Citi Prestige vs. American Express Platinum

April 12, 2013

High-end reward cards can make sense for regular people, not just high spending big shots. Despite their high annual fees, these cards can offer even more valuable rewards and benefits. The American Express Platinum card is one of the most popular luxury travel reward cards available, while Citi recently introduced its Prestige card to compete for this market.

Let’s look at how these cards match up head to head:

The American Express Platinum Card

platinum american expressThe current champion, the American Express Platinum card, still has a lot of strengths. For each dollar spent, cardholders earn one point in the American Express Membership Rewards program. Points are worth one cent toward travel or gift card options, or they can be transferred to the mileage programs of over a dozen different airlines. New cardmembers earn a 25,000 point sign up bonus after spending $2,000 on their card within three months of opening the account.

There are still more benefits than can be listed here, but these are the highlights: Cardholders receive access to the airport lounges of American, Delta, and US Airways as well as over 600 lounges in the Priority Pass network. Cardholders also receive a $200 airline fee credit and a $100 credit toward the application fee of the Global Entry program. This membership is offered by the United States Customs and Border patrol and it allows expedited entry into the United States and access to the TSA’s Pre-Check program when traveling domestically.

Other benefits include access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts collection of properties including a room, upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and a $100 food and beverage credit during each stay. American Express also offers a concierge service to assist you with virtually any need, including restaurant reservations, travel arrangements, and event ticketing.

There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and additional cards are $175 per year. There are no foreign transaction fees for this card. And finally, this is a charge card and members are required to pay their balance in full each month.

Insider tip: The $200 airline fee credit is a great benefit, but only if you use it right. First, you have to choose a single airline for the fees to be credited from. Also, you need to know the rules. For example, seat selection fees are reimbursed, but not upgrades to first class. In addition, in-flight entertainment fees are eligible, but not fees for Wi-Fi. And finally, ticket purchases are never reimbursed.

The Citi Prestige Card

Citi PrestigeThis new upstart card has a lot of things going for it. The Citi Prestige card is offered as part of the MasterCard network and cardholders earn one point in Citi’s ThankYou rewards program for each dollar spent. When it comes time to redeem rewards, ThankYou points are worth one cent each toward hotel and rental car reservations, and 1.33 cents toward airfare on nearly any airline. In addition, points can be transferred to the Hilton HHonors program at a ratio of 1:1.5. There are also a variety of statement credit, loan repayment, and gift card options, but they return just one cent per point in value – or less. New cardholders also receive 30,000 points as a sign up bonus after spending $2,000 within three months of opening an account.

Citi also appears to be trying to closely match the American Express Platinum card’s key benefits. For example, Citi also offers a $200 airline statement credit and a $100 fee credit for the Global Entry program application. Citi also includes a membership with an airport business lounge program called Airport Angel.

And while this program claims to grant members access to “over 470 lounges in 281” cities, it has lounges in only five airports in the United States.

Other benefits include upgrades, free breakfast, and a fourth night free in their World Elite Luxury Hotel and Resort collection. This card also features an EMV smart chip that makes it compatible with the next generation of unmanned kiosks already used in Europe and around the world. And of course, cardholders receive access to a global concierge team available 24 hours a day to assist in purchasing tickets for travel and events.

There is $400 annual fee for this card, and additional cards are just $50. Thankfully, there are no foreign transaction fees for purchases outside the United States. The standard interest rate is 15.24%.

Insider tip: If you already have a Citi card that earns ThankYou points, you may still want to get this card. With most of their other cards, ThankYou points are worth one cent each towards airfare, but holders of this card can redeem them at a rate of 1.33 cents per point. And the best part is, the new rate applies to existing points earned on other cards, even if they were received before you got this card.

The Verdict

The new Citi product puts up a good fight, but it can’t overcome the champion from American Express for several reasons. First, the American Express Membership Rewards program is much more flexible than Citi’s ThankYou program as points transferred to airline miles that can be worth far more than 1.33 cents each. And with access to just a fraction of the lounges offered by American Express, the Citi Prestige card really can’t compete.

Nevertheless, the Citi card still holds the upper hand in a few areas. Its annual fee is less for both the first card and additional cards. Additionally, Citi’s airline fee credit policy is a lot more flexible. And finally, Citi beat American Express to the market when it comes to the EMV smart chip, which the Platinum card really should have by now.

The American Express Platinum card has some new imitators, but no card has been able to knock it from its throne.

Which card do you feel is right for you? Are you willing to pay these high annual fees for the benefits? Leave a comment!

Jason

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Jason

Jason Steele has been dissecting credit card bonuses and loyalty travel programs for years. Digging into the details of credit card offers has enabled his family to vacation in cool places around the world. Pay attention to the details he digs up about which card is best for you.


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Comments

4 Responses to Citi Prestige vs. American Express Platinum

  • HP

    CITI Prestige — all the trips must be originated from US to get the benefits like companion tickets and 15% discount.
    Also the $200 reimbursement are good to use for a limited airlines only (ex. Delta, UA, AA, Southwest)
    This is quite a limitation for people who really flying internationally.
    Otherwise all things being equal, I will not argue this card is better than AMex.

  • CJ

    Remember, the Citi Prestige offers double points in purchases at dining establishments, as well as travel (and I think in a few other places as well). The benefits associated with the card I feel are better. They offer trip delay coverage, purchase protection, Trip cancellation, and lost luggage. I know Amex offers these, but I believe the citi prestige offers alot more.

  • Jason Steele

    They have been promising it for some time, but I haven’t seen the announcement yet. Good to know!

  • Rahul Nair

    Amex platinum does come with an EMV chip. All you have to do is request for this option.

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