Competitive perks, manageable annual fee: Citi Premier credit card review
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Citi Premier® Card overview
The Citi Premier® Card is an attractively-priced card with some great bonus categories. While the card isn’t as strong on the redemption side as 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 improved the ThankYou Rewards program over the years and the cards that earn those points, especially the Citi Premier® Card. To compete with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou now offers a total of 17 airline transfer partners — from Avianca LifeMiles to JetBlue TrueBlue, to even American Airlines as a temporary option until Nov. 13, 2021 — only raising the value of the card for those with a specific redemption in mind.
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Better yet, Citi is offering one of the best sign-up bonuses we’ve seen on this card: 80,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. These points are worth $1,360 according to TPG valuations — quite impressive for a card with just a $95 annual fee.
Official application link: Citi Premier with an 80,000-point bonus.
Who is this card for?
The Citi Premier offers bonus points on gas stations, dining at restaurants, supermarkets, air travel, and hotel purchases. Thanks to the option of 15+ airline transfer partners, ThankYou Rewards points can be 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 want to avoid premium cards with hefty annual fees but still earn valuable transferable points.
This is also an excellent option for people 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, mainly thanks to a strong sign-up bonus.
If that’s the case, consider pairing the Premier with the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card — a no-annual-fee cash-back card — that earns rewards through the Citi ThankYou points program. You can leverage the Custom Cash’s rewards rate of up to 5% back on your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (on up to the first $500 spent each billing cycle), then 1% on everything else. Combined with the Citi Premier’s excellent rewards rate for everyday and travel purchases, you’ve got a powerful duo of credit cards that can help you earn a large stash of ThankYou points in no time.
Related: The best Citi credit cards of 2021
Sign-up bonus and annual fee
Citi uses a rather interesting rule to determine bonus eligibility. You won’t be able to earn the bonus on the Citi Premier if you’ve opened or closed the Citi Rewards+® Card, Citi ThankYou® Preferred*, Citi Premier or Citi Prestige® Card in the last 24 months. Most issuers count that time solely based 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.
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.
* The Citi ThankYou Preferred is no longer available for new applicants.
Note that there’s a $95 annual fee on the card.
Much of the Citi Premier’s value proposition 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 several benefits of this card that can help you recoup your annual fee:
- $100 annual hotel credit: You’ll enjoy a $100 credit once per calendar year for single-stay hotel bookings of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) made through thankyou.com.
- Extended warranty protection: Adds an additional 24 months to a 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. These include a $5 monthly Lyft credit after taking three rides in a calendar month and access to the Mastercard luxury hotels and resorts portfolio for on-property perks like free breakfast and room upgrades upon availability. Through the World Elite Mastercard program, you’ll also enjoy perks such as cellphone protection and Global Emergency Services.
- 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.
The Citi Premier’s earning structure is one aspect where the card really shines. Cardholders earn 3x on the following categories, with no caps or annual limits:
The card earns 1x on all other eligible purchases.
- American Airlines (until Nov. 13, 2021).
- 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.
The addition of American Airlines is totally novel in the transferable points world, as the AAdvantage program isn’t part of any other program like Amex, Capital One or Chase. Now may really be the time to apply for Citi Premier if you are saving AAdvantage miles for award travel and to snag that elevated sign-up bonus.
While you’ll notice that many of these are international frequent flyer programs, there are still some high-value (and easily redeemable) 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 business-class 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.
You can also redeem your ThankYou Points directly through the Citi portal at a rate of 1 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 extensive list of transfer partners.
Which cards compete with the Citi Premier?
Also, with a $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card competes directly with the Citi Premier. While Chase’s transfer partners (including United MileagePlus to Southwest Rapid Rewards) might be more beneficial to many travelers, there are some overlaps, including Singapore KrisFlyer, Emirates Skywards, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Chase also offers hotel partners, while Citi has none.
Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. TPG values this sign-up bonus at $2,000 — worth $640 more than the Citi Premier.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 100,000-point bonus.
Another directly competing card is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. There’s also a $95 annual fee, but this card comes with a less lucrative (but much simpler) earning rate of 2x on all purchases. Instead of an annual hotel credit, you’ll get up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application credit with the Venture. Although they transfer at various rates, Capital One offers 16 airlines and three hotel transfer programs (1:1, 2:1.5 or 2:1).
The Venture’s sign-up bonus is also worth considering, offering the chance to earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. TPG values this incredible sign-up bonus at $1,020.
Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card with 60,000 bonus miles.
Finally, the Citi Premier’s closest competitor over at American Express is the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4x at restaurants, 4x at U.S. supermarkets on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year (then 1x), 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel and 1x on other eligible purchases; and has points you can redeem with Membership Rewards’ 18 airline and three hotel transfer partners.
The Amex Gold Card also comes with up to $10 in monthly dining credit at select restaurants (up to $120 in annual statement credit) and up to $10 in monthly U.S.Uber Cash (up to $120 in annual credit), offsetting the majority of the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Enrollment is required for select benefits. Card must be added in the Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit.
Official application link: American Express Gold Card with a 60,000-point bonus.
Thanks to its long list of bonus categories, the Citi Premier is one of the most lucrative points-earning cards in its price range. 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 the time before the 80,000-point sign-up bonus is gone. If you’re in the earlier stages of deciding, evaluate this card’s strengths and see if they align with your travel needs.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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