Credit card benefits are constantly evolving, and it can be tough to keep track of which cards are best. This is especially true in recent months, where we’ve seen some card issuers adjust perks and add new temporary bonuses.
In light of that, I wanted to provide a comparison of two of the most popular mid-range credit cards out there.
Comparing the Chase Sapphire Preferred & Citi Premier
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) and Citi Premier® Card (review) are two of my favorite cards with annual fees of under $100. In this post, I wanted to compare the two cards, since I know many people try to figure out which of these two cards makes the most sense for them.
While the cards have a lot in common, there are also major differences between them. So let’s compare various aspects of the cards, in no particular order:
How do welcome bonuses compare?
Both cards are offering excellent welcome bonuses at the moment for new cardmembers:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months
- The Citi Premier is offering 60,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months
Winner: I value Ultimate Rewards points and ThankYou points roughly equally, so it is a toss-up with the same bonuses.
60,000 Ultimate Rewards points is enough for $750 worth of airfare
How do eligibility & approval odds compare?
Credit card issuers have all kinds of rules when it comes to approving people for new cards, and both of these cards have their fair share of restrictions.
The welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred isn’t available to:
- Those who currently have the card, or who have received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 48 months
- Those who currently have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review), or who have received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 48 months
- Those who exceed Chase’s 5/24 limit, which would be those who have opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months
Meanwhile, the welcome bonus on the Citi Premier isn’t available to:
- Those who have received a new cardmember bonus on the Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier, or Citi Prestige, in the past 24 months
- Those who have closed the Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier, or Citi Prestige, in the past 24 months
Winner: While the answer will vary based on your specific situation, generally speaking the Citi Premier is easier to be approved for. That’s because Citi doesn’t have a 5/24 rule, and also because you’re prevented from getting the Sapphire Preferred if you have the Sapphire Reserve. With Citi the key is just that you haven’t opened or closed one of four cards in the past 24 months (it’s fine to have it open, you just can’t have opened or closed it in that period).
How do annual fees compare?
Winner: This is a tie, since both cards have the same annual fees.
How do bonus categories compare?
Both cards offer bonus categories for purchases that are popular with consumers, but the rewards structures are very different.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers:
- 2x points on dining purchases
- 2x points on travel purchases
- 2x points on grocery store purchases, up to $1,000 per month in spending (this is limited time, through April 30, 2021)
- 1x points on all other purchases
The Citi Premier offers:
- 3x points on dining purchases
- 3x points on grocery store purchases
- 3x points on gas station purchases
- 3x points on airfare purchases
- 3x points on hotel purchases
- 1x points on all other purchases
Both cards offer bonus points on dining
How does car rental & travel protection compare?
One potential perk of getting a travel rewards card is valuable travel protection:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers primary car rental collision damage waiver coverage both in the US and abroad, and excellent flight delay, trip cancelation, and lost baggage coverage
- The Citi Premier doesn’t offer car rental and other travel protection benefits, so the card isn’t particularly competitive in that regard
Winner: The Sapphire Preferred wins by a long shot, because it offers excellent travel coverage, while the Citi Premier doesn’t.
How does the value of points compare?
Both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou have transfer partners, and also let you redeem points as cash towards the cost of travel purchases.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned through the Chase Sapphire Preferred:
- Can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase, and through April 30, 2021, can be redeemed at the same rate towards everyday expenses, including purchases at grocery stores, dining, and home improvement stores
- If you instead have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards the same purchases
- Can be transferred to the below airline and hotel partners
|Aer Lingus Aer Club||IHG Rewards Club|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Marriott Bonvoy|
|British Airways Executive Club||World of Hyatt|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
Citi ThankYou points earned through the Citi Premier:
- Can be redeemed towards the cost of airfare at the rate of 1.25 cents per point through April 9, 2021 (after that points can only be redeemed for one cent each towards the cost of airfare)
- Can be transferred to the below airline partners
|Aeroméxico Club Premier||N/A|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands|
|Malaysia Airlines Enrich|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus|
|Turkish Airways Miles & Smiles|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
As far as transfer partners go, in the past, I may have said that Ultimate Rewards points were worth a bit more than ThankYou points, but I no longer think that’s the case. Chase lost Korean Air SkyPass as a partner a few years back, and Citi has added partners and also offered quite a few transfer bonuses.
Winner: While I personally value the points currencies roughly equally, I do think Chase has the edge here in the coronavirus era. Points can be redeemed at a better cash rate towards both travel and everyday expenses, which isn’t the case with Citi ThankYou.
Both points can be transferred to Singapore KrisFlyer
How do card ecosystems compare?
One of the great things about getting a card that belongs to one of the major transferable points currencies is that there are card ecosystems that can really help you maximize points. In other words, you can get multiple cards that complement one another to maximize your rewards.
Chase Ultimate Rewards arguably offers the most robust points ecosystem. For example, you could complement the Chase Sapphire Preferred with the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review), which is a $95 annual fee card that offers 3x points on the first $150,000 of combined purchases per cardmember year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.
You could also complement the Sapphire Preferred with any of the following no annual fee cards to really maximize your points earning potential:
- The Chase Freedom FlexSM (review) offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spending per quarter, plus 5x points on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, plus 3x points on dining and drugstores
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) offers 5x points on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, plus 3x points on dining and drugstores, plus 1.5x points on everyday spending
- The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (review) offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each anniversary year on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 spend in combined purchases each anniversary year on gas stations and restaurants
- The Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card (review) offers 1.5x points on everyday spending
I love being able to create a portfolio of Chase cards
The Citi Premier does directly have great bonus categories that exceed those of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and then there are two no annual fee cards that can help you maximize your ThankYou points earning potential:
- The Citi® Double Cash Card (review) offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase and 1% cash back when you pay for a purchase, and in conjunction with the Citi Premier, rewards can be transferred to ThankYou points at a rate of one cent per point, which is a great deal; this is a way to earn two ThankYou points per dollar spent on everyday purchases
- The Citi Rewards+® Card (review) rounds up purchases to the nearest 10 points, and also gives you a 10% refund on redeemed points, for up to 100,000 redeemed points per year
Winner: Chase really shines when it comes to the ability to create a portfolio of cards earning Ultimate Rewards points. Rather than only using one card to maximize points, you can use several cards, and you can pool points across them. That being said, Citi isn’t too far behind with the stacking potential of the Citi Premier, Citi Double Cash, and Citi Rewards+.
Citi ThankYou card options have become decent as well
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier are among the best cards with annual fees of under $100. Which card is better really depends on your specific spending patterns, and what you’re looking for out of a card.
As you can see, while the annual fees on the cards are the same, otherwise there are quite some differences between them, and each card shines in different areas.
I guess to simplify my advice as much as possible, for a beginner looking for a single card, I think the Citi Premier is a great option. The card has better bonus categories, it might be easier to get approved for, and the points give you a lot of flexibility. Complement it with a Citi Double Cash, and you’ll also be earning 2x points on everyday spending.
I think the area where the Chase Sapphire Preferred really shines is if you’re looking to build a portfolio of cards, given the number of other cards that can potentially earn you tons of Ultimate Rewards points. On top of that, the card is especially valuable if you value travel and car rental coverage.
You can’t really go wrong with either, though, and you could always get both and then decide which card works better for you.
Do you prefer the Sapphire Preferred or Citi Premier?