Sizable rewards, manageable annual fee: Citi Premier credit card review

Oct 28, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information. Citi is a TPG advertising partner.


Citi Premier® Card Overview

The Citi Premier® Card is an attractively priced card with some new and great bonus categories. While the card isn’t as strong on the redemption side when compared to similar offerings from Chase or Amex, the ability to earn 3x points on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout) for just $95 a year is a pretty good deal. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

Citi has dramatically improved the ThankYou Rewards program in recent years as well as the cards that earn those points, especially the Citi Premier® Card. To compete with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi has struck agreements with new airline transfer partners such as Avianca LifeMiles and JetBlue TrueBlue.

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Now it’s turned its attention to the earning structure of the Citi Premier, which recently saw the addition of several bonus categories. This was one of the only card refreshes in recent memory that didn’t also include an increase in the annual fee, but in order to keep this cost-neutral, Citi also decided to remove some benefits. Read on to see how the Citi Premier® Card measures up.

Related: The best Citi credit cards of 2020

In This Post

Who is This Card For?

The Citi Premier is Citi’s mid-tier ThankYou Rewards-earning card, sitting squarely between the Citi Rewards+℠ Card and the Citi Prestige® Card in terms of annual fee and benefits. As a cardholder, you’ll have access to various World Elite Mastercard benefits.

The card offers bonus opportunities on gas, dining and supermarket, air travel and hotel purchases. Thanks to the number of airline and hotel transfer partners, ThankYou Rewards points can be very useful for consumers who need flexibility when it comes time to redeem their points for air travel. In short, this is a solid mid-level travel credit card and a good option for folks who might not want to pay the Citi Prestige’s higher $495 annual fee.

This is also a great option for people who are looking to diversify their points-earning strategy away from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. In fact, this card gets much more compelling for people who’ve already maxed out their 5/24 slots with Chase, especially thanks to a strong sign-up bonus.

The information for the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Sign-Up Bonus and Annual Fee

The Citi Premier is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Based on TPG’s valuations, 60,000 ThankYou points are worth approximately $1,020, thanks to Citi’s growing collection of transfer partners. The card’s $95 annual fee is not waived for the first 12 months.

Citi uses a rather interesting rule to determine bonus eligibility. You won’t be able to earn the bonus on the Citi Premier® Card if you’ve opened or closed the Citi Rewards+SM, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi Premier® or Citi Prestige® in the last 24 months. Most issuers count that time based solely on when you opened the card or received the bonus, but with Citi, your clock also resets if you close a card. This creates a perverse incentive for customers who aren’t sold on their Citi cards to close them earlier and reset the clock rather than waiting.

Related: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

Perks

The InterContinental Fiji Hotel. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
Use your World Elite Mastercard benefits to book a room at the InterContinental Fiji Hotel via World Luxury Hotels & Resorts. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Much of the value proposition of the Citi Premier comes from the fact that it offers the ability to earn bonus points in a slew of categories without charging a hefty annual fee. As such, you shouldn’t expect an overwhelming amount of perks, but there are a number of benefits of this card that can help you recoup your annual fee:

  • $100 Hotel Credit: In August 2020, the card added a $100 annual credit eligible on hotel reservations of $500 or more made through ThankYou.com.
  • Extended warranty protection: Adds an additional 24 months onto the manufacturer’s warranty
  • Damage and theft protection: Repairs or replaces an item that’s damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase (up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year)
  • World Elite Mastercard Benefits: As a World Elite Mastercard, the Citi Premier confers several travel-related perks that consumers might not know about. Those include a $10 discount on every five Lyft rides taken within a calendar month, access to the World Luxury Hotels & Resorts portfolio and on-property perks like free daily breakfast; discounts on certain airfares with carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways; shipboard credits with various cruise lines; and more.
  • Free FICO Score: Citi offers cardholders free FICO score updates, which can be useful to help you track if your score changes over time.
  • Citi® Entertainment: This program gets cardholders special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events — ranging from concerts and sporting events to special dining experiences and movie screenings — before the general public can buy them.
  • Citi® Concierge: Citi offers concierge service, including help with shopping, dining and entertainment arrangements.

Earning

(Photo by Yelizaveta Tomashevska/Getty Images)
Redeem your Citi Premier points to book air travel. (Photo by Yelizaveta Tomashevska/Getty Images)

The Citi Premier’s earning structure is one aspect where the card really shines. Cardholders earn 3 points per dollar spent on the following categories, with no caps or annual limits:

The card earns 1 point per dollar on everything else. That makes this card a higher earner than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, with which it directly competes in terms of annual fee, and its earning power on air travel purchases is on par with the more expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Unfortunately, as part of the recent changes, Citi restricted the 3x travel bonus category to just include air travel and hotels, not other categories such as cruises, tolls and parking that used to earn bonus points. It also dropped the former 2x bonus category for entertainment purchases, though for many people the addition of a 3x bonus category at supermarkets will make up for that. Still, entertainment was a rather unique bonus category not covered by many issuers and it’s sad to see it go.

Related: Use these cards to maximize your entertainment spending in 2020

Redeeming

The Citi Premier is a top choice thanks to its participation in the ThankYou Rewards program, which currently has 16 travel transfer partners:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • InterMiles (formally known as JetPrivilege)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

While you’ll notice that many of these are non-U.S. frequent-flyer programs, there are still some high-value (and easily redeemed) awards to be booked through them. For instance, you can score some cheap Delta awards by booking through Virgin Atlantic, leverage Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles for decent award availability on those airlines and their SkyTeam partners, get some phenomenal deals on Star Alliance awards using Avianca LifeMiles, offset ticket costs with JetBlue TrueBlue or even go all out and fly in a first-class Apartment using Etihad Guest miles. In short, there are plenty of ways to maximize those transfer partners.

Some seats are right on the aisle.
You can book the Etihad First Apartment using Citi ThankYou Points. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

You can also redeem your ThankYou Points directly through the Citi portal at a rate of one cent each, but that’s well below TPG’s valuation of ThankYou Points at 1.7 cents each, a number derived in part from Citi’s amazing list of transfer partners.

Related: The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards

Which Cards Compete With the Citi Premier?

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

With a $95 annual fee, the Citi Premier competes directly with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. While Chase’s transfer partners might be more useful to many travelers, there are some overlaps, like Singapore KrisFlyer, Emirates Skywards and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Chase has hotel partners, while Citi has none.

On the other hand, the Citi Premier’s earning structure is much more lucrative than the Sapphire Preferred’s thanks to that 3x bonus category for air travel, hotels, gas, restaurants and supermarkets compared to 2x on dining and travel with the Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Preferred also doesn’t offer a travel credit of sorts.

Note: Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will temporarily earn 3x on up to $1,000 in monthly grocery store purchases, while Chase Sapphire Preferred Card members earn 2x on up to $1,000 in monthly grocery store purchases. This new bonus category starts Nov. 1, 2020, and goes through April 30, 2021.

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve also competes with the Premier in terms of bonus categories, it carries a much higher annual fee ($550) and is clearly targeted at individuals looking to enjoy luxury perks with their travel rewards. Both Chase cards do have one big advantage over the Premier, and that’s the broad way their travel and dining bonus categories are defined, as opposed to the Premier, which limits the bonus points to specific purchases like airfare, hotels, restaurants, etc.

The Citi Premier’s closest competitor over at American Express is the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4x points on dining worldwide, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year (then 1x), 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines and 1 point per dollar on everything else; and has points you can redeem with Membership Rewards’ airline and hotel transfer partners. The Amex Gold Card also comes with an up to $10 monthly dining credit at select restaurants (up to $120 annual credit) and a new Uber credit (launching early 2021), offsetting a portion of its $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).

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

Bottom Line

The Citi Premier® Card is one of the most lucrative points-earning cards in its price range thanks to its long list of bonus categories. The solid and growing roster of ThankYou Rewards points transfer partners also makes these points that much more compelling, especially for travelers who desire the flexibility to transfer points to various loyalty programs.

If you are thinking of applying for the card, now’s a good time to go for it, since it’s currently offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus. If you’re in the earlier stages of deciding, evaluate this card’s strengths and see if they align with your travel needs.

Here’s the link to apply now for the Citi Premier® Card with a 60,000-point bonus worth at least $725 in travel when redeemed through Citi ThankYou Rewards.

Benji Stawski contributed to this post.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.

Featured image by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.