Platinum vs Reserve vs Prestige

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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. Update 2: All of these annual fees have increased) 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: $495 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.

 

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