Citi Prestige Vs Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Ultra-Premium Card Is Better? (Bonus Categories, Perks, Insurance)

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.

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:

CardCiti PrestigeChase 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
• JetBlue
• Malaysia Airlines
• Qantas
• Qatar Airways
• Singapore Airlines
• Thai Airways
• Turkish Airlines
• Virgin Atlantic
• Aer Lingus
• British Airways
• Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
• Iberia
• JetBlue
• Singapore Airlines
• Southwest
• United
• Virgin Atlantic
Hotel Partners• NONE• Hyatt
• Marriott
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 BenefitsDownload 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
  • Tolls
  • Uber/Lyft rides
  • Parking garages
  • Public transit
  • Train fare and passes
a building with palm trees and umbrellas

It’s just that “travel” category that throws me off

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.

a man holding a glass of wine

I use my Priority Pass on the regular, especially at restaurants

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
an airplane at an airport

If I wanna fly AA, I can do so with British Airways Avios or Qantas – either way is fine by me

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.

a dog standing in a hotel room

I love using Ultimate Rewards points for cheap Hyatt Place and Hyatt House stays

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?

Peeps who:

  • 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)
a man holding a camera

I dine often, like the transfer partners, and have other ThankYou cards to keep my supply rolling in

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?

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.)
a man holding a drink and a card

What can I say, I love ’em both

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.

a close up of a credit card

Maybe they’re chums and we don’t even know it

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.

Bottom line

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!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. You pretty much just showed that the Prestige is better for travelers, since airfare should far outweigh all the rest for most travelers.

    • That’s one way of looking at it. The only other thing to consider is whether you want to earn 5X for Citi’s transfer partners or 3X for Chase’s. I see pros and cons with both – so I guess I’ll keep both for now. Thank you for reading and commenting, Gene! I really appreciate it.

  2. I totally agree with your analysis. I have both cards and the recent changes with the CITI Prestige have made it easier for me to keep both cards.

  3. Have never had the Sapphire Reserve as I just can’t rationalize adding another $450+ card to my arsenal. Have the Prestige, Platinun, Aspire and the Ritz. Every year I consider dropping the Ritz as I never put any spend on it other than round trip domestic tickets getting $100 rebate multiple times a year as well as the $300 travel credit (although if that fate with AA gift cards goes like AMEX then I’m sure this will be the last year I have the Ritz)

    • I’m in the same boat. I really want the Aspire. Like a lot. But I can’t justify getting yet another card with a big annual fee. I currently have CSR, Prestige, and US Bank AR. Finally dumped the Platinum after several years.

      • The Aspire is one of my favorite and most used cards. For the Diamond status, the resort credits, Priority Pass, and points…as well as Executive lounge, its pretty hard to beat. Its easily one of my best cards out of the 24 that I own. My Amex Gold, Aspire, and CSR, are my go to’s for everything, just about.

    • It’s a whole other world, right? Lol. Feel free to email me directly or leave comments if you need help or advice. I know it’s a lot to process at first!

      Thank you for sharing and reading – really appreciate it!

  4. Another factor is for those with the $350 AF Citi Prestige. If you have that, the Citi Prestige is most likely the obvious winner.

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