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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?
Annual Fee: $450
Authorized Users: $50 per additional user
Current Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 within first 3 months of account opening
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 removing benefits 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.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual Fee: $550
Additional Users: $75 per card
Current Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months (worth $750 for travel rewards) of account opening
Introduced in August 2016, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is arguably filling the void left by the Citi Prestige. Though, Chase’s 5/24 rule has prevented many more people from applying for this 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
Earn a $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
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.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® purchase rewards are very competitive with Citi Prestige as you have the ability to earn 3 points on restaurant purchases. You can also earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 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
Annual Fee: $550 (See Rates & Fees)
Current Welcome Bonus: New cardmembers can earn 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. Cardholders also earn 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership.
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.
Earn 5x Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Cardholders also earn 5x points on prepaid hotel bookings through amextravel.com.
$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 Platinum Card® from American Express 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
Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts.
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.
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.
Learn more: The Platinum Card® from American Express
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 points…Chase 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 Overall Winner
The overall winner among the top 3 premium travel cards is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It has the highest and most flexible travel credit that makes it really easy to automatically reduce the annual fee from $550 to $250. 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.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.