So close, yet so far: Comparing the Platinum Card from American Express and the Citi Prestige Card

Sep 9, 2019

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The premium credit card market has continued to heat up in the past several years, with new products being launched by Chase, Marriott, Hilton and others. Two of the original premium cards — The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card — have raised annual fees and realigned benefits to keep up with the changing times.

As it stands today, these are the two most expensive personal cards currently accepting applications. We’re going to look at how the Platinum and Prestige match up against each other in key categories, including welcome bonuses, points earning, redemption options and the all-important perks and benefits.

In This Post

Current welcome bonuses

The first question that should be on your mind when considering a new credit card is the welcome bonus, because it’s the fastest way to rack up a large number of points and miles.

The Amex Platinum is offering new customers a bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations. However, it’s possible to get a higher bonus, and you’ll certainly want to try, since Amex only allows you to earn a welcome bonus on its credit cards once per lifetime.

Many TPG readers report they have been targeted for a 100,000-point welcome bonus on the Platinum Card (after the same $5,000 of spending) when checking through the CardMatch tool. 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.

Check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point Platinum Card offer. These offers are subject to change at anytime.

The Citi Prestige application has mysteriously disappeared from the internet a few times in the past, but now 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 at least $350 less.

Earning

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 the ones that continue to offer solid earning rates yearly. Here are the bonus categories for the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige:

Amex Platinum Citi Prestige
5x Airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through the Amex Travel portal, plus prepaid hotels booked through Amex Air travel and restaurants
4x
3x Hotels and cruise lines
2x
1x All other purchases All other purchases

 

Both cards offer hefty 5x multipliers, but they aren’t created equal. First of all, it’s worth remembering that TPG values 5x Membership Rewards points much higher than 5x ThankYou Points, or 10% and 8.5% respectively. 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.

The Prestige also offers more bonus categories, and the 5x points on restaurants is 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.

Further reading: The best credit cards for restaurants and dining out

Winner: Although the Amex Platinum is one of the best cards for booking flights, the limitations on the 5x bonus category really reduce its value. The Prestige offers more bonus categories and defines them more broadly, giving it the upper hand.

Redeeming

The Citi Prestige recently 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 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:

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 Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club (which frequently features a transfer bonus as well), 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.

Further reading: Best ways to redeem Amex points on Star Alliance airlines

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 now charging $495. However, once you factor in annual statement credits and luxury travel perks, your actual out-of-pocket cost will be much lower.

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Let’s start with the Amex Platinum. Cardholders will enjoy the following annual statement credits:

  • $200 annual airline incidental fee credit: This credit is not valid on airfare, but can be used for fees such as seat selection or checked bags
  • $200 annual Uber credit: You’ll receive $15 in Uber cash credit each month, with a $20 bonus in December
  • $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

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. This just scratches the surface, as the full list of Platinum perks and benefits is far too long to list here.

Further reading: Maximizing benefits with the Amex Platinum Card

Citi Prestige used to offer one of the most valuable benefits of any credit card, but its wings were clipped 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 ride sharing, tour agencies and public transportation. 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.

This means you won’t earn any hotel points or enjoy any elite status benefits, so your cash discount does 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 a bit 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 can’t use.

Bottom line

It seems that everyone is itching to launch a premium credit card, but many of them can’t compete with these legacy cards. Between strong welcome bonuses, high-powered bonus multipliers and great luxury travel perks, the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige should both be on your radar.

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.

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