Citi’s Premium American Credit Card Changing How Elite Qualifying Miles Are Earned

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There are two main benefits to the Citi premium American Airlines co-brand credit card, besides the signup bonus, in my opinion.

  • Elite qualifying miles for spending
  • Scalable lounge access

A Change to How the Card Earns Elite Qualifying Miles

While only Barclaycard co-brands will let you earn elite qualifying dollars from spend, you can earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles after $40,000 spend in a year on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.

And they’re changing the way they calculate spend on the card for earning these qualfying miles.

As a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive cardmember, you currently earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 in eligible purchases that post to your January through December billing statements.

Effective January 1, 2017, the qualification period for earning EQMs will change and will be based on eligible purchases that post to your account during a calendar year, from January 1st to December 31st.

Spend in a calendar year will really mean spend in a calendar year, which is much simpler and clearer in my view.

The Best Way to Access American Airlines Admirals Clubs

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

While American Airlines raised their prices for paid lounge memberships by $50 per year for individual memberships and by $100 for household memberships this past summer, they haven’t raised the price of the Citi Executive card and authorized users of the card remain free — and get lounge access.

Here’s what it costs to buy lounge membership without the card.

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

American gives access to all authorized users of Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® cards.

  • 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.

Other Key Benefits of the Card

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® also gives you a signup bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening; priority check-in, screening, and 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 or TSA Pre✓ application. (offer expired)

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

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. The real question is how this and the Barlcays card are changing in light of the new contracts with American. Any ETA on that news dropping?

  2. Gary — while the Admirals Club membership that comes with the AAdvantage Executive Elite card is useful, it seems that one is better off putting spend on that Aviator Silver card given the EQMs and EQDs. With $40k spend, you’d get $6k EQD and 10k EQM on the Aviator, but just the 10k EQM on the Executive Elite. Would you agree or am I off-base here? Thanks in advance.

  3. @JohnDCA My plan is actually to do both. And of course you can get the Citi Executive Card for the lounge access, and come January get the Aviator card if you don’t already have one and put spend on that card. Only the Aviator Silver will let you earn $6k EQDs, that will require $50k in spend (Aviator Red, Aviator Blue and Aviator Business MasterCard® accounts can earn up to $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 on qualifying net purchases during the calendar year). One additional advantage of spending $50k on Aviator Silver is the companion ticket you’ll earn.

  4. @David Gonzalez at this point we only know about the Barclaycard products earning elite qualifying dollars for certain spend thresholds

  5. The good thing about the Aviator card is that you don’t have to spend the full $40K to get EQMs. You can spend $20K and get 5K EQMs. Of course if you’re chasing EQDs for EXP spending the full $50K on the card is attractive to offset any shortage of EQDs. I’ve always put my spend on the Citi AA Exec card to start the year and then switched to the Barclay Aviator once I’ve hit the $40K mark for the 10K EQM. Now I will put the spend on the Barclay card first and wait to see if I will even need the additional 10K EQM for EXP. The Citi card is basically a glorified Admirals Club membership IMO.

  6. I guess this extinguishes the last hope of Citi executive having an EQD benefit. This would have been the time to announce it.

    Have you heard anything that makes you think otherwise?

  7. I feel bad for all the folks so desperately trying to put together EQM and EQD to make this work.

    1. You’re earning it on a relatively crappy legacy carrier. The only thing that made AA worthwhile was AAdvantage and that’s totally gutted:
    a) Award chart devaluation
    b) Awful availability on AA metal
    c) Worse earning structure now as it’s revenue based

    2. Given that AA Miles have decreased in value, you’re shifting $25K (just the $3K EQD from Barclay) to $40K (just the 10K EQM from Citi Executive) to $50K ($6K EQD from Barclays) to $65K ($3K EQD from Barclay + 10K EQM from Citi) to $90K ($6K EQD from Barclay and 10K EQM from Citi) to earn AA miles.

    That’s $25,000 – $90,000 spend you could be using to (a) earn signup bonuses or (b) get a better return with other cards (e.g. AMEX Business Plat, Chase Sapphire Reserve, combo of cards, etc.).

    3. To reiterate, AA miles are slowly becoming useless. I went back and looked at my last 20 redemptions across family accounts and only one beat 2 cents/mile (I take opportunity cost into account and only what I’d pay, not the retail price of the ticket). I just redeemed at 1.5 cents/mile on a EY J ticket because AA miles just aren’t worth much anymore. The 2 cents/mile rule is dead. Not worth buying them at 1.77 cents/mile in the current promo.

    BURN, BURN, BURN. No point earning AA miles unless it’s through a sign-up bonus.

  8. Gary, I hope you can clarify an access question with this card for me.

    With the Citi AA Exec card, can AUs access the AC if they are flying on another carrier (e.g. Not flying AA on the day they want to access the AC)?


  9. Gary,

    If I applied for a Citi AA Exec card last week in hopes of charging $40,000 in year-end spending on that card before Dec. 31, 2016, will that allow me to earn 10,000 EQMs for 2016 and then have an opportunity to earn another 10,000 EQMS starting in January 2017? What’s confusing is the reference to billing cycle. Based on my reading of the rules on the application, all charges made in this calendar year would count in 2016. Is that incorrect? Very confusing.


  10. @Alexander Stevens – So both Primary Cardholder ** and all AU’s ** can access the AC lounge regardless of the carrier being flown on that day?

  11. The City AA Executive card is useless unless you want to buy AAdmirals Club for you and the authorized users for $450 total. Barclay’s Aviator card is slightly better because of different bonuses. I have dumped Citi AA cards three months ago mainly because of devaluation of AAdvantage and only keep the Aviator card for 10% off for the award redemption. I do not put any spending on the Aviator card because I do not want AA miles .
    Granted, as a lifetime PLT with AA I do not need other perks that come with the cards and my AAdmirals Club membership is already paid by my company.
    In my view, the main problem with AA cards is that you have have to put a lot of spending in return for useless AA miles. In 2017, EQMs will be useless without EQDs.

  12. @VX_Flier that’s how it’s supposed to work, and they should have guesting privileges as well. There were some reports of people having issues with this early on, as it took a while for the publicly-posted T&C’s for this benefit to be posted online… But that is the policy.

  13. @VX_Flier I’ve used the card for AC access numerous times even when not flying AA.
    The problem I’m encountering is that the AC locations are often in a terminal other than my non-AA flight. Depending on the airport, it’s not always practical to use the AC and then get to my departure gate in another terminal. It’s even worse in Euro airports like CDG where security won’t allow us into the AC terminal because our non-AA flight is out of a different terminal.
    So, theoretically the card will get you into AC regardless of airline but the logistics may make it impractical or impossible to get to the AC.
    Thinking of dropping the card because lounge access was the primary reason for getting it. The problem is I’ve become very fond of lounges!

  14. OK- I’m confused too. Have AA World Executive (Black) MasterCard. When I go to my account on it states that my EQD+EMQ are good through 2018. Now with the charges in 2017 will:
    1. My spending for( non airfare related products such as gas, restaurants etc be counted for EQD or just points?
    2.Will my current balances carry over into 2017?
    3 Does it pay to have a $450.00 p/y fee card or should I switch to a Barclay card with a much lower fee?
    3a- If switch which do you suggest?

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