Gift lounge access, elite status, in-flight wifi, and more. Top 4 cards offering great authorized user perks

The SkyTeam Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 4 is just one of many lounges where access can be “gifted”, in this case via Priority Pass membership.

View from the Wing recently published a trick for sharing the $25 / day in-flight food & beverage credit that comes with Barclay’s AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard.  The idea is to add your friends and family members as free authorized users to your account so that they can use those cards to buy food on AA flights.  The charges will go to your account, but that’s OK since you’ll be automatically reimbursed up to $25 per day.  This is a neat trick, but it would require coordination.  If multiple friends use the feature on the same day, you might not get reimbursed for the entire amount due to the $25/day cap.

Gary’s post led me to think about other cards that make it possible to share perks by adding authorized users.  There are some really good options.  Get ready to get generous with friends and family…

#1 CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Card

The $400 per year CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Card is awesome, largely because of the ability to add 3 authorized users for free.

Here’s what each of your authorized users get:

  • $250 Airline Incidental Fees Statement Credit (yes, these are per user, so you can get up to $1,000 per year back within one account)
  • Priority Pass with unlimited guests (this is only available for 2 people per account, so that would typically be you plus one authorized user)
  • 12 Gogo In-Flight Wifi passes per year
  • Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit: Save $100 on each 2 (or more) person round trip domestic flight purchased through this website.
  • Global Entry Application Fee Statement Credit: $100 per 4 years per cardholder
  • Troon Rewards and Troon Prive’ Golf Privileges: Save on golf tee times, merchandise and instruction. Automatic Silver status with Troon Rewards

More about the CNB card can be found here: The amazing CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Card. A deep dive.

#2 Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

The $450 per year AA Executive Card is great because you can add up to 10 authorized users for free.  Each authorized user gets Admirals Club access for themselves and up to two guests.  Considering that AA charges $600 per year to renew an individual club membership, this is an amazing perk that you can share with up to 10 trustworthy friend and family members.

#3 The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card

Bobby Van’s Steakhouse at JFK Terminal 8.  This is a Priority Pass restaurant where you and up to 1 guest each get up to $28 off the bill.  If you provide your friends with their own Priority Pass cards, then each additional friend with a card can pay for themselves plus one more guest.  More here: Bobby Van’s JFK Priority Pass restaurant: worth a visit.

The $450 per year Ritz-Carlton card is worth keeping for it’s annual free night certificate (for hotels costing up to 50K Marriott Bonvoy points) and $300 in airline fee credits.  As a kicker, you can add free authorized users to your Ritz credit card account and each user can get Priority Pass with unlimited guests for free!  Authorized users can also take advantage of the card’s Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit (Save $100 on each 2 or 3 person round trip domestic flight).

#4 Amex Platinum Cards

Delta Sky Club at DCA. Platinum cardholders (including Platinum authorized users) get free access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, plus they get free access for themselves and up to two guests to Centurion Lounges, Airspace Lounges, Escape Lounges, and Priority Pass lounges.

Amex Platinum cards cost $550 per year for the consumer versions or $595 per year for the business version.  In-depth details about the Platinum card variations can be found here: Amex Platinum Complete Guide.

With each Platinum card variation, you can add free Green or Gold authorized users with limited perks, or you can add Platinum authorized users with many perks.  Here’s the pricing for the latter:

  • Business Platinum: $300 per year for each Platinum employee card
  • Morgan Stanley Platinum: First Platinum authorized user card is free. Add up to 3 more for $175 per year.
  • All other consumer Platinum cards: $175 per year for up to 3 Platinum authorized users.

Complete benefits of Platinum authorized user benefits can be found in our Amex Platinum Complete Guide.  Here’s a summary of the perks that apply to Platinum authorized users:

  • Airport lounge access (Centurion, Airspace, Escape, and Priority Pass lounges with 2 guests; Delta SkyClub with no guests). Note that Amex Priority Pass does not include Priority Pass restaurants as of August 2019.
  • Global Entry / TSA Precheck Credit
  • Hotel & car rental elite status: Includes Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold.
  • Gogo inflight internet passes (Business Platinum only): 10 passes per calendar year. These work on international flights.

Free authorized users (those who are assigned Green or Gold cards) do get some benefits:

  • Hotel & car rental elite status: They’re not supposed to get elite status, but some readers have reported success calling in to get upgraded to Hilton Gold or Marriott Gold even with free Green or Gold authorized user cards.  As long as the primary card is Platinum, this seems to work.
  • ShopRunner: Free shipping from select merchants.
  • Amex Offers: Save money or earn extra Membership Rewards points for shopping with select merchants. Note that the charges for the spend and the rewards go only to the primary cardholder’s account.

Runner Ups

  • Citi Prestige: Currently $50 per authorized user, but it will soon cost $75 per user.  Prestige authorized users get Priority Pass w/ 2 guests OR immediate family.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: $75 per authorized user.  Authorized users get Priority Pass w/ 2 guests.
  • Bank of America: Bank of America cardholders get free museum access at participating museums on the first full weekend of each month.  Details can be found here.

The following benefits are usually not available to authorized users

  • Travel rebates (except with the CNB card as noted above)
  • Free checked bags
  • Elite status (except with Platinum cards as noted above)
  • Elite earnings (EQMs, EQDs, etc.)
  • Companion tickets
  • Club passes
  • Free nights

Trusting your friends and relatives… or not

One big downside to adding friends and relatives as authorized users is that any spend they put on those authorized user cards becomes your responsibility.  With some of the benefits listed above, though, you do not need to ever give the AU card to your friend.  Here are two examples:

  • Priority Pass.  Order an authorized user card for your friend, then request a Priority Pass card for that account.  Give your friend only the Priority Pass card in their name.
  • Gogo Passes (with the CNB card).  If I remember correctly, signing up to receive 12 Gogo wifi passes requires the card number, but not other details like the expiration date or security code. Give your friend only the card number so that they can register for these passes.

Wrap Up

If you’d like to give friends or family members the gift of elite travel, you may be able to do so for free (or inexpensively in the case of Platinum cards) if you have any of the ultra-premium cards listed above.  In most cases, this requires trusting them to hold the credit card but never use it.  The purpose is to give them the perks that go with those cards, not for them to use the cards for spend (since you’ll have to pay the credit card bill).  In some cases, particular with gifting Priority Pass, it’s possible to do so without trusting your friends with the authorized user card.  If that’s your main goal, then the Ritz-Carlton card is arguably the best of all since there is no known limit to the number of authorized users you can add, and each one gets their own Priority Pass membership which allows unlimited guests.  That’s terrific.

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