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Citi Prestige vs American Express Platinum? Which is the airport lounge king?

by on Wed November 26, 2014 • 2 Comments

The landscape of cards that give you access to multiple lounge networks has changed a lot in the last year.

The venerable Platinum Card from American Express has lost access to American Admirals Clubs, US Airways Clubs, and free guest access to Delta SkyClubs.

amexplat170But The Platinum Card still offers:

  • Access to Delta SkyClubs for the primary cardholder (see locations)
  • Access to new Centurion Lounges for up to two guests (see locations)
  • Priority Pass Select membership with free access to 700+ lounges for the primary cardholder (see locations)

> Click here to learn more at American Express


Meanwhile the Citi Prestige has Priority Pass Select membership with free access to 700+ lounges for up to two guests (see locations)

> Click here to learn more at Citibank

So what does that mean for overall value? Which should you choose? We’ve compared the cards in each of the following areas to help you decide which is best.

Annual fees

Winner: Tie

They both have $450 annual fees, so it’s a draw here. But if you are a Citigold account holder (which requires keeping a large balance in a Citibank checking or savings account) the annual fee on the Citi Prestige is just $350.

Lounges for Delta fliers

Winner: The Platinum Card

If you fly Delta frequently, go with the Platinum Card, as it’s the only non-Delta branded card that will give you access to all Delta SkyClubs. You won’t be able to get a guest in for free – that will cost $29 – but you can’t get a free guest in Delta clubs with any credit card anymore.

And The Platinum Card earns points you can transfer into your Delta SkyMiles account at any time, up to 150,000 per year.

Your alternative is the Delta Reserve card, which offers the same Delta SkyClub access privileges, but doesn’t include access to Priority Pass or Centurion Lounges. But it does offer free checked bags on Delta flights and the ability to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles.



Priority Pass access

Winner: Citi Prestige

Both cards give you a free Priority Pass Select card, which gives you access to over 700 lounges (see a directory here). It’s great for traveling abroad and gives you freedom because you can travel any airline and have access to Priority Pass network lounges as long as you can access the terminal where the lounge is located.

Priority Pass also includes access to nearly all Alaska Airlines Board Rooms, giving you another airline’s lounge network in your wallet.

The edge though goes to the Citi Prestige because its version of Priority Pass includes free access for up to two guests. The version provided to Platinum Card holders only lets you, the cardholder in free, and you have to pay $27 for each guest.


The Centurion Lounges

American Express Centurion Lounges, where access is included for Platinum Card holders and up to 2 guests, are the most elaborate you will find in the United States open to domestic travelers.

American Express is fighting to keep customers who may be on the fence about renewing their membership after losing access to American Airlines and US Airways Clubs.

So it’s building lounges that blow away expectations of a traditional airline lounge.

They offer better quality wines and spirits than you’ll find in traditional airline lounges (think free wine that retails for $10 – $20 a bottle instead of $8 at most airline clubs) and feature buffet spreads of complimentary hot food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with menus selected by local chefs.

While a buffet is, well…a buffet, it’s better food than you’ll find in an airport food court, and in some cases better than many sit down restaurants. You can see the current food and wine menus here.

The Platinum Card is a compelling option if you regularly use the following airport terminals that house a Centurion Lounge:

  • New York LaGuardia Central Terminal (serving American, United, Air Canada, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Virgin America)
  • San Francisco International Terminal 3 or the West International Terminal wing (serving United and Star Alliance partners)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Terminal D (serving International departures, but accessible from other terminals via Terminalink train)
  • Las Vegas McCarran D Gates (serving Air Canada, Air Transat, American, Delta, Hawaiian, US Airways, and United)
  • Miami International North Terminal (serving American) – lounge opening early 2015


Airline Fee Credits

Winner: Citi Prestige 

The Citi Prestige offers a $250 annual airline fee credit, and you can use it for any kind of airline purchase, even a straight up plane ticket. So if you take just one or two trips in a year you’ll easily get that credit on your account. It’s automatically applied to airline charges you make on your card, but if a ticket doesn’t show up with proper credit, give Citi a call and they’ll help you sort it out.

The Platinum Card offers a $200 annual credit, and it has more restrictions. You must designate a single airline each year for the credit, kind of like open enrollment with health care. And you can only use it for airline fees like baggage fees, change fees, lounge fees, and in flight meals. You can’t use the credit to offset the purchase of tickets.

Point earning

Winner: Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige earns ‘ThankYou’ points, with 2x on dining spending, and 3x on air travel and hotels, while The Platinum Card earns American Express Membership Rewards points with no bonuses on category spending.


You do have the option of transferring your Citi Prestige points to some other airline programs like Air France / KLM, Singapore Kris Flyer, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, but unfortunately it’s lacking in U.S. based programs.

If you prefer ‘real’ airline miles, then The Platinum Card may be a better bet, with more useful transfer partners like Delta SkyMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue. But for earning Membership Rewards points, there several options that earn them more quickly. You can see a comparison here.

More travel benefits

Winner: A draw

The Citi Prestige has a pretty valuable hotel benefit – a free fourth night on any hotel stay you book with the card.

The catch is you have to book the stay via the Citi travel service office, which is run by Carlson Wagonlit Travel. While the rates they offer are usually competitive, they may not always be the very lowest rates for a given hotel, so it pays to check whether the fourth night free saves you money.

But most of the time you can save $100 or more on your stay.

If it’s status and perks you’re after, The Platinum Card comes out ahead.

You get…

You’ll probably value The Platinum Card benefits more if you’re a frequent business traveler, where status makes a difference. But if you’re more of a vacation traveler the fourth night free on hotel stays from the Citi Prestige will probably give you more value.

The verdict

Competition is good, and both of these cards are very good values if you plan to take advantage of lounge access.

With the airline fee credits on each you can get the cost of owning each card down to less than $250 a year, and compared to $400+ for standalone airline lounge membership that’s a good deal.

Go with The Platinum Card if you frequently pass through terminals that have Centurion Lounges or you fly Delta Airlines often.

Go with the Citi Prestige if you…

  • Mostly fly internationally and plan to use Priority Pass lounges with a guest
  • Simply want a card with easy to use points and decent category bonuses, along with helpful lounge access options


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2 thoughts on Citi Prestige vs American Express Platinum? Which is the airport lounge king?

  1. Miles

    How about the insurance? Citi Prestige has much more (free) comprehensive travel insurance for delays, cancellations, .etc. than the Amex Platinum does.


      @Miles – Yes, as is often the case, Amex falls fall short on the travel coverage side, and Citi recently enhanced it. One place though where Amex comes ahead there is on medical evacuation – no limits on covered costs with Amex Plat, but Citi puts a $100,000 cap.


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