The Chase Sapphire Reserve vs the Citi Prestige: Which is Better?

With the recent launch of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and recent changes to the benefits of the Citi Prestige card, many travelers and credit card consumers are probably wondering how these two cards stack up against each other in a head to head comparison. I recently compared the American Express Platinum Card to the Sapphire Reserve, but here’s a new in-depth comparison of the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs the Citi Prestige with a winner crowned at the end.

Transfer Partners

Citi Thankyou Points

The Citi Prestige earns Thankyou Points and Citi has fairly recently added a lot of new travel partners. These partners are:

Airlines

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • EVA Air
  • Eithad Guest
  • Flying Blue (Air France, KLM)
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin America Elevate (Get 500 Elevate points for 1,000 pts)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotels

    • Hilton HHonors (Get 1,500 HHonors Bonus Points for 1,000 pts)

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Sapphire Reserve earns “Ultimate Rewards” that can all be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a variety of travel partners listed below.

Airlines

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotels

  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

Which reward program is better? 

I personally would take Chase Ultimate Rewards partners over Citi Thankyou Points partners. I like that Chase has additional options for earning miles for for its different airline partners, such Southwest, United and British Airways with its co-branded cards (all of which can be used for good domestic/Caribbean/Mexico flights). Also, I much prefer 1:1 transfers to Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt over Citi’s lone hotel partner Hilton because of better value for points. However, with that said, I still feel that there are some Thankyou Points partners with great potential for value. 

Thankyou Points 

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) – Fantastic product with a distance-based award program allowing for very reasonable redemptions to Asia and great redemptions with partners to places like Europe; can supplement miles with Membership Rewards. 
  • EVA Air  – Good for booking intra-continent Star Alliance flights in places like Europe and Asia due to lower mileage requirements and very flexible routing rules. 
  • Virgin America – Young, swanky airline with revenue based awards growing to serve more cities. Lots of options on the west coast but routing is limited in other parts of the country. Overall, not a bad way to get around the country/Mexico.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Membership Rewards and Thankyou Points partners

Two partners overlap each program:

Overall, Citi has more options when it comes to airline partners than Chase but I much prefer the options that Chase has to offer, especially because there are great ways to supplement those point transfers with solid Chase co-branded cards. When it comes to hotel partners, I don’t think it’s even close, as Hyatt, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton, and IHG at 1:1 ratios make up a powerful trio for hotel stays (that again all have additional co-branded cards). Unless and until Citi makes American Airlines a travel partner, I think Chase travel partners are easily superior, so the Sapphire Reserve wins here.

Redeeming Points

In addition to transferring points to travel partners you can always redeem your points in different ways, such as for cash back, gift cards, or to book travel.

Citi Thankyou Points

Thankyou Points can be redeemed in the following ways:

  • 1.0 cent per point for cash back, hotels, cruises, and car rentals
  • 1.0 cent per point for gift cards
  • As a Citi Prestige card holder, you can redeem points as 1.25 cents per point on airlines.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed in the following ways:

  • 1.0 cent per point for cash back
  • 1.0 cent per point for gift cards
  • As a Sapphire Reserve card holder, you can redeem points as 1.5 cents per point on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Ultimate Rewards easily wins in this comparison as you get more value in redeeming points for travel than you do with Citi Thankyou points. Furthermore, you can redeem points at this great rate for more than just air fare, but also things like hotels and cruises.

Sign-up Bonus

Citi Prestige

  • 40K to 100K (currently 40K) when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Citi has shown a downward trend in sign-up bonuses as of late, so I’m not sure how much hope there is that the higher 100K offer or even 75K offer might be returning any time soon. You might even have to get a bit lucky to see the 50K offer….

Sapphire Reserve

  • 50K when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Bonus Categories

Citi Prestige

  • 3X on air travel and hotels
  • 2X on dining and entertainment
  • 1X on all other purchases

Sapphire Reserve

  • 3X on travel
  • 3X on dining
  • 1X on all other purchases

This is a bit close of a comparison and the winner for your spending habits might be different than mine, but I’d still take the Sapphire Reserve’s earning rates over the Prestige. That’s because the travel category is very broad for the Reserve and it includes the following:

airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

I spend a lot more on non-hotel/air fare travel expenses than I do on entertainment, so the 3X on travel offered by the Reserve would take me much further than the 2X on entertainment offered by the Prestige.

Increasing earning potential with additional credit cards 

In addition to those earnings, you can always combine the Sapphire Reserve with a Chase Freedom card (or two) or Ink Cash and have additional no-annual fee cards earning you tons of extra points at the rate of 5X on certain categories (dining, groceries, cable bill, etc.) or 1.5X on all purchases. For Citi, you can add the Citi Premier to earn 3X on travel and gas but it comes with a $95 annual fee (the no annual fee Citi Thankyou Preferred does not offer additional bonus earning potential that you can’t get without the Prestige). 

With 3X on dining and travel categories, I think the Reserve is going to earn points for most travelers more quickly than the Prestige, so I’m giving this one to the Reserve. 

Benefits 

Citi Prestige

  • $250 airline credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $200)
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge access for you and up to two guests for free
  • Complimentary night at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive-night booking (now calculated on an average nightly rate basis and taxes are not included)
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • 3 free rounds of golf (set to expire July 23, 2017)
  • Rental car benefits with National Car Rental, Avis, Budget, and Sixt.
  • Add authorized users for $50 each.
  • Concierge service
  • Mastercard luxury hotel and resorts

Sapphire Reserve

  • Priority Pass airport lounge access with unlimited guest access subject to lounge’s policy
  • $300 annual travel credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $150)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check 
  • Add authorized users for $75 per person
  • Rental car benefits with National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar
  • Visa Infinite concierge service
  • Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux

The benefits are very similar so it often comes down to the Reserve’s $300 travel credit versus the 4th night free benefit of the Prestige. While there are other factors to consider, in terms of benefits, I think these two benefits are what set the cards apart from each other in the long-run and should play a major role in one’s decision to keep each card. For that reason, I can’t claim a winner for the benefits, since it likely depends on your personal traveling habits. 

Primary rental car insurance 

Citi Prestige

  • Citi Prestige offers secondary insurance up to $100,000

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • The Sapphire Reserve offers primary rental car insurance covering up to $75,000. This benefit comes with fewer restrictions than the Sapphire Preferred had.  

Primary rental car coverage is a huge benefit offered by the Sapphire Reserve because it can save you from having to file a claim with your insurance company and keep your premiums down. Since the Prestige only offers secondary protection, it falls short here.

Travel protections

Both of these cards offer superb protections for travel and purchases. Take a close look at the terms compared below and you’ll see how equally matched these two cards are. 

A) Lost or damaged Luggage

Citi Prestige

  • Covered up to $3,000 per person per trip

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • For checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000.00 for each Insured Person for each Common Carrier Covered Trip and up to $500.00 for each Insured Person for each Common Carrier Covered Trip for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders, and other electronic equipment.

B) Trip Interruption

Citi Prestige

  • If your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per traveler per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • If your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses.

C) Trip Delay Reimbursement

Citi Prestige

  • If delayed more than 3 hours you are covered for expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per traveler per trip.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • If delayed more than 6 hours you are covered for expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket. (Upgrade from the Sapphire Preferred which required 12 hours.)

D) Baggage Delay Reimbursement

Citi Prestige

  • If delayed more than 3 hours, you are covered for essential expenses for up to $500 dollars per traveler per trip.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • If delayed more than 6 hours, you are covered for essential expenses, such as toiletries and clothes for up to one hundred ($100.00) dollars per day for a maximum of five (5) days.

Purchase protections

A) Purchase protection

Citi Prestige

  • Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  •  Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account. (This is a significant upgrade from the previous $500 limit of the Sapphire Preferred.)

B) Extended Warranty Protection

Citi Prestige

  • Extends warranty by 2 years but not to exceed 7 total years. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Extends the time period of the original manufacturer’s written U.S. repair warranty by 1 additional year on eligible warranties of three (3) years or less, up to a maximum of ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars per claim.

C) Price Protection

Citi Prestige

  • If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 60 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.

D) Return Protection

Citi Prestige

  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.

Roadside assistance 

Citi Prestige

  • Unlimited and complimentary costs for select services. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Free for up to $50 and up to 4 times per year

Foreign Transaction Fees

  • Both cards have no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee

Citi Prestige

  • $450, not waived (more like $200/year with airline credit)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • $450, not waived (more like $150/year with airline credit)

Highlighting the Differences 

Lounge Access

Lounge access for these cards is pretty equal with these cards. The Prestige allows for two guests or immediate family members to enter Priority Pass lounges for free while the Reserve card appears to allow unlimited guests subject to the policy/discretion of the Priority Pass lounge you’re visiting. Since the drop of Admirals Club access for the Prestige, the value of the lounge benefit has dropped significantly and I think both cards offer more or less the same lounge benefit now with the edge going to the Reserve.  

***It might be the case that the Sapphire Reserve offers superior lounge access because more than two guests could gain free entry, but I’m still waiting for more data points regarding guest entry with the Reserve to arrive at a conclusion. 

Update: It’s now confirmed that the Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass access allows complimentary access to you and the guests in your “travel party.” Which means all the guests accompanying you can enter subject to availability and the rules of the lounge (some lounges restrict guest access to always try to check ahead of time). 

Bonus earning potential 

I think that most travelers will benefit from 3X on dining and travel than 3X on air fare/hotels and 2X on dining and entertainment. 

Travel benefit 

Both of these cards offer some of the best travel credits out there but the Reserve stands out since its $300 credit is higher and applies to any purchase falling within the travel category (which is very broad as seen above). This is much more inclusive than the $250 Prestige credit that while broad enough to cover air fare, doesn’t quite cover the same range of travel expenses as the Reserve does. Thus, the Reserve will easily save you $50 more each calendar year on travel with this credit. 

4th night free

The 4th night free benefit is probably the only area where the Prestige clearly comes out on top. If you book your hotel through the Citi Prestige concierge service then you’re given the fourth night free for a consecutive 4 night or longer stay and this benefit can be applied an unlimited amount of times each year! If you’re someone who likes to stay around in one place for four consecutive nights or longer then this benefit could absolutely work in your favor enough such that it makes more sense for you to go with the Prestige over the Reserve in the long term. Thus, while the Reserve’s credit will net you $50 in savings, the 4th night free benefit could net you hundreds in savings each year if used efficiently. 

Authorized users

It’s $25 cheaper to add an authorized user to the Prestige than it is to the Reserve, so the Prestige wins this race. Something to think about is: if you’re were planning on adding even just two authorized users, then the savings from adding authorized users with the Prestige cancels out the additional $50 in savings from the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit. If those savings are combined with a couple of free hotel nights, it might be difficult for Reserve to compete with the value gained by the Prestige.   

Protections

The protections offered by these cards are among the very best out of any travel credit card and it’s a tight race. The protections are very similar but Citi does offer better baggage delay and trip delay in my opinion since the waiting time is only 3 hours compared to 6 hours with the Reserve. At the same time, the Reserve offers primary rental car insurance, which can end up saving you a lot of hassle and money as your premiums can avoid an increase. Therefore, I think this one is a draw between the two cards. 

Final word

These two cards are the best benefits cards in my opinion but there can only be one winner. In this case, I’ve got to go with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The sign-up bonus is currently more than double the Citi Prestige; Chase has better travel partners; the bonus categories are probably more valuable for most travelers; the travel credit is higher and more broadly defined; and the protections are just a bit better, in my opinion. I think that the only reason I’d hold on to the Prestige over the Reserve in the long-run is if I regularly took advantage of the 4th night free benefit and/or had a few authorized users, but aside from that, the Reserve is simply a beast of a credit card and the best benefits card out on the market right now. 

3 comments

  1. Chase Sapphire is very bad for travel disputes. Their dispute team is in the Phillipines and cannot read documents. They will side with the merchant.

    1. I agree I’m not a fan of the outsourcing but I think the service depends on the facts. They did a phenomenal job honoring trip interruption for me last year and refunding my pre-paid expenses, despite there being a lot of issues to sort out from the merchant’s side.

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