When talking about mid-range credit cards that earn transferrable points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is probably the first card that comes to mind for many. The card offers a big welcome bonus, bonus categories, and great protection.
However, there are a couple of cards that can compete with the Sapphire Preferred, and in this post I wanted to take a look at one of those cards, which I think for many people may just be a better option.
Citi Premier Card basics for January 2020
The Citi Premier℠ Card is an often overlooked card that offers a welcome bonus that could get you $750 worth of travel (or potentially even more), that offers up to 3x points in certain spending categories, and that earns points that can be transferred to over a dozen airline partners.
Is this card right for you, though? Let’s look at this card in a bit more detail.
60K Point Welcome Bonus ($750 Worth Of Airfare)
The Citi Premier has a welcome bonus of 60,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months. This bonus was increased earlier this year, as previously the card offered a bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points.
At an absolute minimum, ThankYou points earned with this card can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards an airfare purchase, meaning that 60,000 ThankYou points will get you $750 worth of airfare.
As I’ll explain below, there are ways to get way more value out of the points than that.
Redeem your ThankYou points for a flight in Royal Air Maroc’s 787 business class
Card Bonus Eligibility
There are some restrictions to be aware of if you’re looking to earn the welcome bonus on the Citi Premier. You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus if you’ve:
- Received a new cardmember bonus on the Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier, or Citi Prestige, in the past 24 months
- Closed the Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier, or Citi Prestige, in the past 24 months
In other words, it’s fine if you have one of those other cards, but you just can’t have opened or closed it in that time period. So if you’re a current Citi Prestige Card member, you can get the Citi Premier Card as long as you got the Prestige over 24 months ago.
Also be aware of Citi’s other general card approval rules:
- You can only apply for one Citi card every eight days
- You can apply for no more than two Citi cards every 65 days
See this post for the details of most major credit card restrictions down by issuer.
Citi has some unique restrictions when it comes to card eligibility
Citi will often let you product change cards from one card to another, assuming you’ve had it for at least 12 months. So for example, one strategy could be to apply for the Citi Premier, and then later you could product change it to the Citi Prestige or Citi Rewards+.
You’ll have to call Citi to find out the options available on your account.
$95 Annual Fee
The Citi Premier Card has a reasonable $95 annual fee. You can add authorized users to the card at no extra cost, and any spending they put on their card will contribute towards the points you earn.
Earning Points With The Citi Premier Card
The Citi Premier offers the best bonus categories of any mid-range credit card, in my opinion. When picking a credit card I recommend getting one that offers bonus points in categories that you’re likely to spend a lot.
Credit cards offer bonus points on categories like travel, dining, gas, supermarkets, etc., so just pick a card that offers points in categories useful to you.
3x Points On Travel & Gas
The Citi Premier offers an incredible 3x points on travel and gas purchases. There’s no limit to how many bonus points you can earn with this bonus category.
What Counts As Travel & Gas?
For the purposes of earning 3x points, here’s what’s included:
purchases at airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, gas stations, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, timeshares, bus lines, motor home/recreational vehicle rentals and boat leases and rentals
2x Points On Dining & Entertainment
Not only does the card offer 3x points on travel and gas, but it offers 2x points on dining and entertainment. Dining is a huge bonus category for many, and I’d note that entertainment is a unique bonus category that you don’t see on many cards.
What Counts As Dining & Entertainment?
For the purposes of earning 2x points, here’s what’s included:
purchases at restaurants (including cafes, bars, lounges and fast food restaurants), and on select entertainment, including live entertainment, live theatrical productions, concerts, live sporting events, movie theaters, amusement parks (including zoos, aquariums, circuses and carnivals), tourist attractions (including museums and art galleries), record stores, video rental stores and on-demand internet streaming media;
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Citi Premier has no foreign transaction fees, so this is an excellent card to use for purchases globally, since you can earn valuable rewards while not being stuck with those fees, which are sometimes 3%.
Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points
The Citi Premier℠ Card earns ThankYou points. This is one of the four major transferable points currencies, and it’s also a points currency that I’ve found has increased in value significantly over the past couple of years. So let’s take a closer look at how redemptions work.
Redeem Points For 1.25 Cents Towards Airfare
A lot of people are put off by the complexity of airline frequent flyer programs, in which case the ability to redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of airfare is a great option to have.
You just have to book your travel through the Citi ThankYou travel center, and you can choose if you want to pay for your ticket entirely or partly with points.
This lets you avoid the blackout dates and complicated pricing of airline frequent flyer programs, and you’ll typically even earn airline miles for the tickets purchased using this method.
Redeem points for 1.25 cents towards airfare
Transfer Points To Airline Programs
Citi ThankYou points can also be transferred to airline partners. The program has the following 15 partners:
|Citi ThankYou Transfer Partner||Transfer Ratio|
|Aeroméxico Club Premier||1000 : 1000|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||1000 : 1000|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1000 : 1000|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1000 : 1000|
|Etihad Guest||1000 : 1000|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||1000 : 1000|
|Jet Airways JetPrivilege||1000 : 1000|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||1000 : 1000|
|Malaysia Airlines Enrich||1000 : 1000|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||1000 : 1000|
|Qatar Privilege Club||1000 : 1000|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1000 : 1000|
|Thai Royal Orchid Plus||1000 : 1000|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||1000 : 1000|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1000 : 1000|
This can be a great value if you’re looking to redeem for first and business class travel. That’s because first and business class tickets are often super expensive if paying cash, while they’re often reasonably priced if paying in points.
My favorite partners are Air France-KLM Flying Blue, Etihad Guest, Singapore KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and more.
Redeem ThankYou points for travel in Etihad first class
Look Out For Transfer Bonuses
One way to get even more value out of your ThankYou points is to look out for airline transfer bonuses. Occasionally Citi offers additional bonuses when you transfer points, and these can often be in the range of 20-30%.
We’ve seen these to Air France-KLM Flying Blue, Avianca LifeMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and more. These can be a great deal.
What About Redeeming For Gift Cards?
While you can redeem ThankYou points for gift cards, merchandise, and more, you absolutely shouldn’t consider this. That’s because you’ll consistently get less than a cent of value per point, which isn’t a good deal. Please redeem your ThankYou points for some sort of travel purchase, because you’ll get better value.
How Should You Redeem Citi ThankYou Points?
It all depends on what your travel goals are. Generally speaking:
- If you’re just looking to redeem for economy travel, then redeeming points for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of airfare could be a good deal
- If you want to redeem for travel in first and business class, there’s huge value in learning airline award charts, because you can get outsized value that way
Redeem your ThankYou points for travel in Delta business class
How To Combine Citi ThankYou Points
Note that if you have the Citi Premier, Citi Prestige, and or Citi Rewards+, then you can pool the points earned across all three cards. You can also transfer ThankYou points to other ThankYou members, though do note that these points then expire sooner.
Citi Premier Card Benefits
The Citi Premier Card used to be exceptional in this category, but unfortunately, that will be changing shortly. So let’s take a look at how the benefits of this card stack up to others when you factor in these changes.
World Elite Mastercard Benefits
The Citi Premier is a World Elite Mastercard, meaning that it comes with quite a few benefits you may not be familiar with. For example, Mastercard World Elite cardholders receive:
- A $10 Lyft credit after every five rides taken in a calendar month
- $5 off every Postmates order of $25 or more
Reduced Purchase, Travel, And Car Rental Coverage
Historically the Citi Premier offers excellent purchase protection, travel protection, and car rental coverage, though unfortunately this is being largely cut as of September 22, 2019. Unfortunately in that way the card is no longer very compelling.
Is The Citi Premier Card Worth It?
The Citi Premier℠ Card offers the most rewarding bonus categories of any mid-range credit card, in my opinion, and also has one of the best welcome bonuses. I also love Citi ThankYou points, and get huge value by transferring them to airline partners, especially in conjunction with a transfer bonus.
However, it’s also a bummer that Citi is eliminating travel protection, car rental coverage, and more, as of September 2019.
So, how does this compare to some of the other cards out there?
Comparison: Citi Premier Vs. Citi Prestige
The Citi Prestige is the premium version of the Citi Premier, so how do the cards compare?
- Welcome bonus: Citi Premier offers up to 60K points, Citi Prestige offers up to 50K points
- Annual fee: Citi Premier has a $95 annual fee, Citi Premier has a $495 annual fee
- Points earning: Citi Premier offers 3x points on travel and gas and 2x points on dining and entertainment, Citi Prestige offers 5x points on air travel and dining and 3x points on hotels and cruise lines
- Other perks: The Prestige has the benefit of offering a $250 travel credit every year, a Priority Pass membership, a fourth-night free benefit, and more.
In general, my recommendation is to start with the Citi Premier, see how you like it, and then after a year you can always product change to the Citi Prestige. That way you can take advantage of the better bonus and lower annual fee on the Citi Premier as you get used to the Citi ThankYou program.
If you value a Priority Pass membership, the Citi Prestige is a good option
Alternatives To The Citi Premier
If you want to consider another mid-range card in place of the Citi Premier, there are two cards I’d most consider:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The card also has a $95 annual fee, also has a 60K point welcome bonus, and also has points that can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards travel. I’d say the biggest differences are:
- The Citi Premier has better bonus categories, as the card offers triple points on travel and gas and double points on dining and entertainment, while the Sapphire Preferred offers double points on dining and travel
- The Sapphire Reserve offers significantly better travel, car rental, and purchase protection after September, so everyone has to decide how much they value that
Amex Gold Card
The American Express® Gold Card (review) offers 4x Membership Rewards points for dining at restaurants globally, 4x points for purchases at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 of spend per year), and 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines.
Those are some spectacular bonus categories, though the limitation on only being able to earn bonus points at supermarkets is significant, especially for those with large grocery bills.
The card has a $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees), though offers a $100 annual airline fee credit and up to $120 annual dining credit to offset it, though both of those benefits come with quite a few terms.
This card also doesn’t offer any real travel or car rental protection. So I think this is a great card for maximizing spend, though it’s not particularly well rounded, if you’re looking for a single card.
Citi Premier Card Summary
The Citi Premier℠ Card is an underrated card that earns valuable transferrable points. The card has a reasonable annual fee, huge welcome bonus, and huge bonus categories, especially for those who spend a lot on travel, gas, dining, and entertainment. I recently picked up this card myself, and think it’s a great card for others to consider as well.
In general for mid-range cards I really think it’s between the Citi Premier and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, as both are excellent cards. You can always pick up both cards and then long term decide which makes the most sense for you.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees).