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Amex Platinum vs Citi Prestige – Which is the better card for perks?

by on Thu June 9, 2016 • 3 Comments
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The American Express Platinum Card and Citi Prestige are both phenomenal cards for people who travel frequently and highly value access to airline lounges, but each card has its own positives and negatives. We’re going to take an in-depth look at each one to determine if they make sense for you and which one would be a better option.

We’re going to get into more detail below, but the short answer is:

  • Get the American Express Platinum Card if you frequently travel alone and value the card just for its travel perks.

  • Get the Citi Prestige Card if you frequently travel with others, often have hotel stays that are four nights or longer, or want this card to be a primary spending card – it has nice bonuses on travel, dining, and entertainment spending.

Here’s a rundown of the main features of each card:

  • Platinum Card from American Express: $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit (not including air fare), Airport Lounge Access and Priority Pass Select Lounge Access, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit, Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status, No foreign transaction fees, 1 Membership Reward Point per dollar spent on all purchases, $450 annual fee, $175 annual fee to add up to three authorized users.

  • Citi Prestige: $250 Annual Airline Credit (including air fare), American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access and Priority Pass Select Lounge Access, Global Entry Fee Credit, 4th Night Free at hotels, No foreign transaction fees, 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on air travel and hotels, 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, 1 ThankYou Point per dollar spent on all other purchases, $450 annual fee, $50 additional annual fee for each authorized user.

First we’ll look at a head to head comparison of benefits that are similar between the two cards and then we will look at additional benefits that are exclusive to one card or the other.

Airline Fee Credit

Both the American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige offer an airline fee credit, but they are a little different in how the credits are executed, as well as the amount of the credit.

For starters, the credit for the Citi Prestige is $50 higher – $250 instead of $200. In addition to being higher, the credit for the Citi Prestige is easier to use. The $250 fee credit for the Citi Prestige card can be applied to any flight related expense that is charged to your Citi Prestige card. This includes baggage fees, seat selection fees, and even the flight itself!

The fee credit for the American Express Platinum card applies only to incidental flight-related expenses like baggage fees, seat selection fees, and meal purchases. It cannot directly be used to purchase airfare, though in some cases a gift card purchase may trigger the fee credit. Those gift cards can later be used to purchase airfare.

Advantage: Citi Prestige

airplane wing photo

Earning for Spending

The Citi Prestige Card has far superior rewards for spending when compared with the American Express Platinum Card.

The American Express Platinum earns a flat 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases.

The Citi Prestige earns 3 points per dollar spent on air travel and hotels, 2 points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Advantage: Citi Prestige

Value of Points

The Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to many airline mile programs 1:1, including Delta SkyMiles, ANA Mileage Club (for some great award prices on international flights), Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and more. The partners are really useful if you want to save a lot of miles to travel in international business or first class.

The Citi Prestige lets you transfer points to several airlines as well, including many of the same as American Express, but it’s missing a U.S. carrier (you can’t transfer to Delta SkyMiles for example), which is a deal breaker for a lot of people.

One place the Citi Prestige makes up for that is by letting you use your points like cash for American Airlines flights at a value of 1.6 cents per mile, which is pretty generous. So you can get a $300 ticket for just 18,750 points, while with Amex if you want to use your points like cash they’re only worth 1 cent each, so that $300 ticket would cost 30,000 points.

Our thinking is you’ll like the Amex points better if you are saving up for big international business / first class tickets, and you’ll like the Citi Prestige better if you want to use your points for basic flights on American Airlines without the hassle of airline mile blackout dates and availability restrictions.

Advantage: Amex Membership Rewards for international tickets in business / first class, Citi Prestige for American Airlines flights.

Lounge Access

Lounge access is perhaps where these two cards seem to be the most similar but are actually very different. Both cards provide airport lounge access in a variety of ways.

Platinum Card Lounge Access

The American Express Platinum card will give you access to American Express Centurion Lounges. These lounges are brilliant, but currently only exist in a handful of airports. Those airports are: New York La Guardia (LGA), Las Vegas (LAS), Dallas (DFW), Seattle (SEA), Miami (MIA), and San Francisco (SFO).

A lounge in Houston (IAH) is opening later in 2016.

There are also Centurion Clubs and Platinum Studios in a handful of international locations. Those are: Mexico City (MEX), Buenos Aires (EZE), Rio de Janeiro (SDU), Sao Paulo (CGH), Mumbai (BOM), and Delhi (DEL). At these lounges, with the exception of Seattle, you receive access for yourself and up to two guests. In Seattle, you only receive access for one guest in addition to yourself.

centurionlounge

The American Express Platinum card also gives access to AirSpace lounges, of which there are five in the US. These are located at Baltimore (BWI), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), Cleveland (CLE), and San Diego (SAN). At all of these locations you receive access for yourself and up to two guests.

Holding the American Express Platinum card will also give you access to Delta Sky Club lounges when flying Delta same-day. You only receive access for yourself for free. Up to two additional guests can be brought in for $29 each. If you have authorized users added to your credit card account (which incurs a fee), they will also receive access to Delta lounges for free when flying Delta same-day.

Citi Prestige Lounge Access

Until June 20, 2017, Citi Prestige card comes with access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges for the primary holder of the credit card account and up to two guests when traveling on American Airlines same-day.

Authorized users on the credit card account will not receive this benefit, but can be one of the guests entering with the primary account holder.

Access Provided by Both Cards

Both cards give a Priority Pass Membership as one of the benefits of having the card, but these Priority Pass Memberships are not created equal.

Priority Pass is a network of hundreds of lounges around the world, and is significantly more valuable for international travel than for travel within the US. You’ll find a Priority Pass affiliated lounge at most big airports outside the U.S.

With both credit cards, you will have access to these Priority Pass lounges for yourself, but apart from that there are a few differences between the benefits of the two credit cards.

If you have the American Express Platinum card, you will need to enroll in Priority Pass Select.

If you have the Citi Prestige, enrollment is automatic. If you have the American Express Platinum card, only cardholders can access lounges for free, but any guests will need to pay an additional $27 per visit.

With the Citi Prestige, you can bring two guests for free, which is a big perk.

Advantage: Citi Prestige

Other Benefits

American Express Platinum

  • Hotel Elite Status: As part of your card membership, you are given both Hilton and Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status. This means free breakfast at a lot of Hilton hotels and bonus points earning, late checkout, and upgrade possibilities at Hilton and Starwood Hotels.

  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit: If you travel frequently, you’ll be happy to skip the long security and immigration lines when you’re traveling. You will be reimbursed for the fee to apply for either one of these programs.

  • Boingo Internet Access: Boingo has more than a million hotspot locations worldwide, and with the Amex Platinum card you will receive a complimentary Boingo Preferred Membership giving you unlimited access to all of them.

  • Car Rental Privileges: Upgrade National Executive status which gives you access to Emerald Aisle cars. When renting with Avis, up to 25% off. When renting with National up to 20% off. When renting with Hertz, up to 20% off your rental or 25% off the best contract rate on Hertz Prestige Collection weekend rentals as well as a 10% bonus on Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points for your rental. With Hertz you are also give a 4-hour grace period for all rental car returns.

Citi Prestige

  • 4th Night Free at Hotels: Whenever you stay at a hotel for at least four consecutive nights, your fourth night will be free! Note that you do need to book your stay through Citi’s Travel Concierge Service in order to obtain this benefit. But the Concierge can book the lowest available rate, including the rates only available directly from a hotel’s website, so this is a really powerful benefit that works at hotels expensive and cheap. Just about any hotel in the world is eligible for this fourth night free benefit, so it’s not hard to more than make up your annual fee with a couple of trips each year.

  • Global Entry Credit: If you travel frequently, you’ll be happy to skip the long security and immigration lines when you’re traveling. You will be reimbursed for the fee to apply for Global Entry.

  • Free Golf: Maybe not a benefit for everyone, but some will make use of three free rounds of golf! Rounds must be booked online through GolfSwitch.

Both the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum cards are great travel cards to have.

The downside is that they both come with a pretty hefty annual fee of $450, and many of their benefits overlap so it doesn’t make sense to have both. The biggest consideration when deciding which card to carry is how often you travel with other people and whether you want the card to be a primary spending card.

If you travel with others frequently, want the 4th free night hotel benefit, or you want this card to be a front-of-the-wallet card thanks to its spending category bonuses, the Citi Prestige is hands down a better option.

If those aren’t necessarily true about what you’re looking for, then it makes sense to take a deeper dive into some of the other benefits of the cards like the fact that the Citi Prestige offers three free rounds of golf per year or that the Amex Platinum gives you access to their awesome Centurion Lounges.

Ultimately, the card that is right for you depends on your travel preferences.

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3 thoughts on Amex Platinum vs Citi Prestige – Which is the better card for perks?

  1. Sean

    Great write up! However, I disagree that because of the annual fees and the overlapping benefits, it doesn’t make sense to hold both cards. At max, you should only be paying $450 to hold both cards after the airline credits. I’m an infrequent traveler and the unique benefits of each card (spg gold, 4th night free) is enough to combine these 2 cards into a dynamic duo that I could benefit immensely from.

    For a kicker, once you throw in Amex offers, signup bonuses and retention bonuses, you can come out ahead with minimal effort and hold these cards long term.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Sean – Good points – very little overlap other than the Priority Pass in $ saving benefits, especially with hotels.

      Reply
    2. Joachim

      @Sean, I agree, and if you are CitiGold, it’s only $350 net for the two cards. This is pretty easily justified if you travel at all. The National Executive Aisle benefit saved me about $1000 last year alone. Or look at it another way, enabled upgrades to Minivans and SUVs on 4 separate trips. We just scored 4 tickets to Hamilton through Amex Concierge, so while that’s not saving me any money, it’s enabling an experience that my family wouldn’t easily be able to afford otherwise.

      If you are on a budget, or trying to maximize “profit” from this “hobby”, it may not make sense. But I figure that I more than break even on these two cards, and the extra benefits (e.g. lounge access) are just icing on the cake.

      Reply

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