Chase Sapphire Reserve Lounge Access Policy Explained [2022]

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the hottest premium credit cards with a number of solid perks, including Priority Pass airport lounge access. I’ve used its Priority Pass membership a countless number of times and it is still one of the few cards that I always keep in my wallet.

But what exactly can you expect with Chase Sapphire Reserve lounge access and what access do guests get? 

This article will explain everything you need to know about the Sapphire Reserve’s lounge access policy for cardmembers and guests. I’ll also show you how to find a list of Priority Pass lounges in the US and around the globe and offer up some alternative options for lounge access.

What is the Chase Sapphire Reserve airport lounge access policy?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers Priority Pass Select airport lounge access for you and up to two guests.

Priority Pass offers different types of memberships but the type of membership given to Chase Sapphire Reserve holders is Priority Pass Select, which is essentially the equivalent of “Prestige” which would normally cost you $400 and wouldn’t even allow free guests. So this is an extremely valuable perk just in terms of its monetary value.

Considering that the annual fee for the Reserve is $550, and that you can use the $300 travel credit and $60 DoorDash credit to offset that annual fee down to $190, it is like getting a $400 membership for well under $200 (assuming you take advantage of other perks of the credit card).

Chase Sapphire Reserve lounge access.
Priority Pass membership tiers.

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What are Priority Pass lounges?

Priority Pass is a global network of airport lounges that number over 1,300. You can search for a list of Priority Pass lounges in various cities here.

Priority Pass lounges vary in quality and services offered.

Some Priority Pass lounges might offer clean showers, hot food items, complimentary alcohol, modern decor, spacious multi-floor seating, and inspiring views of the tarmac. At these lounges you will be loving life and at peace with the universe (even with flight delays).

Other Priority Pass lounges may consist of merely a large, dim room with canned sodas, chips, and some painfully slow internet. At these lounges you will not be living life and not be at peace with the universe (and yes, flight delays will have you questioning your life choices).

Still, even though the quality differs among Priority Pass lounges, I’ve been overall pleased with my Chase Sapphire Reserve lounge access, especially while traveling abroad. I’ve visited some very nice lounges that have offered me some crucial rest when I needed it the most. The key is to always do research so that you know if you will have a lounge at the airport you are traveling through.

Bidvest Premier Lounge in Cape Town, South Africa.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass guest policy

The Chase Sapphire Reserve was unique when it was released in that it offered Priority Pass access to the cardholder and to every guest traveling on the same itinerary.

Yes, you could walk into a lounge with 10 other people and everybody could get in as long as you were all on the same travel itinerary. So as you can probably imagine people abused this benefit to death. Literally.

Chase ended up revising their policy so that card holders were limited to only two guests per visit, which is the current policy. 

It’s worth noting that most lounges have their own policy when it comes to allowing folks in. Typically, they will follow the guest policy attached to your membership but at times, “due to capacity,” they could limit the entrance of guests.

Heck, they could even turn you, the cardmember, around and not allow you to enter the lounge if they are too full. Some lounges will have dedicated hours when Priority Pass members are not given access so watch out for those, too.

Chase Sapphire Reserve lounge access
The Club Lounge at MCO.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass restaurant access

There are quite a few restaurants that are part of the Priority Pass lounge network. At these restaurants, you can get a credit of around $30 that you can use toward food or beverages which is quite nice.

Some cards with Priority Pass do not allow you to receive these credits for these restaurants but with the Chase Sapphire Reserve you definitely get these credits.

How it works is that you scan your Priority Pass card or app and then scan your boarding pass at the beginning of your meal. Sometimes the server will ask you if you are a Priority Pass member but other times you can just call it to their attention.

They should clarify the amount of your dining credit and then you simply can order whatever you want and apply that credit to food or drinks. The only thing you can’t apply the credit to is tips.

Hitting up these restaurants is great at airports that don’t have lounges or even at airports that do have lounges but are overran with other guests.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Priority Pass restaurant in Tucson Airport.

Accessing arrival lounges or lounges upon arrival

Some Priority Pass lounges will allow you to access the lounge when you arrive at the airport so you don’t always have to be departing.

For example, let’s say that you fly from Seattle to Los Angeles. When you arrive in Los Angeles, it is possible that you could get access to a Priority Pass lounge. Lounges may not always allow folks to enter when they are arriving so you can’t always count on this.

Then there are also arrival lounges — these are lounges that are dedicated to passengers arriving at the airport and of course you will be allowed in if that lounge is a part of the Priority Pass network.

Priority Pass arrivals lounge at SIN.

Do authorized users get Priority Pass?

Each authorized user will get their own Priority Pass so they can get access into airport lounges along with two additional guests. The annual fee for each authorized user is $75 so you could consider this a heavily discounted Priority Pass membership.

This is the most valuable benefit for Chase Sapphire Reserve authorized users, though there are some other perks as well.

How to sign-up for Priority Pass

You cannot forget to activate your Priority Pass membership after you get approved for the Sapphire Reserve because it does not automatically get activated. If you forget to activate, not only will you not have a lounge membership but you will officially be a Reserve newb.

Once you have your Sapphire Reserve online account setup, log-in and go to Ultimate Rewards.

Form there, click on “Card Benefits” and then the “Activate Now” button. That will activate the benefit for you and any authorized users you have added to your account.

Your membership will remain active until you close the card.

If you add your authorized user after activating the card for yourself, just call in to Chase and let them know what you’re trying to do.

Remember to bring your Priority Pass Card!

Merely holding the Sapphire Reserve credit card in your possession will not be enough to get you access into the lounge. For this reason, I always advise people to bring along their physical Priority Pass card which gets mailed out to you.

And although it’s possible to gain access with the app (“the digital membership card”), not all lounges will take the digital card. And there is always the chance that their computers are not working properly or something along those lines.

Here is what Priority Pass states about bringing your card:

All lounges accept the physical membership card and the majority of our 1300+ lounges also accept the Digital Membership Card. To avoid any disappointment, we recommend you always carry both cards with you when traveling.

So I always try to keep my physical card on me when traveling. It’s just good practice.

Chase Sapphire Reserve lounge access

What if I forget my card?

If for some reason you forget to carry your Priority Pass card with you, you can charge the lounge access on your Sapphire Reserve and Chase might reimburse you for the expense. Keyword “might.”

I’ve been told they will do this, but I would not 100% rely on this (especially more than once) because this sounds like something where your mileage could vary.

If you do end up doing this, simply call the number on the back of your card or send them a secure message explaining to them how you misplaced or forgot your card and how you would like to request a reimbursement for the lounge entrance fee. And then cross your fingers.

Other lounge memberships

It’s worth noting that only approximately 5% of Priority Pass lounges are located inside the US. Yes, you heard that right only 5%.

And while there are more Priority Pass lounges popping up all the time, many feel that the domestic lounges are much too crowded.

Therefore, if you want to maximize domestic airport lounge access with credit cards, you might want to consider some other options. Below are a couple of options that will have you relaxing stress-free in some great lounges all around the US.

American Express Centurion Lounges

My favorite lounges to visit when traveling in the United States are the American Express Centurion Lounges. These are definitely some of the nicer domestic lounges and you can typically find the following features:

  • Hot food items
  • Complementary quality cocktails
  • Showers
  • Quality service
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Swanky decor
  • Some even have spas

You can only get access to these lounges if you have a qualifying card.

Qualifying cards include the American Express Platinum Card, the Business Platinum Card, and the Centurion Card, also known as the American Express Black Card.

The Platinum Card comes with a Priority Pass membership but it does not offer you access to Priority Pass restaurants in airports which is a bit of a bummer (you get a host of other lounge memberships though).

The annual fee for the Platinum Card is $695 which is expensive but you can offset this annual fee with several credits like the $200 airline credit, $200 Uber credit, and $100 Saks credit. Also, the Platinum Card is simply loaded with additional benefits and you can read more about those here.

Hong Kong Centurion Lounge.

Co-branded credit cards

Maybe you are more of the loyal type and interested in getting airport lounge access with just one airline. For example, maybe you live next to a United hub and frequently pass through that airport. In that case, maybe you would be interested in getting a United Club membership?

Well, you are in luck because you can use cards like the United Club Card to get an annual membership into United Club lounges.

Other airlines like Delta and American Airlines also have credit cards that will offer you lounge access.

Sapphire Reserve airport lounge FAQ

What are Priority Pass lounges?

Priority Pass lounges are part of a global network of airport lounges that number over 1,300. At these lounges, you might find clean showers, hot food items, complimentary alcohol, modern decor, and inspiring views of the tarmac.

How many guests can you bring into a Priority Pass lounge?

You are allowed to bring in two additional guests for free.

Do you get access to Priority Pass restaurant credits?

Yes, you can often receive a $30 credit that you can use toward food or beverages.

Do you have to activate your lounge membership?

Yes, you will have to activate your Priority Pass membership after you get approved for the Sapphire Reserve.

Final word

Overall, the Chase Sapphire Reserve lounge access is solid in that you get Priority Pass Select along with restaurant access and guest access. But, if I were primarily concerned with lounges, I’d look heavily into the Platinum Card since it offers broader access to other lounges.

Capital One Adding New Airport Lounge

Capital One looks to be expanding its future airport lounge network with the addition of a new lounge coming to Denver International Airport (DEN), opening in 2022.

This will be in addition to lounges at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW) airport, opening this fall, and Dulles International Airport (IAD), opening in mid 2022. 

As more details come out about these new airport lounges, I’m starting to get more excited about them. Based on the features, they really look like they are going to offer a true premium lounge experience, perhaps on par with Centurion Lounges.

If they can execute the service aspect, there may be some real competition, especially since it looks like Capital One is going to be expanding their lounge network at a good pace.

The only negative I have about the lounges is that the renderings don’t look that different from what you see in other lounges, but I will hold out judgment until we see some actual images of the real life facilities.

The new lounge in Denver is going to operate in partnership with Plaza Premium Group, will be approximately 11,200 square feet, and will be located in Concourse A on the mezzanine level.

Capital One stated that they are going to offer a premium in-lounge food and beverage experience, including delicious, health-conscious eating options that are served plated as small bites, a handcrafted beverage menu and an industry-leading, dedicated grab & go section.

Here are some of the highlights of the lounge:

  • A ready-to-eat food station will feature freshly curated grab & go snacks including artisanal nut mixes, fresh fruits, juice shots and rotating warm selections like breakfast sandwiches in the mornings or fresh-from-the-oven cookies in the afternoons. 
  • Unique beverage options include a fully stocked bar with craft cocktails on tap, local beers and regional wines
  • A full-service coffee and espresso bar featuring La Colombe cold brew on tap at select locations, and a custom six-tap system featuring artisanal sodas and flavored waters. 
  • Capital One partnered with creative agency Other Side of the Brain to create an original soundscape for the Lounge that provides travelers with an enriching, memorable and transformative experience as soon as they step foot into the space:
  • Relaxation rooms with eye covers, blankets and other luxury amenities to help you recharge away from the crowds
  • Shower suites with complimentary towels and hotel-inspired custom toiletries 
  • Ample, quiet working space, including private meeting rooms, with individual power outlets at every seat, a flight status display to keep you on schedule and complimentary high-speed WiFi
  • Kid-sized tables and chairs for families
  • A private nursing room for parents to tend to little ones
  • Secure lockers with plenty of room for carry-on luggage and personal items

Capital One also released some details of the new DFW lounge.

Amenities in the DFW lounge include:

  • The Capital One Lounge at DFW features more than 55 pieces of original artwork by local artists from the region. 
  • A cycling and yoga room with Peloton Bikes, resistance bands, and all of your yoga needs 
  • Relaxation rooms with eye covers, blankets and other luxury amenities to help you recharge away from the crowds
  • A shower suite with complimentary towels and hotel-inspired custom toiletries 
  • Ample, quiet working space with individual power outlets at every seat, a flight status display to keep you on schedule and complimentary high-speed WiFi 
  • Kid-sized tables and chairs for families
  • A private nursing room for parents to tend to little ones
  • Secure lockers with plenty of room for carry-on luggage and personal items
  • Multi-faith rooms offering a private space for travelers to pray, meditate or reflect

Final word

Looking at all of these amenities makes me think Capital One is pretty serious about competing with American Express. We still don’t have details on admission policies and prices which I think is the major question mark with these lounges.

A lot of people think a premium credit card from Capital One is on the way, which would be very exciting.

With crowding becoming so much of an issue at many Centurion Lounges, having a similar competitor enter the market will only be a good thing for travelers.

Citi Prestige Lounge Access Policy (Priority Pass) [2020]

The Citi Prestige is an interesting credit card because it’s not marketed quite as well as other premium cards but it does offer tremendous value to certain niche customers. People who spend a lot on dining can take advantage of 5X on dining and there’s also the 4th night free benefit that can still be very valuable for the right person. 

But another group that can benefit a lot from the Citi Prestige are those who want lounge access for more than two people. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Citi Prestige Priority Pass Select lounge access. 

What is the Citi Prestige Lounge policy?

The Citi Prestige lounge policy allows for entrance into Priority Pass lounges for yourself and up to two guests and/or immediate family members.

Here is exactly what the terms and conditions state: 

Primary and Authorized users are granted complimentary access to the Priority Pass lounges and allowed a maximum of up to two guests or and immediate family members (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age).

Because you can bring in immediate family members, the Citi Prestige has one of the most generous lounge access policies for families. Most other premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum Card limit your membership to only two additional guests.

Air France Lounge at IAH.

What about additional guests?

If you want to bring in additional guests you will have to pay $27 per guest. Keep in mind that some lounges do have capacity constraints so you would not always be able to pay for additional guests. If you are heading to a lounge during peak hours then you are more likely to encounter these type of restrictions.

Note that these restraints are different from the limitations put on Priority Pass members in general. For example, some lounges won’t allow any Priority Pass members during certain hours. The restraints I’m referring to here are essentially subjective determinations of overcrowding made by the lounges.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Citi Prestige authorized users Priority Pass

Authorized users for the Citi Prestige are also allowed Priority Pass membership. This is a great deal because you can add authorized users for only $75 per user, on par with the $75 required to add authorized users to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

What about Admirals Club access? 

The Citi Prestige no longer allows complimentary American Airlines Admirals Club access as of July 2017. Many people saw this as a huge devaluation when it happened and as a result a lot of people canceled their Prestige cards. 

How do you sign up for Priority Pass?

You should be automatically signed up for the Citi Prestige Priority Pass once approved so you shouldn’t have to worry about enrolling yourself. This is in contrast to a lot of other credit cards that force you to enroll. For example, you may have to log into your account and click through a few buttons in order to trigger your membership.

But that is not the case with Citibank. After you’ve been approved, your Priority Pass card should arrive in about one week.

Note: It’s not possible to expedite your Priority Pass card although you can expedite your Citi Prestige card.     

Are Priority Pass lounges legit?

In case you were not aware, Priority Pass is a network of over 1,100 lounges located all across the globe. The quality of these lounges can vary dramatically depending on your location. For the most part, I have not been very impressed with many of the lounges located in the US. 

However, when traveling internationally I tend to get more from them. This is especially the case on some of our round the world trips where arrival lounges can be a lifesaver with early or odd-time arrivals. 

Even though some of the domestic lounges are a bit underwhelming they still are better than waiting out by the gate the vast majority of the time. (Sometimes the lounges are ridiculously crowded and I prefer to just wait outside by the gate.)

If you are truly interested in a more premium lounge experience than you might look into a card like the American Express Platinum Card. That card, in my opinion, has the best lounge access out of any credit card on the market. Not only do you get Priority Pass Select membership, but you also get entrance into a lot other lounges including Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta). 

Amex Las Vegas Centurion Lounge membership desk.

Is the Citi Prestige worth it?

Beyond the lounge access, you might be wondering if the Citi Prestige is worth it. Well, after the new Citi Prestige relaunch, the card comes with some enhanced benefits. The 4th night free got limited to two uses per year and lost concierge booking but it does have some new valuable perks. 

The Citi Prestige offers 5x points on dining and air travel/travel agencies and 3x points on cruises and hotels. 5X on dining is very impressive when compared to the competitors. 

The $250 airline credit on the new Prestige is much broader and will be activated upon making any kind of travel purchase including: 

  • Travel Purchases are defined as purchases made within the travel category, including purchases from airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, and bus lines.

You’ll also get a nice cell phone protection benefit and some great travel protections which come in the following forms:

Update: The Citi Prestige lost many of its benefits below:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption
  • Trip delay protection
  • Baggage delay protection
  • Lost baggage protection
  • Roadside assistance
  • Travel in emergency assistance
  • World wide travel accident insurance
  • Medical evacuation

Final word

The Citi Prestige has one of the best Priority Pass Select memberships for families since you can bring in two guests and your immediate family members. The additional benefits of the Prestige card aren’t too shabby, either. The Prestige isn’t for everybody but if you fall into one of the right niches, it’s a great card. 

Amex Centurion Lounge Guest Policy Changing

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American Express just announced new changes to its Centurion Lounge admission policy. The previous policy allowed Centurion and Platinum Card cardholders to bring in two guests or immediate family members. So if you you entering with your spouse and two children all four of you were allowed entry without any additional fee. But not any longer.

Amex Centurion Lounge American Express
Centurion Lounge entrance at LGA.

The new policy restricts admission to only two guests per card holder, regardless of whether or not they are family members. If you want to bring in an additional guest, you’ll need to shell out $50 per person. The changes will come into effect on March 30, 2017. 

The new changes are already posted to the Centurion Lounge website and read:

Please note: Beginning March 30, 2017, The Centurion® Lounge guest policy for Platinum Card® Members will change. All Platinum Card® Members will be limited to two total guests at no additional charge. One-day passes for any additional guests, including immediate family members, may be purchased.

In a statement explaining the rationale for the changes to The Points Guy, an Amex spokesperson stated:

“As our Centurion Lounges have quickly become one of our Card Members’ favorite Card benefits and continue to increase in popularity, we have increasingly heard from our Card Members that our lounges are becoming overcrowded at times.

Our new guest policy is intended to help alleviate the overcrowding issues and ensure that more of our Card Members are able to continue to enjoy the great space and amenities that our Centurion Lounges have to offer.

Under the new policies, Platinum Card Members can enter our lounges with up to two family members for free, as well as continue to purchase day-passes for any additional guests or family members.

Please also note that the two family member policy applies to all our lounges (with the exception of Delta), so it’s now consistent across most of our 1,000 plus global lounge collection.”

The issue of overcrowding in Centurion lounges is not anything new and has been a major complaint for some time. It’s not uncommon to struggle to even find one place to sit during peak hours. Luckily, in my hand full of visit to the Centurion Lounge here in Houston, I’ve found the crowds to be mild. However, I’ve had some pretty miserable experiences at other Centurion lounges like at LGA.

Empty Centurion Lounge at IAH.

So there was a real need to do something to curtail the crowding issue. I personally thought Amex would limit the guest policy to just one guest (and I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all), but I think they like the idea of keeping things consistent with the new Priority Pass guest access which as of last week allows two complimentary guests.

Others have proposed implementing annual limits on visits and forcing people to pay after they surpass their limit. I’m not sure what the best policy would be but restricting families to only two guests will at least do something to thin the crowds (although on the surface it doesn’t seem like much). 

Cocktail at the MIA Amex Centurion Lounge.

This is obviously a blow to families of four or larger who frequent these lounges. I’ve only had one bad experience where a family (of four) single handedly ruined a lounge experience for me by allowing their kids to run and scream throughout the lounge but that was in Tokyo at a first class ANA lounge. Outside of that, I haven’t noticed families being bothersome inside lounges, so I don’t definitely don’t think they are a rampant problem.

While I do feel for families who this policy will affect, at the end of the day someone had the feel the brunt of a policy change, and I don’t think families are atop the list of customers that the Centurion Lounge experience is meant to cater to (although there’s certainly overlap). So from a numbers perspective, I imagine this makes sense for Amex.

Amex Centurion Lounge
Centurion Lounge bar.

If you have four or more members in your squad then you might consider adding your spouse as an authorized user for $175 (you can add up to three for that price). Each authorized user will be able to bring in two guests so you should have no issue taking the whole family along.

Hopefully these changes will do some good and many people will start experiencing less-crowded Centurion Lounges. With the newly increased annual fee on the Platinum Card that might just happen a lot quicker, too.

Choosing Between the Sapphire Reserve, Prestige, Platinum, and Ritz-Carlton Credit Cards

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, Platinum Card from American Express, and Ritz-Carlton are four of the top benefit-based credit cards available for travelers. I’ve already compared the Sapphire Reserve vs the Prestige and vs the Platinum Card, so check those articles for very detailed comparisons. (Also check out this brilliant breakdown from Reddit and this article from the Doctor of Credit to see more a side-by-side comparison of thee three cards.) While those in-depth comparisons are very helpful, this article walks you through a series of questions in an effort to point you in the right direction for choosing the right card or cards for your wallet. 

Are you solely interested in the sign-up bonus?

Are you primarily or heavily interested in the sign-up bonus of a benefits card but not interested in holding on to the card beyond the first year?

If that’s the case, then I recommend a couple of options. 

My first recommendation would be to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve, since it currently comes with a 100K sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months that’s open to the public. It’s rumored that the bonus may drop down after September, but nobody really knows for sure. 

The Platinum Card occasionally sends out targeted offers for 100K and every now and again leaks a link for the 100K offer (although the last leak resulted in the great freeze of 2016). Other offers go out for 75K and 50K but the standard public offer is 40K. If you’re primarily concerned with earnings from the sign-up bonus, I say try to wait it out for the 100K or even 75K offer. I personally, wouldn’t go for the 40K simply for the sign-up bonus since you could rack up 50K Membership Rewards with cards that have no first year annual fee, such as the Green or Gold card (might need Google Incognito to show those bonuses).

The current Prestige offer for 40K is also uninspiring and not worth it to pursue simply for the sign-up bonus, in my opinion. Sign-up bonuses for the Prestige have been as high as 100K but judging by the recent trend of Citi lowering bonuses (or removing them all together), I think it might be a while before we see another large sign-up bonus for the Prestige. 

The Ritz-Carlton currently offers three complimentary nights (at categories 1 – 4) after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening. Three nights at a Ritz-Carlton category 4 hotel could add up to close to $3,000 in value if properly utilized so this is nothing to scoff at, though you obviously don’t benefit from the flexibility provided by the other cards.  

Do you need a solid exit strategy?

If you’re just getting the card(s) for the sign-up bonus, you’re going to need an “exit strategy” that can get you out of paying the annual fee in the future. The best exit strategies are those that allow you to downgrade or product change to cards that don’t require you to pay annual fee, so that you can allow your average age of accounts to lengthen and increase your credit score at no cost.

The Sapphire Reserve should be able to be downgraded after 12 months to a no-annual fee Sapphire or no-annual fee Freedom card, such as the Freedom (classic) or Freedom Unlimited and the Prestige also should be able to be downgraded to the Citi Thankyou Preferred, another no-annual fee card (Citi may allow you other non-Thankyou card product changes as well).

Unfortunately, the best you could do with the Platinum Card is downgrade to a card like the Green Card that still has an annual fee of $95. And finally, I’m not aware of people having success with product changing the Ritz-Carlton card to a card with no annual fee so there may not be a way to get around the annual fee this way for the Ritz-Carlton.

Thus the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige have the best exit strategies. 

Are you very averse to a high annual fee?

A lot of people see an annual fee for over $400 and think there’s no way in Hades they’d apply for such a card. But once you understand the value you receive from a high annual fee card and how you can utilize travel credits to mitigate these fees, the fees actually become pretty reasonable.

If you’re wanting a card with the best way to reduce your annual fee,then my recommendation would be the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It has the highest travel credit worth $300 and it also has the most broadly defined travel category, making it the best way to reduce an annual of $450 down to essentially $150.

The Ritz-Carlton card also offers a $100 travel credit that’s not quite as expansive as the Sapphire Reserve, but still not too shabby. It knocks the annual fee of the Ritz to an effective $150 and with the $100 off roundtrip domestic tickets, one could easily more than cancel out what they pay for the annual fee.

The Prestige has a $250 airline credit that can help knock its $450 fee down to $200 but it’s not as expansive as the Reserve. It is still quite broad, though, and can even be used toward the purchase of airline tickets. 

Finally, the travel credit from the Platinum is a bit limited. It’s limited to incidentals to one domestic airline that you must choose and it’s only $200, meaning that your annual fee is reduced to $250. One big plus to the Platinum Card is that you can utilize the MPX app to make purchases at department stores and places like Amazon, so for some people, this “travel credit” actually can work out to be even more useful and practical than the travel credit for the Reserve. 

Do you want to redeem points for travel?

Not everyone wants to transfer points to travel partners. Some people like to redeem for their points for travel because it’s simpler than transferring points as there are no black out dates and when you redeem points for travel, it’s like paying cash so you can earn miles on your travels and achieve elite status easier. 

If you want to redeem points for travel, such as airfare or hotels, then your decision is easy, go with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, where you can redeem at a rate of 1.5 cents per point through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal on airfare, hotels, and cruises.

Here are the redemptions rates compared for the major programs:

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.

Citi Thankyou Points

Thankyou Points 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 Citi Prestige card holder, you can redeem points as 1.25 cents per point on airlines.

The Prestige comes close in competing with the Reserve, but after losing its 1.6 cents per point redemption rate on American Airlines, it now sits at second place behind the Reserve. 

American Express Membership Rewards 

Membership Rewards can be redeemed in the following ways:

  • Between .5 and 1.0 cent per point for gift cards
  • 0.6 cent per point for a statement credit/charge.
  • 1.0 cent per point on airfare
  • 0.7 cent per point on hotels, cruises, and vacation packages. 

Do you fly Delta?

If you fly Delta often, you should consider the Platinum Card. It offers you entry to Delta Sky Club lounges when you fly with Delta on that day, regardless of the class you booked. One thing, you’ll have to pay to have up to two guests join you.  

Do you frequent airports with Centurion lounges?

Just about everyone agrees that American Express Centurion lounges are among the best airport lounges in the United States. With the Platinum Card from American Express (or Centurion black card), access to these lounges is free and you bring in immediate family members or up to two guests. 

These lounges are found at the following airports: 

  • DFW
  • IAH
  • LAS
  • LGA
  • MIA
  • SEA (smaller studio version, though currently expanding)
  • SFO

If you regularly fly in or out of these airports, then holding on to an American Express Platinum Card may be worth it. Access to these lounges is restricted to American Express cardholders and without a Platinum/Centurion card, they must pay $50 for a day pass. Thus, even if you only visit a Centurion lounge a handful of times a year, you’re still getting significant value from your Platinum Card. 

Do you travel with family and friends?

If you regularly travel with family and friends, then chances are that you’re going to want them to be able to accompany you in the lounges. 

Several cards can accomplish this goal albeit in different ways. 

Guest access with Priority Pass lounges 

It’s still not 100% clear to me what the guest policy will be for the Sapphire Reserve but it appears to be similar if not the same as the Citi Prestige, in that at least two guests will be allowed to enter for free (though this may be subject to the discretion of the lounge being visited). The Ritz-Carlton card also offers this same type of guest policy, thus all three of these cards are great options for bringing along guests and/or family members into lounges with you

The Platinum Card’s Priority Pass membership does not include complimentary guest access which is a bit of a bummer. Of course, as just stated, you can get guests in to Centurion lounges for free, so if most/all of your travels are domestic and go through major airports with Centurion lounges then the guest policy effectively works out to be the same. 

Do you plan on adding authorized users?

For all of these cards, authorized users receive the same lounge benefits but they all have different price tags for adding them. 

The Ritz-Carlton card is the best for adding authorized users because you can add as many authorized users as you want for free, meaning that you can confer the Priority Pass benefit worth $400 to people with no cost! The rest of the cards charge as follows: 

  • Citi Prestige: $50 fee for adding authorized users 
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: $75 fee for adding authorized users 
  • Platinum Card: $175 for adding 1 to 3 authorized users; after that it’s $175 per authorized user. 

The drawback to the Ritz card is that you won’t be earning a rewards currency that transfer out to as many partners (at good ratios) so you lose that but if your priority is getting lounge access to a handful of authorized users, you could easily save a couple of hundred bucks by going with the Ritz-Carlton card. 

Are you concerned with earning bonus points?

I think that the majority of travelers will benefit from the bonus categories of the Sapphire Reserve more than any other card. That’s because the travel category is very broad and covers the following expenses: 

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.

The Prestige comes close with its 3X on airfare and hotels but those two categories only make up a subsection of the travel category.

The 2X on entertainment offered by the Prestige covers:

select entertainment merchants, including sports promoters, theatrical promoters, movie theaters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, record stores and video rental stores.

These expenses on entertainment can certainly add up but I don’t think that they will net more earnings for most travelers who will earn 3X on travel purchases and an extra 1X on dining. Thus, if you want a benefits card that’s going to earn you the most points via spending, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is likely your best option. 

For your reference, here are the earning rates of the other cards: 

Sapphire Reserve

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

Citi Prestige

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

Ritz-Carlton credit card 

  • 5X on Ritz-Carlton/Marriott and partner hotel purchases
  • 2X on dining and airline and car rental
  • 1X on all other purchases 

Platinum Card

Updated: October 5, 2016

  • 5X on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • 1.5X on purchases over $5,000 
  • 1X on all purchases

Do you plan on getting additional cards to increase earnings? 

When it comes to combining earning potential with other no-annual fee credit cards, the Sapphire Reserve is reigns supreme. 

The great thing about the Sapphire Reserve is that it can be combined with several no-annual fee cards that earn tremendous bonus rates on purchases. You could add: 1) the Freedom Classic which offers 5X on rotating categories like gas, dining, groceries, etc.; 2) the Freedom Unlimited that earns 1.5X on all purchases on an unlimited basis; and 3) the Chase Ink Cash, a small business credit card that offers superb 5X earnings on cable, internet, and phone bills, and office supply stores. If you could swing those three cards along with the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll have a points-earning machine unmatched by anything.

The Amex EveryDay card is a nice addition to the Platinum that earns 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases and then allows you to earn a 20% bonus on points earned during the month when you make over 20 transactions. While those earnings are nice, they simply don’t compare to the potential earnings of the Chase cards.

Finally, Citi does not offer a credit card with no annual fee that earns points in categories that the Prestige does not currently earn.

Do you spend 4 nights or more for hotel stays?

If you regularly spend 4 nights or more at hotels than the Prestige can easily net you the most value out of any of these cards, as you easily can bite off a couple of hundred in savings each time you use it. However, there are some factors to consider.

In order to take advantage of this benefit you have to book your hotel through Citi, which means that sometimes there may be better rates out there for the hotels you’re booking. Also, Citi just changed the calculation methods for the free night and they now calculate the rate on an average nightly rate basis and taxes are not included. However, even with some limitations, the 4th night free is a powerful benefit that if used effeciently can easily bring you more value than any other benefits card. 

Do you value primary car rental insurance?

Primary rental card insurance is a tremendous benefit because it makes dealing with accidents while traveling abroad much more streamlined and can help you avoid having to file a claim with your car insurance company and risk increasing your premium. 

The only two cards to offer primary rental car insurance are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ritz-Carlton card. Both the Platinum Card and the Prestige offer only secondary coverage. 

Are you concerned with trip interruption? 

The Citi Prestige offers the best trip interruption/delay protections as it only requires you to wait 3 hours before coverage comes into effect and the Chase Sapphire Reserve requires you to wait 6 hours. Unfortunately, these protections are not built-in to the Platinum Card and you’ll have to pay extra for this kind of coverage to apply. 

In terms of other protections like lost luggage, purchase protection, return protection, extended warranties, etc. all of the cards offer pretty similar coverage with the Platinum Card lacking on some things like price protection. Thus, overall, you can’t really go wrong with the protections offered by these cards but I’d probably stick with the Reserve or Prestige to maximize the protections. 

Final word

As you can tell, the Sapphire Reserve card is on another level compared to all of the other credit cards, as it beats them out almost all the way across the board. There are some specific instances when you’d want to stick with the Prestige, Platinum, or Ritz-Carlton credit card, but overall the Reserve is going to bring more value to more people on average, I’d suspect. While I am a fan of getting several of these cards for their great sign-up bonuses, I think that I’d probably stick with the Reserve in the long-run.  




Should You Apply for a Card with a High Annual Fee?

Many people are understandably reluctant to apply for credit cards with high annual fees of $450 plus. In fact, I’ve met some people that think people like myself are crazy for applying for these cards. While it may seem a bit crazy at the outset, once you understand the value offered by these kind of premium cards, it becomes much clearer why applying for one can be a smart decision. 

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Lounge Access

Lounge access is almost always the primary benefit offered by these premium cards. The type of lounge membership differs based on the card, but typically the membership to the respective lounge program is worth around $400.

IAH united lounge

Why is lounge access a big deal? 

It really all comes down to how frequent you travel and how much of a preference you have for convenience and comfort. If you’re not familiar, airport lounges provide you with a quiet and comfortable area to relax in while you’re waiting for your plane to begin boarding.

It’s important to note that lounges come in all shapes and sizes and some can be much more extravagant than others. Some lounges may feel like a glorified Holiday Inn breakfast area while others are multiple stories, complete with fine dining, multiple bar areas, spas, showers, and ultra-sleek decor. While the former will do the job, the latter can be such a lavish experience that you actually wouldn’t mind waiting longer for your plane to depart. 

In most lounges, you can generally expect to experience the following benefits:

  • Complimentary alcohol
  • Complimentary refreshments/snacks. (The nicer the lounge the closer to a full meal you’ll be able to receive.)
  • Complimentary wifi and access to plenty of outlets
  • Comfy couches or chairs
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Showers (sometimes)

Having access to these exclusive areas makes getting through the airport and lay-overs much less of a burden. And when you’re visiting a really nice lounge, I dare say that the lay-over can become an exciting/enjoyable experience that you look forward to. Once you’re more open to lay-overs, scheduling trips can become easier since you’re not so stuck on searching mostly or only non-stop flights.

While lounge access is something usually universally enjoyed by everyone, not everybody agrees that it’s worth paying so much money a year for. Some folks don’t travel enough to airports for it to become worthwhile for them to shell out $450 for lounge access since they may only visit a lounge once or twice a year (in that case you should probably just buy day passes).

Other people may just not feel the coveted “lounge experience” is worth it. My suggestion is to always try out a lounge for yourself and see how it makes you feel. If you enjoy it and think you might be utilizing lounge benefits more than a handful of times a year, a premium card might be a worthy investment for you.

Sign-up bonuses

Some of these premium cards with high annual fees offer tremendous sign-up offers. The first that comes to mind is the Platinum Card from American Express. It sometimes issues targeted offers for as much as 100,000 Membership Rewards!

For many people, the sign-up bonus alone is worth the annual fee. It’s easy to see why. If you value Membership Rewards at 2 cents per point, then 100,000 points can turn into $2,000 worth of travel. When you factor in travel credits (discussed next), it’s like turning $250 into $2,000, a deal that just about anyone would want to jump on. And I’ve redeemed Membership Rewards for much higher than 2 cents per point, at times essentially turning my $250 annual fee paid into over $5,000 worth of travel. 

If you are pursuing any of these cards solely for the sign-up bonus, you’ll probably need to cancel your card after the first year, since you likely won’t get enough value out of it the second year when another annual fee hits. 

Travel credits

Most travel credit cards with high annual fees offer travel credits. These credits are all different and allow you to be credited for different types of travel purchases. Some credits like the one offered by the Citi Prestige allows you to use a travel credit toward airfare tickets, but others restrict the credit to airline incidentals like baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, and so on. What all of these credits have in common is that they essentially knock down the annual fee by a couple of hundred bucks.

Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check

In addition to the travel credit, they usually offer credits for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. These are two services that can make your travel life much more easier and convenient and I highly recommend them. The credit for these totals to $100 worth of value and so they can help you offset the annual fee on your card even further. 

Car Rental Perks

Cards like the Citi Prestige and the Platinum Card from American Express offer consumers elite rental car status. This can come in handy many times by allowing you to to skip the lines and go straight to your car and be eligible for upgrades and discounts.

Elite status or other perks

Many of these cards will offer elite status or other nice perks. For example, the Platinum Card from American Express offers Hilton Gold Status and SPG Gold Status, which allow you to take advantage of benefits like room upgrades and free breakfasts. The Citi Prestige offers a free fourth night benefit where you can get an entire night’s stay at a hotel for free (which is one of its most valuable benefits). 

Airline cards will offer additional perks like free checked bags, express check-in, discounts on in-flight purchases, and some will even grant you elite qualifying miles that make your path to obtaining elite status much easier.

Many of these benefits are considered secondary but they can surely add up in value and make your traveling life much more convenient and enjoyable.

Authorized user benefits

You can often add authorized users to these benefit cards for a fraction of the price. For example, the Citi Prestige allows authorized users to be added for only $50 each! Authorized users don’t always get the full range of benefits (like individual travel credits) but they do often get the core benefits like lounge access (albeit with some restrictions, usually).

With authorized users getting lounge access benefits, there’s a potential for huge value. In the case of the Citi Prestige, each authorized user is getting Priority Pass lounge access (worth $400) for a mere $50! I think that utilizing the authorized user benefits of these cards is one of the best ways to maximize the value of travel benefits, because it can work out to getting a near 90% discount for multiple people on lounge access! 

So should you apply?

Ultimately, whether or not you should apply will come down to how you value these benefits and how often you’ll take advantage of them.

I think that it’s extremely easy to receive benefits from these cards that far exceed their annual fees. Just with a travel credit and a Global Entry credit alone, one could easily get $300 worth of value. Then you throw in the value of lounge access ($400) and a sign-up bonus found on cards like the Prestige or Platinum (very conservatively worth approximately $400) and you’ve already got over $1,000 worth of value. And that’s without factoring in any other additional benefits like free hotel nights, hotel room upgrades, breakfasts, etc. that could ultimately add on hundreds in additional value. If you’re in the position to take advantage of those benefits, then it’s usually worthwhile to apply.   

However, not everyone is going to benefit equally. If you hardly ever visit lounges then you’re not going to get your $400 worth of lounge access, and if you don’t catch the right sign-up bonus at the right time, then you may not be receiving enough value from the card to make it worth it applying for. That’s why it’s really important to gauge your interest and future traveling habits accurately before applying for these high-annual fee cards.

If you’re the right kind of traveller, though, you’ll soon find out that these premium credit cards bring far more value to your travels than what you pay for in your annual fee. 


Should I Apply For the American Express Platinum Card?

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Any time you’re applying for a card with an annual of $450 plus, you want to be sure that you’re making a smart decision and that the benefits that you’ll receive from your card will be worth it. The American Express Platinum Card is all about the benefits, meaning that you don’t get the Platinum card for its point earning potential — you get it for the lounge access, hotel status, etc. Here are some things to consider if you’re wondering if you should apply for the Platinum Card.

Do you value lounges?

The first thing to consider is whether not you value airport lounge access. The reason is that this is the primary benefit of the Platinum Card and if you don’t care for spending time in airport lounges, the value you place on this benefit (and the card in general) will be greatly diminished. 

What’s so great about airport lounges? 

There are several benefits to having access to lounges from a card like the Platinum Card.

For one, you get to escape the busy terminal waiting areas and relax in a nicer area with comfy seating, power outlets, free wifi, etc. You are usually given complimentary snacks or meals, drinks (alcoholic drinks are often included), and other items, such as magazines or newspapers. Some lounges have showers, play areas for children, and even areas for you to relax and take a nap. In short, airport lounges allow you to travel much more comfortably.

Complimentary drinks at MCO.

One often undiscussed benefit to lounges is that they also make your planning easier because layovers in a nice lounge can actually be enjoyable. Thus, you may have more options to choose from when putting your itinerary together.  

Ultimately, I recommend people to just try out a (good) lounge and see how they like it before they decide on how they value the “lounge experience” but from my experience most people come to love them. 

So once you’ve decided that you’re a lounge person (or at least open to being a lounge person), you want to take a look at the specific lounge benefits offered by the Platinum Card. 

Lounge Access offered by the Platinum Card

There are three different type of lounge access offered by the Platinum Card. 

Priority Pass

With the Platinum, you get “Prestige” level access to lounges from Priority Pass. This is a benefit worth $400 and will get you access to over 850 airport lounges worldwide, so if you’re planning on doing international travel, chances are you’ll come across an airport with a lounge for Priority Pass members. 

Most of the Priority Pass lounges provide complimentary alcohol, refreshments and/or meals, free wifi, comfortable and quiet spaces to relax, a selection of magazines, power outlets, and some even have showers, spa, and bed facilities.

Centurion Lounges 

With the Platinum Card, you get access to American Express Centurion Lounges for yourself and two guests or immediate family members. Centurion lounges are among the best lounges that you’ll find at U.S. airports. They currently have locations at SFO, SEA, LAS, LGA, MIA, DFW and the freshly opened one in Houston (IAH). 

Delta SkyClub lounges

You also get access to Delta Sky Club lounges but you will need to be flying with Delta that day in order to gain access.

How often would you utilize lounge benefits?

Once you’ve determined that you value lounge access offered by the Platinum Card, you have to determine  how often you would take advantage of the lounge access. This will be an easy way to find out if the lounge benefits alone will make the Platinum worth applying for.   

If you only fly one or two times a year, you’d probably be better of just purchasing one-time passes or looking into a card like the United MileagePlus Explorer card to get you one-time access into a United Club lounge.

If you take about 3 to 5 trips a year (6 to 10 potential lounge visits), you will probably get your money’s worth out of the Platinum Card by spending time in airport lounges but you might want to check to see if the airports you’ll likely frequent have Priority Pass lounges by using this search tool.

If you don’t think you will be using lounges

If you consider your travel plans and airports that you’ll be using and find that you probably won’t be utilizing the lounge access benefit with Priority Pass lounges, Centurion Lounges, or Delta SkyClub Lounges, you shouldn’t ditch your plans to apply for the Platinum immediately.

That’s because if you catch the Platinum card with a 75,000 or 100,000 Membership Rewards offer, it might still be worth it to apply. Such an offer could easily provide you with over $2,000 in value (not counting the value from the lounges). That’s why some people will even apply for two American Express Platinum Cards, because with the $200 airline credits factored in, you can essentially turn $250 into over $2,000 worth of travel currency with one card. At that point, it’s not about the benefits, it’s all about the value of the sign-up bonus. 

Thus, if you don’t think lounge access is a benefit that makes the Platinum Card valuable to you, then you should still consider the value that might be earned with the sign-up bonuses (not to mention other benefits.)

If you do think you will be using lounges

So now let’s assume that you do think you will be getting your money’s worth by visiting lounges, does that mean you should just apply for the American Express Platinum Card? No. Before you decide to apply, you should consider alternatives for getting you lounge access. 

The alternatives

You should weigh your other options and consider other credit cards that offer lounge access. Unless you’re thinking about going with a co-branded card for a specific airline like United, American Airlines, or Delta, the most competitive card will likely be the Citi Prestige.

The Citi Prestige

You’ll need to make the call of which card you’d prefer (unless you’re thinking about going with both). You can read up on my comparison of the American Express Platinum Card versus the Citi Prestige here.

It’s really hard to go with the Platinum Card over the Citi Prestige considering that the Prestige offers the following benefits for the same annual fee of $450:

  • $250 airline credit that can be used even for tickets
  • 3x on airfare and hotels, and 2X on dining and entertainment
  • Fourth night free when booking hotels
  • Allows two guests to visit Priority Pass lounges for free
  • Admirals Club access to the primary cardholder when flying on American Airlines.
  • Allows you to add each authorized user for $50.

Compare the difference in these benefits offered by the Platinum:

  • $200 airline credit that is meant to be utilized for fees and incidentals (although there are ways around this)
  • No bonus category points
  • Gold HHonors and SPG status
  • No free guests with your Priority Pass and you must pay $27 per guest
  • Access to Centurion Lounges with free access for up to two guests
  • Add up to three authorized users for $175 total
  • Free Boingo Wifi subscription 
  • Access to Amex Offers

I’ve enjoyed the complimentary Gold status with Hilton as I’ve been upgraded to better rooms during my last 3 stays as a result of it; however, in a straight comparison, the benefits of the Citi Prestige stretch further and are simply more valuable, especially if you take advantage of the 4th night free benefit.

So should you apply? 

I think that the main reason to go with the Platinum Card over the Prestige is for the high bonuses that are offered. The 100,000 Membership Rewards offer (or even 75,000) that roll out would definitely make me consider taking the Platinum Card over the Prestige, especially if I were likely to visit airports with Centurion Lounges and valued Gold status with Hilton and SPG. If I had to choose between the standard 50K Prestige offer and the 100K Platinum offer, I think I’d go with the Platinum but otherwise, I think I’d lean more towards the Prestige. 

The Best Credit Cards with Lounge Access

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There are a number of credit cards that offer airport lounge access, but they all come with pretty hefty annual fees (which are almost never waived) so you want to make sure that you’re going with the card that will benefit you the most before applying for them. Which card will be best for you will depend on factors such as what airline you frequently fly with, which airports you frequent, and how much you value additional benefits that the card offers. Here’s a breakdown of my top 5 credit cards that offer airport lounge access.

Platinum Card from American Express


  • Annual Fee: $450

The Platinum Card from American Express offers you the “Prestige” level membership to Priority Pass  — worth $400 a year. This grants you access to over 850 airport lounges worldwide and you should be able to find a lounge at just about every major airport. Most of the lounges provide complimentary alcohol, refreshments and/or meals, free wifi, comfortable and quiet spaces to relax, a selection of magazines, power outlets, and some even have showers, spa, and bed facilities.

The Platinum Card also provides you with access to American Express Centurion Lounges for yourself and two guests or immediate family members. Centurion lounges are among the best lounges that you’ll find at U.S. airports. They currently have locations at SFO, SEA, LAS, LGA, MIA, DFW and coming this year (2016) they will have one in Houston (IAH).
The Centurion Lounge at SFO.

Photo by Mighty Travels via Flickr.

What’s really nice about the Centurion lounges is that with the Platinum Card you’re allowed to bring in immediate family members or up to two guests for no additional fee. Thus, if you frequent any one of the above airports with Centurion lounges with travel partners or family, you may want to seriously consider the Platinum Card. 

Also not to be forgotten is that the Platinum Card provides access to Delta Sky Club lounges; however, you will need to be flying with Delta that day in order to gain access.

The Platinum card allows up to three authorized users to be added for the total price of $175 and each of the authorized users will be offered full benefits like Priority Pass and entrance into the Centurion and Delta Sky Club lounges. If you can max out the authorized users there’s a potential for huge value as you’d getting well over $1,200 in value a year for a mere $175.

Other benefits include:

  • $200 annual airline credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $250)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check (a Godsend that’s good for 5 years!)
  • Gold status with Hilton and Starwood
  • Free Boingo Wifi subscription (worth $120 per year)
  • Rental car benefits like express check-in, free upgrades, and discounts with status.
  • Concierge service

The standard sign-up bonus for the Platinum Card is 40,000 Membership Rewards but you can come across targeted offers for as high as 100,000 Membership Rewards making the potential value of the Platinum Card very hard to beat.

Citi Prestige


  • Annual Fee: $450

The Citi Prestige also offers Priority Pass but with the Citi Prestige, you can take up to two guests with you into the lounge for free. Compare this with the Amex Platinum which requires the guests to pay $27 each time for lounge access. If you and your partner do all of your traveling together then this essentially operates as a free membership for them, which means you’re getting about $800 in benefits!

The Club lounge
The Club Lounge at MCO accessed via Priority Pass

With the Prestige, you are also offered access to the Admirals Club lounges when you fly American Airlines on that day. Unfortunately, this benefit is not offered to authorized users and can only be utilized by the primary cardholder.

You can add an unlimited number of authorized users to your Citi Prestige for $50 each. Authorized users for the Prestige aren’t given the 4th night free, Admirals Club access, or the Global Entry Credit, but they do get the Priority Pass membership, which means they’re getting a $400 benefit for only $50, so it’s still a sweet deal!

Other benefits include:

  • $250 airline credit (which can be used for broader expenses, such as airline tickets)
  • Complimentary night at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive-night booking (Probably the most valuable benefit)
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • 3 free rounds of golf through GolfSwitch
  • Rental car benefits like express check-in, free upgrades, and discounts with status.
  • Concierge service
  • Bonus category spending:
    • 3X on air travel and hotels
    • 2X on dining and entertainment
    • 1X on all other purchases

The Citi Prestige also comes with a solid sign-up bonus at 40,000 Thankyou Points and can even be as high as 100,000!

To read up more on the Citi Prestige vs the Platinum Card from American Express read here.

Citi® AAdvantage® Executive

card-executive AMERICAN

  • Annual Fee: $450

This card will provide you with access to over 40 Admirals Club® lounges and access to other airline lounges, such as Qantas lounges. It also allows you to bring in immediate family members (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) or up 2 guests traveling with the primary cardmember or authorized user. 

A newly added benefit is that authorized users are allowed access to the Admirals Club® lounges, though it comes with some restrictions. For example, the authorized user benefit does not provide: (i) access privileges to the Arrivals Lounge, Flagship Lounge facilities, or other airline lounges or clubs with which American Airlines may have reciprocal lounge or club access privileges, including lounges operated by members of the oneworld alliance. Still, even with some limitations, with no fee to add authorized users, this can be a tremendously valuable benefit. 

Other benefits include:

  • First Checked Bag Free
  • MileSAAver discount for on MileSAAver awards to destinations selected every other month
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Application Fee Credit
  • 25% savings on in–flight purchases of food, beverages, and headsets on flights operated by American Airlines
  • Priority check-in, airport screening, and priority boarding privileges when traveling on domestic flights
  • The primary cardmember will earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 in purchases that post to cardmember’s January through December billing statements

The annual fee is $450 but it’s cheaper than what you’d pay for Admirals Club membership without status ($500).

The sign-up bonus for the Executive Card is 60,000 miles but offers have been as high as 100,000 in the past.

United MileagePlus® Club card


  • Annual Fee: $450

This card provides you with United Club membership but authorized users will not receive their own United Club membership and are only eligible for United Club access if they are traveling with the primary cardmember, as two guests or one guest and dependent children are allowed access to the lounge with the card. With the Club card, you’ll also have access to hundreds of Star Alliance lounges when departing from those airports on a Star Alliance partner (but be limited to one guest).

IAH united lounge
IAH United Lounge Terminal D

Other benefits include:

  • Designated check-in lines, priority security lanes, priority boarding
  • Free 1st and 2nd checked bag, priority baggage handling
  • Close-in booking fee waivers on award tickets booked less than 21 days before departure
  • Earnings of 1.5 miles for each $1 on purchases.
  • Primary Cardmember is eligible for Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program.
  • Use your miles to book any available seat, any time, on any United-operated flight. If seats are available for sale, they can be redeemed at the MileagePlus Standard Award level

The annual fee is $450 but it’s $100 cheaper than the $550 that you’d pay for United Club membership.

There is no sign-up bonus for miles with the card but you are given a $100 statement credit after your first purchase with the credit card.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express


Annual Fee: $450

This card offers you complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges and a discounted rate ($29 per person) for up to two guests, so guests cannot get in for free. Authorized users can be added for $175 per card. As of yet, the Delta Reserve Credit Card does not allow access to SkyTeam partner lounges. (You can use this tool to find lounges where you’d be allowed entry with the card).

Other benefits include:

  • Get 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMS) after you reach $30,000 or more on purchases on your Card within the calendar year and if you spend $60,000 or more, you will be awarded an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs.
  • You and up to eight more passengers in your reservation can board your flight with Zone 1 priority boarding
  • You can check your first bag free on Delta flights booked with your Card
  • Delta Reserve Companion Certificate
  • 20% savings on certain in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets, and movies, shows, etc.
  • Delta Reserve Companion Certificate upon renewal of your card good for a round-trip domestic flight.

The sign up bonus is currently get 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 10,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the Card.

Final Word 

Always consider the airlines you’ll be frequenting and the airports you’ll likely be visiting before jumping on a card for lounge benefits. In addition, some of the additional benefits, especially for the Platinum Card and Citi Prestige can be add up to save you thousands, so always factor in those benefits as well.