshare) vs having a normal lounge membership? I am aa plat but I fly Alaska to Seattle usually. I don’t believe the aa card helps me in that case but normal club membership would, right?

  6. @Conor Cunningham – Citi Executive card gives you a lounge membership not just access so you can use the lounge even when not flying American.

  7. There is no annual $250 credit on this card, that might be something that was in previous versions but it was not on this offering.

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