Comparing the Top 3 Premium Travel Cards: Citi Prestige vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum (Expired)

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At the top of the “premium” travel rewards credit card mountain sit the Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Platinum Card from American Express.  These reward cards offer benefits that many travelers do not realize a travel rewards card can be used for more than just earning bonus points on travel related purchases.  While these cards offer comparable benefits, there are key differences that set each card apart.  What card is the true “King” of the mountain?

Note: this rewards credit cards each have a high annual fee. Look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card if you want an awesome rewards card with a lower annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year of card membership.

Citi Prestige

Annual Fee: $450
Authorized Users: $50 per additional user
Current Sign-up Bonus: 40,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 within first 3 months (worth $532 in airfare (1.33 cents each) on flight rewards and 1 cent on gift cards)

Among many travel experts, the Citi Prestige was considered the best premium travel card until the Prestige hit some turbulence this summer.  The first bump was the announcement of such as American Airlines Admirals Lounge access and three free rounds of golf.  The second blow was Chase’s introduction of the Sapphire Reserve coming on the heels of Citi’s announcement of the upcoming changes.  Suddenly giving disenchanted Prestige cardholders a new card option with a similar annual fee.

Despite the recent challenges, the Citi Prestige is still a solid rewards card that will not disappear into the sunset.  It still has many valuable benefits that users can enjoy.

$250 Air Travel Credit

Annual credit can be used to offset flight-related expenses such as plane tickets, checked bags, upgrades, and in-flight purchases.

Priority Pass Select Lounge Access

The primary cardholder, authorized cardholder, and two traveling companions receive complimentary access to the many Priority Pass airport lounges located across the globe.  Any additional guests will need to pay $27 per visit.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Reimbursement

The cardholder will be reimbursed the application fee for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every five years when it comes time to reapply for the special status to avoid long security lines.

Complimentary 4th Hotel Night Free

One unique perk of the Citi Prestige is the ability to earn the 4th hotel night free on a 4+ night hotel stay.  You need to book the hotel reservation using the Citi Travel Concierge, but will be reimbursed with a statement credit.  Through July 23rd, 2017, users will be reimbursed the full cost of the fourth night.  As part of the recent benefit downgrades, Citi will average the nightly rate for the duration of the hotel stay but will no longer reimburse taxes and fees.  If the nightly rate is the same all four nights, this change isn’t a big deal (minus the taxes), but, it can be less valuable is the fourth night falls on a weekend when hotel rates are normally more expensive.

3-2-1 Purchase Rewards

The Citi Prestige has the best purchase reward payout among the top 3 travel cards.  Users earn 3 points on travel & hotel purchases, 2 points on food and entertainment, 1 point on everything else.

Plus, if you own a Citigold checking  or Citi Private Bank account you can earn a 15% or 25%, respectively, annual point boost on all points.

Disappearing Benefits

Until July 2017, all users can still use the card to play 3 free rounds of golf when tee times are booked with the Citi Concierge portal.  This benefit alone can pay the annual fee for one year.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual Fee:
$450
Additional Users: $75 per card
Current Sign-up Bonus: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $4,000 in first 3 months (worth $1,500 (1.5 cents each) for travel rewards and 1 cent for all other rewards)

Introduced in August 2016, the Sapphire Reserve is arguably filling the void left by the Citi Prestige and has prevented many more people from applying for this new card. Chase points are worth more when redeemed for travel rewards and you also have the option to transfer the Chase points to many major airlines & hotel partners on a 1:1 basis, potentially making the points even more valuable than 1.5 cents apiece if redeemed for travel within the Chase portal.

$300 Travel Credit

This travel credit can be used to reimburse airfare or hotel related expenses.  This award is more flexible & higher than Prestige’s travel credit.

Priority Pass Select Lounge Access

Comparable to Citi Prestige, although the terms and conditions do not expressly mention complimentary access to other travel companions in addition to the primary & authorized card users.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Reimbursed

This benefit is similar among all three credit cards.

Purchase Rewards

The Reserve purchase rewards are very competitive with Citi Prestige as you have the ability to earn 3 points on travel, hotel, gas, and restaurant purchases.  Chase pays 1 point more on restaurants than Citi, but only pays one point on entertainment.  If you enjoy going out on the town, the Prestige might earn more if you like entertainment.

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express (Expired)

Annual Fee: $550
Additional Users: $0
Current Sign-up Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $3,000 in first 3 months (worth $400 in plane tickets [1 cent each]).

Point chasers probably will care for this card the least because of the Platinum Card’s Membership Rewards points, although valuable, lack the redemption potential compared to Citi ThankYou points or Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.  Amex has offered additional benefits to help make up for this aspect and add value to the card beyond the annual airline travel credit.

Edit: The personal Platinum Amex card also has a new perk that went live, Oct. 6th. You will now receive 5x points per $1 on airfare! This is an incredible new benefit.

$200 Airline Travel Credit

This is the most rigid credit of all three as the $200 can only be used to offset incidental expenses such as baggage fees or in-flight purchases.

Airport Lounge Access
One sweet benefit of the Amex Platinum is complimentary access to Centurion, Delta Sky Club, and Airspace lounge networks.  Amex will also reimburse cardholders the application fee for the Priority Pass Select network.  For travelers that have long layovers in select airports, the Centurion lounges have received rave reviews as being some of the best lounges to visit.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Reimbursement

This benefit is identical to the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve

Complimentary Gold level status to Hilton HHonors & Starwood Preferred loyalty programs

You might not get a 4th night free as with the Citi Prestige, but, by having Gold access to these two loyalty programs, you can rack up the loyalty points quicker than before.

Hotel Credits

It’s possible to get a $75 hotel credit to cover dining, spa, or resort expenses when you book a reservation from Amex’s “The Hotel Collection.”  It’s also possible to earn a $100 credit (& a complimentary fourth night at select properties) when booking a reservation from the FINE Hotel & Resorts collection on the Amex Travel portal.

Complimentary Wi-Fi

One other unique perk that Amex Platinum users enjoy is complimentary access to the Boingo wi-fi network with 1,000,000+ hotspots worldwide allowing business travelers to continue working on the go without burning up any personal data.

Purchase Rewards

Earn 2 points for travel purchases made within the Amex Travel portal and 1 point on all additional purchases.  This is definitely the weakest purchase rewards program among the three cards and a big turnoff for point chasers.

The Winner Is…

Each card has overlapping benefits, but, each card caters to a different travel need.  So, the best card for you might depend on what category you fall in.

  • For those that love to earn & burn pointsChase Sapphire Reserve

 Chase Ultimate Rewards are the most valuable credit card points on the market.  They are also the most flexible.  They are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for travel rewards and they can be transferred on a 1:1 basis to the major airlines & hotels that might offer award travel for fewer points than Chase can.

  • Hotel Hoppers… Citi Prestige

With the flexible $250 air travel credit that knocks the annual fee down to $200, the Citi Prestige can be a good way to offset the rest of the fee if you take weeklong trips.  The complimentary fourth night can offset the remaining annual fee after one or two stays.

  • Benefit Lovers… Amex Platinum

A recent survey shows that most people choose a credit card for the purchase rewards, but approximately 25% of people have swapped credit cards because of additional benefits.  What the Amex Platinum lacks in purchase rewards, it makes up for in benefits.  Of course, your travel itinerary needs to allow time to visit the various lounge networks to use the benefit.  The complimentary Gold status to the Hilton HHonors or Starwood are more usable and can be coupled with points earned from another card to maximize the membership status.

The Overall Winner

The overall winner among the top 3 premium travel cards is the   It has the highest and most flexible travel credit that make it real easy to automatically reduce the annual fee from $450 to $150.  It also as the highest earning potential with 3% on most travel & restaurant purchases.  The Chase Ultimate Reward points are the most valuable when redeemed for travel rewards at 1.5 cents each compared to Citi’s 1.33 cents (changes to 1.25 cents each in July 2017) and the 1 cent redemption rate of Amex Membership Rewards Points.

If you don’t want to redeem the points through Chase you can transfer them to a handful of travel partners that you can offer better redemption rates by booking directly.  And, they also have the most valuable sign-up bonus that is icing on the cake.

Tip: Look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card if you want an awesome rewards card with a lower annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year of card membership.

Geoff Whitmore

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Comparing the Top 3 Premium Travel Cards: Citi Prestige vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum (Expired)
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About the Author

Geoff Whitmore

Geoff writes about how to book travel with award miles & points, reviews top travel credit cards, and basic rewards news.

1 Comment on "Comparing the Top 3 Premium Travel Cards: Citi Prestige vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum (Expired)"

  1. lisa spitzer | July 9, 2017 at 8:03 am | Reply

    Chase sapphire is very bad for travel disputes of charges if it is a bona fide service dispute. They side with the merchant. We left the cruise early for very valid reasons of failure to inform. This was not a nonsense dispute. We were abandoned by the Haugen cruise guide on a volcano with other issues of potentially dangerous atmosphere. They sided with the merchant. The dispute team is in the Phillipines and cannot understand a simple document we signed which did not allow to sue not ask for a partial refund for the time we left. Sapphire may be good for rewards but, you want to be backed for a legitimate dispute. They will side with the merchant and not be upfront in terms of documents they need before they deny.

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