Mastercard® Gold Card™ vs. Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™

Learn about these two standout credit cards that deliver luxury travel perks: The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite and the Mastercard Gold Card. Find out which of the two you should choose in this in-depth comparison.

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The Winner

Citi AAdvantage card prevails thanks to immediate, tangible, and affordable benefits

First things first: These credit cards are not for everyone.

As a matter of fact, they are designed for a very exclusive group.

Not only do you need to have "Good" to "Excellent" credit before even thinking of applying for them, you need to pay an extremely high annual fee to keep using them—up to $1,000 a year.

Let that figure sink in for a while—We'll get back to it later.

The benefits these cards provide only make sense if you're someone who travels so frequently for work or pleasure that airports have become your third home—the second being hotels, of course.

U.S. leisure trips by gender 2017

Citibank is known for a number of solid travel credit cards, and this one is no exception.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite card offers a robust set of travel benefits and rewards at a more competitive price than its luxury Mastercard Gold counterpart.

These benefits come with a smaller annual fee that easily pays for itself if you take into account the sign-up bonuses and the VIP lounge access that the card entitles you to.

But if you're someone who doesn't mind paying a higher annual fee to get a slew of benefits, then the Mastercard Gold card may be for you.

We'll show you how these cards stack up against each other in this in-depth comparison review.

Why You Should Consider These Cards

Both cater to the frequent traveler

If you're looking for the usual credit card perks—low interest rates, affordable balance transfer fees, or collecting maximum points when grocery shopping—please look elsewhere.

These two cards are squarely aimed at the luxury set, those who are used to enjoying the perks of elite status.

As a matter of fact, one of them is actually made of gold!

You're the right customer for the Citi AAdvantage card if you fly frequently with American Airlines

Wondering if the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard may be a fit for you? Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you travel at least once a month to destinations served by American Airlines?
  • Are you interested in having access to an airport lounge like American Airlines' Admirals Club?
  • Do you normally travel with your significant other or family?
  • Are you interested in enrolling in the Global Entry or the TSA Pre✓ programs?
  • Would you take advantage of your bag being checked in for free?
  • Would you be willing to pay a high annual fee to enjoy these benefits?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you should definitely consider the Citi AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard.

You're the right customer for the Mastercard Gold card if you travel the world and indulge in luxury

Thinking about applying for the Mastercard Gold? Consider the following:

  • Do you travel the world frequently and budget arrangements are simply not good enough for you?
  • Do you want to get travel benefits without being tied to one single airline?
  • Could you get the most out of a concierge service that helps you plan your trips and your lifestyle in general?
  • Are you enrolled or want to enroll in the Global Entry or the TSA Pre✓ programs?
  • Are you a regular user of airport lounges?
  • Are you interested in luxury travel services like chauffeurs, or privileges when traveling on a cruise?
  • Would you be willing to pay a steep annual fee for these benefits?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you're probably the right candidate for the Mastercard Gold card.

The Winner's Strengths

The AAdvantage card gives you access to the Admirals Club and a sign-up bonus

Yes, this card costs $450 a year and doesn't have a great APR—but you get a bunch of travel benefits that make it well worth it.

It can easily pay for its annual fee with its travel benefits

Paying several hundred dollars for the right to use a credit card every year is a hard sell, unless the specific benefits are worth the price of admission.

The pay-for-itself math is more evident and more realizable with Citi's AAdvantage card than with its Gold card rival.

Making a similar case for the $995 annual fee of the Gold card is a lot harder.

Just the access to American's Admirals Club makes it worth it

The annual pass to American's lounge costs $400, which is almost the price of the card's annual fee.

If you fly on a weekly or monthly basis, you know that availing the perks of lounge access like this is a no-brainer.

The access to the lounge extends to your immediate family or up to two guests traveling with you.

While other cards have lost access to the Admirals Club, the Executive World Elite Mastercard has become one of the most preferred ways to enter these 50 lounges all over the U.S. and the world, plus 60 affiliated lounges.

Why is this such a big deal?

The benefits of the Admirals Club include complimentary meals and drinks in all locations, plus made-to-order food and shower suites in select venues.

A generous bonus and a host of additional benefits add even more value

Beyond Admirals Club access, the AAdvantage card has plenty more to offer.

The 50,000-mile initial bonus also pays the annual fee. Yes, you need to spend $5,000 in your first three months.

But the bonus miles equal about $580 in American Airlines miles—or a plane ticket to many destinations, even outside of North America, depending on how you cash them.

American Airlines Group's Available Seat Miles 2012-2017

You also get a $100 credit towards speedy security fees. This goes toward either the Global Entry or the TSA Pre✓ application fee.

If you're the type of frequent traveler who's already considering this luxurious card, you'll probably be putting this credit to good use and fly past the security screening lines.

If you regularly check bags on domestic flights, the savings will keep adding up. You and up to eight guests traveling with you can check their first bag for free—a saving of $25 per bag.

If you check bags 18 times a year on American Airlines, you'd be recouping your annual fee just with this benefit.

With airline fees seemingly always on the rise and fewer perks coming for free, this a benefit anyone can get behind!

More savings if you regularly buy food and drinks while flying American. A 25% discount on those meals and alcohol on board also come in handy if you constantly find yourself at 36,000 feet.

You and up to eight guests would be getting priority check-in on American at no cost. Adding priority check-in for you and your guests is a nice perk that can make your flying experience that much better.

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The biggest customer complaint about the card is its financial terms

With a high APR ranging 16.99–24.99%, no offer for balance transfers, and less-than-flexible terms for late payments, the main use of this card is to travel with AA.

That is a high interest rate for a card that requires excellent credit, considering the average rate is 13.89%.

If you're looking for a card that will help you with some financial goals, you should probably look elsewhere.

Counter-Argument

Those seeking real luxury travel, with airline options, should look at the Mastercard Gold card

If you're someone who can afford constantly traveling around the world, and your traveling may include cruises and chauffeured rides, then you may want the somewhat flashier benefits offered by the Gold card.

It grants you access to 1,000 lounges in 500 cities over the world. This is almost 10 times more than what American's Admirals Club offers.

In other words, there'll be practically no major airport in the world where you won't have access to a lounge.

There's a $200 airline credit that brings the price of the annual fee down. Just by being approved for the card, you receive a credit that you can apply to airline purchases, including tickets.

That effectively brings the steep annual fee down to $775.

People love the Global Luggage Delivery service

If you're really traveling in style, being able to send your luggage ahead of time to almost any destination in the world, and then simply showing up at the airport with your handbag, is a preferred perk.

The biggest customer complaint is that the day-to-day benefits are not worth the steep annual fee

In terms of initial bonuses and collecting points for rewards by shopping with your card, you need to really want those fancy travel perks to make this card worth your money and time.

How the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard compares to the Mastercard Gold card

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Master Gold card
How high of a credit score do you need? >750 >700
Average APR? 20.99% (16.99%-24.99%) 16.24%
Annual fee? $450 $995
How big of a sign-up bonus do you get? 50,000 miles $200
How much do you need to spend to get the bonus? $5,000 within 3 months $200 in airfare
How many points do you get for every dollar? 2 miles for purchases on American Airlines / 1 mile for everything else 1 point
Any restrictions? None None
If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars? Around $2.32 if spent on AA / $1.16 if spent on something else $2
How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)? $1,500 $49,750

Bonuses and Benefits

In terms of points and cash back rewards, these cards are nothing extraordinary

But if you take a closer look at what they offer right off the bat in terms of both points and tangible rewards, you are making a safer bet with the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Mastercard.

Think about how you want to travel, rather than points

The main benefits of these two cards come in the form of travel perks.

These perks help you skip long security lines, enter exclusive lounges at airports, or provide a concierge to help you plan your trip—including suggesting leisure activities at your destination.

The main differences emerge when you look at the kind of perks they offer.

Citi AAdvantage is all about traveling with American and the Admirals Club

Simply put, this is one card for one airline.

If American Airlines is not for you, then neither is this card.

Most people get it just for the access to the Admirals Club. As a matter of fact, the Admirals Club website names it as "the best way to get a membership."

Instead of collecting regular points, you earn American Airlines miles. This card gives you two American Airlines AAdvantage miles for every $1 you spend on American Airlines services, and one mile per $1 spent on anything else.

The 50,000-mile bonus can buy you a ticket to many destinations. That is, if you can spend $5,000 in your first three months.

This is an additional reason people sign up for this card.

Those 50,000 miles can even get you a round-trip to Europe— if you play your cards right and fly off-peak.

American's traveling to Europe (2008-2016)

The Mastercard Gold card is literally made of gold, which should tell you everything you need to know

To put it bluntly: Having the Mastercard Gold card in your wallet is not only about its exclusive benefits.

It's about status.

The rewards system is good, but nothing spectacular. You get one point per $1 spent, which is basically the market average for a rewards card.

This card comes with $300 worth of credit toward travel costs. It gives you an initial credit of $200 for airfare, and $100 in credit for the TSA Global Entry program.

This benefit mitigates the steep annual fee, but there's still a long way to go to fully recoup that amount.

A big advantage is that miles and benefits are not restricted to just one airline. If your traveling desires are a bit more diverse or exotic than what American offers, then you may be in luck.

This card includes a much larger network of airport lounges than the Admirals Club network.

The rest of the luxury perks are things most people don't even think of using. A 24/7 concierge? A service for sending your luggage ahead of time to your destination?

The opportunity to receive luxury gifts and access to the Tournament Players Club (TPC) network of private club golf courses?

If this sound like something you crave, then you should consider signing up for this one.

Cost and Fees

Hands down, this is where the Citi card wins the fight

One costs $445 a year and can pay for itself, while the other one costs $995 and doesn't.

That's about it.

It's hard to justify the AAdvantage card unless you use the Admirals Club

The $450 annual fee of the card can be easily offset by the $400 value of the annual pass to American's Admirals Club.

And if you achieve the 50,000 bonus miles by spending $5,000 in your first three months, the card has basically paid for itself.

Recouping the cost is not as straightforward when it comes to the Gold card

The annual fee of $995 is significantly more than it would cost to get a Select Priority Pass membership, which would give you the same access to more than 1,000 airport lounges all over the world.

But even after you deduct the cost of that pass ($400) and the $200 in airline credit, you're still paying $335 to use this card and get access to a number of other travel perks that can be used by a very select group of people to begin with.

Key Digital Services

From a digital point of view, there is nothing out of the ordinary here

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is managed by Citibank, and hence you can manage it from their website and the Citi Mobile app.

Americans Who Use Citibank as a Primary Bank

The Mastercard Gold card is issued and managed by Barclays, and all its services and rewards are managed through its own website.

FAQ

  • How do you get started with the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite?
  • How do you get started with the Mastercard Gold card?
  • How can you cancel the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite?

    There are two ways of doing this: by calling 1-800-950-5114, or by using the Secure Message Center feature on the Citicard's website to close your account.

  • How can you cancel the Mastercard Gold card?

    By calling 1-844-589-2273 or through its website.

  • Do the Mastercard Gold card or the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard have foreign transaction fees?

    No. Neither of these cards has foreign transaction fees.

  • Is there a connection between the Citi AAdavantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and achieving AAdvantage elite status?

    No. You can reach elite status in different ways, but not necessarily because of this card.

Unless you have money to burn, you should choose the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite

Because of its access to the Admirals Club and of its 50,000-mile opening bonus offer, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite can practically pay for itself.

The AAdvantage card will also deliver a number of travel benefits that will enrich your life as a frequent traveler.

These benefits include express check-in and waived fee for your first checked bag on domestic flights.

The caveat here is in the card's name: The benefits are limited to American Airlines.

Do you use the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite card or the Mastercard Gold card?

How has your experience been so far with the travel perks of your card?

Did they prove useful to you while travelling?

Would you recommend paying a high annual fee for these perks?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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