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While we generally think of Chase and American Express as the leaders in the world of transferable points cards, the truth is Amex doesn’t have a card that can rival the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. In fact, only one card can compete with the Sapphire’s entry-level annual fee, strong bonus categories, flexible redemption options and travel perks. The card that checks all these boxes is the Citi Premier Card.

Now that the Sapphire Preferred has upped its bonus offer to 60,000 points, let’s take a look at how these two cards stack up against each other and which card and welcome bonus is best for you.

Current Welcome Bonus Offers

Chase recently increased the sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Preferred card, and the new offer is much better. Now, new applicants can earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, making this offer worth $1,200. The $95 annual fee is not waived the first year, but after subtracting that cost you still walk away with a first year value of $1,105.

The Citi Premier also requires $4,000 of spending to earn its welcome bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Points. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, meaning that this offer is the same as the old Sapphire Preferred offer, with one important difference. TPG only values ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, making this bonus worth $850. While you don’t pay a fee upfront, you lose several hundred dollars of value.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred wins in the very important welcome bonus category, besting the Citi Premier by over $250.

Earning

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. Let’s take a look at how the bonus categories differ for these two cards:

Bonus Multiplier Chase Sapphire Preferred Citi Premier
3x N/A Travel (including many gas stations)
2x Travel and dining Dining and entertainment
1x All other purchases All other purchases


While the Sapphire Preferred has fewer bonus categories and tops out at 2x, you should keep in mind that a single Ultimate Rewards point is worth more than a single ThankYou point. The Premier clearly wins on travel purchases, with a 3x (5.1%) return compared to the Sapphire’s 2x (4%), and on entertainment purchases like concerts, plays and amusement parks which don’t earn any bonus points on the Sapphire. Still, if you’re looking at a category like dining (2x on both cards) or everyday spend, the Sapphire wins by a small margin.

Winner: The Citi Premier wins because it offers more bonus categories and higher multipliers than the Sapphire Preferred.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
The Citi Premier offers 3x on travel, plus 2x on dining and entertainment. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Redeeming

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 all of Chase’s hotel and airline partners. Familiar programs like United MileagePlus and British Airways Executive Club can be great options for redeeming award flights both domestically and internationally, but Chase is also the only program that lets you transfer points for hotel redemptions at a reasonable rate.

The transfer ratio of 1:1 to all partners sound nice, but this doesn’t account for the fact that every point or mile is worth a different amount in different programs. Thankfully one of Chase’s best partners is Hyatt, where free nights start at just 5,000 points and top out at 30,000 points on the high end for pricey luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt New York.

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 card holders get a 25% bonus when doing so, giving your points a value of 1.25 cents each. Better yet, these redemptions code as cash tickets so you’ll continue to earn elite miles on your flights (though not on most hotels).

Citi ThankYou Rewards offers the following 15 transfer partners:

  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Garuda Indonesia Miles
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Citi is the only major transferable points currency that doesn’t partner with one of the major American legacy carriers. Still, there are plenty of ways to find value here, especially with programs like Avianca LifeMiles, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore KrisFlyer and Etihad Guest. The other consideration is 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 like American Express Membership Rewards or Capital One. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Citi Premier offers a 25% bonus on travel bookings made through the Citi portal.

Winner: 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.

One of Chase’s best transfer partners is Hyatt. (Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt New York)

Perks

You’re not going to get as many perks 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.

Let’s start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Trip delay and cancellation insurance
  • Baggage delay and loss insurance
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection

For the complete terms and details of these policies, including when they kick in, you can check out our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Citi Premier offers a number of similar purchase protections, though its travel benefits are much weaker:

  • World Elite Mastercard benefits
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay insurance
  • Secondary car rental insurance
  • Baggage delay and loss insurance
  • Citi Price Rewind
  • Purchase and return protection
  • Extended warranty protection

Again, for complete details of these policies you can read our review of the Citi Premier here.

Despite offering many of the same types of coverage, it’s the differences in terms and limits that sets these two cards apart. For example, the Sapphire Preferred offers primary car rental insurance (i.e., it kicks in before your own personal policy) while the Citi Premier offers secondary insurance.

Winner: The two cards tie when it comes to most of the insurance policies, but Citi takes the edge by offering additional purchase protection features with its Price Rewind program and return protection above and beyond what’s offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes out ahead thanks its sign-up bonus and the flexibility of Chase points. (Image by The Points Guy)

Bottom Line

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. The new 60,000-point bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred makes it a clear winner in this overall competition, but it’s always had the upper hand for one main reason.

It’s not just about how many points you earn; it’s about how valuable and flexible those points are. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are just about as good as it gets in this category, good enough that it might be worth sacrificing the 3x travel bonus on the Citi Premier in order to stay within the Chase ecosystem.

Know before you go.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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