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The Citi Premier is the new best credit card for domestic travel (for a limited time)

Sept. 15, 2021
7 min read
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With one simple but potent travel promotion, the Citi Premier® Card has become the best travel credit card for domestic travelers. Its utility for U.S. travel is particularly desirable when considering the unremitting seesaw of international travel restrictions caused by the delta variant and surging COVID-19 cases. With new entry requirements ambushing travelers at every turn, many vacationers are opting to remain stateside for a while longer.

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So what's the promotion? Through Nov. 13, 2021, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. That's something no other rewards currency can do.

If you're interested in traveling within the U.S., the Citi Premier is likely the best card for your goals. It even comes with an all-time high 80,000-ThankYou point bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Whether you're flying to grandma's house for Thanksgiving or taking a road trip with your friends, this card is a no-brainer. And when international travel becomes less complicated, its rewards are great for that, too.

Official application link: Citi Premier with an 80,000-point bonus.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

ideal for road trips

Above-average earning rates

The Citi Premier has arguably the most useful bonus categories of any travel rewards credit card. You'll earn 3 Citi ThankYou points per dollar with:

Whether you're traveling or not, these categories encompass a significant amount of everyday spending — but road trippers will rack up points especially quickly.

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Annual hotel credit

The Citi Premier comes with a $100 annual hotel credit each calendar year for single-stay hotel bookings of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) made through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. While this may not move the needle much, it's an easy way to offset the card's $95 annual fee each year.

Redeem points for hotels, rental cars and more (not recommended)

While the best way to redeem Citi ThankYou points is by transferring them to airline partners (as you'll see below), you can also use them for hotels, rental cars, gift cards, etc., through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. Points are worth 1 cent each when redeeming for travel.

If you prefer road trips to air travel, you may get the most use from your points by redeeming them at 1 cent each for:

  • Rental cars
  • Hotel stays
  • Airbnb gift cards (often roomier than hotels)
  • Restaurant gift cards for food along your journey

Again, this is far from the best value you can receive from your points — but don't let that stop you from redeeming them in the way that best fits your travel style.

Ideal for domestic flights

You can use the points for (among other things) award flights on many different airlines. But here are the airlines that make it uniquely useful for domestic flights.

American Airlines

As stated above, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines at a ratio of 1:1 through Nov. 13, 2021. No other points currency transfers to American Airlines at such a favorable rate. The Citi Premier is by far the fastest way to earn American Airlines miles — even cobranded American Airlines credit cards can't keep pace with its broad 3x earning categories.

It's very easy to find a solid deal with American Airlines miles. I've got an upcoming trip between Dayton and Portland, and I was able to reserve a flight for just 6,000 miles one way. The cash price for the same ticket is $278, which means I'm receiving a value of more than 4 cents from my miles.

The ability to convert Citi ThankYou points into American Airlines miles gives this card a huge advantage over other travel credit cards on the market.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Turkish Airlines

Another exclusive feature of the Citi Premier is: It's the only credit card available that transfers to Turkish Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.

Turkish Airlines doesn't sound like it'd be at all helpful for booking domestic flights — but in actuality, it's an incredible tool for securing cheap seats on United Airlines. All domestic United airlines flights cost 7,500 miles one-way. Whether you're flying from Indianapolis to Chicago or from Newark to Honolulu, you'll pay just 7,500 miles. That flat rate makes Turkish Airlines one of the best destinations for your ThankYou points.

Just note that availability isn't as plenteous as you'll find on the United Airlines website. There are occasionally bafflingly few award seats. If you're flying to or from a United hub, such as San Francisco, Chicago or Washington Dulles, you'll have a much better chance of finding availability. Read our Turkish Airlines guide to learn how to book.

(Screenshot courtesy of Turkish Airlines)

Virgin Atlantic

Citi also has a few transfer partners which you can leverage to fly on Delta. The most useful is often Virgin Atlantic. This is not unique to the Citi Premier, but it's worth mentioning to underscore that you can use its rewards to fly on all three legacy U.S. carriers.

Virgin Atlantic charges for Delta flights based on the distance you fly. For example, you'll pay:

  • 0-500 miles: 7,500 points
  • 501-1,000 miles: 8,500 points
  • 1,001-1,500 miles: 11,500 points
  • 1,501-2,000 miles: 12,500 points
  • 2,001-3,000 miles: 15,000 points
  • 3,001-4,000 miles: 22,500 points

Below is a flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta. It's a 373-mile flight, and therefore costs 7,500 Virgin Atlantic points.

(Screenshot courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Note that if you're flying 2,001+ miles, you may want to transfer your Citi ThankYou points to Flying Blue (the loyalty program of KLM and Air France), as it will likely offer better prices for your domestic Delta flight. Citi ThankYou points transfer at a rate of 1:1 to both Virgin Atlantic and Flying Blue.

Bottom line

The Citi Premier is currently the best credit card for domestic travelers for two big reasons:

  1. It earns bonus points on popular road trip expenses, such as gas, restaurants and hotels.
  2. You can use its points for super cheap domestic flights on all three major U.S. carriers: American Airlines (through Nov 13, 2021), Delta, and United Airlines.

No other card on the market is as well-rounded in the above categories as the Citi Premier. If Citi can eventually secure American Airlines as a permanent transfer partner, the Citi Premier will remain the best domestic travel rewards card for the foreseeable future. Be sure to read our Citi Premier review to learn of all the other benefits this card has to offer.

Application link: Citi Premier Card with an 80,000-point sign-up bonus.

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.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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