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When it comes to travel credit cards, most people are looking for a card that offers a generous welcome bonus and a rewards program with good rates to redeem for travel. The Citi Premier® Card recently started offering new cardholders an elevated welcome bonus of 80,000 points, which is 20,000 points higher than the previous offer.
When Select crunched the numbers and looked closer, we found that the Citi Premier® Card beat out popular travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card in terms of earnings after five years. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)
Below, we break down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Citi Premier Card to help you decide if it's the right card for you.
3X points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on hotels and air travel, 1X points on all other purchases
80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
15.99% to 23.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
3%, $5 minimum
Foreign transaction fee
The Citi Premier® Card increased its welcome bonus offer on July 8, allowing cardholders to earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points when they spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account.
The redemption value of ThankYou® Points varies, but you can expect to get good value when redeeming for travel or gift cards.
For instance, if you choose to redeem the points for gift cards, 80,000 points you'll get $800 worth of gift cards at a variety of different stores such as Lowe's, Target, Macy's, Starbucks®, and even online services like Hotels.com®, Spotify and GRUBHUB.
If you're looking for other ways to redeem your points for 1 cent per point, you can also use your ThankYou® Points to pay off your mortgage and student loan payments (meaning 80,000 points would cover $800 worth of mortgage payment).
You can also redeem your ThankYouPoints as a statement credit, but be aware that you'll likely get a redemption value of less than 1 cent per point, so it's best to either redeem your points for travel, gift cards or paying off your mortgage or student loans.
When it comes to transferring your ThankYou® Points for airline travel, there are 16 airline transfer partners such as Etihad Guest, Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Despite the plethora of different transfer partners, most are international carriers with the exception of JetBlue TrueBlue. However, some of the international partners are useful for booking flights within the U.S.
The ThankYou program includes Turkish Airlines as a transfer partner, which is great for booking award flights on its partner United Airlines. One-way domestic United flights booked through Turkish only cost 7,500 miles in economy and 15,000 miles in business.
The Citi Premier Card, however, is edged out by the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when it comes to the welcome bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also has a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 points when new cardholders spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening the card, slightly beating the 80,000 point bonus offer on the Citi Premier. The Sapphire Preferred bonus is worth up to $1,250 in travel if you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. (Read the full review on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to see how much you could earn over five years.)
5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
The rewards-earning rate for the Citi Premier Card is quite high for a travel card, providing 3X points on restaurants, supermarkets (this excludes drug stores), gas stations, hotels and air travel. You'll also get 1X point on all other purchases. The Sapphire Preferred provides only 2X points on travel and dining and 1X points on all other purchases.
For those with spending spread across more categories, you might consider the Capital One Venture Rewards card, a travel card that mimics a flat-rate cash-back card because it offers 2X points on all purchases.
5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase
Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
N/A for purchases and balance transfers
17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR
Foreign transaction fee
Select calculated how many rewards the average American can earn if they optimize the way they use their Citi Premier Card. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.
The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), and general purchases ($9,982). We broke out travel spending to just hotels ($621) and airlines ($546) when calculating the amount of rewards the Citi Premier would earn.
Here's a breakdown of how many ThankYou® Points you can earn in each category, annually:
- Airlines: 1,638
- Gas: 6,653
- Dining: 11,024
- Hotels/Lodging: 1,862
- Groceries: 15,523
- All other purchases: 9,982
- Total: 46,592
Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated 126,592 ThankYou® Points in the first year of card membership, including the welcome bonus. If you redeem your rewards for 1 cent per 1 point, you'll earn $1,265. After five years of using the card you'll earn rewards worth $3,129.
The Citi Premier comes with access to Citi® Entertainment, a service offering cardholders the opportunity to purchase tickets and pre-sale tickets to concerts, sporting events and theater events.
One new perk of the Citi Premier Card is the hotel benefit: Once a year, cardholders can get $100 off a hotel stay of $500 or more booked through thankyou.com.
This card has an annual fee of $95. However, if you utilize the $100 yearly hotel benefit, it'll cover the cost of the annual fee.
This card does not come with an introductory 0% APR period on balance transfers or purchases, so if you want some time before a high interest rate on your card kicks in, or you're looking for a way to pay off another credit card balance at 0% APR, this probably isn't the best choice for you.
This card has no foreign transaction fees, making it good for international travelers.
The Citi Premier Card isn't a travel card that offers cardholders the largest welcome bonus on the market, although the current offer is the highest we've ever seen on the card. Its high rewards-earning rates on popular spending categories like groceries, gas and dining out, however, makes up for it.
While it's light on additional perks for a travel credit card, the Premier is a solid card, and cardholders can feel confident that they can earn lots of points in the long run.
To determine which credit cards offer the best value, Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), hotels and lodging ($621), airlines ($546), and general purchases ($9,982). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.
The information for the Capital One Venture card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.