Platinum vs Reserve vs Prestige

Amex, Chase, and Citibank each offer premium travel cards.  These are $450 per year cards (Update: Only the Chase and Citibank cards still carry a $450 annual fee. That fee no longer applies to the Platinum card.) that aim to justify their huge fees with piles of great benefits.  Which is best? The truth is that each card has different strengths.  Whether any of them are right for you depends upon your own circumstances.

 

Below you’ll find head to head comparisons of the three cards across many factors.  Note that Amex offers many versions of the Platinum card and benefits sometimes differ across them. In the ratings below, I’ve noted when a given benefit varies by card.

Citi offers only one version of the Prestige card, but it is available at two price points: $450 by default, or $350 for those who sign up in-branch or for those with Citi Priority or CitiGold status.  Also, some of the Prestige card’s best benefits are going away as of July 23 2017.  In this review, I will look at the value of the Prestige card primarily based on its July 23 2017 benefits rather than the current benefits (some of which are no longer available to new cardholders today).

Best by Category

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Premium Card Awards Chase 1Premium Card Awards Chase 2

  • Best signup bonus
  • Best point earnings for spend
  • Best transfer partners
  • Best travel redemption value
  • Best travel rebate
  • Best airport lounge access for guests

Amex Platinum

Premium Card Awards Amex

  • Easiest to get card and bonus
  • Best Airport lounge access for one
  • Best elite status benefits

Citi Prestige

Premium Card Awards Citi 2

  • Best miscellaneous perks

Details

Signup Bonus

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

While it’s true that Amex sometimes has targeted offers that are as good or better than the Sapphire Reserve, the Sapphire Reserve has, by far, the best standard offer.

How Easy to Get Card (and Bonus)?

Winner: Amex Platinum

  • Amex Platinum: As far as I know, Amex approves most applicants. They’re happy to take your $450. If you’ve had the same version of the Platinum card before, though, you won’t get a new signup bonus except under special circumstances. Fortunately, there are quite a few versions of this card, and it is possible to get a signup bonus for each one.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:  Chase is tough on those who have opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months. See:
  • Citi Prestige: It’s not hard to get approved for the Prestige card, but you won’t earn the signup bonus if you’ve had a ThankYou Preferred, Premier, or Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Even though Amex has their tough “once per lifetime” rule, availability of multiple versions of the card gives Amex a decided edge in this category.

Point Earnings for Spend

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Amex Platinum: Earns only 1 point per dollar in most cases.  Personal Platinum cards now earn 5X for airfare.  And the Business Platinum earns 1.5X for purchases of $5,000 or more.  The Ameriprise version of the card offers 5K bonus points for every $20K spend, up to 30K bonus points annually.  So, at best the Ameriprise Platinum card offers 1.25 points per dollar.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 points per dollar for travel and dining; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
  • Citi Prestige: 3 points per dollar for flights and hotels, 2 points per dollar for dining & entertainment; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

Chase and Citi are close on this one, but I give a slight edge to Chase for its broader 3X travel bonus and 3X dining (vs. 2X with Citi).  With Amex it is possible to earn far more Membership Rewards points by using other Amex cards such as the EveryDay Preferred or Premier Rewards Gold, but that’s true with Chase as well (with their Ink and Freedom cards).

Point Transfer Partners

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Amex Platinum: Transfer points to any of 18 airline programs and 3 hotel programs.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Transfer points to any of 7 airline programs and 4 hotel programs.
  • Citi Prestige: Transfer points to any of 12 airline programs and 1 hotel program.

If we go purely by the numbers, Amex would win this category.  That said, I personally get more value from Chase’s transfer partners such as United, Korean Air, and Hyatt.  Please see this post for details: Membership Rewards vs. Ultimate Rewards vs. ThankYou Rewards. Which is best?

Point Redemption Value for Travel

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Amex Platinum: 1 cent per point value for travel booked with points through Amex. 30% rebate on points for airfare with your preferred airline with the Business Platinum card results in 1.43 cents per point value.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.5 cents per point value for travel booked with points through Chase.
  • Citi Prestige: 1.25 cents per point value for airfare booked with points through Citi ThankYou Rewards. Note: Until July 23 2017, the Prestige card offers 1.6 cents per point value for American Airlines flights and 1.33 cents per point value for other flights.

Chase gets another easy win.

Travel Rebate

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Amex Platinum: Offers $200 per year in airline fee reimbursements. You must select a preferred airline in order to receive these credits. Airfare is not reimbursed.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Offers $300 per year in travel reimbursements. Any spend that counts as travel (e.g. airfare, hotels, taxis, trains, Uber, etc.) will be reimbursed.
  • Citi Prestige: Offers $250 per year in flight related expenses.  All expenses processed directly by an airline should be elgibile including: airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrade fees, etc.

Chase is the clear winner here with the largest rebate and the broadest inclusion criteria. Citi is next, and Amex is last.  Its funny that Amex offers the smallest rebate, but also has the most strict requirements.

Airport Lounge Access for One

Winner: Amex Platinum

  • Amex Platinum: Centurion lounges; International American Express lounges; Delta Sky Clubs; Priority Pass Select lounges; and Airspace Lounges
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Priority Pass Select lounges
  • Citi Prestige: Priority Pass Select lounges; AA Admirals Club lounges only for current cardmembers and only until Juy 23 2017.

It’s not even close. When traveling alone, Amex offers far superior lounge access options, especially now that the Prestige card will stop offering American Airlines Admiral’s Club access.

Airport Lounge Access Free for Guests

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Amex Platinum:
    • Centurion lounges: Immediate family or up to 2 guests
    • International American Express lounges: One free guest (minimum)
    • Airspace Lounges: Immediate family or up to 2 guests
    • Fee for guests at Delta Sky Clubs ($29) and Priority Pass Select ($27) lounges
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:
    • Priority Pass Select lounges: Unlimited free guests except when individual lounge enforces their own guest limits.
  • Citi Prestige:
    • Priority Pass Select lounges: Immediate family or up to 2 guests

This one is tough to judge! We can eliminate the Prestige card since the Sapphire Reserve guest lounge access clearly better.  Regarding Amex, it’s possible to get excellent value from guest access at Centurion lounges, International Amex lounges, and Airspace lounges.  But, if we look at the numbers, Chase has a clear edge.  There are over 900 Priority Pass Select lounges worldwide.  Amex currently offers free guest access at 7 Centurion Lounges, 3 Airspace lounges, and probably fewer than 30 international lounges.

Free Elite Status

Winner: Amex Platinum

  • Amex Platinum:
    • Hilton Gold status
    • Starwood Gold status
    • National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:
    • National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive
  • Citi Prestige:
    • Sixt [rental car] Platinum status
    • National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive
    • Avis Preferred Plus

Amex wins easily.

Miscellaneous Perks

Winner: Citi Prestige

  • Amex Platinum:
    • Free Boingo Wifi
    • 10 Complimentary Gogo Inflight Wifi Passes per year (Platinum Business card only)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:
    • Primary car rental collision damage waiver
  • Citi Prestige:

Obviously the perks in this category that you value the most will determine which you think is the winner. I picked the Prestige card’s 4th Nigh Free hotel benefit because it has the most potential upside in terms of cost savings per use.

 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Pretty good comparison! As an AA flyer the Citi Prestige was a homerun for me the last few years. The AA club + 1.6 cents per point value on revenue tickets were great. Unfortunately they are pretty much gutting this card as of next year and I’m going to cancel. I think now the only way that card makes sense is if you are staying 2x or more in a hotel on cash rates.

    I think the Amex Platinum is so much more appealing if there is a lounge in your home airport. I haven’t had this card in years….but if they ever put one in O’hare…I’d get it again in a second.

    The Chase card is by far the best card at the moment i think. Hoping they don’t pull a Citi and gut the benefits down the road.

  2. We like the AMX-P (Schwab) not only for annual statement credit that reduces by nearly a half the annual fee, but more so, for the cruise bennies (we cruise at least twice per year–so, when we pay for cruise with AMX-P, we earn a $300 Ship Board Credit (SBC) and bottle of fine wine for each paid cruise w/Amx-p. However, now with our CSR getting 3x for paying our cruise fare means we need to look closely at getting SBC (pay cruise with Amx-p) or the cash we may earn by paying for our cruise with our CSR (no brainer if cruise fare is over $6k pp will use our CSR most times).

      • As near as I’ve been able to tell, it doesn’t cost extra. In fact, I book from the cheapest source I can find, and while booking I have them ‘attach’ the Amex Platinum benefits in addition to whatever price + benefits they are offering.

        You do NOT need to book with Amex to get the cruise benefits – just need to pay with the Amex Platinum card.

  3. How about the card design? Am I the only one who thinks Chase really dropped the ball on the Reserve? This seems even more obvious when it sits side by side with the other two premium looking cards. I know it’s not all that important but the Reserve looks pretty bad (physically).

  4. Citi Prestige offers National Executive status as well as first year status in another rental car program. Amex still crushes it though.

  5. I’ll add to your Prestige card’s Miscellaneous category although Entertainment is it’s own separate category. As purveyors of our area’s cultural opportunities, my partner and I have season subscriptions to our local ballet, opera and jazz companies — the 2 points for these costs really do add up and contribute to the Prestige card’s attributes.

    A little known attribute of using the Prestige card for buying such items, as well as for concerts and plays of any kind, is that if one is unable to go to a ticketed event because of sickness, the Prestige card permits one to seek reimbursement from an insurance company for the loss.

    It is nice to know that you can be reimbursed for the cost of the lost ticket.

    • Greg, we have used our AMX-P to pay for near two dozen cruises in the last 11 yrs with our Travel Agent. We do no use AMX Travel to book–why? We not only get the cruise bennies but near 10+% cash back on every cruise we book with our TA. Our TA has a simple guarantee–they will beat any price.

      Now, however with CSR 3X for travel (I.e.cruise fare) we will have to compare CSR w/AMX. Plus, with CSR you get some travel insurance protection.

      Thanks again for this useful CSR/AMX-P/Citi card comparison post.

  6. Citi Prestige and AMEX Platinum annual travel credit goes by Calendar Year instead of Card’s Anniversary Date. Does anybody know if CHASE Sapphire Reserve goes by the same rule (Calendar Year) or I only get $300 travel credit for each 12 months since the card’s issuance date? Thanks!

    • Chase is also calendar year. To be precise:

      Chase and Citi end the “calendar” year with your December statement. If a valid travel charge is made in December, but shows up in your January statement, then it counts towards next year’s travel credits rather than this year’s.

      Amex ends the calendar year on December 31. As long as a charge has a transaction date in 2016 (even December 31 2016), it is counted towards the 2016 travel credits.

  7. great info; can you compare the rental car benefits? as far as i know Prestige is only the secondary insurance domestically, but primary overseas, while chase is primary in both. not sure about amex, any benefits?

  8. I applied for 100k platinum offer, was approved and received my 100k points. Then 3 months later my points were taken away. The reason they gave me was because I had already received the bonus with the Benz and the Ameriprise.

  9. I believe Amex is keeping any eye on the new CSR card. When I called to cancel my Platinum card, I was given a retention offer of 25K MR points without any spend requirement. I gladly took it and the points are there in my account and I am yet to pay the annual fee which is due next week. This is the first time I have received any worthwhile retention offer from Amex.

  10. “Occasionally we see targeted offers for 100,000 points, or even 150,000 points, but with very high spend requirements.”

    250K, actually, on occasion.

  11. The comparisons above are really misguided or skewed in my book:

    For example the Prestige has by far the best airport lounge for two by offering Priority Pass allowing two guests and the cheapest way to give your partner a PP ($50 for authorized user).

    AMEX’s airline transfer partners are certainly as good as those with the CSR, Aeroplan is way better for International biz class tickets for one. Aeroplan alone also makes AMEX win hands down on best redemption value.

    It obviously all comes down to where you want to go and what your preference is for redemption, but the comparison here is certainly the most unbalanced and skewed I have seen anywhere.

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