Leaked Changes To Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

Back in the fall I wrote that Citi would be ending the benefit of no annual fee authorized users with Admirals Club access, and likely raising the annual fee on the card itself as well. The ability for a single $450 annual fee to generate 11 cards (primary plus up to 10 authorized user cards) each with the ability to enter Admirals Clubs and also bring up to two guests was simply too good a deal.

  • In a world where club membership prices themselves have gone up
  • And competitor card annual fees have gone up
  • And the economics of the card will need to change with a new co-brand deal

Aviation watchdog JonNYC shares details of what will be changing with Citibank’s premium AAdvantage Executive card.

What’s Changing With The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card?

In sum, JonNYC is reporting:

  • Annual fee goes from $450 to $595

  • Authorized users go from $0 each to $175 for the first three and then $175 for each additional (similar to Amex Platinum)

  • Earning goes from 2x on American Airlines spend and 1x on everything else to 4x on American Airlines then 5x on American spend for the remaining of the calendar year (for amounts over $150,000), 10x on rental cars and hotels booked through the American Airlines portal (aa.com/cars and aa.com/hotels), and 1x on everything else

  • 10,000 bonus Loyalty Points after earning 50,000 Loyalty Points and again after earning 90,000 Loyalty Points (currently 10k after $40k spend), those loyalty points can help you earn not just status but also choice benefits that may include bonus points.

  • Global Entry and TSA PreCheck statement credit moves from every 5 years to every 4 years – the original version was the way to make the card seem cheaper to offer on a spreadsheet, but you need to pay for your renewal before Global Entry or PreCheck expires which makes ‘every 5 years’ not helpful for renewals.

  • New benefits: up to $120 Avis or Budget statement credit; $10 per month Lyft credit after you’ve taken 3 rides in the month; $10 per month GrubHub statement credit; re-adding back trip cancellation, trip delay, lost baggage and rental car coverage.

There’s still the usual benefits like first bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries including all passengers on the reservation along with priority boarding.

This would remain a weak-earning card, still worse even than buying American Airlines tickets with an Amex Platinum card (5x) and in my view worse even than buying tickets with a Sapphire Reserve (3x).

Changes Are In Line With Expectation

A year ago I predicted a higher annual fee; more earning for American Airlines spend and American travel portal spend as well as a $90,000 spend level for a Loyalty Points bonus; the return of insurance benefits; plus merchant-funded offers with Lyft and Avis/Budget.

Citi went with GrubHub (rather than DoorDash, Chase’s partner) and left a Hyatt credit on the cutting room floor. I feel pretty good about what I suggested would happen back in October. Both Avis and Hyatt are American partners, while Lyft is a Mastercard partner.

Still Reasonable For Admirals Club Access

I’d expect American Airlines to also raise the cost of paid Admirals Club membership so that this card remains the most attractive way to join. Currently, American’s Admirals Club membership costs $500 – $600 per year, depending on elite status ($50 higher in the first year). That’s slightly cheaper than United, and much lower than Delta. And without an increase a top elite would save $100 a year ditching this card.

The bottom line is that American clubs should cost more than they do but they should also be better than they are. United and Delta charge more for their clubs, in many cases offer much better spaces, and also offer better food. Legacy US Airways clubs in Phoenix, Charlotte, and Philadelphia are really poor, and while Delta offers a veritable buffet American ranges from overcooked meatballs to guacamole funded by Mastercard. They sell packaged food that’s inferior to what other carriers include in the membership.

American’s new lounge template, currently only offered on the new regional concourse of Washington National airport, is stunning. It’s a beautiful space I could spend hours in.

The lounge aesthetics even make the paltry food seem more appealing!

In theory we’re supposed to see the template extend to Newark, Denver, and Austin. There’s been no movement on building an Austin lounge in the two years since it was announced. And there’s no known plan to remodel existing lounges along these lines either, indeed despite closing down the main Charlotte club for several months little was done to improve it.

Do These Changes Make The Card Worthwhile?

Citi will use the statement credits with Avis and Grubhub to make it sound like they’re giving you more when they’re mostly pitching you as a customer to Avis and GrubHub.

In reality they’re making Admirals Club membership and access more expensive, giving you more for your American Airlines spend, and bonusing credit towards AAdvantage status for high spend on the card. I don’t view these changes as making the card better.

On the other hand, if American raises Admirals Club membership pricing so that this card stays the most economical way to get that, then it’ll be hard for American AAdvantage loyalists not to have it.

Information about the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is neither provided nor reviewed by its issuer.

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. My question is, are the LP bonuses tied to card spend or general LP earnings? The language posted in the screenshots is similar to the language used in the Citi surveys last year, and notice how it doesn’t explicitly say card spend. If tied to general LP earnings, that would certainly be one (maybe the only other than 4x on AA spend) improvement.

  2. So the cost for myself, my wife, and my two parents will be nearly doubling, $450 → $770. I’ll have to give some serious thought to renewal at that price point. At minimum they’re gonna have to agree to a retention bonus on par with a new sign-up, to keep me for a couple more years, when really only two of us are typically flying every month (myself and my dad).

  3. The card went from a proper good value – to a poor value. Will cancel at next renewal. I’ll get my lounge fill from Amex and Priority Pass. The quality of the Admirals club lounges is not to the level of the Centurion Lounges. You don’t get to charge the same price successfully when you have a significantly inferior product.

    Nice try Citi…

  4. @DWT – Also a very interesting observation.

    I have both the Aviator Silver and Citi Executive for the various complementary benefits. I typically put spend on the Aviator Silver first as it’s more lucrative in terms of LP bonuses, and then move over to the Executive after I hit all 3 tiers on the Aviator. If it’s really just 150,000 in LP on the AAdvantage account to trigger that increased earning benefit then my strategy seemingly would still be the play.

    The trip cancellation/delay coverage and rental insurance are nice, but the lack of categorical bonus on that spend – only credit at Budget/Avis – continues to be one of my biggest frustrations with the card in general. It’s only viable for the lounge access benefit, everything else is paltry with the offering. I’ll still charge rentals to a different card, since Enterprise is my preferred rental company anyway.

  5. When they started requiring you to be flying on AA to use the lounges it was a big devaluation to me. They should have culled the herd on the AU card lounge access years ago so because they didn’t, we are now ALL going to pay the price. They should also rethink the $175 for the first 3 AUs as it makes it much less likely to have AUs pulling out that card and using it if they don’t have it in their wallet. Also, 1x on all other spend is really weak. Heck, some of the other Citi AA cards at least offer 2x on gas and such.
    The way it is right now, my wife and I both have this card and pay $900 a year. We are AUs on each other’s cards. So instead of them keeping the $900 a year, we will cancel one of the cards and most likely drop the AU cards. We may keep the other card for a while and pay the $595 but the long-term play is not likely. So Citi will be out $305 and we will put less accidental random spending on that card.

  6. I know Delta and Amex would probably welcome a drop in demand at their clubs. But I’m not sure if it would make a big difference at American. I am ORD based and never feel like the clubs there are packed. Even the outstation clubs i frequent aren’t that busy (maybe Orlando being the worst but that’s just because it’s small). I could see them getting way more cancellations of this card than they expect at such a big increase.

  7. The revised value proposition does not work for me. I’ll be cancelling when this get’s implemented.

  8. @Gary, spouse has the card now with 3 AUs. Is the play for me to get the SUB now and lock in the old rate for a year. Or wait for the renewal and see what kind of retention offer they have, likely nothing, but really gambling that when I open the card the higher price will be accompanied by a commensurately higher SUB?

  9. Capitalism sure is grand.

    One company makes their product worse and the competition rushes to where they give an equally poor value

  10. From the press release: “Starting this month, all domestic lounges will feature complimentary sparkling wine, craft beer that celebrates local favorites, and spirits like scotch and tequila. Customers can also enjoy complimentary cocktails like mimosas, Bloody Marys and signature cocktails created with local flavors.”

    Ho ho! Credit to the public relations intern specifically calling out Scotch! They already have dumpster-tier Bourbon on their complimentary liquor list, now the Glenlivet 12 Year that they serve on board will be available in the lounge!

  11. Definitely a change for the better. Now I actually would use this card.

  12. AA lost me once they gave up MRTC and lifetime status miles for Citicard spend.

    It did not help that predecessor US decimated the PSA California network.

    AA just does not seem much interested in California anymore, so we are not interested in AA, except in the rare cases when TATL biz saver award space opens.

  13. I just want to be clear. It says that you can get 4x miles after a certain spend level ($50,000?). Are those JUST miles or is that 4x on loyalty points? Big difference for me.

  14. Even if I hadn’t retired, AAs decimation of their LA offerings what was the reason to jump ship. Unless there are regular operations, I won’t care I get flagship lounge if I fly AAs trans con product, the only domestic flights worthwhile (or in the case of lax-sfo, more than 2x a day),

  15. @Gary is the Avis credit for booking direct or do you have to use aa.com/cars?

    All-in-all, if the Avis credit is easy to use I see this as a net positive for the card. I can easily use the Grubhub.

  16. so if one was contemplating getting it, would the strategy be to apply for the old one asap?

  17. Avis prices have always been more expensive
    Grub Hub charges a fee and the food has an upcharge.

    Do not understand why the spouse can not get a free card at least.

  18. In other news AA wishes to clear out bottom feeders out of the pool
    Cheap people to the back of the bus!You no longer serve a purpose to them presently
    Besides where else can you go? they are the biggest airline 🙁

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