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Credit card showdown: Citi Premier vs. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select

Sept. 10, 2021
9 min read
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American Airlines AAdvantage miles are one of my favorite currencies for booking flights, so I'm always looking for ways to boost my balances. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is usually the first choice of many travelers, but we now have a new way to earn more American Airlines AAdvantage miles. For a limited time, Citi ThankYou Points transfer to American Airlines on a 1:1 basis (until Nov. 13). This means that you can receive up to 3 AAdvantage miles per dollar on every purchase you make with the Citi Premier® Card.

The information for the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

If you want to earn more AAdvantage miles, here's how to choose between the Citi Premier Card and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Card.

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Benefits of the Citi Premier

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Citi Premier is the favorite way for many readers to earn and redeem ThankYou Points. Not only can you earn up to 3 points on every dollar that you spend, but your points can be used to buy gift cards, book travel or transfer to airline partners.

Welcome bonuses are one of the easiest ways to earn bunches of points. Citi is currently offering the best-ever sign-up bonus of 80,000 ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening to entice new applications. You can redeem these points for $800 in gift cards, but you'll get the best value from these points by transferring them to one of Citi's 15+ airline transfer partners. TPG values these points at 1.4 cents each, making this sign-up bonus worth at least $1,120.

The value of this offer convinced me to apply, and I was literally approved while writing this article. While the card's airline transfer partners usually offer tremendous value, having American Airlines as a limited-time transfer partner only increases their worth.

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(Screenshot courtesy of Citi)

The Citi Premier also comes with excellent earning power and a variety of benefits for cardholders, including:

Earning power

I like that the Citi Premier offers 3x on a variety of everyday spending categories. While the 3x on air travel and hotels is a great return alone, most of us spend more money on dining, gas, and groceries each year than we do on travel. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. There is no limit to the number of points you can earn, so you can really maximize your regular purchases.

$100 off a hotel stay

(Photo courtesy of the Miramonti Boutique Hotel)

When you book a hotel reservation of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through, you'll receive a $100 discount on your stay. This benefit is available once per calendar year and can help to offset the card's $95 annual fee.

Take note that most hotels do not provide elite status benefits, points, or stay credits when booking through a third-party site. So, this benefit is best used when staying at an independent hotel or with a brand that you don't have elite status.

No foreign transaction fees

When you make purchases outside of the U.S., some credit cards charge up to a 3% fee on every transaction. The Citi Premier Card does not charge these fees, so you're saving up to 3% compared to other credit cards.

Airline transfer partners

While some people redeem their ThankYou Points to buy gift cards or book travel, the way to maximize the value of your points is through transfer partners. Including American Airlines (until Nov. 13, 2021), ThankYou Points earned with the Citi Premier can now transfer to 17 airlines on a 1:1 basis. Other transfer partners include Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Air France/KLM and Virgin Atlantic.

Citi has offered American Airlines credit cards for many years, so adding them as a transfer partner (even if only on a limited basis) makes total sense. Could this be a test to see how popular American Airlines is as a transfer partner? Only time will tell.

(Screenshot courtesy of Citi)

Related: Citi Premier credit card review

Benefits of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card has long been the most popular way to earn American Airlines miles. Aside from earning miles from the sign-up bonus and your everyday spending, this card offers additional benefits that justify its annual fee for people who fly on American.

Sign-up bonus

When you apply for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, you'll earn a welcome bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. With an average value of 1.4 cents a mile each, the welcome bonus is worth on average of $700.

First-year annual fee waived

Sometimes you're unsure whether or not a credit card's benefits are worth the annual fee. With the Citi AAdvantage Platinum's annual fee waived the first year, you can enjoy its benefits for 12 months before having to decide if the card is a long-term keeper.

First checked bag free

American Airlines charges $30 per person for the first checked bag each way, meaning you'll be paying $60 per person on a round-trip flight. The Citi AAdvantage Platinum card waives the first checked bag fee for the cardholder and up to four travel companions on the same itinerary. This benefit is a savings of up to $300 per round trip flight and more than makes up for the card's ongoing $99 annual fee.

Preferred boarding on American Airlines

Priority boarding ensures that you have access to the overhead bins first. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Most of us want to get on the plane quickly to get settled in for the flight. Unless you have elite status, you're going to be waiting around for a while. With the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, you and your travel companions get preferred boarding to expedite entry onto the plane.

Discount on in-flight food and drinks

While American Airlines often includes free soda and snacks on flights, sometimes that isn't enough to quench your thirst or satisfy your taste buds. When you pay for your in-flight food and drinks with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, you'll receive a 25% statement credit for in-flight purchases.

Annual $125 flight discount

When you spend at least $20,000 during your card membership year, you'll receive a $125 American Airlines flight discount towards a future flight after paying your annual fee. This spending hurdle breaks down to an average of $1,667 per month in spending, which is readily attainable for many cardholders.

Related: Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard review

Comparing the Citi Premier vs. Citi AAdvantage Platinum

To determine which of these two credit cards you should get, it helps to compare their features and benefits.

Citi PremierCiti AAdvantage PlatinumWinner
Sign-up bonus80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months of account opening.Citi Premier
Annual fee$95$99, waived the first yearCiti AAdvantage Platinum
Earning power3x restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, hotels

1x all else

2x dining, gas and eligible American Airlines purchases

1x all else

Citi Premier
Foreign transaction feesNoneNoneTie
Other benefits$100 annual hotel savings of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) each calendar year when booked through Citi ThankYou rewards

Access to Citi ThankYou transfer partners

Free checked bag

Priority boarding

25% in-flight savings

$125 AA discount (after $20,000 in spend per card membership year)

Depends on the user

How do you choose which card to get?

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The best credit card for you depends on what you value the most.

Based on the chart above, the Citi Premier offers a bigger bonus for new cardholders and more earning power across every category. Plus, it earns bonus rewards on categories that the Citi AAdvantage does not offer.

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum is best for travelers that check bags when flying American because it will save you $30 each way for each traveler that checks a bag. These savings add up quickly when you're traveling with companions. The free checked bag benefit is a savings of $240 per round-trip flight for my family of four.

Readers who may have trouble meeting the Citi Premier's sign-up bonus spending requirements ($4,000 vs. $2,500) may consider the Citi AAdvantage Platinum instead.

Bottom line

With the addition of American Airlines as a limited-time transfer partner, the value of the Citi Premier Card increases significantly. The Citi Premier offers a higher sign-up bonus and earns up to 3 points on every dollar that you spend. If you're focused on earning the most AAdvantage miles possible over the next few months, this is the card for you. Hopefully, the popularity of this limited-time offer shows Citi and American Airlines that customers value this transfer option and will make it permanent at some point in the future.

Official application link: Citi Premier card with 80,000 bonus points.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.