Citi Premier credit card review

Jun 25, 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 many 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 two bonus categories and a popular redemption option. Read on to see how the new Citi Premier Card measures up.

Related reading: The best Citi credit cards of 2020

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

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 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.

Related reading: The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards

Most customers will view the recent changes to the card as an enhancement, with bonus opportunities on travel, gas, dining and supermarket 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 very strong sign-up bonus.

Sign-Up Bonus and Annual Fee

The Citi Premier card 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 PremierSM 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 reading: 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:

  • 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. Current entertainment includes Tim McGraw’s Here On Earth Tour, PAW Patrol Live! and the Cochon555 Culinary Tour (dates may be changed or cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic).
  • Citi® Concierge: Citi offers concierge service, including help with shopping, dining and entertainment arrangements.
  • $100 Hotel Credit: Beginning Aug. 23, 2020, the card will be adding a $100 annual credit eligible on hotel reservations of $500 or more made through ThankYou.com.

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:

Note that if you applied for the card after April 10, 2020, these 3x bonus categories won’t kick in for you until Aug. 23, 2020, and you’ll instead be grandfathered into a version of the card’s old earning rates for a few more months. This means you’ll earn 3x on airfare, hotels and gas, and 2x on entertainment.

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

The average American household spends more than $3,000 per year at restaurants. Image courtesy of Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury via Getty Images.
Cardholders earn 2x points per dollar on dining. (Photo by Getty Images)

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
  • 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

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.

For more information on how to redeem Citi ThankYou Points for maximum value, see the following:

Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points for maximum value
Best ways to redeem Citi ThankYou points on Oneworld airlines
Best ways to redeem Citi ThankYou points on SkyTeam airlines
Best ways to redeem Citi ThankYou points on Star Alliance airlines

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)

Unfortunately Citi recently removed the 25% bonus for redeeming your ThankYou Points for airfare directly through the Citi portal, which seriously disincentivizes this redemption. You can still redeem your points 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 from Citi’s amazing list of transfer partners.

While not everyone liked to use that 25% bonus, it added an incredible amount of flexibility and was very appealing to less frequent award travelers who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of searching for award space. Flexibility is one of the most important things you can have when it comes to travel rewards, and removing this benefit knocks the Citi Premier down a peg or two against the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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

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. 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 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 a $10 monthly dining credit at select restaurants (up to $120 annual credit), offsetting a portion of its $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).

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.

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

Featured image by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME 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.
  • 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
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% 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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