Why the Citi Premier Card is a great choice if you’re an airline free agent

Jul 27, 2021

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There are many great reasons to focus your travel loyalty on a single airline, like racking up frequent-flyer miles faster for award trips and pursuing elite status and all the benefits it entails. That strategy isn’t for everyone, though.

If you’re the type of traveler who makes plans based more on price and convenience rather than sticking with a specific airline, the Citi Premier® Card may be the ideal credit card to add to your portfolio.

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Not only does it rack up bonus ThankYou points on air travel (as well as other categories), but you can then transfer those points to 16 airline partners, which opens up your award options exponentially. 

The card also offers many other benefits and redemption opportunities that can more than offset its already affordable $95 annual fee.

All that makes the Citi Premier a great rewards credit card choice if you’re an airline free agent, and now might just be the perfect moment to apply.

Related: How to redeem Citi ThankYou Points for maximum value

In This Post

Best-ever sign-up bonus

Travel scene, passengers seated in airplane
(Photo by Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Citi Premier would typically offer sign-up bonuses of up to 60,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements. Although Citi pegs that value at $600 toward travel booked through the ThankYou portal, it’s more like $1,020 according to TPG’s latest points valuations given just how many ways you can redeem those points.

However, the Citi Premier is posts an even higher 80,000 ThankYou bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. That’s more points than this card has ever included before and is worth more like $1,360 in value.

Official application link: Citi Premier 80,000-point bonus.

Aside from the size of its welcome bonus, though, what sets the Citi Premier apart is just how easy it is to earn points on everyday purchases and the exciting ways you can redeem them, both for award travel and other things.

Related: The best elevated credit card bonus offers

Higher earning on more categories

(Photo by martin-dm/Getty Images)

Unlike your average airline credit card, which might earn bonus miles on airfare purchases specifically with the partner airline and perhaps one or two other categories, the Citi Premier is a powerhouse when it comes to racking up points.

The card’s earning rates per dollar on purchases are:

The sheer number of bonus categories is impressive on its own.

However, look at it like this. You don’t have to use the card to spend money with one specific airline to accumulate bonus points. Rather, you can just use it to purchase air travel (either directly from an airline or through a travel agency) with pretty much any carrier you want. That frees you from having to stay true to an individual carrier and its partners.

Not only that, but the fact that the Citi Premier earns 3x points on hotels as well makes it a great all-around choice for travel. Then throw in the other major expense areas of dining, gas and groceries, and this card becomes a top earner in the travel rewards credit card space.

Related: Competitive perks, manageable annual fee: Citi Premier credit card review

Transfer partners mean more redemption choices

Cathay Pacific A350
(Photo by JIMMOYHT/Shutterstock)

When you carry an airline co-branded card, you can use the miles you earn with it to book award flights on the associated airline and its partners. That gives you some flexibility.

However, with the Citi Premier, you can transfer points to an impressive 16 airline partners, which makes them potentially much more useful. Citi’s airline partners currently include:

You might have to get creative and do a little homework to figure out the best programs to transfer your points for the awards you want. It can pay off in spades, though, if you’re able to leverage some sweet spots like using Virgin Atlantic points to book Delta One tickets to Europe (excluding the UK) and ANA business or first class to Asia; or scoring deeply discounted awards on Air France and KLM via Flying Blue’s Promo Rewards.

What’s more, now through Nov. 13, 2021, Citi Premier (and Citi Prestige® Card) cardholders can also transfer ThankYou Points to American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the first time on a 1:1 basis. That might add even more value to the ThankYou program for some flyers who travel a lot with American Airlines and its Oneworld partners.

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.

Keep in mind, there are other ways to redeem ThankYou points as well, including for airfare and gift cards purchased directly through Citi at a rate of one cent per point, and via Shop With Points and for Amazon purchases at worse rates, so it’s best to avoid these.

Related: The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer partners

Other money-saving benefits

L'Escale Marina Resort and Spa, SLH
L’Escale Marina Resort and Spa. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Aside from how dynamic ThankYou points themselves are, the Citi Premier extends a number of other time- and money-saving benefits that cardholders can take advantage of. Among the most significant are:

  • $100 annual hotel credit: Cardholders enjoy a $100 credit once per calendar year for single-stay hotel bookings of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) booked through thankyou.com or 1-800-THANKYOU.
  • Extended warranty protection: Lengthens a manufacturer’s warranty by an additional 24 months.
  • 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 benefits that consumers might not be aware of. These include cellphone protection and $5 in monthly Lyft credits after taking three rides in a calendar month, as well as access to the Mastercard luxury hotels and resorts portfolio for on-property perks like free breakfast and room upgrades upon availability.
  • Citi® Entertainment: Citi cardholders get access ahead of the general public to purchase tickets to thousands of events ranging from concerts and sporting events to special dining experiences and movie screenings.
  • No foreign transaction fees: If you travel internationally on a regular basis, this card can save you by waiving foreign transaction fees, which can add up to two or three percent of purchases you make abroad. 

Depending on which of these perks you’re able to use and how well you leverage them, you can end up saving hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year, as well as a few headaches if something you purchase is lost, stolen, or damaged.

Even if you just take advantage of that annual hotel statement credit, though, you’re more than offsetting the card’s $95 annual fee. That alone could make carrying this card worthwhile.

Related: 4 reasons the Citi Premier Card should be on your short list

Tradeoffs to getting the Citi Premier

The Citi Premier is one of the strongest choices for travel generalists — that is, folks who aren’t loyal to a specific airline and who won’t get much value from perks you might find in a more premium (and expensive!) card, such as airport lounge access or a CLEAR membership statement credit.

However, if you fly one airline more than any other, you might want to consider one of its co-branded credit cards. That way, you can continue accruing frequent-flyer miles in the program you know best and enjoy elite-like benefits such as free checked bags, priority boarding, and in-flight discounts.

Bottom line

The Citi Premier is one of the best travel rewards credit cards thanks to its stellar earning rates and useful transferable ThankYou points. Right now is also an exciting time to consider getting the card, thanks to two key factors.

The first is that best-ever bonus of 80,000 points, which might not be around for much longer. The second is the limited-time transfer opportunity to American Airlines AAdvantage, which is also a first of its kind for this program.

Aside from that, consider whether you can leverage the ThankYou program’s regular airline transfer partners for trips you want to take and if the Citi Premier’s other ongoing benefits will help you offset its annual fee.

Given just how fast you can earn ThankYou points with the Citi Premier, though, as well as the myriad airline award opportunities the card’s transfer partners present, it is an excellent choice for flyers who don’t want to commit to a single airline.

Ready to get the card? Apply here for the Citi Premier 80,000-point bonus

Additional reporting by Eric Rosen.

Featured photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
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Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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