Citi Prestige vs. American Express Platinum. Better Card?

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This offer is expired. See the new offer and analysis here.

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Yesterday I reviewed the improved offer on the Citi Prestige® Card, which comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Commentor Guarav asked me to compare the card to a similar offering, the American Express Platinum card:

“Scott–I’d be curious to see a comparison on your thoughts between this and the AX platinum product.”

This comparison will be useful for anyone considering getting a premium credit card–one of those cards with an eye-watering annual fee and huge benefits. I’ll break down the comparison by:

  • value of points
  • sign-up bonus
  • category bonuses
  • lounge access
  • statement credits
  • other benefits
  • annual fee

I’ll foreshadow a little bit by saying that although many of the benefits of the Citi Prestige® Card and American Express Platinum are similar, there are subtle differences in the programs that could make a huge difference to you, so the better card depends heavily on your travel habits and preferences.

Note: I am using the Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz (the card on the right) as “the Platinum Card” for this analysis because it is the best personal Platinum Card offer open to everyone.

Value of Points

The American Express Platinum earns Membership Rewards, which I value at 2 cents each. The Citi Prestige® Card earns ThankYou Points, which I value at 1.8 cents each.

Membership Rewards can be transferred to 17 airlines and 4 hotels.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 1.40.51 PM

There are frequent transfer bonuses including the current 40% bonus on transfers to British Airways.

Citi ThankYou Points transfer to 11 airlines and one hotel:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles
  • Hilton HHonors

My two ThankYou Points favorite transfer partners are Singapore Airlines and Air France Flying Blue. (Click links to see why.) These are both also transfer partners of Membership Rewards, which has a host of other valuable transfer partners for Americans:

  • British Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • ANA
  • Aeroplan
  • Delta

Beyond having fewer good partners, ThankYou Points have never had a transfer bonus, so Membership Rewards are clearly the better trasnferable currency.

ThankYou Points do have one far better use than Membership Rewards though, buying plane ticket with points.

  • Membership Rewards let you buy tickets with your points and give you 1 cent per point in value.
  • ThankYou Points earned on the Prestige offer you 1.33 cents toward any flight or 1.6 cents toward any American Airline or US Airways flight.

That makes ThankYou Points far better for saving cash on low-cost carrier tickets–which are often impossible to book with miles–or American Airlines and US Airways flights if you are going for status on American Airlines, so you want to fly paid tickets. (Airlines see tickets purchased directly with points as paid tickets because American Express or Citi is buying the ticket on your behalf.)

Because I mainly like to transfer my points to airline miles and Membership Rewards have more good partners and occasional transfer bonuses, I value Membership Rewards at 2.0 cents and ThankYou Points at 1.8 cents. Your values should be different.

If you want to use the points for paid tickets, ThankYou Points are better. If you are only interested in flights to South America, Europe (economy), and Hawaii, ThankYou Points are just about as good as Membership Rewards, which open a larger advantage if you are also interested in short hops (Avios) and Business Class to Europe.

Sign Up Bonus

  • AMEX Platinum (Mercedes-Benz-co-branded version open to all): 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months
  • Citi Prestige® Card: 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months

Multiply the points by your value of the points to figure out how much more valuable the sign up bonus on the American Express Platinum is. The bonus on that card is worth $1,000 after spending $3,000 to me. The sign up bonus on the Citi Prestige® Card is worth $900 after spending $3,000 to me.

This is nearly a wash.

Category Bonuses

  • AMEX Platinum: 1 Membership Reward per dollar on all purchases
  • Citi Prestige® Card: 
    • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
    • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
    • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

After hitting the minimum spending requirement on the American Express Platinum, it doesn’t offer an attractive proposition to continue spending on the card. There are several Membership Rewards-earning cards that offer category bonuses, but not the Platinum. It is simply a card to hold for its benefits.

The Citi Prestige® Card aims to be more than that. It aims to be a card you actually use day-to-day, and I think it succeeds. All the benefits of the Citi Prestige® Card are primarily valuable to travelers, so I will assume the average cardholder spends quite a bit on air travel and hotels, which rack up ThankYou Points at a rate of 3x per dollar. Restaurants and entertainment–common costs while traveling and at home–earn 2x per dollar.

I know a lot of people, for simplicity, only want to have one card. I don’t think the AMEX Platinum has any case to be your one card because the earning rate is so low. The Citi Prestige® Card could be that card if you want a card with good earning and great benefits (below) as long as you can get good value out of ThankYou Points (above.)

To figure out the extra value of the Citi Prestige® Card‘s category bonuses, multiply your dining and entertainment by your valuation of ThankYou Point as if it were a percentage and your air travel and hotel expenses by double your valuation of a ThankYou point.

For instance, I spend about $7k on dining and entertainment and $3k on airfare and hotels per year. I value ThankYou points at 1.7 cents.

7000 * 1.7% + 3000 * 3.4% = 221

That’s $221 of extra value per year from having the Citi Prestige® Card‘s category bonuses versus none on the AMEX Platinum. I imagine many people spend quite a bit more than me in those categories. For them, the Citi Prestige® Card would be even more valuable.

Lounge Access

  • AMEX Platinum: Priority Pass Select + Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta + American Express Centurion Lounges
  • Citi Prestige® Card: Priority Pass Select + American Airlines Admirals Clubs when flying American
  • AMEX Platinum lounge access comes with no free guests except at Centurion Lounges. Citi Prestige lounge access comes with free guests

Somehow Citi has worked out a deal that at Priority Pass-affiliated lounges and American Airlines lounges, so you can bring in your family (spouse, domestic partner, children under 18) or up to two guests for free.

American Express does not offer the same deal. You pay $29 for guests into SkyClubs and $27 for guests into Priority Pass clubs. You do get free guests at Centurion Lounges (spouse, domestic partner, children under 18 OR up to two guests), but there are still very few Centurion Lounges.

Which lounge benefits you like more completely depends on your travel style. If you fly more American flights, you’ll like the Prestige. If you fly more Delta flights or flights where there is a Centurion Lounge, you’ll like the AMEX Platinum.

If you travel with your family or co-workers a lot, you’ll love the free access they get to lounges with the Prestige.

Most people who are paying the $450+ annual fee year after year for one of these cards are primarily doing it for the lounge access, so think carefully about which set of lounge access works better for you.

I do a lot of international travel where Priority Pass lounge access is more important than Delta, American, or Centurion Lounge access. Most of my travel is alone, so the guest benefit doesn’t help me. I value both types of lounge access at about $150 per year, but most people would value lounge access far higher. (I almost never drink in lounges.)

Statement Credits

  • AMEX Platinum: $200 per calendar year for airline fees (shouldn’t but often does work for airline gift cards). $100 once every five years for Global Entry.
  • Citi Prestige® Card: $250 per calendar year for airline fees or airline tickets. $100 once every five years for Global Entry

The Citi Prestige® Card is the clear winner in the statement credit game. Its airline credit is larger and much more flexible. The AMEX Platinum makes you set one airline on which to receive fee credits, and to buy gift cards with the credit you often need to buy gift cards worth $100 or less. The Citi Prestige® Card allows you to get credits on all airlines and even against plane tickets, so everyone should easily max out $250 per year.

These benefits make both cards a great idea for at least one year, since you can get two calendar year credits in the first year of cardmembership plus the Global Entry credit. You’ve already more than offset the big annual fees on the cards.

Other Benefits

Both cards offer tons of other benefits like purchase protection, trip insurance, and concierge services. Both cards are highly similar in these areas, and I don’t use these benefits much. Read the terms and conditions on either card for full lists.

There is some differentiation though. The AMEX Platinum offers free SPG Gold elite status while you hold a Platinum card. The Citi Prestige® Card offers the 4th night free on hotel stays booked through its travel provider.

Which benefits you more depends–again–on your travel style.

Annual Fee

The annual fee on the Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz (the card on the right) is $475. You pay it with your first statement, and again 12 months later if you don’t cancel the card. The annual fee on most Platinum cards is $450, but this card’s worth paying $25 extra for for the much bigger sign up bonus.

The annual fee on the Citi Prestige® Card is $450. You pay it with your first statement, and again 12 months later if you don’t cancel the card.

Both cards are clearly worth paying the annual fee in year 1 because of their sign up bonuses and the ability to get fee credits twice in the first year of having a card. Whether either card is worth holding past year 1 depends on your travel habits and how much you use the card for spending and its benefits.

Which Card is Better?

Which card is better depends on you. Hopefully I’ve laid out how to think about each card’s benefits, but the actual thinking is left to you.

For folks who want guest lounge access, American Airlines lounge access, big category bonuses on spending, and great rates on using points to pay for airline tickets (especially on American/US Airways), the Citi Prestige® Card is better.

For folks who want Centurion or Delta lounge access, more transfer partners for points, and better transfer partners for Europe in Business Class or shorthaul within the United States, the American Express Platinum is better.

Citi Prestige® Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months, lounge access, $250 per calendar year in airline fee credits, and more

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways®, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you charge $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of Card Membership6
  • Complimentary access to over 600 airport lounges worldwide7
  • A $1000 certificate each year you charge $5,000 in purchases, good toward the future purchase or lease of a new Mercedes-Benz8
  • Up to 2,000 excess miles waived at lease-end on leases through Mercedes-Benz Financial Services9
  • $100 certificate at renewal of your Card account, good toward Genuine Mercedes-Benz Accessories10
  • Annual fee of $475

Landing Page: Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

 


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Scott – your Centurion Lounge link is broken – it should be thecenturionlounge.com (missing an “n” above).

    Great post – thanks!

  2. Can you use this to get into the Admirals Club if you are flying USAir? I would think yes since all of the USAir lounges either closed or were taken over by Admirals Clubs, but as a PHL based flyer I do not want to assume that then not be able to get into the club.

  3. Citi TY points currently have a transfer bonus with Hilton HHonors, so your statement that they have never offered a transfer bonus is incorrect.

  4. How about the Citi Executive vs Citi Prestige card. Got the Executive 6 months ago for the lounge access but also have the Amex Platinum Mercedes Card. Am contemplating getting Citi Prestige in place of Citi Executive. Any advice??

  5. You didn’t mention my favorite benefit of the Prestige. You can get 3 free rounds of golf each year at some pretty nice golf courses. Some of them go for $200 or so per round. That’s another $600 in value if you are a golfer.

  6. One nice benefit that the Amex Platinum offers that Citi Prestige does not is LOSS protection. Both cover loss and theft but loss is a rare coverage and Amex Platinum covers it. That came in very handy when I lost my phone while hiking.

  7. Great comparison but is there any way the Ameriprise AX Plat loses to the Prestige? Lower signing bonus but annual fee is waived the first year and so are the fees for additional cards. Thank you points are tempting but the waived fees made my decision.

    • If you spend on the card, all AMEX Platinums are terrible. If you want points and better benefits (statement credits, lounge access, golf, free hotel nights, etc), the Prestige is better.

  8. Nice write up you forgot one thing amex platinum also gives the forth bought free for you and up to 3 rooms. It’s just like the presitgue in that regard sometimes the price is worth it sometimes it isn’t.

    • Citi cards have language on the application page that bonuses are only available for people who last got the cards 24+ months ago.

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