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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi Premier: Which mid-tier travel card is better?

Aug. 06, 2022
12 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


As premium credit cards have raised annual fees over the years, many people 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 offers a comparable option with its Citi Premier® Card.

Both cards offer rewards in similar categories for a $95 annual fee — but one is currently offering a notably higher sign-up bonus, which the other provides an array of travel protections when things go wrong.

At the end of the day, which is better for your wallet?

This guide will help you make that decision.

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Comparison overview

Let's start with a side-by-side comparison of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier.

Card detailsChase Sapphire PreferredCiti Premier
Annual fee$95.$95.
Sign-up bonus60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.80,000 ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Earning structure5 points per dollar on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Lyft rides (through March 2025).

3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming and online grocery purchases.

2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases.

1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

3 points per dollar on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.

1 point per dollar on everything else.

 

Other benefits25% redemption bonus when you book travel through the Chase portal.

Robust travel protections.

$100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more when booked through the ThankYou travel site (available once per calendar year).

Personal concierge service.

Citi Entertainment access.

As you can see, both cards offer a similar rewards structure and comparable benefits — meaning they’re 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.

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Sign-up bonus

(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Sapphire Preferred offers 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Meanwhile, the Citi Premier is currently offering an elevated bonus of 80,000 points after meeting the same spending requirements ($4,000 in the first three months).

TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus worth $1,200. After subtracting the $95 annual fee, you’ll walk away with a net value of $1,105. In comparison, TPG values ThankYou points at 1.8 cents each, making the Premier’s bonus worth $1,440. After accounting for the $95 annual fee, your bonus value is $1,345.

While the sign-up 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. Both cards offer sign-up bonuses with extraordinary value for only $95 annually.

However, the Citi Premier wins by $240 in this category thanks to its increased offer.

Winner: Citi Premier.

Earning

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonuses come and go, so it’s important to pick a card with strong bonus categories that deliver long-term value. This is where the Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred start to differ.

Here's what you'll earn on the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • 5 points per dollar on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards travel.
  • 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025).
  • 3 points per dollar on all dining purchases.
  • 3 points per dollar on select streaming services.
  • 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases.
  • 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases outside of the Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Thankfully, Chase defines both the travel and dining categories broadly. Travel includes a wide range of expenses such as airlines, hotels, campgrounds, car rentals, home-rental platforms like Airbnb, transit including ride-hailing services and ferries, cruise lines and more. Dining includes restaurants, bars, breweries, coffee shops, vending machines and even many restaurant delivery services.

In addition, Sapphire Preferred cardholders will enjoy a 10% points bonus at your account anniversary each year (calculated based on your total spending in the previous year).

The Citi Premier offers similarly-lucrative (though slightly different) earning rates:

  • 3 points per dollar at restaurants.
  • 3 points per dollar at supermarkets.
  • 3 points per dollar at gas stations.
  • 3 points per dollar on air travel.
  • 3 points per dollar at hotels.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Despite TPG only valuing Citi ThankYou points at 1.8 cents each, you’re still getting a solid return on these category bonus purchases. The Citi Premier wins by a close margin thanks to its simple yet lucrative earning rate on multiple purchase categories.

Winner: Citi Premier.

Redeeming

You’ll find a ton of value in transferring Chase points to the World of Hyatt program. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

While the Chase Ultimate Rewards program doesn’t have as many transfer partners, it stacks its roster deep with several high-value options. Points transfer at a ratio of 1:1 (and in most cases, instantly) to Chase’s 11 airline and three hotel partners. Familiar programs such as United MileagePlus and British Airways Executive Club can be great options for redeeming award flights domestically and internationally. On the hotel side, you can transfer your Chase points to World of Hyatt for some truly incredible redemptions.

While you’ll usually get the best value by transferring to one of the aforementioned partners, you sometimes 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 at a value of 1.25 cents per point.

Citi ThankYou Rewards offers 16 airline transfer partners. However, JetBlue is the only domestic carrier on the list, and you generally won’t get outsize value from JetBlue TrueBlue points due to its revenue-based redemption options and limited (though growing) international footprint. You can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio, although Citi will offer transfer bonuses from time to time.

There are plenty of ways to find value here, especially with programs including Avianca LifeMiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, 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.

This is a close call, but Ultimate Rewards rank higher in TPG’s valuations for a reason. While Citi has valuable transfer partners (and more of them), it offers no unique value that can’t be replicated with another program. The 25% bonus for booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is also a nice advantage.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Perks and protections

Chase’s trip cancellation and interruption coverage is useful when you experience unexpected circumstances. (Photo by Justin Paget/Getty Images)

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 some great travel benefits that are worth keeping in mind.

For starters, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders enjoy a $50 statement credit for hotel purchases made through Chase Travel once per year. While these bookings generally won't earn you points in any of the major hotel loyalty programs, it can be a great way to save on more boutique properties.

In addition, Sapphire Preferred offers 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. You must activate this benefit by December 31, 2024.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers the following:

  • Primary rental car insurance: May provide reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value in the event of theft or collision damage.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance: May reimburse up to $5,000 per covered trip and a maximum limit of $10,000 per occurrence and a maximum benefit amount of $20,000 per 12-month period.
  • Trip delay protection: May reimburse up to $500 per ticket for delays of 12 hours or more or overnight.
  • Lost luggage protection: May reimburse up to $3,000 per passenger if your baggage is lost, stolen or damaged.
  • 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: Extends the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on warranties of three years or less.

The Citi Premier no longer offers travel and shopping protections. However, Citi does offer some other benefits, such as Citi Entertainment, offering cardholders access to presale tickets and exclusive events. This is an often-overlooked benefit that can be incredibly valuable, especially 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.

It’s also worth noting that Citi is a World Elite Mastercard and therefore receives Mastercard-issued benefits, including savings with the following partners:

  • Lyft: Take three rides in a month and receive a monthly $5 Lyft credit.
  • DoorDash: Mastercard World and World Elite cardholders receive a DashPass subscription for three months, with complimentary unlimited free delivery fees and reduced service fees on orders over $12. Plus, DashPass members get $5 off their first two orders per month.
  • ShopRunner: Enjoy a free ShopRunner membership, offering free two-day shipping and return shipping at over 100 online retailers.
  • Fandango: For every $20 spent on movie tickets at Fandango or on Fandango’s streaming service, enjoy $5 off future movie tickets or at-home Fandango purchases.
  • Priceless Golf: Enjoy exclusive golf offers and experiences with PGA Tour, or contact the Golf Concierge Service to access various golf benefits.

At the end of the day, the Chase Sapphire Preferred wins in this category due to its sheer number of travel and shopping protections that can come in handy in many situations.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Which card should you get?

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

There is a lot of value to be found with both of these mid-tier cards. As is the case with most cards that share similar benefits, the right card for you depends on your spending and travel habits.

On paper, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the more valuable card. You’re getting unique transfer partners, flexible redemption options and a host of travel protection benefits that Citi does not offer. And for many beginner travelers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred does make more sense. However, Citi does offer a higher return on spending on several more bonus categories, plus a more lucrative welcome offer.

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 have a Citi® Double Cash Card, 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 Flex 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.

Related: Pairing the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited

Bottom line

The Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred are two leaders when it comes to affordable, mid-level cards that earn valuable transferable points. Each card wins in different categories in our analysis, so the best card for you will depend on the other cards currently in your wallet and the benefits you value most.

However, there's also room for both cards to maximize even more of your purchases and rewards — especially with the Citi Premier's current bonus of 80,000 points.

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon and Jennifer Yellin.

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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