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TPG reader James sent me a message on Facebook to ask about maximizing credit card bonus categories:
“Do you think the Citi Prestige and Thank You Premier cards pair well with each other due to the different bonus categories, or is there enough overlap that I should just get one?”
In January, we wrote about how you can use a trio of Chase cards in tandem to take advantage of their respective bonus categories. This “Chase Trifecta” (which could soon be expanded to include the new Freedom Unlimited Card) is a great way to maximize a wide variety of purchases if your goal is to earn Ultimate Rewards points. James is thinking about using a similar strategy to earn Citi ThankYou points, and wants to know whether combining cards in that program will offer a good return.
The Citi Prestige Card earns a solid 3 points per dollar on air travel and hotels, as well as 2 points per dollar on dining out and entertainment. Meanwhile, the Citi Premier Card, earns 3 points per dollar on a broader range of travel expenses that also includes car rentals, taxis, parking and even gas, plus the same 2 points per dollar on dining and entertainment. The bonus categories on these two cards overlap much more than those on the Chase cards discussed above, but I think you could justify having both depending on your spending habits.
For starters, both cards come with strong sign-up bonuses: The Prestige card offers 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, while the Premier card earns 30,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (though you may be targeted for a higher 50,000-point offer that requires spending $3,500). Based on my most recent monthly valuations, the Prestige bonus is worth $800 while the ThankYou Premier’s is worth $640, so there’s a strong incentive to apply. The Premier card waives its $95 annual fee for the first year, and while the more premium Prestige card has a $450 fee that isn’t waived, it comes with a lucrative suite of benefits that can easily outweigh the cost.
Plenty of cards offer competitive rewards for spending on gas, airfare and/or hotels, but the uncapped 3x bonus on ThankYou Premier is probably the best all-around return on miscellaneous travel purchases. If you spend a lot on things like Uber/Lyft, public transportation, tolls or other qualifying expenses, you might benefit from having both cards despite the similarities.
One other consideration is how invested you want to be in ThankYou Rewards. Citi has made improvements to the program over the past few years, but I recommend diversifying your points and miles even among the different types of transferable rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel, and has an equally comprehensive list of qualifying purchases. The overall return is a bit lower, but you’ll get access to different airline and hotel partners, as well as benefits like primary car rental insurance, so it’s another good option to pair with Citi Prestige.
I suggest you look over your past travel purchases, particularly the ones that qualify for a bonus on the ThankYou Premier or Sapphire Preferred, but not on Citi Prestige. Once you know how much you spend, you can decide whether it makes sense to pay an annual fee for a card that rewards you for those items.
Know before you go.
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