Which 75k Bonus Points Citi Card Is Best for You?

Aug 4, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Prestige Card, Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MastercardCiti ThankYou Preferred Card, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

This is a rare time for Citi, as the issuer is currently offering two credit cards with sign-up bonuses of 75,000 points or miles: the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. While both of these cards carry $450 annual fees, there are key differences between the two that appeal to different segments of the traveling public. Today I want to compare the perks on the two cards to help you determine which would be best to add to your wallet.

To accomplish this analysis, I will compare the cards across nine categories:

  • Sign-up bonus
  • Earning rates
  • Key redemption options
  • Lounge access
  • Airline perks
  • Hotel perks
  • Other travel perks
  • Annual fee
  • Coverage and protection

Rather than choosing which one is better than the other in each category (as I did in my Battle of the Premium Travel Rewards Cards), I will instead provide commentary on the differences and then offer some situations where one might be better than the other. It’s important to remember that everyone’s travel patterns differ significantly, so it’s virtually impossible to say that one card is unequivocally better than the other.

Let’s start with a summary table of the first 8 categories above (the final one, coverage and protection, will have its own table later in the post):

Benefit Citi Prestige AAdvantage Executive
Sign-up Bonus 75,000 ThankYou Points
(worth $1,200)
75,000 AAdvantage miles
(worth $1,050)
Earning Rates 3x on air travel and hotels
2x on dining and entertainment
1x everywhere else
2x on American purchases
1x everywhere else
Key Redemption Options Transfer to 14 travel partners; redeem directly for travel at 1.25 cents per point Redeem on American, Oneworld partners (like Cathay Pacific or LATAM) or other partners (like Alaska and Etihad)
Lounge Access Priority Pass Select membership (including access for immediate family or two guests) Admirals Club membership for you and access for authorized users (including access for immediate family or two guests)
Airline Perks $250 annual airfare credit 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 in a calendar year; priority check-in/security/boarding; 25% off in-flight purchases; free checked bag
Hotel Perks Fourth night free on paid stays None
Other Travel Perks No foreign transaction fees; $100 Global Entry credit every 5 years No foreign transaction fees; $100 Global Entry credit every 5 years
Annual Fee $450 ($50 for each authorized user) $450 ($0 for up to 10 authorized users)

While some of these benefits are identical, there are other categories with some notable differences, so let’s dive into each one to help you decide which card might be a better fit for you.

Sign-up Bonus

Both of these cards recently upped their sign-up bonuses, and even though both sign-up bonuses will boost your accounts by the same number, the bonus on the Citi Prestige Card comes out ahead in value. You’ll take home 75,000 bonus points after $7,500 in purchases within three months of account opening, a haul worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. On the other hand, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard will award you 75,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making $7,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus is worth $1,050 based on TPG’s valuations, a difference of $150.

While this may point you toward the Prestige, keep in mind that the true value of the bonus comes in how you want to redeem your points. See the Key Redemption Options section for more details.

Earning Rates

Another important difference between these two cards involves the rate at which you’ll earn points. The Citi Prestige is the clear winner here, as you’ll earn 3x ThankYou points per dollar spent at airlines, hotels and travel agencies, 2 points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. On the AAdvantage Executive card, you’re limited to 2x miles per dollar spent on American purchases (and then 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else). As a result, your everyday spending will be more lucrative with the Prestige card.

Key Redemption Options

Etihad Apartment.
You can redeem AAdvantage miles for luxurious experiences like Etihad’s Apartment on the A380.

When it comes to redeeming the points you’ll earn with the sign-up bonus and through your regular purchases, the cards also differ significantly. The Prestige Card will earn you ThankYou points, which TPG values at 1.6 cents apiece. These have the flexibility of being transferable (to 14 travel partners, to be exact), and there are a variety of ways to redeem them for maximum value. I highlighted some of these options in my recent posts on 5 innovative ways to use 75k points and 6 best premium class redemptions.

With the AAdvantage Executive card you’re locked into earning American miles, which TPG pegs at 1.4 cents apiece, slightly below ThankYou points. Nevertheless, there are some fantastic uses of these miles for award flights on American and its partners, including Cathay Pacific first class and the Etihad First Apartments. I personally just redeemed 30,000 AAdvantage miles (plus ~$69) for a round-trip flight from Miami (MIA) to St. Kitts (SKB), a flight that was retailing for over $1,400!

As you can see, either card will allow you to redeem your points or miles for some terrific redemptions; it’s just up to you to determine which are most valuable to you.

Lounge Access

IMG-priority-pass-featured
Priority Pass membership is included with the Citi Prestige, though depending on your travel patterns, you may be better off with the Admirals Club membership on the AAdvantage Executive card.

If you’re looking to escape the craziness of the airport for a snack, drink or quiet place to relax prior to your flight, both cards include lounge access but in very different ways. The Prestige card comes with Priority Pass Select membership, and when you activate this perk, you’re allowed to bring your immediate family or two guests in with you (authorized users can also sign up for the same membership and get guest privileges, though each authorized user costs $50). The program currently has more than 1,000 locations around the world, including 50 locations across 28 airports in the US. This has even been expanded to options like Minute Suites, restaurants and even golf simulators.

The AAdvantage Executive card includes a full Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder, which includes not just Admirals Club locations but also various partner lounges around the world. You can also bring in your immediate family members or two guests. What makes this perk even more valuable is that authorized users (who can be added for no annual fee) can access Admirals Clubs as well with the same guesting privileges, and they don’t need to be flying American to do so. However, authorized users can’t get into Oneworld or other partner lounges.

Comparing these perks is very challenging, as it all depends on the airport(s) you frequent. You can use the Admirals Club locations page and the Priority Pass lounge page to find lounges that you’ll be able to access with each card.

Airline Perks

The main economy cabin, featuring a 2-3-2 arrangement.
You’ll get priority boarding with the AAdvantage Executive card, giving you early access to overhead bins.

Credit cards can be a great way to save money and unlock additional benefits when flying, and these cards both fit that bill. However, which one is more lucrative depends on how you typically travel. The Prestige is very simple; you’ll enjoy a $250 air travel credit every calendar year to cover essentially any airline-related expense (including tickets) across any carrier. The credit is automatic and resets each year when your December statement closes, so if you apply and are approved for the card now, you’ll get two credits in the first year of cardmembership, more than covering the annual fee.

On the other hand, the AAdvatage Executive card offers perks that are specific to traveling on American Airlines, including:

  • First free checked bag for you and up to 8 traveling companions on domestic itineraries (a savings of $50 per person on a round-trip flight)
  • Priority check-in, security (where available) and boarding (Group 4)
  • 25% off in-flight purchases
  • 10,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 in a calendar year

Of course, if you rarely (or never) fly American, the Prestige is decidedly more lucrative, as the credit will apply to any purchase with any airline. However, if you travel American even somewhat regularly, you may want to go with the AAdvantage Executive.

Hotel Perks

The four-tiered main pool area of the Andaz Maui.
I used the 4th Night Free perk from the Citi Prestige to save over $500 at the Andaz Maui last year.

This is a category that the Citi Prestige Card wins in a landslide thanks to the 4th Night Free benefit, a perk that can be incredibly lucrative. Even though this was devalued slightly last month (it now excludes taxes and is calculated based on the average nightly rate across the entire stay), it’s still a great way to make the most of your hotel bookings.

Other Travel Perks

In the “other” category, the two cards are dead even, as both offer a credit for Global Entry every 5 years and waive foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the US.

Annual Fee

When it comes to the out-of-pocket expense you’ll incur, it appears that the cards are again tied, as each carries a $450 annual fee. However, the AAdvantage Executive card is actually a nose ahead of the Prestige thanks to the $0 fee for adding additional cardholders, and as I noted earlier, this includes Admirals Club access (though not a full membership). Additional cardholders on the Prestige can also sign up for Priority Pass membership, though there’s a $50 fee for each authorized user.

Coverage and Protection

The final category involves the various coverage and protections offered by each card. Here’s a table summary of these benefits:

Benefit Citi Prestige AAdvantage Executive
Car Rental Coverage Yes (secondary in the US, primary in other countries) Yes (secondary in the US, primary in other countries)
Travel Assistance Yes Yes
Baggage Loss or Damage Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger or $10,000 for all passengers) Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger or $10,000 for all passengers)
Baggage Delay Yes (up to $500 if bags are more than 3 hours late) Yes (up to $500 if bags are more than 3 hours late)
Trip Delay Yes (up to $500 per trip for delays of 3+ hours) Yes (up to $500 per trip for delays of 3+ hours)
Trip Cancellation / Interruption Yes (up to $5,000 per trip) Yes (up to $5,000 per trip)
Travel Accident Insurance Yes Yes
Emergency Evacuation & Transportation Yes (up to $100,000) Yes (up to $100,000)
Roadside Assistance Yes Yes
Purchase Protection Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year)
Extended Warranty Yes (additional 24 months) Yes (additional 24 months)
Return Protection Yes (up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year) Yes (up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)
Price Protection Yes (within 60 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year) Yes (within 60 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)
Missed Event Ticket Protection Yes (up to $500 per ticket and $5,000 per year) Yes (up to $500 per ticket and $5,000 per year)

As you can see, this is another category that is a complete wash. All of these perks are identical on the two cards.

So which is best?

The above information can make your head spin, and it can be challenging to identify which card may be a better fit. I tried to weave in some suggestions to help make this decision easier, but here’s a quick summary:

Go with the Citi Prestige if…

  • You prefer flexibility when it comes to your travel redemptions.
  • You plan to put significant spending on the card, especially in categories like travel and dining.
  • You frequently travel through airports/terminals with Priority Pass lounges.
  • You frequently pay for hotel stays of four nights or longer.
  • You rarely fly on American Airlines.
  • You’ve opened or closed any personal Citi AAdvantage credit card in the last 24 months.

Go with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard if…

  • You’re most interested in boosting your AAdvantage account.
  • You’re a regular American flyer.
  • You have trusted friends and/or family members who regularly fly American (and would appreciate Admirals Club access).
  • You’ve opened or closed the Citi Prestige Card, the Citi Premier Card or the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card in the last 24 months.

The two final bullets under each list above are critical to understand, as Citi has tightened up some of the language of these two credit cards to prevent folks from taking advantage of sign-up bonuses. Here’s what you’ll see on the application page for the Prestige card:

“Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”

Here’s similar language on the application page for the AAdvantage Executive card:

“American Airlines AAdvantage®bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.”

If you’ve held any of these cards in the past, make sure that it’s been at least 24 months since the card has been active.

Bottom Line

Citi Prestige Brian New TPG
Which 75k card is best for you depends on your typical travel patterns, but both offer a compelling value proposition.

Earning lucrative sign-up bonuses on travel rewards credit cards is a fantastic way to boost your account balances and unlock fabulous redemptions like first-class flights and luxurious hotel rooms. For the time being, Citi is offering two cards with sign-up bonuses of 75,000 points/miles: the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. The two are identical in some ways but differ in others, so hopefully this comparison has helped you determine which one would be the best fit for your wallet!

Are you thinking of signing up for either of these premium Citi-issued cards?

Featured image of AA Admirals Club courtesy American Airlines.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.