Advertiser Disclosure

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Citi Prestige: Reserve by a Mile

Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
Colorful stack of credit cards and shopping gift cards. Macro with extremely shallow dof.
At NerdWallet, we adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Among premier travel credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Citi Prestige® Card offer unusually lucrative rewards and perks.

Both cards come with jumbo annual fees: $450 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and $450 on the Citi Prestige® Card. Their benefits can be well worth their fees, but it helps to choose wisely between the two.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers superior value with its sign-up bonus, annual travel credit and travel redemption options. But you may prefer the Citi Prestige® Card if most of your spending goes toward entertainment, or if its transfer partners are a better fit.

Here’s how the cards stack up side by side.

 Chase Sapphire Reserve®Citi Prestige® Card
Annual fee$450$450
Sign-up bonusEarn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® .Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening* (This offer is no longer valid on our site)
RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards points:
• 3 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants.
• 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Citi ThankYou points:
• 3 points per $1 spent on air travel and hotels.
• 2 points per $1 spent on restaurants and entertainment.
• 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Point value when used to book travel through issuer1.5 cents per point on all travel1.33 cents per point, airfare only (1.25 after mid-2017)
Annual travel credit$300, all travel purchases$250, airline purchases only
Domestic airline transfer partnersUnited Airlines, Southwest AirlinesJetBlue, Virgin America, both at less than 1:1
Hotel perksVaries. Examples include: room upgrade, breakfast, late check-out when booked using Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection program.Fourth night free when booked with concierge service.

Sign-up bonus

When the Chase Sapphire Reserve® launched in 2016, it did so with an eye-popping bonus: 100,000 points, worth $1,500 when redeemed for travel through Chase. Chase has since cut the bonus in half, but it’s still significantly more lucrative than the bonus on the Citi Prestige® Card. The advantage here goes to the Chase card.

Travel credit

Both cards reimburse cardholders for travel-related expenses paid with the card. The Citi Prestige® Card offers $250 worth of credit each year, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers $300 a year. The Citi Prestige® Card credit applies only to airline charges — mainly tickets and incidentals, such as checked baggage fees. The credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, however, applies to a wide variety of travel expenses, including not just airfare and airline incidentals, but also hotel stays, train tickets, taxi rides and even parking fees.

Travel credits effectively reduce the cost of the annual fee, so the size and flexibility of the credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® makes it more valuable.

Spending rewards

The two cards have different spending rewards structures, which can’t be compared directly. If you spend big bucks dining out, you’ll earn more with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Both cards offer amped-up rewards for travel, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a broader definition of what qualifies under the category.

The Citi Prestige® Card includes double rewards on entertainment, a fairly unusual category. It includes live theater, concerts, live sporting events, movie theaters, amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, circuses, museums and art galleries.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® rewards: The card has exceptional rewards in two popular categories: travel and restaurants, which earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent. You’ll get 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • Citi Prestige® Card rewards: You get 3 ThankYou points for every $1 you spend on airfare, hotels and travel agencies; 2 points per $1 on restaurants and entertainment; and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Citigold, Citi Private Bank and Citi Global Client banking customers are eligible for an annual relationship bonus of up to 25% more points.

Travel multiplier

Both cards offer more value when you redeem points for travel by booking through the issuer’s online travel portal. Here, again, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® wins for value and flexibility.

  • All travel booked through Chase boosts the cash value of points by 50%, making them worth 1.5 cents each.
  • With the Citi Prestige® Card, travel booked through Citi gives you a value of 1.33 cents per point for airline travel and 1 cent per point for other travel expenses. In mid-2017, the air travel redemption rate will drop to 1.25 cents per point.

Transfer partners

Both cards allow you to transfer points to airline and hotel loyalty programs, though each card has a different roster of partners. Transferring points can be one of the highest-value ways to redeem points, especially for pricier purchases such as first-class airfare. Ultimately, though, the value of a card’s partners depends on whether you’ll use them.

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® list of partner airlines is shorter, it’s better for most U.S. travelers. It includes two big domestic carriers, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Its hotel partners include Hyatt, Marriott and IHG (Holiday Inn).

The Citi Prestige® Card has no U.S. airlines with a 1:1 transfer. You can transfer points to JetBlue’s program at a watered-down value of 1 ThankYou point to 0.8 JetBlue TrueBlue points. Or you can transfer to Virgin America at a rate of 1 ThankYou point to 0.5 Virgin Elevate points.

To be fair, the Citi Prestige® Card’s airline list includes many top-rated foreign carriers, according to airline review website SkyTrax, including Cathay Pacific, Qatar and Etihad. In 2016, only nine airlines in the world received a five-star rating from SkyTrax, and the Citi Prestige® Card partner list includes six of them.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® airline partners (1:1 transfer ratio): Air France/KLM, British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore KrisFlyer, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic. Hotel partners: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club, Ritz-Carlton.
  • Citi Prestige® Card airline partners (1:1 transfer ratio unless otherwise specified): Air France/KLM, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Garuda Indonesia, JetBlue (1,000 ThankYou points gets you 800 TrueBlue points), Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Singapore KrisFlyer, Thai Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America (1,000 ThankYou Points gets you 500 Elevate points). Hotel partner: Hilton.

Other travel perks

At the AIRPORT

Global Entry. The cards both reimburse the $100 application fee for Global Entry, which gives travelers access to expedited lines at customs. But Chase Sapphire Reserve® reimburses the fee every four years, while the Citi Prestige® Card does so every five years. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, which is a more limited program that allows access to speedier airport security lines but not expedited customs screening. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can choose to apply only for TSA PreCheck and get reimbursed for a lower $85 fee.

You must reapply with the government every five years for the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck programs.

Lounges. Both cards offer free membership in Priority Pass Select, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. The Citi Prestige® Card used to get all cardmembers into American Airlines’ airport lounges, known as Admirals Clubs. New cardholders no longer qualify for that perk, and Admirals Club access will end in July 2017 for other cardholders.

Hotels

The Citi Prestige® Card gives you a fourth night free at any hotel when you book a stay of four nights or longer through its concierge service. Currently, the benefit pays the actual cost of the fourth night, including taxes. After July 23, 2017, the benefit will cover the average nightly rate during your stay, and you’ll have to pay the taxes.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer pales in comparison: Chase promises special benefits if you book your hotel stays through its Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection program. Benefits vary by hotel but could include a room upgrade, breakfast, early check-in and late check-out.

When to pick Citi Prestige® Card

Head-to-head, the advantages of the Citi Prestige® Card are few, with the largest being the fourth night free at hotels. Double points for entertainment might be appealing, depending on your spending. Or perhaps the transfer partners better match your travel preferences.

Which to chose

If you’re going to pay a big annual fee for a premier travel card, you want the best. And for most people, that means the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Its bonus, redemption options and features are simply better.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: gkarp@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @spendingsmart.