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Citi has dramatically improved the ThankYou Rewards program in recent years as well as the cards that earn those points, including the Citi Premier Card. To compete with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi has struck agreements many new airline transfer partners like Avianca LifeMiles. It has also offered periodic transfer bonuses to several of those partners.
For a while, Citi was also offering improved sign-up bonuses, earning rates and redemption options on both the Citi Premier Card and the higher-end Citi Prestige card, plus some phenomenal perks with the latter. Unfortunately, Citi has since stripped away some of those benefits like Admirals Club access when flying American and getting a better redemption rate for your points when you redeem for airfare. However, folks looking to diversify their loyalty portfolio with a transferable points program should still consider ThankYou Rewards and the Citi Premier specifically.
Who is This Card For?
The Citi Premier is Citi’s mid-tier ThankYou Rewards-earning card, sitting squarely between the Citi ThankYou Preferred and the Citi Prestige in terms of annual fee and benefits.
Its earning structure is fairly lucrative, with bonus opportunities on travel, gas, dining and entertainment 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. As a World Elite Mastercard, it also offers the travel insurance and protections any frequent traveler should expect, plus signature Citi purchase protections like Price Rewind.
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 annual fee.
Sign-Up Bonus and Annual Fee
The Citi Premier is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Based on TPG’s valuations, 50,000 ThankYou points are worth approximately $850 thanks to factors like ease of use, transfer partners and more. Right now, the card’s $95 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months.
The Citi Premier’s earning structure is one aspect where the card really shines.
Cardholders earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel, including (most) gas stations. They earn 2x points on dining out and entertainment, including things like concerts, plays, museums and amusement parks. They earn 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 travel purchases is on a par with the more expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve. Not to mention the fact that the Citi Premier earns that 3x bonus on a wider array of travel purchases than Citi’s own higher-priced Prestige card (with which 3x is limited to just air travel and hotels).
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- 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-US 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 great award availability on those airlines and their partners, get some phenomenal deals on Star Alliance awards using Avianca LifeMiles, offset ticket costs with JetBlue TrueBlue, or even go all out with a First Apartment award using Etihad Guest miles. In short, there are plenty of ways to maximize those transfer partners.
You can also redeem ThankYou points you earn with the Citi Premier directly for airfare on thankyou.com at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents per point, giving cardholders yet another option for putting their points to use.
Those are the major points-related benefits of the card, but the Citi Premier also comes with a slew of travel and purchase protections that might earn it a place in your wallet.
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 access to the Luxury Hotels & Resorts portfolio and on-property perks like free daily breakfast; discounts on certain airfares with carriers like Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways; shipboard credits with various cruise lines and more.
Travel Coverage: The Citi Premier offers emergency travel assistance like helping with arrangements or emergency cash transfers, travel accident insurance up to $500,000, trip cancellation and interruption insurance up to $5,000 and trip delay protection up to $500 per covered person.
Baggage Coverage: If your checked bag is delayed, Citi will reimburse you up to $100, while if it’s lost, it goes up to $3,000 per covered traveler per trip or up to $10,000 total for all travelers in the same group.
Auto Rental Insurance: Citi offers insurance on car rentals worldwide up to $50,000. In the United States, this coverage is secondary, but outside the US, the coverage is primary, even if you have another insurance policy.
The card also offers many purchase protections, though look through your benefits guide to note all the exclusions before you try to invoke any of these.
Citi Price Rewind: Like other Citi cards, this one offers Price Rewind, with which cardholders can register specific purchases and which will monitor those prices and reimburse the difference to you if that price drops within 60 days. The coverage is up to $200 per item and $1,000 per calendar year.
Purchase Protection: If you purchase an item with your card and/or ThankYou points, and it is damaged or stolen within 90 days for most jurisdictions, Citi will repair or reimburse you for it up to $10,000 per item and up to $50,000 per year per Citi card account. Just note that this coverage is now secondary.
Extended Warranty: Citi offers the opportunity to extend the warranty on many purchases up to 24 months past the manufacturer’s warranty expiration, with coverage up to a maximum of $10,000.
Return Protection: If you try to return an item within 90 days of purchase and the merchant will not accept it, Citi may refund you the purchase price of the item up to $300 per article and up to $1,000 per year.
Citi Private Pass: 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. TPG’s Jessica Puckett was able to take advantage of a Private Pass VIP package to see Beyoncé and Jay-Z on their On The Run II tour.
Personal Concierge Service: Citi offers concierge service including helping with travel, shopping, dining and entertainment arrangements.
Which Cards Compete With the Citi Premier?
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 and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, though Chase has hotel partners while, with the elimination of Hilton, Citi now 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 travel and gas category, and 2x on not only dining like with the Sapphire Preferred, but also on a range of entertainment purchases.
The Citi Premier’s closest competitor over at American Express is the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4x points at US restaurants, 4x points at US 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 whose 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, offsetting a portion of its $250 annual fee (see rates & fees).
The Citi Premier continues to be a solid travel credit card. It is one of the most lucrative points-earning cards thanks to its broad bonus purchase categories. The 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. The comprehensive purchase and travel benefits that come with this card are another factor in its favor.
If you are thinking of applying for the card, now’s a good time to go for it, since it’s currently offering a 50,000-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.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
Know before you go.
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- Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 50,000 Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
- No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
- Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases