Citibank Testing Revamp Of Premium American Airlines Credit Card

The premium American Airlines credit card, the Citi Executive AAdvantage card, is a bit of a throwback. The card has been largely unchanged since it launched in summer 2011. So it doesn’t have many of the benefits of other airline premium cards. However,

  • The $450 annual fee hasn’t changed.

  • And it has the most generous club lounge access benefit – membership in the American Airlines Admirals Club for the primary cardmember (a good deal at the annual fee price point) and no annual fee authorized users of the card get access to American Airlines lounges with up to two guests when flying the airline, upon presentation of their card, as well. You can have up to 10 authorized users per account.

I’ve assumed that this would all change with a re-upped co-brand deal. The card needs a refresh, and it is “too cheap” at $450 once that happens as well. The reason to get a club membership is service during delays and flight cancellations, not food where the clubs lag competitors, though the new design template is gorgeous.

And this card has been the best way to gain a membership. American Airlines raised club prices in 2019 so even Executive Platinum members buying membership pay $550 now. Offering it for $100 less to anyone with a credit card doesn’t seem sustainable.

Now we’re learning that Citibank is, indeed, surveying what their premium American Airlines AAdvantage co-brand will look like going forward, at a $645 price point:

The card surveyed here earns:

  • 4x on American Airlines purchases – and then 5x once you’ve spent $150,000 on the card with American Airlines. For nearly everyone you should consider this 4x on American spend, which still doesn’t hit what Amex Platinum offers you (but does give you Loyalty Points for the spend so probably worthwhile to put American Airlines purchases on the card)

  • 5x on hotels and car rentals booked through the American Airlines travel portal so – essentially – next to useless. You lose hotel loyalty program points booking through this third party site, don’t earn elite status credit in a hotel program, and don’t receive elite benefits. It’s conceivable this could make sense with a non-chain hotel property, but there are numerous rewarding and discounted options for that, it is a competitive space.

To be clear, the product discussed in this screen shot is not especially rewarding in terms of AAdvantage miles for spending. The key attractive remains 1 Loyalty Point per dollar spent, and there are threshold benefits for hitting prescribed spend levels.

  1. 10,000 bonus Loyalty Points after $40,000 spend. It’s not clear what else is going on here, but this “puts you on a fast track to earn complimentary status with Avis PreferredPlus and Hyatt Discoverist.” There’s clearly a new Avis tie-in, and American AAdvantage partners with World of Hyatt and often provides status challenges so there may be a new cardmember offer here as well. 10,000 Loyalty Points after $40,000 spend is the 2022 benefit on the existing card.

  2. 10,000 bonus Loyalty Points after $90,000 spend. With this bonus “you’ll earn 10,000 Loyalty Points which gets you complimentary status with Avis President’s Club and Hyatt Explorist” again unclear whether this means 100,000 Loyalty Points (90,000 from spend + 10,000 bonus) will earn these things, whether these are threshold bonuses in and of themselves, or whether it just means these will be benefits of AAdvantage Platinum status and thus earned after 75,000 points.

The surveyed card offers several statement credits: $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 4 years (as current); $120 Hyatt credit; $120 Avis/Budget Credit; $120 Lyft Credit ($10 off your 4th ride each month – presumably through the Mastercard/Lyft partnership and next to useless, use a Chase premium card instead); $120 DoorDash Credit. Of these new merchant-funded offers the Avis and Hyatt credits could be useful and help offset the fee increase.

There’s the usual benefits like first bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries including all passengers on the reservation along with priority boarding. And it looks like this card could bring back some insurance benefits which Cit had taken away, though we’ll need details to know how useful they’ll be.

As surveyed here, additional cardmembers would no longer be free. So it becomes a less useful tool than it has been. Not surprising, but hard to see the higher fee for less of the core product (where the card is even more costly than an upper tier elite buying access directly, and those are the prime target customers for the card).

Ultimately this card offers a few ways to justify a higher annual fee, but the version of the new premium American Airlines co-brand isn’t a clearly better consumer value proposition than what’s offered today. However the reason to get this card is as an efficient way for some members to obtain club membership (though will no longer be the cheapest for top elites) and as a way to earn status via spend.

American Airlines breathed life into its co-brand portfolio with the switch to a ‘most AAdvantage activity counts towards status’ model and that is the reason to get and spend on this card, not because it generates valuable currency quickly.

Update: other surveyed options are very similar, including elimination of free no annual fee authorized user cards, higher annual fee. Earning tweaks slightly, fewer statement credits, but not as big of an increase in annual fee:

Update 2: A Citibank spokesperson offers,

Citi and American Airlines are constantly evaluating our card offerings and benefits to ensure we are offering new and existing Citi / AAdvantage cardmembers compelling options. The directional items seen in this private survey are not final and should not be considered benefits in the pipeline for launch.

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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Comments

  1. That Lyft benefit is a Mastercard benefit and available on all World Elite cards.

    Interesting is the addition of some insurance. I’m guessing Citi lost a lot of people in the travel space when they removed those benefits from the card so they may want to add it back to their top tier cards first.

  2. Gary, looks like it says $75 for 2 authorized users under the headline fee of $645. And the Admirals Club benefit wording certainly implies that AUs get membership.

  3. I am happy with the card and benefits as is. I am disappointed that they are toying with things that only makes the card less useful.

  4. Citi bank is the stupidest of all of them. Never do business with them. I was late on payment of less than $100 for a few days when I was in Europe. Then they started to make my phone unusable since they called at least 20 times a day. I let it go on for a while, downloaded Call Log export, and could prove via a spreadsheet that I could demonstrate in front t of the judge, and he did not look kindly on Citi. I’m not allowed to say (NDA), but it was pretty good for me but not so good for Citi. Maybe they fixed their shitty IT department in the meantime, but there are so many other options out there you don’t have to deal with the worst.

  5. I hope the changes won’t come soon, as I am now a free agent, it was a tough call at $459.

  6. They need to shut off Admirals club for AUs and give back access regardless of what airline you are flying that day. The stupid Lyft avis and budget credits are worthless. Hopefully they don’t screw this card up too bad. We have 2 in 2 player mode and I’ll dump them in a heartbeat.

  7. This isn’t very good; I would not pay $645 for this. This change would probably prompt me to move to Delta exclusively (I presently have status on both Delta and American).

  8. I could be wrong about this, but I think they’re testing the 4x miles on AA purchases now, but that doesn’t seem to mean 4x LPs. The card already gave you 2x miles, but only 1x LP. If they don’t give 4x LP, and charge for AUs, and raise the price, seems like a serious downgrade. It was a no brainer if you’re an AA loyalist, especially with family members who could benefit, but this would need to enter the reconsider stack at renewal. Would probably keep it for one round, as it would take that long to realign everything, but don’t make me go there, AA.

  9. Also, the card wouldn’t give non-elites Priority screening and check-in. This is a huge downgrade.

  10. Wow. I am recently about to complete a status match with United to move from AA. I was going to keep this CC bc my family (even though they basically never fly) love using AC. But price increase and they can’t be authorized users for free anymore?

    Yeah we’re done.

    I even kept this stupid card through not traveling for 1.5 years

  11. not too bad if the Doordash credit can be used at any time, if $10/’month then that’s a pain, but I guess I could use to pick up if it works similar to the Amex Uber credits (so not that much is wasted on the slow delivery).

  12. @Gary the way I read it isn’t that you get the 10k boosts after SPEND thresholds, but rather after accruing those loyalty point thresholds. But it’s also possible that it’s just poorly worded in the survey.

  13. What makes NO sense is the pamphlet’s discussion of large spend on AA itself. If someone is actually spending $60k or $70k on just AA, that person will be a CK and will already have Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge access, OneWorld first class lounge access, Concorde Room access at LHR, and Hyatt Globalist (it’s granted with CK). Other than the 4X or 5X on AA spend, what’s the point of the card? If someone is CK and is going to still shell out $650 for a card, then get the Amex Platinum, use the coupon book to cover the annual fee, have access to another set of lounges, and . . . oh yeah . . . get 5X on airfare from the first dollar.

    As for Loyalty Points bonuses, they are nonsensical. Let’s say that the person spends the $90k to receive the 10k+10k Loyalty Points. If $30k of the $90k is for the person’s own airfare, multiply by 11, and the person is earning 330k Loyalty Points on just the tickets. Then another 90k from the credit card for a total of 420k Loyalty Points. Will that type of profile (even if not a CK) be motivated by the 20k bonus Loyalty Points?

    AA and Citi decision-makers seem out of touch. But, then, maybe this is part of the strategy to reduce lounge over-crowding.

  14. Looks to me like it’s time to drop the card. It just isn’t worth it, but then the AA program has been going downhill for a while. But then I’ve always been uneasy having anything to do with Citi. Worked there as a temp in South Dakota after they got the state legislature to remove interest rate caps so usurious rates could be charged everyone in the U.S. Understanding what the company was like (I grew up in NYC, worked on Wall Street for a while) I found the corporate culture to be both arrogant and stupid. I know, I know, lots of companies are like that, but this bunch was really lousy. I doubt if they’ve improved in the years since then.

  15. Yeah…..so I literally just got this card in June. I also have had the Citi World AA for just under 3 years. I would seriously downgrade my new EXEC card to the MilesUp in a heartbeat if they made the changes as shown above. I don’t need or want 10 AU’s (my spouse and immediately family is fine with me), I like earning more miles, I generally like credits on partners (when they aren’t difficult to remember or use, like $10 a month on Lyft on the 4th ride??? WTF???), the Admirals Lounges ARE overcrowded, and they MUST INCREASE THE EARNINGS FOR LOYALTY POINTS IN SOME MEANINGFUL WAY IF THEY WANT $700 A YEAR. PERIOD.

  16. I just don’t see the need for this card with Priority Pass and the new up coming Chase Lounges the Amex lounges and Capitol one Lounges.The San Diego club is outsourced and crap they don’t even have AA team members staffing it. And the food is garbage.If I fly abroad status gets me every club even in coach.And typically I’m flying business or first its free access.
    AAs clubs also serve S*T on a shingle and are also overcrowded.To pay for that trash? I’m out
    Do I mention their 24 month rule now is 48 months.
    When there was no other choices I felt I had to
    Their new clubs better be spectacular to justify there new 700 to 1000 dollar annual fees

  17. I would seriously consider dropping the card for that increase in fees. I could justify it at $550 if they brought back the travel insurance and made it easier to accumulate LPs. I’d actually like them to lower the authorized users me and my spouse would be great. It would be nice to have a less crowded lounge. I still prefer the centurion lounges to admiral and am perfectly happy dropping this card and keeping my Amex platinum.

  18. The other options are interesting and give an insight on potential breakage cost of the credits.
    $550 with no new credits
    $595 with Hyatt and Avis credits
    $645 to add on Lyft and Doordash

    My vote would be the $595 option. I can easily redeem those and those are once a year credits. The lyft on the 4th ride is harder and the doordash prices are marked up already.

    If you’re listening at Citi a few options to consider as well:
    – a business executive card, similar fee structure. United and Delta both have business club cards with chase/Amex. Tons of small businesses that can expense the annual fee.
    – a cheaper version with day passes, similar to the United explorer/business two passes a year. This is at a $95 level, but maybe a $250 with 6 passes. With the coupon book strategy championed by Amex you will want to attract current Amex Plat holders who fly American, but don’t want to pay two club memberships and two sets of coupon books. You could be based at a centurian lounge home airport but use the day passes at outstations where you have time.

  19. @Lee they basically have. Try using a day pass in 2022; it’s impossible. I have a bunch expiring that I haven’t been able to use once. I just chuckle at the front desk when rejected and then present my OW Sapphire to get into flagship instead.

    They should make authorized users even more expensive than the discussed $75. The amount of people who have 10 friends/family as AUs for access is insane.

    Saddest part of all this is what Gary pointed out: I’ll pay the increased fee not for the lounge itself, but for IROPS situations. Customer service in the airport, on the phone, online etc is such a dumpster fire that it’s worth $550+ to ensure smoother trips. I could care less about the free miller lite and carrots

  20. @ Everyone just needs to stop complaining and become a) a free agent and b) a user of cashback cards only. The airlines have destroyed the value of elite status, and Dick Durbin will kill the value of credit card miles sooner or later.

  21. I agree with every word that @Eric writes above. The $595 version is probably the least bad option if they are set on changing the card and AA really needs a refreshed line-up. DL and UA both have small business versions of their lounge access cards.

    To add on, AA also needs a card in the $200 to $250 range that anyone can apply for. I know they have the Silver card, but I believe you need to product change to that card after having the Red for a period of time, so it’s much more convoluted to access for the average person.

  22. Is there any way to provide feedback to Citi if we were not given the survey?

    Increasing the fee, but losing the priority check-in (which is my favorite other benefit of the card) makes me question whether to drop the card. I assume they want to know our opinion?

  23. “4x miles on the first $150,000 AA spend, then 5x on AA spend.”

    I don’t get it. Once I get to $7,500k AA spend, I get Gold, which gives me 7 miles per $1 on AA spend, right? So the next $6,429 of AA spend (at 7x) gets me to 75,000, which gives me Platinum (8x miles on AA spend). (For those keeping track, we’re at $13,929 in AA spend.) The next $6,250 AA spend gets us to 125,000 LPs, for Platinum Pro (9x on AA spend). Finally, the next $8,334 gets us just over 200,000 LPs, for EP. We are now at a total of $28,513 AA spend, and we’re at 11x.

    My understanding is that these spend bonuses are defined by AA, not the card issuers. So, are we also looking at a total revamp of status-based spending level bonuses at AA?

    Or is this just an example of a marketing intern at Citi who can’t do basic math?

  24. @Lwr512 – Not exactly.

    Gold is 30,000 LP. No status gets you 5x on AA tickets, plus 1 LP per dollar put on the card. Basically 6x, but you don’t get 5x of taxes on the ticket, but you do get 1x. If taxes are approximately 20% of the ticket price, then the net LP on no status members is 4.2x/$. Dividing into 30,000 LP, that gets you $7,143 of AA spend to get to Gold. (Note: If you’re buying premium tickets or international tickets, the tax percentage will vary. Taxes on a JFK-LAX business ticket could be only 7.8% of the price. The lower the tax, the higher the net, so less spending on tickets required for the same level.)

    Platinum is 75,000 LP. Gold puts you at 7x, net with taxes is 5.8x/$. The additional 45,000 LP costs $7,759. So total to Platinum is $14,902.

    Platinum Pro is 125,000 LP. Platinum puts you at 8x, net with taxes is 6.6x/$. The additional 50,000 LP costs $7576. So total to Platinum Pro is $22,478.

    Executive Platinum is 200,000 LP. Platinum Pro puts you at 9x, net with taxes is 7.4x/$. The additional 75,000 LP costs $10,135. Total to Exec Plat is $32,613. Approximately.

    The bonus they’re talking about is extra miles on top of what you’re already getting. It’s competition for the Amex 5x bonus on airline spend. It’s why I stopped charging to my AA cards and started charging my AA flights to Amex Plat. That $32K spend on AA cards right now gets me 32K LP and 64K AA miles, vs 160K MR on AMEX or about $1500 more in returns. Going to 4x miles on AA cards would make that a tougher decision, with the LP + AA miles roughly breaking even vs. Amex MR.

    But yes, most people can’t do math.

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