Citi Prestige or AAdvantage Executive — Which Card Is Best?

Apr 15, 2015

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The competition in the credit card market is so fierce, sometimes card issuers end up competing with themselves. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele compares two of Citi’s premium travel rewards cards to see which one presents the best value to cardholders.

Citi has been putting forth a great effort to capture more of the extremely lucrative and competitive travel rewards credit card market. Apart from beefing up its ThankYou Rewards program by adding new airline transfer partners and adjusting benefits, Citi recently went big with its premier co-branded airline card, offering sign-up bonuses last year as high as 100,000 miles for the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard (although the current offer is for 60,000 miles after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening).

Citi also just raised the sign-up bonus for the Citi Prestige Card to 50,000 ThankYou points (after making $3,000 worth of purchases within three months of account opening). So now that these two cards are offering similar sign-up bonuses, today I wanted to compare them side by side to see which one is currently the best deal.

Admirals Club lounges offer several complimentary beverage choices - none are that interesting though.
Admirals Club access is one benefit offered by both Citi Prestige and Citi/AAdvantage Executive.

What Citi Prestige and AAdvantage Executive Have in Common

Both of these cards offer a diverse array of benefits, but there’s plenty of overlap:

  • American Airlines Admiral’s Club access, which entitles you to unlimited complimentary admission to Admirals Club lounges for yourself and two guests, or your entire immediate family. The Executive card comes with an actual membership, so you can get in regardless of which airline you happen to be flying that day, and you can also access US Airways, Oneworld and certain other lounges.
  • A full slate of travel insurance policies, including worldwide car rental insurance, roadside assistance, travel & emergency assistance, worldwide travel accident insurance, trip cancellation & interruption protection, lost baggage protection, trip delay protection, and baggage delay protection.
  • Purchase protection policies, including damage and theft purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, missed event ticket protection, and Citi’s Price Rewind service.

Finally, both of these cards have no foreign transaction fees, and an annual fee of $450 that is not waived the first year.

Citi Prestige earns ThankYou Points, which you can transfer to a variety of airline partners, or redeem for American Airlines flights at 1.6 cents apiece.

What the Citi Prestige Card Has Going for It

Citi Prestige is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after you spend just $3,000 within three months, which is much lower than the AAdvantage Executive’s $5,000 minimum spending requirement over the same time period. These points can be transferred to miles with the following airlines at a 1:1 ratio:

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Flying Blue (Air France, KLM, and others)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic

Points can also be transferred to the Hilton HHonors program at a 1:1.5 ratio. In addition, Prestige cardholders can redeem ThankYou Points directly through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center for flights on American Airlines and US Airways at a rate of 1.6 cents per point, on other airlines at a rate of 1.33 cents per point, and for all other air, hotel, rental car, activity, and cruise reservations at a rate of one cent per point.

Citi Prestige earns 3X ThankYou Points on airfare and hotel purchases, 2X points at restaurants and on entertainment purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Another major benefit is its complimentary 4th Night Free hotel benefit, which returns 25% of the cost of a hotel stay as a statement credit when you book travel with your Prestige card using Citi’s travel concierge. Citi also offers a $250 annual Air Travel Credit that can be applied to any airline coded charge, including airfare, and a $100 statement credit for the Global Entry application fee.

The Prestige card’s airline lounge benefits extend well beyond the Admiral’s Club, as cardholders receive a membership for two in the Priority Pass Select program. Finally, primary cardholders can receive up to 3 free rounds of golf at more than 2,400 public and private golf courses around the globe.

American Airlines plane 2
The Executive Card offers perks on American Airlines and US Airways flights such as priority boarding and free checked bags.

What the AAdvantage Executive Card Has Going for It

This card offers 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. You also receive access to American’s reduced mileage awards, giving you a 7,500 mile discount on round-trip awards along certain routes in North America. Also, you can earn the standard 2x miles per dollar spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

When traveling on American or US Airways, you receive your first checked bag free for you and up to eight traveling companions, as well as priority check-in, airport screening, and boarding privileges. So it’s a lot like having elite status, but without the first class upgrades. You also get a 25% savings on in-flight purchases, which isn’t even an elite status benefit.

But if elite status is important to you, the Executive Card offers 10,000 elite qualifying miles when you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year.

Citi Prestige can help you earn points faster, but you’ll have to decide between ThankYou Points and AAdvantage miles.

Which Card Should You Get?

While the AAdvantage Executive Card appears to be the smart choice for AA/US loyalists, it’s not that simple. You can certainly earn more points by spending on the Prestige card in the 3x and 2x categories, but you’ll need to decide how much ThankYou Points appeal to you. TPG has them almost equal to AAdvantage miles in his most recent monthly valuations.

American and US Airways aren’t ThankYou transfer partners, but it’s plausible that they will be in the future. In the meantime, the ability to redeem points for 1.6 cents apiece toward AA/US airfare is a great deal and a reasonable substitute to earning AAdvantage miles. You also have access to hundreds of Priority Pass lounges around the world.

Another important consideration is the annual fee: while both cards charge $450, the $250 Air Travel Credit on Citi Prestige effectively brings that down to $200 annually so long as you tend to spend that much on airfare each year.

I would stick with the AAdvantage Executive card if you’re largely a domestic traveler who really needs the 10,000 elite qualifying miles to reach the next status level, but I think Prestige provides the greater overall value, especially if you aspire to earn bonus miles for international trips and want to have lounge access on your journey.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are 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 posts and/or questions are answered.