Comparing the American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige cards

I recently got a recent question about credit cards with high-end travel benefits, specifically the Amex Platinum card versus the Citibank Prestige card. Obviously, there is no “one best” card for everyone. For instance, assuming you were agnostic about which airline you fly, you might value the more varied airport lounge access that the Amex offers. But if you travel a lot with your family, the Citi card will get your whole clan into AA lounges, while the Amex card only allows you in. Etc.

What I decided to do was put together some info in chart form, comparing them head-to-head, while touching on a couple of the key points. But you should also know up front that the American Express card has benefits that are advantageous to Delta customers, while Citibank’s card will help American customers the most.

The Numbers

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In my “airline-agnostic” world, when I look purely at “number” benefits, Citi appears to me to be the clear winner. Both cards charge a $450 annual fee but offer significant rebates that will help you recover a large chunk of that. Here’s the difference: Citibank gives you up a $250 annual credit toward airline purchases. Since almost anyone reading this site is going to be spending at least $250 annually on airfare, that will knock your net annual fee down from $450 to $200.* Amex gives you $200, but you must choose which airline to use it on and it can only be used for fees, not tickets. One previous work-around was to buy American Airlines gift cards, but there have been several recent examples to indicate that AA has shut that loophole. Each gives you a $100 credit toward the cost of Global Entry, which costs, coincidentally, $100.

Neither American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points nor Citibank Thank You points (TYP) are particularly valuable, but Citi’s points will get you more bang for your buck when used for travel. Unlike MR points, which translate at a penny apiece for gift cards or travel, if you have the Prestige card, you can use your points to buy travel at Citi’s travel site at the rate of 1.33c per point or, if you are flying American/US Airways, they’re worth 1.6c per point (Note: they’re less, although still more than a penny, if you don’t have the Prestige card.). Since you get 40,000 points to sign up with American Express and 50,000 to sign up with Citibank**, the math points me toward the latter, with 50,000 points @1.6c netting you $800 of travel.

Soft Benefits

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Soft benefits are more individualized. They both have a wide variety of partners to transfer miles to. You shouldn’t have much trouble getting a flight in any of the three major alliances. The Centurion lounges from American Express are the best in the business, but there are only a half dozen of them, along with only three Airspace lounges. So I would give the preference to whichever airline you fly more, Delta or AA.

Hotel benefits depend on where you stay. If you have a lot of short stays or stay at higher-end hotels, the Amex is the better card. They’ll give you a credit for two night stays and/or benefits booked through their Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program. Citibank’s card is better for longer stays. Stay four or more nights at any hotel booked through their travel agency partner and they’ll comp you the fourth night. Note: for 4-night stays, they don’t use an average; it’s always the fourth night that is free. So make sure that your fourth night is the most expensive one!

The rest of the benefits tend to favor Amex. Starwood Gold status is the lowest status at the chain, but it’s better than nothing. The Wifi benefits are nice. Boingo has over a million hot spots and ten free Wifi passes for flights (only with the business card) are key. The free green fees with Citibank could save you money, but they only help you if you play golf.

The bottom line is this: Personally, I prefer the Prestige card over the American Express Platinum card, but it gives benefits that I use but you wouldn’t. If you are looking for a high-end card, compare, contrast and decide what works best for you.

If you want one of these cards, you can apply by scrolling down to the “Miles or Travel” banner on my credit card deals page. Thank you in advance!

 

*One easy trick if you don’t plan on holding onto this card for too long: The travel benefit is a calendar year, so you can get your benefit for 2015 and 2016 before paying your annual fee for the second time. You’ll get two $250 credits, which more than offset the $450 fee, meaning that they’ll pay you 50,000 points and $50 to get the card. Just be sure to use the points!

**One trick that a lot of people do is pair the Prestige card with the Citibank Premier card, which costs $95 per year but also has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus. Points from the Premier card are normally only worth 1.2c per point when used for travel, but if you also have the Prestige card, you get the higher values for Premier card points, as well. Please contact me if you have any questions about the pair.

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