Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi Premier: Which Card Is Better?

Jun 19, 2019

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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 a 60,000 point sign-up offer has returned on the Citi Premier, 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 and Citi have both recently tweaked the offers on these popular cards to provide a higher sign-up bonus, but not waive the annual fee the first year.

New applicants for the Chase Sapphire Preferred 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. After subtracting the $95 annual fee, you’ll walk away with a first year value of $1,105.

The Citi Premier also requires $4,000 of spending in the first three months to earn its welcome bonus of 60,000 ThankYou points. Although the offers are identical in terms of points and spend, there’s one important difference: TPG only values ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,020. After accounting for the $95 annual fee, your first year value is $925.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred wins in the very important welcome bonus category, besting the Citi Premier by $180.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Use the Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus to take a trip! (Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

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.

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 sounds 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 40,000 points for luxury hotels in the new partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

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 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 elite miles on your flights (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 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. The Citi Premier also offers a 25% bonus on airfare 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.

(Photo by Mitch Berman/The Points Guy)
One of Chase’s best transfer partners is Hyatt. (Photo of the Park Hyatt New York by Mitch Berman/The Points Guy.)

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 just some of the benefits offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • 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

For more information on these benefits, check out our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Citi Premier offers additional purchase protections, though its travel benefits are weaker:

  • Rental car insurance: may provide reimbursement up to $50,000, secondary in the US and primary abroad
  • Trip delay protection: may reimburse up to $500 per ticket for delays of 12 hours or more, doesn’t cover missed connections where a delay of less than 12 hours caused the missed connection
  • Baggage delay protection: may reimburse up to $100 per traveler when baggage is delayed by more than six hours
  • Citi Price Rewind: may reimburse you when the price drops on an item you purchased within the last 60 days, up to $200 per item and $1,000 per year
  • Purchase protection: covers your purchases for 90 days against theft or damage, up to $10,000 per incident and $50,000 per year
  • Return protection: may reimburse you when a merchant won’t accept a return within 90 days of purchase, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year
  • Extended warranty protection: may extend the manufacturer’s warranty by two additional years on warranties, total coverage can’t exceed seven years

Again, for more information on these benefits, take a look at our review of the Citi Premier.

Winner: The Citi Premier offers additional purchase protection features with its Price Rewind program and return protection, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers better travel protections. The winner will depend on what protections you value most, but we’ll give the Citi Premier the win for offering additional purchase protections.

Should I Get Both Cards?

After reading about the sign-up offers, earning, redemption options and benefits offered by the Citi Premier and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you may be wondering whether you should simply get both cards. If you’re considering signing up for both, here are some questions to consider:

Can I meet the minimum spending requirements? Each card requires you to spend $4,000 within the first three months in order to earn the sign-up bonus, and you don’t want to miss out on earning the sign-up bonus. So, if you’ll have trouble spending $8,000 within three months, you may want to space out your applications so you can tackle the spending requirements separately.

Can I be approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Due to Chase’s unstated 5/24 rule, you can only be approved for the Sapphire Preferred if you’ve opened four or fewer personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months. If you’ve opened more personal credit cards in the last 24 months, then you have to decide whether to wait to apply for the Sapphire Preferred once you’re under 5/24 or forgo the Sapphire Preferred.

Am I eligible for the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus? Two types of people aren’t eligible for the sign-up bonus. First, current card members of any Sapphire credit card aren’t eligible. Second, previous card members of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 48 months also aren’t eligible.

Am I eligible for the Citi Premier sign-up bonus? You aren’t eligible for the sign-up bonus if you’ve received a new card member bonus for Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.

Does my spending align well with having both cards? If you decide to get both cards, you’ll want to use the Citi Premier for travel (5.1% return), gas purchases (5.1%) and entertainment (3.4%) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for dining (4%) and general spending (2%). Assuming you agree with TPG’s valuations, you’d need to spend $1,868 per year — just $156 per month — on travel and gas with the Citi Premier to earn enough points to offset the annual fee, and you’d need to spend $1,584 per year — $132 per month — on dining with the Sapphire Preferred to earn enough points to offset the annual fee.

If your answer to the above questions is “yes,” then you could definitely benefit from applying for both cards. You’ll want to apply for the Sapphire Preferred first due to Chase’s 5/24 rules, but once you’re approved, you can apply for the Citi Premier the same day. And if your only hang-up is spending $8,000 within three months, you may want to apply for the Sapphire Preferred and reach the minimum spending requirement first before applying for the Citi Premier, although there are techniques for reaching minimum spending requirements when your spending falls short.

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. Each card wins two 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.

Many travelers could certainly get value from having and using both cards. However, if we’re forced to select a winner, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes out on top 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.

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.

Feature photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

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

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% 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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