How to Get American Airlines Lounge Membership for Just $100/Year

Back in December I wrote how to get American Admirals Club access free for one year. That strategy still works.

Here’s how to get American club access for a net cost of $100, plus get a whole lot of additional benefits as well. (Admirals Club membership normally costs $400 – $500.)

Citibank and American Airlines promote that the Citi Executive / AAdvantage Card is the only credit card offering American Airlines lounge access, but that’s not accurate.

The Citi Prestige card does as well. The card normally comes with a $450 annual fee but Efficient Asian Man writes that he had no problem getting the $350 annual fee offer meant for Citi Gold accountholders (Citibank customers with significant financial relationships) that also comes with a signup bonus of:

  • 30,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months
  • 30,000 points after $15,000 within 12 months

(The normal offer is for a $450 annual fee and 30,000 points after $2000 spend within 3 months.)

That $350 annual fee is offset by a $250 annual airline fee credit. Here’s Efficient Asian Man,

There’s a $250 airline credit each calendar year, and it’s automatically redeemed (so no need to choose an airline) and is valid for all airline purchases (so no need to buy gift cards in certain denominations). This means that the ongoing annual fee is effectively only $100, and if I wanted to, I could cancel within a year and get $500 in airline credits for only $350.

The card also gets you:

  • Priority Pass Select membership with free admittance for 2 guests. This gets you Alaska Airlines lounge access and access to many international lounges. (The American Express Platinum card offers Priority Pass Select but doesn’t give you any free guests.)
  • Global Entry Fee Reimbursement. If you don’t already have Global Entry this $100 fee credit would make your first year net cost zero.

After the airline fee credit the $100 net cost gives you Admirals Club access.

It’s not a true membership, you have to be flying American for access, but that’s mostly when you’d want the access. Here are the Admirals Club access terms for the card:

Only primary Citi Prestige® World EliteTM MasterCard® cardmembers who are 18 years of age or older and are traveling on American, American Eagle Airlines, Inc. or an American Connection carrier flight number may receive access privileges to the American Airlines Admirals Club® lounges. Authorized users of the Citi Prestige World Elite MasterCard credit card are not entitled to Admirals Club access privileges. This benefit does not provide access privileges to US Airways clubs®, Arrivals Lounge, or Flagship® Lounge facilities, or other airline lounges or clubs with which American Airlines may have reciprocal lounge or club access privileges, including lounges operated by oneworld Alliance. To access the Admirals Club lounge, the primary cardmember must present (i) his or her open and valid Citi Prestige World Elite MasterCard, (ii) his or her current government-issued I.D., (iii) a boarding pass or stand-by ticket, showing an American, American Eagle Airlines, Inc., or an American Connection carrier flight number, valid for travel on such flight and departing within 12 hours of the Admirals Club visit (or, in the case of a visit at an arrival airport, with respect to such a flight that arrived no more than 12 hours prior to the visit) and (iv) any additional required documentation. The primary cardmember may bring as guest(s) either immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age) or up to two traveling guests. All guests must remain with the cardmember during the club visit. All persons must be 21 years of age or older to consume alcohol. Cardmembers and guests must adhere to all house rules of participating clubs. Should the Citi Prestige World Elite MasterCard account be closed for any reason, all Admirals Club benefits will be immediately cancelled, including access to all branded Admirals Club lounges.

As noted, the best offer for the card (lower fee, bigger bonus) is in-branch.

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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  1. This makes no sense. If you’re a “CItigold” member, then chances are you’re not worried about saving a few bucks on a club membership.

  2. I hate when I get caught by Gary’s ClickBait. Don’t call it a “Lounge Membership” when it is simply “lounge access when flying AA”. It also doesn’t come with the partner lounge access that the actual membership comes with, such as QF lounges when flying QF or while flying AA out of cities like HKG, ZRH, FRA, HEL, etc.

  3. Citi gold doesn’t have that high of a threshold — $50,000 or more in eligible linked deposit and retirement balances OR $100,000 or more in eligible linked deposits, retirement balances, and investments.

    Not only that, but those are just fee waiver amounts. You can actually pay $30/month and have a citi gold account.

    Somebody who is ~50 years old and has ~$100k in retirement accounts absolutely does care about $100.

  4. Um, Joe, I’m a Citi Gold account holder and I can tell you that it’s better to save $100 than not. For no expenditure of time or effort.

    Also, Gary’s not telling you that the real cost is actually only about $30, not $100, but you don’t sound like the sort of guy who cares much about financial details.

    For people other than you, here’s how it works: with a Gold account you get an extra 975 Thank You Points per month for the trio of auto-save/auto-deposit/bill pay; multiply that times the Prestige’s extra 0.6% per point (when used to buy AA tickets) and you get 975 points * 12 months * 0.6% = an extra $70.20 saved.

  5. I was super interested up until the end. I enjoyed my year of aa access in Denver, flying United, thanks to the executive card from last year.

  6. you can upgrade to a citigold client at the branch giving you enough time to try to deposit funds into your account. If not you can get approved for the card and before you get charged service fees for not having enough in the account downgrade to a regular checking account. i believe they raised the minimum from 50k to 100k. The banker shouldn’t have any issues doing this. just ask him for the application number in case you have to move credit around. You just to be citigold client to get the max points, you just don’t need to have 100k to do it.

  7. I know with the AMEX Platinum card, “fees” have to be incidental, like baggage fees; award ticket taxes and fuel surcharges don’t count. The Citi card lists “purchases” as well. Does Citi consider award ticket taxes and fuel surcharges to be a “purchase”?

  8. This is one of the most ridiculous mathematical articles written. “$100 a Year” in the title vs. “$100 Net Cost” are two (2) separate entities.

    We all know that 55,000 AAdvantage Miles “buys it” free (for EXPs’), 65,000 for Platinums. $50 Day pass, per flying offsets the total at $400 for EXPs, $450 for PLTs.

    “Citibank customers with significant financial relationships” are coo-coo customers.
    Renewing is cheaper (or free with miles).

  9. @Ben – I agree with you, although Citi Prestige also comes with Priority Pass Select, which is valid to the same lounges AA contracts with in three of those four cities. (The exception is FRA.)

    @Iolaire – No. Citi Prestige comes with Priority Pass Select, just like Amex Platinum.

  10. @Tom I think that’s kinda pushing the claim too much for the purposes of this post, especially since it’s not in all cases obvious that the best use of points is paid American tickets

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