Big Spender, Part II: One good and one horrid credit card

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Here’s part 2 of the best cards for big spenders and heavy travelers.  One of the cards, I really like and will be applying for it in the spring.  The other is simply awful and here only for comparison purposes.

Citibank Prestige Card, $450 Annual Fee (But see travel credits below)

Best for: Heavy travelers, particularly on American

Worst for: People who want exclusively cash back

The Citi Prestige Card is the Citibank version of the American Express Platinum card.  Its original version had enough limitations on it that it looked like exactly what it was: A bank trying to do a cheap version of the top card in the industry.  The new version, though, came to play.  This card has some excellent benefits and is the first card that I’ve ever seen that could give the Amex Platinum a run for its money in the benefits department.  It comes with a 30,000 point bonus after spending $2,000.  That can handle your first year’s fee and then some.

Rewards Program: B-

This is not a great card in terms of rewards, but it’s not bad, either.  Typically, people applying for high-end cards are in it for the benefits, so I’m not surprised.  Citi ThankYou points are not the world’s most valuable currency, worth less than a penny apiece in straight cash. Buying a gift card?  We’re up to a penny each.  Using them for flights on Citi’s site?  Now up to 1.33c each.  And using them for a flight on AA or US Airways?  Your points will get you 1.6c of value, each.  But the card is strong on the multipliers, earning triple points on air travel and hotels, and double points on dining and entertainment (which, until a few days ago, was double for the first category and triple for the second).  In other words, a dollar spent can get you almost 5% back if spent on travel.  This card also allows you to convert points to airlines and includes some of the finest airlines in the world, including Cathay, Singapore and Etihad.

Travel Benefits: A+

This card may be the best card in existence (and that’s not an exaggeration) for American Airlines flyers (also a Citibank card), rivaled only by the American Executive card, which can get you AA miles and miles toward elite status.  But that card has a $450 fee and no offsets.  Citi Prestige has the following:

  • An annual $250 flight credit.  Unlike the Amex Platinum, this one can be used for airfare on any airline.  In other words, if you travel at all, you’ll get back $250 of the annual fee right away.  You’ll also get a $100 credit to pay for Global Entry, similar to the Amex Platinum card.
  • Access to American Airlines and Priority Pass lounges.  And unlike the Amex Platinum card, this one does allow you to bring guests.
  • A free fourth night at any hotel, as long as you book through Citi travel.  This benefit is possibly the biggest of all, depending on your travel.  No blackouts, no limits on uses per year (although you only get one free night per stay).  Interestingly, you will get the fourth night reimbursed, even if the price is different than the other nights.
  • A bunch of other goodies, including greens fees at 2,000+ golf courses, no foreign exchange fees and lost luggage reimbursements.
  • The above-mentioned bonus for booking flights through their site.

Bottom Line: Since just about everybody will use the flight credit, you are essentially paying $200 for the rest of the benefits.  For frequent travelers, this card is about as good as it gets.  To get the card, go here and click on the third banner at the bottom (the travel banner).  It’s on the first page.

As Bad as it Gets:

Black cards are the new Platinum cards.  Modeled to look like the invite-only American Express Centurion card, the Visa Black is all glitter, no gold.  It costs $495 per year and offers virtually no benefits that you can’t get elsewhere.  Points appear to be worth a penny apiece (two cents on travel) and you’ll get 25,000 after meeting minimum spend requirements.  But it has none of the benefits that the other cards do.  No fee reimbursement.  A lounge program that covers only 300 airport lounges.  But there’s lots of bling.  The first benefit listed, in fact, is that the card is made of stainless steel which is good, I guess, if you want a credit card that looks like your refrigerator.  The ads also brag about a members only magazine (also known as a giant book of advertisements) and unnamed luxury gifts from “top brands.”  This card can be found on the same page as the Citi Prestige, but I can’t imagine why anyone would want it.

(Note: I’ve updated this since last night to correct the information on the flight redemptions for ThankYou points and raised the rating from A to A+.)


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