Premium credit card showdown: Amex Platinum vs. Citi Prestige
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Over the past five years, newer premium credit cards have entered a now-crowded market including those from Chase, Hilton and Marriott.
Two of the “older” premium cards — The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card — have realigned benefits (both limited-time during the pandemic and permanent) to keep up with the changing times.
Annual fees of $500 or more on premium cards are common these days, and the Platinum and Prestige fall squarely in that realm. Let’s take a look at how the Platinum and Prestige match up against each other in key categories, including welcome bonuses, points earning potential, redemption options and the all-important perks and benefits.
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The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Current welcome bonuses
The first question that should be on your mind when considering a new card is the welcome bonus, because it’s the fastest way to rack up a large number of points and miles.
The latest Amex Platinum bonus actually is a two-pronged affair.
First, you get a generous welcome bonus: 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in your first six months of card membership. But the truly unique element of the offer is a bonus multiplier on non-travel items.
New cardholders will now be able to earn 10x points on up to $15,000 in combined purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets during the first six months of card membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
However, it’s possible to get an even higher bonus, and you’ll certainly want to try, since Amex only allows you to earn a welcome bonus on its cards once per lifetime.
Many TPG readers report they have been targeted for a 100,000 or even 125,000-point welcome bonus on the Platinum Card (after the same $5,000 of spending) when checking through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time). If you’re lucky enough to get targeted, this 100,000-point offer is one of the best bonuses on the market, worth a whopping $2,000 based on TPG valuations.
The Citi Prestige is offering new applicants a welcome bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. TPG values Citi points at 1.7 cents each, making this bonus worth $850.
Winner: The Amex Platinum wins this first challenge by a hefty margin. The Prestige has a lower spending requirement to earn the bonus, but the bonus is worth significantly less.
Although many cards are worth opening for the first-year welcome bonus alone, the ones that will earn a long-term spot in your wallet are often those that continue to offer solid earning rates yearly.
Here are the permanent bonus categories for the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige.
|Points earning rate||Amex Platinum||Citi Prestige|
|5x||Airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through the Amex Travel portal (up to $500,000 per year), plus prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel||Air travel, travel agencies and restaurants|
|3x||—||Hotels and cruise lines|
|1x||All other purchases||All other purchases|
Both cards offer hefty 5x multipliers, but they aren’t created equally.
First of all, it’s worth remembering that TPG values 5x Membership Rewards points higher than 5x ThankYou points, or 10% and 8.5% respectively. Your own personal uses may differ
It’s also important to note that the Platinum Card is much more restrictive in what purchases actually qualify for 5x earning. The Citi Prestige’s 5x categories for air travel and restaurants are much broader and don’t require you to book your travel in a certain way. And if you want to get technical, travel agencies are technically a 5x bonus category on the Prestige, which means even theme park tickets purchased via travel agencies may trigger the 5x earnings.
Earning 5x points on restaurants are a great option. That alone is reason enough for many people to make the Prestige the top card in their wallet, while the Platinum is only rewarding in very narrow circumstances.
Winner: Although the Amex Platinum is one of the best cards for booking flights, the limitations on the 5x bonus category really reduce its overall value. The Prestige offers more bonus categories and defines them more broadly, giving it the upper hand on earning.
In 2019, the Citi Prestige cut some of its benefits, including the 25% bonus when redeeming points for travel directly through the Citi portal.
Now both the Platinum and Prestige offer a fixed 1-cent-per-point redemption value when booking travel directly through their respective portals, which is much lower than TPG’s valuation of either currency.
The best redemption options typically come from transferring points to one of Amex or Citi’s airline partners.
Despite their differences, the Platinum and Prestige share the following transfer partners:
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Air France KLM Flying Blue
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Etihad Guest
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
So why does TPG value Amex Membership Rewards points a full 17% higher if it shares this many partners with Citi?
It’s the extra partners that Amex offers that give it the edge, including those such as Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, Delta SkyMiles and ANA Mileage Club.
Combined, these programs can help you unlock everything from long-haul premium-cabin awards to short domestic hops on Delta and American. You can fly luxurious first-class products, avoid fuel surcharges on partner awards, and mix and match your bookings to get the best value.
Meanwhile, Citi’s list of “unique” transfer partners isn’t nearly as impressive. Programs like EVA Air Infinity MileageLands and Malaysia Airlines Enrich don’t offer much value to the average traveler, and it’s safe to say that nearly all of Citi’s redemption value can be recreated through Amex Membership Rewards.
Winner: Although TPG’s valuations are meant to be a guideline, the numbers are pretty clear. Every one of Citi’s valuable transfer partners is shared with Amex, and Amex also has a handful of incredibly lucrative transfer partners that Citi doesn’t. Chalk another one up for the Amex Platinum.
Annual fee, statement credits and perks
Neither of these cards is cheap, with the Amex Platinum charging a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) and the Citi Prestige charging $495.
However, once you factor in annual statement credits and luxury travel perks, your actual out-of-pocket cost will be much lower.
Let’s start with the Amex Platinum. Cardholders will enjoy the following annual statement credits:
- Up to $200 annual airline incidental fee statement credit: This credit is not valid on airfare, but can be used for fees such as seat selection or checked bags*
- Up to $200 annual Uber credit: You’ll receive $15 in Uber cash credit each month, with a $20 bonus in December. You can use this credit not only on Uber rides, but also on Uber Eats.*
- Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit: You’ll receive a $50 statement credit every six months (January-June and July-December) for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue*
- Up to $30 monthly PayPal credit (limited time): You’ll receive up to $30 in monthly PayPal credit from January through June 2021
The Platinum card also promises to enhance your travel experience, offering Gold elite status with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors*, and an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
The Platinum holds the distinction of offering the most comprehensive airport lounge benefits of any credit card, including a Priority Pass select membership, access to Amex’s ever-growing collection of Centurion Lounges, along with access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, plus Airspace and Escape lounges.*
*Enrollment required for select benefits.
This just scratches the surface, as the full list of Platinum perks and benefits is far too long to list here.
Citi Prestige used to offer one of the most valuable benefits of any credit card, but its wings were clipped a bit in an announcement made in June 2019.
Starting at the top, the Prestige offers a $250 annual travel credit. Not only is this more than Amex’s airline fee credit, but it’s much less restrictive. You’ll automatically be reimbursed for your first $250 in annual travel purchases, ranging from airfare and hotels to ridesharing, tour agencies and public transportation.
And in 2021, that credit is even more flexible with the ability to be applied to purchases at supermarkets and restaurants.
The Prestige also matches the Platinum with a Priority Pass Select membership (though unlike Amex, the Prestige’s membership includes access to Priority Pass restaurants) and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit.
The Prestige’s standout perk used to be its unlimited fourth night free on hotel stays, but that benefit is now capped to two uses per calendar year. Citi also changed the fourth-night free booking process so you can’t book through the Citi concierge anymore; you’ll have to do it online or by calling Citi which does restrict some uses, but it’s still a potentially money-saving perk.
However, this does mean you likely won’t earn any hotel points or enjoy any elite status benefits on your stay since you aren’t booking direct, so your cash discount may come at a cost. For what it’s worth, as a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium elite, I already get nearly 25% back on my stays from my points earning before factoring in my elite benefits, which greatly increase my return.
Winner: Citi undeniably has the better travel credit, but Amex wins in just about every category. From Centurion Lounge and Delta Sky Club access to statement credits for Uber and Saks Fifth Avenue, the Platinum card is chock full of benefits.
Should I keep both cards?
It’s important to zoom out and ask whether the best answer might be picking both cards.
Now obviously doing so would mean you’re paying $1,045 in annual fees, but depending on how you use each card, that could very well be worth it.
I think most people will be better off with the Amex Platinum, but the Prestige can be a great compliment. After accounting for your $250 annual travel credit, your out-of-pocket cost on the Prestige is only $245 a year, which you can easily recoup through the generous 5x bonus categories.
Based on TPG’s valuation of ThankYou Points at 1.7 cents each, you’d only need to earn ~14,500 bonus points with your Prestige to break even on that extra cost. If you spend as little as $3,000 a year at restaurants, you’ll take home 15,000 ThankYou Points thanks to the 5x multiplier and come out ahead.
If you pick the Prestige as your primary card, it can also make sense to add an Amex Platinum to your wallet. Although the airline fee credit is harder to use, it can easily pay for itself if you pay for checked bags when you travel.
If your home airport has a Centurion Lounge, you can easily net several hundred dollars a year in value from the elevated food and drink experience they offer. You can also expect to get a few hundred dollars in additional value from the Marriott and Hilton Gold status, and the best part is you don’t have to commit to one company to enjoy the benefits.
Of course, keep in mind how many of the benefits on these cards overlap. The last thing you want to do is waste money paying for redundant benefits like duplicate lounge access that you don’t really use.
Between strong welcome bonuses on the Amex Platinum, high-powered bonus multipliers and great luxury travel perks, the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige should both be on your radar.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
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