Credit card showdown: Citi Prestige vs. Citi Premier
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Citi’s flagship transferable points cards — the Citi Prestige® Card and the Citi Premier® Card — have been on the market for a few years now. In the last year or so both cards have undergone major benefit refreshes, one mostly good and one that’s universally been decried as a devaluation. Today we’re going to take a look at these two cards to help you decide which would be a better fit for your spending and travel lifestyle.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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Comparing the Citi Prestige and Citi Premier
Below is a table that summarizes the key differences across some important categories. The Citi Premier underwent a number of benefits changes in 2020, so depending on when you applied for the card your bonus categories might look slightly different than this chart. But since this post is designed to help readers that are looking to sign up for one of these cards, we’re assuming that you’re signing up for the card today.
|Benefit||Citi Prestige||Citi Premier|
|Sign-up bonus||50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening||60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening|
|Earning rates||5x points on air travel and restaurants
3x points at hotels and cruise lines
1x points everywhere else
|3x points on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout)
1x points everywhere else
|Additional benefits||No foreign transaction fees; $250 travel credit every calendar year; 4th night free; Priority Pass Select membership; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit||No foreign transaction fees|
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these to help analyze which card would make a better addition to your wallet.
Currently, the Citi Prestige offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This sign-up bonus is worth $850 based on TPG’s latest valuations.
The Premier offers a slightly larger sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This sign-up bonus is worth $1,020 based on TPG’s latest valuations. That 10,000-point difference is worth a solid $170 in extra value, and you can get it by meeting the same $4,000 spending requirement. If the minimum spending requirement to earn the bonus seems a little higher than your normal credit card spending, here are some tips for reaching it.
But, based on your recent activity, you may not be eligible for a sign-up bonus. The application page for each card notes:
Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi ThankYou Premier/Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.
Like most credit cards, the annual fee for the Prestige doesn’t count toward the spending threshold and the clock starts ticking for both cards on the day you are approved for your new card — not when you activate it or first use it.
Winner: The Citi Premier is the clear winner here. Both bonuses require the same $4,000 in spending but the Citi Premier offers you an extra 10,000 points, worth $170 based on TPG’s valuations.
Besides the annual fee, the biggest difference between the two cards is the rate at which they earn points for different purchases:
- On the Citi Prestige Card, you’ll earn 5x points per dollar spent on air travel, and restaurants, 3x points per dollar spent on hotels and cruise lines and 1x points per dollar spent everywhere else.
- On the Citi Premier Card, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout) and 1x points per dollar spent everywhere else.
It should come as no surprise that the premium Citi Prestige takes the lead, with its high-powered 5x bonus category for air travel and restaurants, although in all other areas, the cards are either tied or the cheaper Citi Premier comes out ahead. Those 3x points per dollar work out to a respectable 5.1% return based on TPG’s valuations, and the ability to earn that in diverse categories such as gas, groceries, restaurants, hotels and air travel all in one card is quite appealing.
If you apply (and are approved) for the Prestige card, you’ll earn 5x points per dollar spent at restaurants. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means you’ll get a 8.5% return on restaurant spending. This is much better than the 3x earning by the Premier and means the Prestige has replaced the Chase Sapphire Reserve the go-to credit card for dining for many people.
With the Prestige card you’ll also earn 5x points per dollar spent on purchases with airlines and 3x points per dollar spent on purchases at hotels and cruise lines — which is a relatively narrow slice of the travel industry. While the Premier has more bonus categories to choose from, many are also defined quite narrowly.
Winner: This is quite close, although the Citi Prestige is now one of the most valuable cards on the market for both air travel and dining, knocking out other heavyweight luxury cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express. The Premier may be a better choice, depending on your spending habits — but that’s a personal decision.
Even though it’s now capped at two uses per year, one of the Prestige’s most popular benefits is the fourth night free on eligible hotel stays, which I’ve used at hotels like the Andaz Maui. The Citi Prestige really flexes its muscle as a premium credit card in this area, by offering a number of perks and credits to help you travel more luxuriously for less money. Both cards offer the advantage of no foreign transaction fees, making them ideal to carry with you on vacation.
Here’s a list of the perks offered by the Prestige:
- Up-to-$250 travel credit: Each year, you’ll be able to receive a $250 travel credit that will be automatically applied whenever you make purchases within the travel category. Since this is a calendar-year benefit, if you apply now, you can utilize the credit now and then get another one after your December statement closes, giving you two $250 credits in the first year of card membership.
- Priority Pass Select: Another great perk on the card is Priority Pass Select membership, giving you access to more than 1,300 lounges around the world, including some restaurants. You can also bring in two guests or your immediate family members at no charge.
- Fourth night free: This is possibly the most lucrative benefit on the card. When you pay for a hotel stay of four nights or longer using your Citi Prestige card, you’re eligible to get one night free (calculated based on the average daily rate, not including taxes and fees). Cardholders are now restricted to no more than two complimentary fourth night free benefits per card account per calendar year — and bookings must be made online at thankyou.com or by phone at 1-800-THANKYOU.
- Global Entry credit: Once every five years, you can get a statement credit to cover an application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck on your card (up to $100).
If you can get significant value from the Priority Pass Select membership and the fourth night free benefit — even now that it’s capped — the Citi Prestige may be a better option for you. By comparison, the only meaningful benefit offered by the Citi Premier is a $100 hotel credit on eligible stays of $500 or more booked through thankyou.com or by phone at 1-800-THANKYOU. Using this perk once could entirely offset the card’s annual fee, but you’re capped in the value you can get compared to the Prestige. Of course, all of the luxury benefits on the Citi Prestige do come with a price …
Winner: You get what you pay for, and the Citi Prestige undeniably offers a better benefits package. Most people should be able to recoup the annual fee between the $250 annual travel credit and fourth night free benefit.
The fourth category for comparison is the annual fee, and based on simple numbers, the Citi Premier Card is the clear winner with its $95 fee. Since the Citi Prestige Card carries a $495 annual fee, you’re looking at a significantly higher out-of-pocket cost.
However, keep in mind that this doesn’t take into account the credits included on the Citi Prestige. The $250 travel credit is applicable as soon as you’re approved for the card (and resets on Jan. 1), so that drops it to an effective annual fee of $245. If you’re able to take advantage of the fourth night free benefit, you may be able to wipe out the $245 (and then some) with a single stay of four nights or longer or perhaps two stays of four nights or longer if you prefer to travel on a budget.
And this is without considering the value you’ll get from the Priority Pass Select membership, 5x earning at restaurants and other perks. When you consider the credits and perks, the Prestige’s $495 annual fee may be easier for some travelers to justify than the Premier’s $95 annual fee.
Winner: The Citi Premier has the lower upfront cost, but if you maximize all the benefits on the Prestige each year you’ll end up getting back much more than you paid.
So which one should you get?
Given all of these details, which card is better for your wallet? This is a very personal decision, but here are some guidelines:
- If you frequent airports with Priority Pass lounges, and don’t have another card that provides Priority Pass lounge access, go with the Prestige. The Priority Pass network has more than 1,300 lounge locations worldwide, including some popular lounge restaurant locations in the U.S. If you frequently travel to, from or through one or more airports with Priority Pass lounges, this perk can be quite valuable and may give the Prestige the edge.
- If you pay for at least a couple hotel stays of four nights or longer, go with the Prestige. Another element that could push you in the direction of the Prestige card involves hotel stays. If you frequently have paid stays of four nights or longer — especially where at least one or two feature relatively high nightly rates, you could save a lot of money through the fourth night free benefit on the Citi Prestige even though it’s capped at two stays per calendar year.
- If you spend a lot at restaurants and on airfare, go with the Prestige. 5x earning on restaurants and airfare equates to a 8.5% return based on TPG’s valuations. The Prestige has won my restaurant spending away from the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- If you have significant gas or grocery expenses, go with the Premier. One reason you might consider the Premier over the Prestige is if you spend a lot on grocery stores and gas stations. You’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent on gas and other travel expenses, compared to just 1x points per dollar spent on the Prestige. With just $300 a month on these purchases, you’d take home an extra 7,200 ThankYou points, worth $122, each year.
If none of these jump out to you, then I’d recommend falling back on a sound piece of logic and picking the card with the larger welcome bonus, the Citi Premier. Especially if you’re new to the ThankYou Points ecosystem, a larger bonus, lower annual fee and more diverse bonus categories will help you get a good idea of whether this program is right for you.
Citi’s two premium ThankYou Rewards credit cards provide solid earning potential. The Citi Premier Card has a modest annual fee and a broad range of 3x bonus earning categories. On the other hand, the Citi Prestige Card has a larger annual fee that many cardholders can more than offset by taking advantage of the card’s annual travel credit and fourth night free benefit — even now that it’s limited to two uses per year.
If you don’t currently have the Prestige or Premier and are eligible to receive a sign-up bonus, now is a great time to add one to your wallet. Hopefully this analysis has highlighted the key differences between the cards to help you determine which is best!
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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