Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Dang, this is hard. I’ll go ahead and say, “It depends.”
But I am going through it, y’all.
Both the newly refreshed Citi Prestige and ever popular Chase Sapphire Reserve have their place in this world. And I know which one I’m using a LOT more (Citi Prestige). But I can’t bring myself to downgrade my Chase Sapphire Reserve because I don’t want to lose specific perks.
As I look at them, side-by-side, I gotta say – it’s a total wash. Do I keep ’em both?
And while I’ll stick with Citi Prestige short-term, I think they’re both keepers. Let’s compare.
In This Post
- 1 Citi Prestige vs Chase Sapphire Reserve – 2 excellent ultra-premium cards
- 1.1 Annual fee – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 1.2 Bonus categories – Winner: Citi Prestige
- 1.3 Annual travel credit – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 1.4 Priority Pass Membership – Winner: Citi Prestige
- 1.5 Other perks – Tie
- 1.6 Points value for travel – Winner: Citi Prestige
- 1.7 Airline partners – Winner: Tie
- 1.8 Hotel partners – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 1.9 Trip delay insurance – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 1.10 Trip cancellation – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 1.11 Lost or damaged baggage coverage – Tie
- 1.12 Car rental insurance – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 1.13 Price protection – Winner: Citi Prestige
- 2 Who should go with Citi Prestige?
- 3 Who should go with Chase Sapphire Reserve?
- 4 Should you have both? Or just one?
- 5 Bottom line
Citi Prestige vs Chase Sapphire Reserve – 2 excellent ultra-premium cards
OK, elephant in the room: Citi Prestige just had some big changes last month. For this comparison, I’m focusing on the card as it is now, NOT as it was.
Here are the most important benefits, side-by-side:
|Card||Citi Prestige||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Annual Fee||• $495||• $550|
|Bonus Categories||• 5X on airfare booked directly with airlines, travel agencies, & dining|
• 3X on hotels booked directly & cruises
• 1X on all other purchases
|• 3X on travel & dining
• 1X on all other purchases
|Annual Travel Credit||• $250||• $300|
|Priority Pass Membership||• You + 2 guests OR immediate family (spouse, partner, and children)||• You + 2 guests|
|Other Perks||• 4th night free (capped at 2X per year and must book online (no elite points) starting September 1, 2019)|
• Missed event ticket protection
|• Earn bonus points through Chase shopping portal
• Chase Offers
|Points Value for Travel Booked Directly||• 1.25 cents for air travel (1 cent starting September 1, 2019)|
• 1 cent each for other travel
|• 1.5 cents each for all travel|
|Airline Partners||• Avianca|
• Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
• EVA Air
• Etihad Guest
• Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
• Garuda Indonesia
• Jet Airways
• Malaysia Airlines
• Qatar Airways
• Singapore Airlines
• Thai Airways
• Turkish Airlines
• Virgin Atlantic
|• Aer Lingus
• British Airways
• Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
• Singapore Airlines
• Virgin Atlantic
|Hotel Partners||• NONE||• Hyatt
|Trip Delay Insurance||• NONE||• 6 hours, up to $500 per ticket, missed connections are covered|
|Trip Cancellation & Interruption Coverage||• NONE||• Up to $10,000 per person, and up to $20,000 per trip|
|Lost or Damaged Baggage Coverage||• NONE||• Up to $3,000 per passenger|
|Car Rental Coverage||• Up to $75,000|
• Secondary in the US, primary abroad
|• Up to $75,000
• Always primary
|Price Protection||• NONE||• NONE|
|PDF Guide to Benefits||Download here.||Download here.|
Annual fee – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
They’re about the same. The difference of $45 isn’t much, but Chase Sapphire Reserve narrowly beats out Citi Prestige.
Bonus categories – Winner: Citi Prestige
Citi Prestige earns 5X points for airfare and dining, whereas Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X for all travel – that includes things like:
- Hotel stays
- Uber/Lyft rides
- Parking garages
- Public transit
- Train fare and passes
So I’ll use Citi Prestige when I eat out and pay for flights, but Chase Sapphire Reserve for everything else.
The question is: do you spend enough in this broad “travel” category, apart from flights, to justify having one over the other?
Because I’ll put hotel stays on my Chase Sapphire Reserve (unless I’m booking the 4th night free through September, then Citi Prestige).
But really, how much do you spend here? Cuz I’d much rather get 3X with Chase Sapphire Reserve than 1X with Citi Prestige for other travel…
On the other hand, I dine out constantly, so having that as a 5X category almost single-handedly saves Citi Prestige for me.
Annual travel credit – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
If you see it as a prepaid rebate toward travel, the annual fees drop to:
- $245 with Citi Prestige
- $150 with Chase Sapphire Reserve
In that light, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a better deal.
Priority Pass Membership – Winner: Citi Prestige
This will be a big deal for peeps with families. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you only get 2 guests, period. Even if they’re family. After that, you pay $27 per person.
But with Citi Prestige, you can bring your family (including your spouse or partners, and children). If you’re with your SO and have 2+ kids, this version of the Priority Pass is actually much better.
Other perks – Tie
I’ve already used the 4th night free benefit on the Citi Prestige this year – and that alone covered nearly the entire annual fee. Starting September 1, 2019, you’ll have to book this online – which means you won’t get elite credit or points, or have your status recognized. And it’ll be capped at twice per year.
Still, if you like boutique or independent hotels, this won’t matter. But if you value hotel loyalty programs, this is a loss.
Conversely, I’ve used a couple of Chase Offers, and use the Shop Through Chase portal all the time.
These other perks aren’t meaningful unless you use them. And if you do, the tie-breaker.
Points value for travel – Winner: Citi Prestige
For flights booked through each bank’s portals, you’ll get:
- 1.25 cents each with Citi Prestige
- 1.5 cents each with Chase Sapphire Reserve
If you spend mostly in the 5X or 3X categories, that’s worth:
- 6% back toward airfare (1.25 X 5) until September 2019, then 5% back (1 X 5), with Citi Prestige
- 4.5% back toward travel (1.5 X 3) with Chase Sapphire Reserve
Either way, Citi Prestige wins.
Airline partners – Winner: Tie
You can access all 3 airline alliances with either bank program. And there’s enough overlap to make them comparable.
The only way I’d pick Ultimate Rewards over ThankYou is if you:
- Like United miles for no fuel surcharges (although you can do the same with Avianca)
- Transfer points to Southwest
- Have a strong preference for any single partner
For my travels, I’ve found the Citi ThankYou program is more versatile than it gets credit for. Both programs are great for niche uses and advanced players.
The edge goes to Ultimate Rewards for instant transfers, but honestly, I’m good with either. You might think differently if you like JetBlue, Southwest, or Virgin Atlantic.
Hotel partners – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
By a miiiile. And the thing I love most about Ultimate Rewards are transfers to Hyatt.
This alone is reason enough to keep the card open for me. Because I’ve had plenty of free Hyatt stays. I never worry about airfare, but do love having the option to use Hyatt from time to time.
And, if I’m being honest, there are a few niche uses for Marriott points, too. Especially the extended-stay hotels slightly outside of town.
If Hyatt ever devalues their program, my thoughts would be much different. But as it stands, transfers to Hyatt are one of the best things about Ultimate Rewards.
Trip delay insurance – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
They’re nearly identical, but that missed connection thing is a b-word if it ever happens to you.
Trip cancellation – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Quadruple the coverage.
Lost or damaged baggage coverage – Tie
Unless you’re a New Yorker. :/
Car rental insurance – Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
No idea why Citi decided to make it secondary in the US and primary overseas. You absolutely need a card with primary rental car insurance. And because of that broad “travel” category, I’d put car rentals on the Chase Sapphire Reserve anyway.
Price protection – Winner: Citi Prestige
Citi has it, Chase doesn’t.
Who should go with Citi Prestige?
- Dine a lot
- Pay for lots of airfare
- Like to book travel through the bank portal
- Can use the 4th night free perk
- Want a better Priority Pass membership
- Can do well with the transfer partners
- Have other Citi cards to pair it with (Citi Premier for 3X on travel and gas, AT&T Access More for 3X online, Rewards+, etc.)
- Will use the price protection for big-ticket items (I use this perk a lot, actually)
Pretty much all of these apply to me. Between the 5X earning, 4th night free, and other built-in perks, I get waaay more in value than the annual fee costs.
And ultimately, if you’re doing that, it’s worth it. If you can do that with both cards – even better.
It’s just that latter point that’s tripping me up. Can one do well with both of these cards?
Who should go with Chase Sapphire Reserve?
- Link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
It’s tough to beat the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But this one’s better if you:
- Want broader earning categories with less to think about (travel & dining)
- Prefer a more user-friendly card with instant transfers
- Use the travel insurance for trip delay and car rentals
- Value transfers to hotel partners (I know I do)
- Like a particular airline transfer partner, such as United, Southwest, or JetBlue
- Are fine with this version of the Priority Pass (you + 2 guests)
- Like Chase Offers and Shop Through Chase to save / earn more points
- Have other cards to pool your points (Ink Business Preferred for 3X categories, Chase Freedom for rotating 5X categories, Chase Freedom Unlimited for 1.5X everywhere, etc.)
Over the course of the year, I use the $300 annual travel credit, rent cars on occasion, use the Shop Through Chase portal, transfer to Hyatt, and redeem Chase Offers.
It’s the access to Hyatt award rooms and broader 3X travel category that keeps me hooked. Is it worth paying for it at a net $250 annual fee ($550 – $300 travel credit)?
Totally – especially if you prefer the other travel partners, too.
Should you have both? Or just one?
Heavy travelers can make out like a bandit with both cards. If I had to recommend one, I’d say Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Unless you’re advanced with points & miles cuz those 5X categories on Citi Prestige… dang. They’re good.
Ultimately, I’m finding reasons to keep both – at least for now.
A lot has shifted in the points / credit card space in the last year – and new changes to Citi Prestige kick in starting September 2019. For the next 6 months, I’ll see how it goes.
Also, never downplay the value of a diverse points collection. Perhaps you guard your Ultimate Rewards points like a fiend but are happy to burn your ThankYou points (like me). Or maybe you spend plenty in all the bonus categories and want to maximize every buck.
Or, who knows, perhaps they’re both excellent cards with their own unique sets of strengths and limitations that will appeal to many types of people – and with everything considered, they’re roughly equal and both worth your time.
I started writing this with the intention to rule out one or the other as I have enough cards with $400+ annual fees these daze.
The fact is, I’m using Citi Prestige and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for their strengths. And where one is great, the other is weaker – and vice versa.
And actually, they form a nice simpatico. That said, I reach for my Citi Prestige a lot more than my Chase Sapphire Reserve – but when I do use the CSR it’s with a direct intent. Plus, those Hyatt transfers – gah. Too good.
If you have neither, start with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Although I just transferred ThankYou points to Qantas to go to my baby’s ultrasound next month – so to say ThankYou points are inferior in any way is entirely subjective. It’s all in how you plan to use them.
Points & miles are still changing my life and allow me to connect and be present when it matters. And I find both cards have a valuable points setup to keep them flowing in.
If I had to pare it down to bare bones I’d say:
Citi Prestige to pay for flights and food, use for award flights. Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for most other travel, use for hotel stays.
When viewed that way, they fit together even better. But for that all-in-one solution it’s Chase Sapphire Reserve. And Citi Prestige if you have a more advanced plan.
Do you agree with my analysis? Would love to hear your thoughts on these two heavyweight (literally, they’re made of metal) cards!* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! And thanks for using my links to apply for new card offers!
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