Best Premium Credit Cards: Citi Prestige vs AmEx Platinum vs … (2015.8 Updated)

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For many people, credit cards with annual fee of $400 ~ $500 seem to belong to another world, having nothing to do with themselves. However, what we want to tell you today, is that you should NOT think that way! For many people, credit card with $450 annual fee may only have $100 equivalent annual fee! And it comes with lots of useful benefits! If you are interested, you can read this article and see if there are any premium credit cards suitable for you.

Annual fees of most credit cards fall into 3 levels: no annual fee, $50 to $100 annual fee, and $400 to $500 annual fee. Premium credit cards we talk about here are credit cards with $400 – $500 annual fee, and public available to everyone. There are also some credit cards that don’t belong to any of these levels (such as AmEx Centurion), or not available to public (such as JP Morgan Palladium). Well, let’s just ignore them…

Common Premium Credit Cards

Here are some common premium credit cards:

  1. AmEx Platinum Card ($450 annual fee, it’s actually a charge card)
  2. Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card ($395 annual fee)
  3. Citi Prestige Credit Card ($450/$350 annual fee)
  4. Amex Delta Reserve Credit Card ($450 annual fee)
  5. Chase United MileagePlus Club Credit Card ($450 annual fee)
  6. Citi AAdvantage Executive Credit Card ($450 annual fee)

Let’s talk about the last three credit cards first: Amex Delta Reserve Credit Card, Chase United MileagePlus Club Credit Card and Citi AAdvantage Executive Credit Card. These three cards all have $450 annual fee, and their main benefits are all providing free lounge memberships of corresponding airlines. Other benefits are not very different from their corresponding credit cards with $95 annual fee. So it can be roughly concluded as:

 

There are certainly some other differences in benefits, but not so significant. Thus these three premium credit cards are basically offering free lounge memberships by charging the additional $355 annual fee. Compared to the other 3 cards discussed below, they are not very worthwhile unless you really need the lounge memberships.

Here comes the show. Let’s compare the other three cards, and try to find the best premium credit cards.

 

AmEx Platinum vs Chase Ritz-Carlton vs Citi Prestige: Which One is the Best Premium Credit Cards?

Let’s first list the key features of these three cards. Click the name of each card for more detailed reviews.

  1. AmEx Platinum Card
    • Sign-Up Bonus: 40k Membership Rewards Points, valued at about $640
    • Everything 1x MR, value at 1.6% cash back
    • $200 annual air travel credit for an airline you choose (not include air fares)
    • Cardholder and authorized users have free access to Centurion Lounges (2 free companions) and Airspace Lounges (2 free companions), free access to Delta Sky Clubs ($29 for each companion) when taking Delta flights
    • Cardholder and authorized users have free access to Priority Pass Select lounges ($27 for each companion)
    • Free Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Gold Status
    • Free Hilton Gold Status
    • Free Avis Preferred, National Emerald Club Executive, can be matched to Hertz Five Star and Sixt Platinum
    • Additional discounts or upgrades when booking luxury hotels through Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR)
    • Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre application fee
    • AmEx Offers
    • $450 annual fee
    • Up to three authorized users who share the air credit with card holders. It costs $175 per year for authorized users regardless of the number of authorized users
    • No foreign transaction fee
  2. Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card
    • Sign-Up Bonus: two nights in Free Nights, valued at $800
    • Earn 5x Ritz-Carlton Points at Ritz Carlton or Marriott’s hotels, 2x for restaurants, airline tickets, car rental, and 1x for other spending, worth about 3.5%, 1.4% and 0.7% cash back respectively
    • $300 annual air credit (not including tickets, but including Global Entry application fee)
    • $100 hotel credit if you pay for 2 or more nights at Ritz-Carlton, which is available on breakfast, SPA and entertainments.
    • Cardholders and authorized users have free access to Lounge Clubs (one companion free)
    • Additional discounts or upgrades when booking luxury hotels through Visa Signature Luxury Hotels
    • Free Ritz-Carlton Gold for one year, can be extended by spending $10,000 per year
    • Primary car rental insurance
    • Metal card with thick texture, shining enough to show off
    • $395 annual fee
    • Free to add authorized users who share the air credit with card holders
    • No foreign transaction fee
  3. Citi Prestige Credit Card
    • Sign-Up Bonus: 60k ThankYou Points (in branch), valued at $960
    • 3x TYP on air tickets and hotel, 2x TYP on restaurant and entertainment, 1x TYP on everything else, valued at 4.8%, 3.2%, and 1.6% cash back respectively
    • $250 annual air credit (including air fares)
    • 4th nights free on any hotels worldwide
    • Cardholder has free access to Admirals Clubs (two companion free) when taking AA/US flights
    • Cardholder and authorized users have free access to Priority Pass Select Lounge (two companion free)
    • Free Avis First, National Club Executive, Sixt Platinum membership, can be matched to Hertz Five Star
    • Additional discounts or upgrades when booking luxury hotels through World Elite MasterCard Luxury Hotels & Resorts Portfolio
    • Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre application fee
    • $350 annual fee (in branch)
    • Authorized users have no access to Admirals Clubs, and share air credit with cardholder, cost $50 per year per authorized user
    • No foreign transaction fee

For a clear comparison, we make a table of these three cards, where bold means winner of that item. For more detailed comparison, see our analysis below:

BenefitsAmEx Platinum CardChase Ritz-CarltonChase Sapphire ReserveCiti Prestige
Sign-Up Bonus75k MR ~ $12003 Free Night ~ $1200100k UR ~ $160040k TYP ~ $640
Rewards Rate1x MR on everything (1.6%)5x (3.5%) at Ritz-Carlton/Marriott,
2x (1.4%) on dining, car rental and airlines,
1x (0.7%) on everything else
3x (4.8%) on travel and dining,
1x (1.6%) on everything else
3x (4.8%) on airlines and hotels,
2x (3.2%) on dining and entertainment,
1x (1.6%) on everything else
Annual Air Credit$200, NOT including airlines fares$300, NOT including airlines fares, including Global Entry$300 for all travel expense$250, including airline fares
Airport LoungesCenturion Lounges (2 free companions),
Airspace Lounges (2 free companions),
Delta Sky Clubs (need Delta boarding pass, $29 per companion),
Priority Pass Select ($27 per companion)
Priority Pass Select for cardholder and authorized users (free companions)Priority Pass Select for cardholder and authorized users (free companions)Admirals Club (need AA/US boarding pass, 2 free companions) before 6/20/2017,
Priority Pass Select for cardholder and authorized users (2 free companions)
Trip DelayNoneAfter delayed for 6+ hoursAfter delayed for 6+ hoursAfter delayed for 3+ hours
Hotel BenefitsFree SPG Gold Status
Free Hilton Gold Status
Free Ritz-Carlton Gold for the 1st year,
then needs $10,000 annual spending to maintain
None4th night free at ANY hotels worldwide
Luxury HotelFine Hotels & Resorts (FHR)Visa InfiniteVisa InfiniteWorld Elite MasterCard Luxury Hotels & Resorts Portfolio
Premium Car Rental Membership (after status match)Avis Preferred,
Hertz Five Star,
National Emerald Club Executive
Avis Preferred,
Hertz Five Star,
National Emerald Club Executive
Avis Preferred,
Hertz Five Star,
National Emerald Club Executive
Avis Preferred Plus,
Hertz Five Star,
National Emerald Club Executive,
Sixt Platinum
Global Entry / TSA Pre ReimbursementYesIncluded in air creditYesYes
Annual Fee$450$450$450$350 (apply in branch)
Authorized UsersUp to 3 authorized users,
$175 per year (no matter how many authorized users you have),
full lounge access
FREE,
full lounge access
$75 per authorized user per year, full lounge access$50 per authorized user per year,
NO Admirals Club access
Foreign Transaction FeeNoNoNoNo

We compared these three card in several aspects as follows:

1. Sign-Up Bonus

Citi Prestige Credit Card wins in terms of value; Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card provides two free nights with pretty good value, but not very flexible considering the fact that there are only around 100 Ritz-Carlton hotels in the world; the public offer for AmEx Platinum Card is not impressive, although the 100k target offer should be the best if you get it.

So in terms of sign-up bonus, Citi Prestige Credit Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card.

2. Spending Rewards

As for rewards rate, AmEx Platinum Card offers about 1.6% cash back on everything; Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card offers about 1.4% cash back on restaurants, air tickets, car rental, and about 0.7% cash back on other purchases; Citi Prestige Credit Card offers about 4.8% cash back on airlines and hotels, 3.2% cash back on restaurants and entertainment, and 1.6% cash back on everything else. Citi Prestige Credit Card is far ahead in this aspect.

So in terms of spending rewards, Citi Prestige Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card.

3. Air travel credit

In terms of air travel credit, AmEx Platinum Card requires you to choose an airline each year, providing $200 annual credit for air travel expenses (not including air tickets) and Global Entry application (one application valid for five years); Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card provides $300 annual credit for air travel expenses each year (not including air ticket, but including Global Entry application fee); Citi Prestige Credit Card provides $250 annual credit for air travel expenses (including airfares) and Global Entry application fee. Among the three cards, only Citi Prestige Credit Card provides credit for airfares, making it easiest to use and best among all; Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card offers the largest amount (since Global Entry is needed only once per five years), but cannot cover airfares, so it’s not as flexible as Citi Prestige Credit Card; AmEx Platinum Card offers the least amount, cannot cover airfares, and requires to choose an airline at the beginning of each year, therefore it’s the least easy one to use.

So in terms of air travel credit, Citi Prestige Credit Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card.

4. Airport lounge

Although AmEx Platinum Card offers free access to Centurion Lounges and Airspace Lounges, they only have around 10 lounges in total (although Centurion Lounges are really good). Even added with Delta Sky Clubs (need to take Delta flights), the total number of lounges is still smaller than the number of Admirals Clubs offered by Citi Prestige Credit Card (need to take AA/US flights). Besides, AmEx Platinum Card doesn’t allow your companions to enter Delta Sky Clubs and Priority Pass Select for free, but Citi Prestige Credit Card allows you to take two companions for free into both Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass Select. Citi Prestige Credit Card wins marginally. The shining point of AmEx Platinum Card is that authorized users also have free lounges access. Compared to the benefits above, Lounge Clubs offered by Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card is not impressive.

So in terms of airport lounge, Citi Prestige Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card.

5. Hotel Benefits

In terms of hotel benefits, AmEx Platinum Card provides Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR), which has better fame than World Elite MasterCard Luxury Hotels & Resorts Portfolio provided by Citi Prestige Credit Card and Visa Signature Luxury Hotels provided by Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card. The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Gold Status and Hilton Gold Status provided by AmEx Platinum Card and Ritz Carlton Hotel membership/benefits provided by Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card only applies to one hotel brand, while free 4th night provided by Citi Prestige Credit Card applies to almost all hotels globally. Although it requires 4 consecutive nights, the value is quite high once applicable.

In terms of hotel benefits, AmEx Platinum Card and Citi Prestige Credit Card are quite comparable, but either of them offers broader and more flexible hotel benefits than Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card, therefore Citi Prestige Credit Card ~ AmEx Platinum Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card.

6. Car Rental Benefits

In terms of car rental membership, AmEx Platinum Card provides free Avis Preferred and National Emerald Club Executive, while cardholder can get Hertz Five Star and Sixt Platinum through status match; Citi Prestige Credit Card provides free Avis First, National Club Executive and Sixt Platinum, while cardholder can get Hertz Five Star through status match. After considering the status match, the differences between the two are that Avis First provided by Citi Prestige Credit Card has higher class than Avis Preferred provided by AmEx Platinum Card, therefore Citi Prestige Credit Card wins. It is worth mentioning that Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card provides primary car rental insurance.

In terms of car rental membership, Citi Prestige Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card.

7. Annual fee

Citi Prestige Credit Card applied in branch only has $350 annual fee. Take the $250 air travel credit intro consideration, the equivalent annual fee is only $100! As for the Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card, the equivalent annual fee is only $95 if you can make use of all air credit. However, since the air credit provided by Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card doesn’t cover airfares, it’s not easy to use. AmEx Platinum Card, however, has no advantage on annual fee. The equivalent annual fee would be $250 even if you can use all air credit, not to mention airfare is not covered by the air credit.

So in terms of annual fee, Citi Prestige Credit Card > Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card.

8. Authorized User

It’s free to add authorized users on Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card, and it offers free access to lounges, making it quite useful. Although AmEx Platinum Card also offers free access to lounges for authorized users, you need to pay $175 each year for it. Even if max 3 authorized users are added, each still costs nearly $60 pear year. As comparison, Citi Prestige Credit Card provides no access to Admirals Clubs for authorized users, while charging $50 per authorized user per year, making it quite disappointing.

So in terms of authorized user, Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card > AmEx Platinum Card > Citi Prestige Credit Card.

Citi Prestige Credit Card: The Best Premium Credit Card

After detailed comparison, we can find that Citi Prestige Credit Card leaves AmEx Platinum Card and Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card far behind in most aspects, making it the king of premium credit cards.

Conclusion

We can find that most benefits of premium credit cards are related to travel: airlines, hotels, car rental, etc. Premium credit cards could be worth keeping even if you only travel occasionally: taking Citi Prestige Credit Card for example, if you can use its benefits only one or two times a year, you can still get back the $100 equivalent annual fee, which makes it very suitable to keep for long. Don’t be scared by the seemingly high annual fee, premium cards are not as high-end as many people think. From either the perspective of rationality or the perspective of emotionality, you, deserve it.


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