Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi Premier: Which mid-tier travel card is better?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information on both credit cards. It was originally published on June 19, 2019.
As premium credit cards continue to raise annual fees, many cardholders are turning to mid-tier cards for earning travel rewards. Two issuers who offer strong contenders in the mid-tier card space are Chase and Citi. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the most popular credit cards on the market, for both rewards beginners and seasoned travelers. Citi, on the other hand, offers a comparable option in its Citi Premier® Card.
Both cards offer rewards in similar categories and a comparable welcome bonus, but which is better for your wallet?
|Card details||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Citi Premier|
|Welcome bonus||60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months||60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months|
|Earning structure||5x on Lyft
2x on travel and dining
1x on everything else
|3x on travel (including gas)
2x on dining and entertainment
1x on everything else
|Other benefits||25% redemption bonus when you book travel through the Chase portal
Complimentary DashPass membership through DoorDash
Robust travel protections
|25% redemption bonus when you book airfare through thankyou.com
Personal concierge service
Citi Entertainment Access
As you can see, both cards offer a similar rewards structure, welcome bonus offer and comparable benefits options. They are definitely geared toward the same type of traveler. But there are a few differences to consider before applying for one over the other. Let’s dig into the details of both of these great mid-tier travel cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier both offer 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. While the offer is identical on paper, we actually value one higher than the other.
TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the Sapphire Preferred welcome offer worth $1,200. After subtracting the $95 annual fee, you’ll walk away with a net value of $1,105. TPG only values ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, making the Premier’s bonus worth $1,020. After accounting for the $95 annual fee, your bonus value is $925.
While the welcome bonus certainly isn’t the only factor you should consider when choosing a credit card, it is important — especially when comparing two cards as similar as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Sign-up bonuses come and go, but it’s important to pick a card with strong bonus categories that will help you continue to earn points year after year. This is where the Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred start to differ.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a standard 2x on all dining and travel purchases, and Chase defines both categories broadly. Travel includes a wide range of expenses, including airlines, hotels, campgrounds, car rentals, home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, transit like rideshares and ferries, cruise lines and more. Dining includes standard restaurants, bars, breweries, coffee shops, vending machines and even many restaurant delivery services.
Chase also recently added an additional bonus category to the Preferred in the wake of the issuer’s new partnership with Lyft. Cardholders will earn 5x total (2x on travel plus an additional 3x on Lyft) on all Lyft rides through March 2020.
Related reading: How to maximize points and miles through Lyft partnerships
The Citi Premier offers 3x on travel and 2x on dining out and entertainment. The travel category also includes most gas stations, and entertainment is a broad category that includes sporting events, tourist attractions, concert tickets, plays, museums, amusement parks, on-demand internet streaming media and more.
With TPG’s valuation of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, you’re getting a 5.1% return on travel and a 3.4% return on dining and entertainment.
Winner: Citi Premier
While the Chase Ultimate Rewards program doesn’t have the most transfer partners, it stacks its roster deep with a number of high value options. Points transfer 1:1 (and in most cases, instantly) to Chase’s three hotel and 10 airline partners. Familiar programs such as United MileagePlus and British Airways Executive Club can be great options for redeeming award flights both domestically and internationally, but you can also find incredible value with some lesser-known programs such as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. On the hotel side, you can transfer your Chase points to Hyatt for some truly incredible redemptions.
Related reading: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Transferable points are valued for their flexibility, and while you’ll usually get the best value by transferring to one of the aforementioned partners, sometimes you need to be on a specific flight and there’s no award availability. In this case — or if you find a cheap cash fare — you can consider booking directly through the Chase portal. Sapphire Preferred cardholders get a 25% bonus when booking airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, giving your points a value of 1.25 cents each. Better yet, these redemptions code as cash tickets, so you’ll continue to earn miles and credit toward elite status on your flights booked in this way (though not on most hotels).
Citi ThankYou Rewards offers 15 transfer partners, but JetBlue is the only American carrier on the list, and you generally won’t get outsized value from JetBlue TrueBlue points. Still, there are plenty of ways to find value here, especially with programs including Avianca LifeMiles, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore KrisFlyer and Etihad Guest. Just bear in mind that none of these valuable partners are unique to Citi (in the way that Hyatt is to Chase). All of the programs I mentioned are also transfer partners of other major programs such as American Express Membership Rewards or Capital One Miles. The Citi Premier also offers a 25% bonus on airfare bookings made through the Citi portal.
Related reading: Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points for maximum value
This is a close call, but Ultimate Rewards rank higher in TPG’s valuation series for a reason. While Citi has valuable transfer partners, it offers no unique value that can’t be replicated in another program.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Perks and protections
You’re not going to get as many perks or the same level of protections on a $95-a-year card as you will with a premium card that costs $450 or more, but both of these cards offer a number of great travel benefits that are worth keeping in mind.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers cardholders at least one year of complimentary DashPass membership through Chase’s partnership with on-demand food platform DoorDash. The membership gives you free delivery on orders over $12 at eligible restaurants, reduced service fees and more.
In addition, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers the following:
- Primary rental car insurance: may provide reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle
- Trip delay protection: may reimburse up to $500 per ticket for delays of 12 hours or more, or overnight
- Baggage delay protection: may reimburse up to $100 per day for up to five days when baggage is delayed more than six hours
- Purchase protection: covers your purchases for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account
- Extended warranty protection: may extend the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on warranties of three years or less
The Citi Premier was among the Citi cards that cut the vast majority of travel and shopping benefits back in September 2019, which means it’s severely lacking in this aspect. However, Citi does offer some other benefits.
Citi offers what’s called Citi Entertainment, which gives cardholders access to presale tickets and exclusive events. This is an often-overlooked benefit that can be incredibly valuable when you live in a city where popular concerts and other events tend to sell out quickly if you do not have access to presale tickets.
Related reading: Best credit cards for entertainment
It’s also worth noting that Citi is a World Elite Mastercard and therefore receives those benefits, including savings with partners such as Lyft, Boxed, Postmates and ShopRunner. While Mastercard advertises cell phone protection as a benefit, multiple Citi Premier cardholders have reported that their card was not eligible for these benefits when they called Citi and Mastercard to file a claim.
Both cards offer a concierge service to help cardholders make dinner reservations, find tickets for entertainment events and more.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Which card should you get?
There is a lot of value to be had with both of these mid-tier cards. As is the case with most cards that share similar benefits, which card is right for you depends on your spending and travel habits.
On paper, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the more valuable card. You’re getting a higher sign-up bonus, unique transfer partners and a host of travel benefits that Citi does not offer cardholders. And for many beginner travelers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred does make more sense — there’s a reason it’s won Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for the second straight year at the 2019 TPG Awards.
However, Citi does offer a higher return on spending and an additional bonus category with 2x on entertainment and presale ticket access through Citi Entertainment.
If entertainment spending is a large portion of your budget and you do not have another credit card that offers a strong return on entertainment spending, the Citi Premier may be the better choice for you. However, if you’re primarily looking for travel and dining rewards, flexible redemption options and strong travel protections, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the choice for you.
Something else to note is which cards you already have in your wallet. The Citi Premier pairs well with other Citi credit cards while the Chase Sapphire Preferred pairs well with other Chase cards. If you are a Citi® Double Cash Card cardholder, for example, you’ll be able to convert your Double Cash rewards to ThankYou points by having the Citi Premier, which increases the overall value. Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders, on the other hand, can pair each with the Chase Sapphire Preferred to turn those rewards into Ultimate Rewards points.
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related reading: Pairing the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred are the clear leaders when it comes to affordable, entry-level cards that earn valuable transferable bank points. Each card wins in different categories in our analysis, so the best card for you will depend on (1) the other cards currently in your wallet and (2) which benefits you value most.
Here are the official sign-up links for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi Premier® Card, both of which currently offer 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.
Feature photo by The Points Guy staff.
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