6 reasons the Citi Prestige is not a Sapphire Reserve killer

Recently I posted news about big changes coming to the Citi Prestige card as of January 2019: Citi Prestige to add 5X dining & airfare; limit 4th Night Free. In response, some readers asked if this marked the end for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Others asked whether Chase will respond by increasing the Sapphire Reserve’s category bonuses. After all, while the Sapphire Reserve offers “only” 3X for dining and travel, the new Prestige card will offer 5X for dining and certain travel (airfare & most travel agencies).

My quick answer: No, I don’t think Chase has much to fear.

The following table shows Sapphire Reserve & new Citi Prestige fees & benefits side by side. The Prestige card isn’t currently available for new cardholders, but it is expected to re-launch in January 2019. See my earlier post for details about when each Prestige feature changes to the new structure.

Chase Sapphire Reserve New Citi Prestige
Annual Fee $450 $495 ($350 with CitiGold Checking)
Travel Credit $300 per year $250 per year
Net Cost After Travel Credits $150 $245 (or $100 with CitiGold Checking)
Authorized User Fee $75 $50
Bonus Categories 3X travel & dining 5X airfare, dining, and most travel agencies
3X hotels and cruise lines
Point Value 1 cent per point for cash
1.5 cents per point for travel booked through Ultimate Rewards
1 cent per point for cash
(1.25 cents per point for travel booked through the Citi ThankYou portal with the Citi Premier card)
4th Night Free Benefit N/A Twice per calendar year: Book 4 hotel nights for the price of 3 (details here).
Cell Phone Protection N/A Covers damage & theft
Lounge Access Priority Pass Select with 2 guests Priority Pass Select with 2 guests or immediate family, plus Citi Proprietary Lounges (last I heard there were 4 of these)
Global Entry Fee Credit $100 $100
Travel Insurance Best in-class Almost as good as Sapphire Reserve (details here)
Missed Event Ticket Protection N/A Reimburses up to $500 per ticket ($5K per year) if “the unexpected keeps you from using tickets”
Price protection N/A Covers price drop within 60 days up to $200 per claim, $1K per year

6 reasons the Prestige is not a Sapphire Reserve killer

  1. Annual Fee: The Sapphire Reserve edges out the Prestige with a $450 annual fee vs. the Prestige’s $495. Those who are grandfathered into the $350 annual fee, though, will obviously do better with the Prestige (price-wise)
  2. Travel Rebate: The Sapphire Reserve offers $50 more per year than the Prestige ($300 vs. $250).
  3. Travel Point Bonuses: With dining, the Prestige has a clear advantage over the Sapphire Reserve: 5X beats 3X.  With travel, though, things get murky.  Chase defines travel broadly and offers 3X for all of it.  With the Prestige card, you get 5X only for airfare and “most travel agencies.”  This latter part requires some explanation: often when you go through a travel agency, you don’t pay them at all. Instead, they get a kickback when you pay the hotel, cruise-line, etc.  In those cases, Citi won’t know that you went through a travel agency and you won’t earn 5X.  With Citi, the only way to be sure to get a good multiple on all travel is with the $95 Premier card which offers 3X for travel & gas.  That’s great, but then you’ve increased complexity and annual fees to get to a better solution than with the Sapphire Reserve.
  4. Point Value: Sapphire Reserve points are worth more than Prestige points (1.5 cents per point towards travel vs. 1 cent per point). Even if you pair the Prestige card with the Citi Premier card, the best you can get is 1.25 cents value towards travel.
  5. Transfer Partners: Both programs offer the ability to transfer points to airline miles & hotel programs, but Chase’s partners are arguably better for most people.  Examples of easy-to-use transfer partners that Chase has but Citi does not include: Hyatt, United, and Southwest.
  6. Companion Cards: In my mind, this is the number one reason that the Sapphire Reserve is safe.  More on this below…

Companion Cards

With Chase, there are many options for earning Ultimate Rewards points at high multiples, and many of these are fee free.  In each case you can earn points with the fee-free card and move those points to the Sapphire Reserve to get better value:

Citi, meanwhile, offers these companion cards:

At the low end, Chase makes it easy to earn at least 1.5 points per dollar for all spend.  Surprisingly, Citi doesn’t offer any ThankYou cards that earn more than 1 point per dollar for non-bonus spend.

At the high end (5X), Chase offers multiple companion cards that make it possible to get 5X rewards when buying gift cards. For example, it is easy to go in-store or online to Staples to buy gift cards to other stores. Since the transactions are processed by Staples, you would get 5 points per dollar when paying with your Ink Business Cash card.  Similarly, the Freedom card often offers 5X at places that sell gift cards: grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations, warehouse stores, etc. By buying gift cards in this way, it’s possible to extend 5X earnings far beyond the specific categories supported by these cards.

Bottom Line

Even with the Citi Prestige card’s new 5X categories, I believe the Sapphire Reserve is still the better all-around travel card.  Chase’s annual fee is lower and its travel rebate is higher.  Chase offers more ways to earn more points and lets you redeem those points for more value.  Taken together, this means that your rebate from spend with Chase is at least 2.25% towards travel: you can earn a minimum of 1.5 points per dollar on all spend (with the Freedom Unlimited or Ink Business Unlimited card) and redeem for 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve.  With Citi, your rebate from unbonused spend is just 1%.

So, for those who want to keep things relatively simple and to work within a single rewards scheme, I believe that Chase has the better hand.  Nothing about the new Prestige benefits has led me to change my preferred card combos that I detailed in a recent post: Super credit card combos.

That said, if you’re willing to go to the next level of complexity by using cards across multiple rewards programs (see: Super mixed credit card combo), the new Citi Prestige may be just good enough to convince me to replace the Sapphire Reserve with the $95 Chase Ink Business Preferred (which also offers 3X for travel).  Look for more about this topic in a future post…

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

47
Leave a Reply

avatar
19 Comment threads
28 Thread replies
28 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
27 Comment authors
RickJason Brandt LewisSome dudeJulesAlvaro Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Debit
Guest
Debit

I am sticking with amex and chase. My life is becoming too complicated to try to optimize every spend.

Audrey
Guest
Audrey

I think net fee after travel credit is $245, not $255.

Priority Pass with Prestige currently allows 2 guests or immediate family. Will that be changing? For me it’s actually one of the most valuable differences.

William
Guest
William

Greg, I’m curious about your idea to replace your CSR with a CIP.

Does the CIP travel category get as broadly defined as on the CSR?

Although the CIP only gets 1.25cp in the portal, going from a $150 net fee down to a $95 fee reduces the blow but what gets me in all this is, wouldn’t you be losing out on CSRs primary car rental insurance and better overall travel protection since CIP is only meant for ‘business purposes’ ?

Steve
Guest
Steve

The CIP is the best card out there to preserve transferability to partners for me. (I wish i’d never converted by Ink Plus). It’s cheaper than the CSR, offers cell phone protection, and now it’s not too hard to find a card to cover dining, the only advantage the CSR has over the CIP. The Amex Goid and the Citi Prestige are great cards for dining plus offer benefits that could cover an annual fee. Like Greg, I transfer to partners and don’t redeem, so the 1.5cpp transfer is not an advantage. In short, get an Ink Preferred, convert your CSR to a Freedom, and get an Amex Gold or Citi Prestige.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Why not use CSP instead of the CIP to replace CSR?

What is/are the additional benefit(s) from CI+ vs CIP?

Army @ ClimberMonkeysAbroad.com
Guest
Army @ ClimberMonkeysAbroad.com

Do you know if the 5x dining is only within the US? GOLD is useless to me because it is only within the US.

Jerry
Guest
Jerry

The comparison really boils down to whether or not you can use the 4th night free credits. That alone wipes out the net fee and then some IF you use it, making the Prestige the net positive card with the lesser work compared to the CSR.

Jules
Guest
Jules

A key factor in the analysis vs CSR or AMEX Gold/Platinum is how much international travel one does. 5x dining internationally is a unique proposition and the 5x on flights makes the AMEX platinum less desirable given the considerably higher annual fee.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Succinctly said

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Just remember the 4th nite saved me $50 over Hotels.com So What it’s a Hassle too.Always good to check sometimes their Lower too ..I love a no hassle room I really Don’t trust them to many errors and they told me ‘ We are Human “. If I made the error I would have to Pay not them I bet..
CHEERs

Rob
Guest
Rob

It’s actually a “missed event ticket protection” which is better than the way you list it above because it also covers you if you fall ill and cannot attend as happened to me last year. They were super chill about it and just paid me out…very few questions asked. They just wanted the unused ticket for proof. Your list sort of implies it’s only coverage if you lose the ticket or it gets stolen. If you are the type to frequent $300 a ticket broadway shows, it is a huge value to not have to spend another $20 on every ticket every show for insurance.

Bogan
Guest
Bogan

The number 1 reason the Citi Prestige is not a Chase Sapphire killer for me is domestic primary rental car coverage. Citi Prestige is only primary internationally. This benefit is available on the Chase Sapphire Preferred as well, so I may drop down from the CSR.

MarkJ
Guest
MarkJ

I used the 4th night free probably 15 times a year the last couple of years…so a big hit bit I still like the Prestige Card even with the changes. The CSR Card was “King of the Hill” but it is a little tarnished now…lost Korean, Hyatt devalued on Cash + Points, Amex Gold better on restaurants, and now the Prestige 5x restaurant. I could do just fine with Citi and Amex.

Sam Palmer
Guest
Sam Palmer

I have the prestige and for now, have no intention of dropping it. The fourth night free means it should be a keeper.

And then of course there’s Turkish Airlines. Of which Citi is a transfer partner. You wanna fly to Europe in business class the righ wayt? Turkish. Yes you can book thru UAL and star alliance, but you’ll use waaaaaaaaay more points.

So I’m keeping mine….just not spending a lot on it tho.

Sue
Guest
Sue

I think you have to look a little deeper to call the Chase travel insurance best in class as I recently learned the hard way, Chase does not pay for the increased airfare when you have to fly home early due to a covered reason for trip interruption. Citi does at least up to the amount that you paid for the travel on that card originally. We had to pay over $600 when we changed our return flight after I broke my shoulder on vacation last month. That seems to be a critical and obvious cost of a trip interruption. I’m not sure yet whether we will be successful in getting any reimbursement for our cancelled Airbnb either. Time will tell.

Evan
Guest
Evan

Why are Chase’s transfer partners arguably better (after Korean left)? Singapore, Airfrance and Virgin overlap for both….. Hyatt is nice, but Avianca (via Citi) award chart is generally more favorable for booking star alliance than United’s (Chase) after recent improvements to the website make booking painless. I’d value Cathay/Etihad similiarly to BA Avios

I’d only think United is more valuable if you live in a United hub and fly their own metal a lot (meaning generate a lot of your points by flying, not just CC spend).

Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Hyatt is more than nice. At least for some of us. Okay, at least for me. And with C+P dying next week, Hyatt points becoming even more valuable. At least for some of us. Okay, ….

Evan
Guest
Evan

Sure… Hyatt is the most valuable Chase partner now and in theory I’ll try to use my pts for Hyatt stays with good value (Just redeemed 100k pts for 4 nights at Andaz Tokyo next month).

will i ACTUALLY use them all on Hyatt? Since Hyatt’s footprint of hotels is small (esp Europe) I might go on several trips before a Hyatt is my top option, so I might end up using for a Biz flight instead, but I try and redeem Citi/Amex for the Biz flight awards whenever possible.

My point was that while Chase has easily the best hotel partner, I dont think the Chase AIRLINE partners are BETTER than Amex or Citi’s (after Korean left Chase). I think they once were, but now are basically tied (same as Lucky from OMAAT).

I think most people are simply used to using the big 3 US airline programs so they assume having one (United) is better than not having any (for Citi). That’s certainly reasonable for the non-hobbyist, but if you know how to use Aeroplan, Avianca, etc I’d argue you get at least equal value as United.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Spoken like a true non-foodie. Detroit has great Lebanese restaurants. Go try some with your Citi!

_ar
Guest
_ar

There’s room for both cards.. With Citi, however, you can be net positive on the fees, and they offer spending bonuses, and transfer bonuses to airlines, and their customer service on the Prestige, imo, is stellar. When things don’t code correctly, they use their judgment rather than insisting that’s what the merchant code is. These intangibles don’t make your list however. If you are transferring for international business class, the 1.5 on the chase portal is somewhat moot (though nice to have as a floor for your points). Also, chase needs to add partners to remain competitive – they are coasting on their United relationship.

novato1953
Guest
novato1953

Very useful. Thank you.

bluecat
Guest
bluecat

I would like to hear your strategy for which card to use when booking “expensive travel”, like safaris, cruises, and guided tours that cost, say, $5K+ . In these cases, the benefit associated with a particular card can outweigh the points earning potential. In my (limited) experience, the best combination of cards to use for a big travel purchase is CSR (or it cousin, Chase Ritz, which is what I actually have and you neglect to mention in this article) and Prestige TOGETHER. IOW, I charge part of the transaction to Ritz in order to trigger coverages and then use the Prestige because the points earning benefits are better than the Ritz card.

I have the other premium cards too but their coverage is not at all useful. (The exception is Amex Plats Emergency Evac, which I dont even have to use the card for in order to use)

I’d love to hear your take on this question of which cards to use for such travel (and, specifically, if you think a 2 card split payment approach using Ritz/CSR and Prestige is the best way to go)

Marko
Guest
Marko

I think the best is having citi prestige and the Ink preferred. The ink is where you book all your travel except airlines and you still have the possibility of transfering miles and afaik, you also have primary car insurance. The Prestige for dining and flights. The amex 2x business card for all us not bonus spend. No other annual fee card required unless you want the ones with an annual hotel night

Alvaro
Guest
Alvaro

I’ll like to see an article on canceling the CSR and just keeping the ink preferred instead

Jules
Guest
Jules

My plan is similar with some tweaks since I travel a lot internationally. Would appreciate yours and other readers thoughts on this:
Citi prestige: Dining & Flights (5x TY)
Ink Preferred: Travel (Hotels, Car rental, Train, Taxi, Uber, etc.) (3x UR)
Amex blue business (no fee): non-bonus US (2x MR)
Capital One Quicksilver (no fee): non-bonus international (1.5% cash back)

Jules
Guest
Jules

And….
Amex SPG luxury for annual free night certificate (50k points)

Some dude
Guest
Some dude

You forgot Citi Price Rewind. I’ve saved hundreds of $$ this past year through Rewind claims made on purchases from the Citi Prestige.

Jason Brandt Lewis
Guest
Jason Brandt Lewis

Who ever claimed Citi Prestige was out to “kill” the CSR? Who said it was an either/or situation? (This is the first I’ve ever heard that.) “One size fits all” is one of the Great Lies of the Western World. For some, Citi Prestige may work out better; for some, the CSR is better; and for others, having both is the ideal situation.

Let’s not forget Chase’s *severe* restrictions on the CSR. You cannot hold both the CSP and CSR at the same time. 5/24 applies. You cannot get a sign-up bonus unless you have NOT had a Sapphire card in what, 48 months? And so on and so on and so on… There are people who, like me, were caught in the “vortex” — I was over 5/24 when Chase first introduced the CSR. (Ironically, my 5th card was the Citi Prestige.) I thus missed out on their original 100k sign-up bonus…and even the 50k bonus. Now that Chase has once again changed the rules, my only options are to upgrade the CSP to the CSR (w/zero sign-up bonus), OR downgrade the CSP to a Freedom card (so as not to lose my UR points), wait the four years, and then apply for the CSR. No thank you; that’s not an option.

Rick
Guest
Rick

I will cancel the Prestige in June after I receive my last 4th night free credit. Not being able to book 4th night free reservations through the Concierge after 09/01/19 kills it for me. I have had the Prestige since 2015. So tired of the yearly devaluations to the card. So sick of Citi. I may even cancel my Double Cash card.