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With the majority of premium credit cards charging annual fees of $450 or more, most people choose one or two of their favorites and go without the rest. After all, many of the cardholder benefits luxury travel credit cards offer—like airport lounge access and credits for TSA Precheck or Global Entry—tend to overlap. With such hefty fees for premium credit cards, you don’t want to pay for perks you already have and don’t really need.
The best premium travel credit card is different for everyone, but many people prefer to pay for a flexible card that lets them redeem rewards in more than one way. Top options include the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Citi Prestige® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express, and it’s easy to see why. While each of these card options lets you earn rewards in different programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, respectively), all three of these cards offer superior travel benefits and rewards you can redeem for travel, gift cards, merchandise and more.
Which premium travel credit card should you invest in this year? The following chart provides an overview of each card’s fees and highlights.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Citi Prestige Amex Platinum
Welcome bonus Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening Earn 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening
Rewards rate Earn 3X points on travel (after earning your $300 travel credit) and dining; 1X points on other purchases; 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022) Earn 5X points on airfare and restaurants; 3X points on hotels and cruises; 1X points on other purchases Earn 5X points on airfare booked directly through an airline or through the Amex travel portal; 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through the Amex travel portal; 1X points on all other purchases
Intro APR 16.99% to 23.99% variable APR 16.99% to 23.99% variable APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable APR
Annual fee $550 $495 $550
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Citi Prestige vs. Amex Platinum highlights
As you can see, all three of these rewards credit cards come with lucrative rewards rates as well as annual fees. However, there are some details that help each of them stand out, as well as differences in their rewards programs. We compared each card and its unique offerings to see which one beats out the others in categories you care the most about.
Welcome bonus winner: Tie
The Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus of 50,000 points (after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months) is worth $500 in statement credits or gift cards or $750 in travel when redeemed through the Chase portal, but you can also transfer 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners.
On the other hand, the Amex Platinum offers a slightly higher bonus—60,000 points when you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening. These points are only worth one cent per point in value each when you book travel through AmexTravel.com, however, making this welcome bonus worth $600. Then again, you can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to an array of travel partners where you may get outsized value for each point you redeem.
The Citi Prestige promises to award you with 50,000 points worth $500 in travel when you spend $4,000 in the first three months and redeem through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. Again though, you have the option to transfer points to popular airline partners that can lead to a much higher rate of return.
With all these details considered, these welcome bonuses are fairly equal. You can secure at least $500 in value with each of them, but you may receive a greater return depending on how you redeem your points and if you transfer them to airline or hotel partners.
Rewards rate winner: Citi Prestige
The Chase Sapphire Reserve only gives you 3X points on travel and dining (and 10X points on Lyft purchases through March 2022) after you earn your $300 travel credit, and the Amex Platinum only gives you 5X points on airfare booked directly through an airline or flights and hotels booked through amextravel.com. The rest of your purchases with either card will only net you 1X points for each dollar you spend.
With those details in mind, the Citi Prestige is the most lucrative card in this category if you spend a lot on travel and dining. You’ll earn 5X points on airfare and restaurants, 3X points on hotels and cruises and 1X points on all other purchases, which could lead to a considerably higher rate of return over time.
Annual Fee winner: Citi Prestige
Both the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve charge new cardholders $550 per year, while the Citi Prestige comes in at $495 per year. If you value each card’s perks, benefits and rewards programs the same, this makes the Citi Prestige a slightly better value for the long haul.
Foreign transaction fee winner: Tie
None of these travel credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, meaning you’ll never have to pay an additional fee to use them for purchases made outside of the United States. With no foreign transaction fees across the board, all three of these cards tie in this category.
Which card earns the most?
Most people apply for luxury travel credit cards because they travel fairly often and already spend a lot of money in the process. After all, premium credit card perks like airport lounge access and annual travel credits are geared to people who are likely to maximize them to the hilt.
But, which of these credit cards could actually help you earn the most points over the course of a year? That all depends on which categories you spend the most in and how often you use your credit card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Citi Prestige vs. Amex Platinum Card spending example
If you travel often and also use your credit card for your regular bills, all three of these travel credit cards could help you earn a considerable amount in rewards. But consider this example that shows how many points you might earn by using your credit card for travel and regular purchases throughout the year.
$24,000 per year ($2,000 per month) on regular purchases including groceries and gas
$12,000 per year ($1,000 per month) on flights booked with airlines
$6,000 per year in restaurant spending ($500 per month)
$6,000 in cruises per year (two cruises per year, on average)
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you would earn 96,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per year—24,000 points on regular purchases, 36,000 points on airfare, 18,000 points on dining and 18,000 points on cruises. Note that you only earn 3X on travel after you earn your $300 travel credit.
With Amex Platinum, you would earn 96,000 points per year—24,000 points on regular purchases, 60,000 points on airfare, 6,000 points on dining and 6,000 points on cruises.
With the Citi Prestige, on the other hand, you would earn 132,000 points per year—24,000 points on regular purchases, 60,000 points on airfare, 30,000 points on dining and 18,000 points on cruises.
Obviously, this is a pretty big difference that you would notice if you spent this much on travel and regular purchases throughout the year. However, like all rewards-related topics, there are still plenty of reasons you might want to pick Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum.
Why should you get the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is best for consumers who want to earn 3X points on travel and dining as well as 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022). Since you get 50 percent more value out of your points when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, this card is also ideal for anyone who loves to book boutique hotels or various travel plans without dealing with complicated airline or hotel loyalty programs.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers cardholders Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, a credit for up to $100 toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership and up to a $300 annual travel credit that is automatically applied to travel purchases made with your credit card.
Other travel-related benefits include trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary auto rental coverage, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, emergency evacuation coverage, travel accident insurance and more.
Meanwhile, this card also comes with a Lyft Pink membership that includes 15 percent off Lyft rides and priority airport pickups, a DashPass membership with free delivery for orders of $12 or more and up to $120 in DoorDash credits spread out over 2020 and 2021.
When it comes to travel redemptions, the Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you cash in points for travel through the Chase portal, and you’ll receive 50 percent more value out of your points when you do. Other redemption options include gift cards, cash back, statement credits and merchandise from Apple.com or Amazon.com.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program also lets you transfer your points 1:1 to the following airline and hotel partners:
Air France / Flying Blue
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Rapid Rewards
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
Recommended credit score
Applicants need an excellent credit score to qualify for this credit card, which usually means having a FICO score of 740 or higher.
Why should you get the Citi Prestige?
Considering the generous 5X and 3X categories the Citi Prestige offers, this option might be best for someone who spends a ton of money on travel each year. This card is also slightly less expensive than the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum, so it might be worth considering if you can’t see yourself paying more than $500 per year to have access to a luxury travel credit card.
The complimentary fourth-night hotel benefit this card offers can be lucrative if you pay out-of-pocket for several luxury hotel stays every year, but note that you can only utilize this perk twice per year. Beyond this benefit, the Citi Prestige offers a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and an annual travel credit good for up to $250 in travel purchases per year. Through the end of December 2020, you can also redeem your $250 travel credit for supermarket and restaurant purchases charged to your credit card.
Like the two other cards on this list, the Citi Prestige lets you cash in your rewards in more than one way. You can redeem them for gift cards at a rate of one cent per point or for merchandise and travel through the Citi portal. You can also redeem them for payments toward your student loans or your mortgage or for charitable gifts to select nonprofits.
Eligible cardholders can also redeem their points toward their minimum payment amount through November 7, 2020. You can check to see if you’re eligible by logging into the Citi mobile app or your online account management page and checking for COVID-19 relief options.
The Citi ThankYou program also offers the following transfer partners, all of which are offered at a 1,000 points:1,000 miles ratio for this credit card:
Air France / Flying Blue
Thai Royal Orchid Plus
You can also transfer your points to the Sears Shop Your Way program at a ratio of 1:12 points, but we don’t recommend it.
Recommended credit score
Applicants for the Citi Prestige need excellent credit to qualify, which usually means having a FICO score of 740 or higher.
Why should you get Amex Platinum?
The Amex Platinum is usually best for frequent business travelers who book airfare directly with airlines or book flights and hotels through amextravel.com. This card is also a solid option for anyone who wants the opportunity to visit American Express Centurion lounges in cities like Houston, Dallas and Hong Kong, as well as frequent flyers who want to visit Delta Sky Clubs when they fly with Delta.
As a side note, Amex Platinum can also be beneficial for anyone who uses Uber a lot, since you can secure up to $200 in Uber credits per year.
This card comes with an up to $200 airline fee credit that’s good for incidental purchases, as well as up to $200 in Uber credits that are doled out on a monthly basis ($15 per month and $35 in December). You’ll also get a credit for up to $100 toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, as well as access to Priority Pass airport lounges, American Express Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when you fly with Delta.
As a cardholder, you’ll also receive Gold status with the Hilton Honors program and Marriott Bonvoy, a baggage insurance plan, extended warranties, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, purchase protection and secondary auto rental insurance.
Through the end of December 2020, this card will also give you up to $40 per month in statement credits toward select U.S. streaming subscription services and wireless phone service charges made directly with U.S. wireless telephone service providers. These credits are broken up and given as $20 in each category, each month through the end of the year.
The Amex Platinum lets you redeem your American Express Membership Rewards for travel directly through amextravel.com, and you can expect to receive one cent per point in value when you do. You can also redeem your rewards for gift cards, statement credits and merchandise, as well as for upgrades to business or first class on flights you already paid for.
American Express transfer partners let you transfer points at a ratio of 1,000:1,000 unless otherwise noted:
Air Canada (Aeroplan)
Air France / Flying Blue
El Al Israel Airlines (1,000:20)
JetBlue Airways (250:200)
Choice Privileges Rewards
Hilton Honors (1,000:2,000)
Recommended credit score
You need good or excellent credit to qualify for this credit card, which usually means having a FICO score of 670 or higher.
The bottom line
All three of these premium travel credit cards are good choices, but the best one for you depends on your spending style, the benefits you prefer and the transfer partners you’re most likely to use.
We don’t really believe there’s a clear winner here when each of these travel credit cards is popular with consumers who crave different experiences and don’t necessarily travel in the same way. Chances are good that, if you travel often, one of these travel credit cards will provide the benefits and rewards you want the most.
The information about Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.