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It’s time to do a new round of credit card applications, and there’s no doubt which card I am most excited to get. I’ll give you a few hints:
- It has no annual fee.
- It comes with a free year of Amazon Prime.
- It earns valuable points that can transfer to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs, in addition to being used in other ways.
I’m pretty excited about the card, and you’re looking for a valuable no annual fee card, you should be too. What is it?
Update: The offer for free Amazon Prime as of February 4th no longer appears available. See this American Express FAQ
I’m a huge fan of a couple cards in my wallet, namely the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the cheap but ever so valuable Starwood Preferred American Express.
I have written previously about the Amex EveryDay. In addition to the 10,000 membership rewards points (which I value more or less at 2 cents a mile), one year of Amazon Prime ($99 value), the card comes with some great earning potential:
- 2x points at supermarkets.
- 20% bonus points when you use the card at least 20 times in a month.
- 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.
- Membership Rewards points transfer to 17 airline partners and 5 hotel partners.
- The great consumer protection I’ve come to expect with an Amex: Purchase protection, extended warranty, roadside assistance hotline, car insurance options for rentals, and more!
What’s more, the inclusion of this card in the Membership Rewards program is great for us. We have an American Express Platinum, and while I have every intention of keeping it, it’s nice to know if I ever do decide to cancel it I won’t need to liquidate my membership rewards points into an airline or hotel loyalty program right away. Why? Because if I have the Amex Everyday and cancel my Platinum card, the points will just transfer to the EveryDay.
But there’s another card I am getting, and it’s because I dumped my favorite card as far as benefits go. You all know I love the Amex Platinum. I toasted to my friends at Amex on a regular basis as I sat in plush lounges from Dallas to San Francisco, eating really good airport food and enjoying really great cocktails. But living in LA, and flying American primarily, the Amex wasn’t as valuable as I wanted it to be since they don’t have a Centurion Lounge in LAX. And so, hard as it was, I said goodbye to my American Express Platinum card.
And in it’s place, I turned to the Citi Prestige.
How’s the Citi Prestige Compare to the American Express Platinum?
Annual fee: The same. A whopping $450. But for the benefits gained, and the amount I travel, it’s worth it for me personally.
Travel Credit: The Platinum gives you a $200 credit for one airline, on charges incurred during travel, such as checked bag fees, lounge access, food purchase on board, etc… While not technically allowed, most people are able to buy $200 worth of airline gift cards and have that credited as well. Citi gives you $250, so $50 more and it can be used for any flight related expenses, including- the flights themselves!
Lounge Access: The Platinum Card wins on fancy lounges, no doubt about it. There Centurion lounge in DFW is my favorite domestic lounge, hands down. Good food, great drinks, beautiful space, nice showers, and complimentary mini massages make it a win. Their other Centurion lounges are good too and they’re expanding. The Platinum also gets you access to Delta SkyClubs, and the one in terminal 4 of JFK is pretty swanky!
Finally, you also get a Priority Pass Select card which gives you access to Alaska Airline lounges (and their famous pancake machines) as well as a host of basic lounges around the world.
And so is it surprising when I tell you, it’s because of lounge access I switched to the Prestige? Again, I lose access to fancy Centurion lounges, but they’re lounges I don’t utilize enough. I also lose access to Delta lounges, but I rarely fly Delta. What I gain is this:
Access to 40 American Airlines Admirals Club lounges around the world! The lounges aren’t anywhere near the level of comfort of Centurion, but I will be able to utilize them more. What’s more, you get the Priority Pass Select (just like Platinum Card members) but with an added perk: Whereas with Platinum you pay a $29 fee per guest, with the Priority Select with the Prestige card, the cardholder AND two additional guests can get in free of charge.
Global Entry:Global Entry is as close to heaven as a frequent international traveler can get. Skip long custom lines, end of story. It costs $100 to apply for it, and both cards comp that fee once ever 5 years.
Hotel Perks: The Platinum Card comes with free Starwood Gold, which is a nice perk. It’s not huge, but it’s bonus points, access to club levels often, and priority rooms. But I don’t care much about hotels, and my loyalty is not strong in that category. Citi gives you a 4th night free for any hotel booked through their travel advisor. They also offer certain perks such as free breakfast and possible room upgrades at Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels worldwide.
Car Rental Perks: Both cards offer various elite status opportunities with car rental companies. I’m a public transpo kind of guy so a perk I rarely take advantage of but the main draw to elite status with most companies is walking straight to your car, no need to spend time waiting in line to talk to an agent to get your car.
Using and Earning Points: The Platinum Card earns membership rewards, which can be transferred to a variety of airlines and hotels. With Citi you’ll own Citi ThankYou Points, currency not as valuable. That said, two thoughts: 1. I won’t be using this as my primary earning card, that’s what my Sapphire is for. This card is about the benefits. 2. You do have a unique opportunity to redeem your ThankYou points at 1.6 cents per mile on US Airways and American Airlines flights, a deal that isn’t too shabby because you will still earn miles and equally important, elite status earning miles.
Finally, with the Platinum it’s pretty much 1 dollar equals 1 point, with few exceptions. With the Prestige, you can earn bonus points on categories: 3 per $1 on air travel and hotel, and 2 points per $1 on entertainment and dining.
So for me, the winner was clear: The Citi Prestige. I’ll miss the Platinum, but I couldn’t keep both.
But wait, there’s more!
So those are my two favorite credit card deals. Getting the Amex Everyday extended my Amazon Prime for a year, and gave me a mechanism to keep all the Membership Reward points I earned from my Platinum Card available to me. As long as you have one Membership Rewards earning card, you don’t lose points if you close another card. That was clutch. And I’ll toast my friends at Citi the next time I’m in a lounge at LAX. But there’s a 3rd card that’s a clear winner to me, and that’s the Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard. Barclay’s loses their relationship once US Airways and American fully merge, so they’re giving away miles left and right. Their card comes with an $89 annual fee, but an amazing signup bonus: 50,000 US Airways miles after your first purchase. No minimum spend in so many months. Buy something, get 50k miles. And soon, those miles will merge with your American Airlines miles!
So those are three cards I will be adding, and one card I’ll be dumping.
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