Should I Pay for a High Annual Fee Card: Amex Platinum vs. Citi Prestige

Should I Pay for a High Annual Fee Card: Amex Platinum vs. Citi Prestige

There are so many excellent credit cards with no annual fee that even a moderately-priced annual-fee card can raise brows. So when it comes to ultra-premium cards that cost hundreds of dollars, most people just roll their eyes and walk away. This is often the right thing to do for many people, but if you are a frequent traveler, you might at least want to look into these offers. It might be that these expensive credit cards can actually save you some serious money.

Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige are two of the best examples of these ultra-premium cards. Both cards have some striking similarities.

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Now that we have established the similarities, let’s see how these cards stack against each other. In the end, few people carry several expensive cards, so if you are interested, you’ll probably want to choose one or the other.

Credit or Charge

The AMEX Platinum card is a charge card, while Citi Prestige is a credit card.

WINNER: A draw

Here is why

The difference between a charge and a credit card is that you have to pay off a charge card in full every month, while a credit card allow you to carry a balance. One thing to remember though, is that carrying balance on a reward credit card defies the purpose. You will never get ahead if you pay interest for the points you earn, so in our book it doesn’t matter. You will probably pay your charges in full anyway.

Sign-up Bonus

Current bonuses are 40,000 points for either card, although AMEX Platinum Mercedes Benz offers a higher 50,000-point bonus.

WINNER: Amex Platinum Mercedes Benz card

Here is why

Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points are equally good general rewards currencies in our opinion. Some people might feel that one currency has a slight edge over another, but the beauty of the reward is in the eye of beholder.

AMEX and Citi rewards programs

Transfer Partners

The Amex Membership Rewards program has the following airline partners: Aeromexico, Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia MilleMiglia, ANA Mileage Club, British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, El Al Matmid, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles, Iberia Avios. JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Virgin America Elevate and Virgin Atlantic Flying Red.

And it has the following hotel transfer partners: SPG, Hilton HHonors and Choice Privileges.

The Citi ThankYou program has the following airline partners: Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, Etihad Guest, Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Virgin America Elevate and Virgin Atlantic Flying Red.

And it has only one hotel transfer partner: Hilton HHonors.

WINNER: Amex Platinum

Here is why

Amex has a slight edge, and not because it has more travel partners than Citi, but because some of its transfer partners represent terrific value.  A transfer to ANA Mileage Club, for example, is one of the better transfer options if you are interested in redeeming for Star Alliance flights.

Transferring points to other members

Amex Platinum allows you to transfer MR points to your authorized user’s loyalty program, while Citi Prestige lets you transfer points to any other Citi ThankYou member.

WINNER: Citi Prestige

Here is why

Basically, you can’t transfer Amex MR points per se, but you can transfer your points to your authorized user’s FF program, say, Delta. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not ideal, since you lose the flexibility to transfer your points to the program you want at the right moment. For example, ideally you might want to transfer your points only when you are ready to book a ticket or when Amex happens to have an increased promo bonus on a transfer to certain airlines.

transfer citi thankyou points

Citi Prestige, on the other hand, allows you to transfer points to any other member, although you need to remember to use the transferred points within two months or they will expire. That allows several family members or friends to keep their points in separate accounts right until the moment when they are ready to redeem.

Annual Airline Credit

Amex Platinum offers $200 in incidental airline fee credits annually, while Citi Prestige offers $250 airline credit.

WINNER: Citi Prestige

Here is why

Citi is better not just because it pays more, but also because it covers more. Amex only pays for incidental airline charges (like bags, upgrades, lounge access, etc) and only to one airline you’ve chosen. Citi credits any charges you make with any airline, including gift cards and plane tickets.

Bonuses for booking flights on the program’s website

The Amex Business Platinum card has a 30 percent Pay-with-Points rebate when you use MR points to book your flight, so 40,000 points will pay for a $520 ticket.

Citi Prestige points are worth 33 percent more when you book a flight, so your 40,000-point bonus will pay for a $532 ticket.

WINNER: Citi Prestige

Here is why

Citi wins not only because it gives you three percent more, but also because it doesn’t have any limitations. First, the Amex bonus is not available for consumer cards, and second, the cardholder can only use it with the same airline they’ve chosen for receiving annual credit. Citi doesn’t have any restrictions on the airline you use the points for.

citi costs more

Airport Lounges Access

Both cards provide a benefit of free access to airport lounges around the world.

WINNER: Citi Prestige

Both cards offer free memberships from Priority Pass that operates about 800 airport lounges around the world, but the benefits are different. The Priority Club membership that comes with Amex only provides free access to the cardholder. With Citi Prestige you can visit lounge with the immediate family or up to two guests.

However, unlike Citi, Amex offers access to other lounges, as well. You can have access to Delta SkyClub lounges when you’re flying Delta (although your guests, if you have any, would have to pay $29 each). There are also fancy Centurion Lounges, which are located in Las Vegas, Dallas, New York (LGA), Miami, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston, as well as international Amex lounges in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Delhi.

So, it’s not clear cut, but we believe that having access to a Priority Pass lounge for the whole family or a couple of friends is more important for international travelers. However, if you mostly fly domestically, you might disagree.

Global Entry fee credit

Both cards offer it.

WINNER: A draw

OVERALL WINNER: Citi Prestige

Citi Prestige card

In our opinion, Citi Prestige simply offers better monetary value and more flexibility. Please note that we have only addressed tangible benefits. There are plenty of other perks that we can’t quite measure. For example, both cards have excellent purchase protection and travel insurance benefits, but Citi Prestige also has medical evacuation coverage. This is an extremely rare and very valuable benefit, but ,fortunately, most travelers never have a need for it.