American Raising Lounge Prices, While Citibank Practically Gives Away Access Free

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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. (HT: Zach Honig who wrote about this before I saw my e-newsletter on the changes.)

American is also discontinuing 30 day memberships at the same time. indicates that the annual fee for the premium co-brand credit card 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.

The card 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, screning, 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)

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.

In addition to 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 also gets you lounge access via the Priority Pass Select card, but is even better because it includes free guest access as well. The card comes with a $100 Global Entry application fee credit and a $250 airfare credit. You even get free rounds of golf. Many will get $3000 in value for the $450 fee in year one with the card.

And the card comes with Admirals Club access for the primary cardholder and eligible guests (when flying American same day, as it is not a membership) as well as a Priority Pass Select card which comes with unlimited visits to participating lounges (like Alaska Airlines lounges, and The Club lounges, plus many foreign airline lounges here in the US and abroad) for yourself and for 2 guests each time.

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 $50. 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.

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 any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. I’ve been planning to apply for the Prestige card and I was going to use one of your previous links but now I think I’ll just go straight to Citi because you (and Lucky) keep encouraging people to abuse the authorized user privileges for the Citi AAdvantage card. It’s a nice benefit, and most of us have family members that can use it a few times a year which is great. But as is the case with so many things, eventually a few people will abuse it and AA/Citi will decide they need to either restrict it or take it away from everyone. How about if people just enjoy the benefit when they need it – rather than trying to maximize it for personal gain, or developing schemes to figure out a way to get as many people into the lounge as possible.

  2. When I use the lounge, it is a legitimate use; when others use it, it abuse of the system.
    Since I don’t fly that much and will use it few times a year, it makes sense; but if you fly a lot and use it all the time, it is abuse of the system.
    If few people use it, it is all good; but if too many people find out about it through blogs, then it is abuse.

    Only Me, My interest, My family members should count – Selfishness has no ends.

    And while I am I at it, I will malign Lucky too for good measure.

  3. Gary, I love your blog and will keep using your links, but I have to agree with Steve. The authorized user privilege is a great perk and elaborating on how it can theoreticaly exploited for maximum benenefit only encourages abuse and risks losing it for everyone.

  4. Don’t mean to brag – well, OK, maybe I do – with unanticipated foresight, I purchased a lifetime membership in the Admiral’s Club (and the United Club, too) back in the day when such memberships were still available. Best investment I ever made…

  5. Citi and AA absolutely know what is possible here.

    They — and I — don’t think maybe more than 1 or 2 people would actually do this. To me, it’s merely an extreme example which demonstrates the generosity of the offer.

    As far as I can recall (which may not be perfect) I don’t think I’ve mentioned it since the terms changed on the card like six months ago.

  6. Well, being of above average intelligence, I bought a lifetime membership in the Pan Am Clipper Club about a hundred years ago! I still have it – somewhere……….

    Only saving grace is that UA gave me a Lifetime membership to the Red Carpet ……..oops………..United Club a few years ago. I guess it will be good until UA says it isn’t anymore.

  7. Do I just need to present my Prestige card and AA boarding pass at an Admiral’s club to be granted access, or is something else required?

  8. @Ram – If objecting to the use of a single membership to bring 33 people into the lounge is selfish in your mind, then yes I am absolutely selfish. Whats the word that you use to describe the person who goes to the trouble to add cardmembers to max out the lounge privilege – humble? Accommodating? Gracious?

  9. @blacksheep Yes, and I cleverly bought a forever membership in Silver Wings. Remember that? Oh well….

  10. @Steve – I am sorry if I sound harsh, but many times bloggers are put down for, YES for bringing out ways to MAXIMIZE the benefits of every deal – be it a CC sign up bonus, churning CC’s, using various deals (from the past few years) for getting tons of miles into your account, or in this case using the lounge. They are mere purveyors of information. We all have to live with our conscious and use or pass up on the information provided. I don’t see any reason why they should be hushed up. If my fellow beings have a family of 33 people and want to bring all of them at the same time ( I don’t know if that is allowed), so be it. The only person I can and should control is myself.

  11. Adding 10 authorized users to game lounge access is obviously ridiculous. However I see no reason why anyone would buy a household membership rather than getting the WorldElite card and adding authorized users.

  12. I’m not sure why someone would read a blog that as one of its main subjects is about how to maximize credit card travel benefits and then…complains when it talks about how to maximize travel benefits. As for the authorized user limit, yes that is what is “theoretically” possible. But does anyone really think that the lounges are going to be overrun by 33 people tied to one credit card number?

  13. Thank you for your blog. I do look for ways to maximize my benefit. That’s why I pay the extra instead of the free card, mitt as well enjoy some perks. Don’t really have a desire to bring my family n friends along when I travel. But it’s no biggie to me, sorry you are getting slammed so bad. .. but people are definitely reading your blogs. HA!

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