Key takeaways

  • The Chase Sapphire® Card and Citi Premier® Card each offer access to popular travel rewards universes: Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points.
  • Citi Premier offers excellent earning in more everyday categories, but Sapphire Preferred offers better value when redeeming points for travel through the issuer’s travel portal.
  • In both cases, the cards are more powerful when combined with other cards that earn points in the respective rewards programs.

Citi is an advertising partner.

Travel rewards cards can come with some hefty annual fees. But both the Citi Premier® Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card break that mold by offering healthy rewards and helpful benefits without charging an overwhelming annual fee. Still, you may find that one of them better fits your travel credit card needs than the other.

While these two rewards cards share some similarities, the Citi Premier card is better at helping you rack up points on more everyday purchases. In comparison, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a more impressive suite of cardholder benefits, especially when it comes to travel insurance and purchase protection.

Read on to see which top rewards credit card aligns better with your spending patterns and financial goals.

Main details

Cards Citi Premier Chase Sapphire Preferred
Welcome bonus 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months of account opening 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months of account opening
Rewards rate
  • 10x points per $1 spend on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024
  • 3X points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases
  • 1X points on all other purchases
  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 31, 2025)
  • 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs)
  • 2X points on other travel
  • 1X points on all other purchases
Annual fee $95 $95

Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred highlights

Welcome bonus winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Both cards offer generous welcome bonuses, but values vary depending on how you redeem them. With the Citi Premier, you can earn 60,000 Citi ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. Plus, earn a total of 10 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024. Similarly, Chase’s offer with Sapphire Preferred is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening.

The offers look identical, but their values are different.

The Citi Premier’s bonus is worth $600 when redeemed for 1-cent redemption options like gift cards or travel through the Citi portal. But if you transfer your points to a high-value Citi travel partner, your points could be worth about 1.6 cents apiece, according to Bankrate’s latest points and miles valuations. That means your Citi welcome bonus could be worth about $960.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s welcome bonus, on the other hand, is worth $750 when you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This is thanks to a 25 percent points boost for travel redemptions through Ultimate Rewards, making your points worth 1.25 cents apiece. However, if you transfer your points to the right Chase travel partner, we estimate per Bankrate’s valuations that your points could be worth around 2.0 cents each, making your bonus worth about $1,200.

Even if you don’t want to go the extra mile and research transfer partners for top rewards value, a basic travel redemption through either card’s portal still means that the Sapphire Preferred bonus is worth more.

Rewards rate winner: It depends

Depending on your spending habits, you could accumulate a lot of points with either of these travel cards. However, the Citi Premier is generally better for everyday purchases, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred is better for travel-related purchases.

The Citi Premier offers you 3X points on restaurant, supermarket and gas station purchases — all standard everyday spending categories. Plus, you’ll earn 3X points on air travel and hotel stays, along with 1X points on all other purchases.

On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers higher rewards on travel — 5X points on travel booked through the Chase portal, along with 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2025. Plus, it offers 2X points on other travel purchases, which is more inclusive than Citi’s 3X points on only air travel and hotels.

When it comes to everyday spending, the Chase Sapphire Preferred matches the Citi Premier’s 3X rate on dining, but it doesn’t offer extra rewards on gas or in-store grocery purchases — they’re both just 1X points categories.

Sapphire Preferred does offer 3X points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs). When it comes to those grocery purchases, keep in mind that paying with your grocery store’s app in-store may very well trigger the 3X on those purchases.

Annual fee winner: Tie

Both cards charge an annual fee of $95, which is considered low in the world of travel credit cards. While you may hesitate to sign up for a card with a yearly charge, you’ll see a substantial return on your investment during your first year if you spend enough to earn either card’s welcome bonus (provided you pay off your card in full each month to avoid paying interest).

Plus, if you take full advantage of either card’s rewards and benefits, the annual fee will likely still be worth paying in subsequent years.

Both Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier offer an annual hotel credit. In the case of Citi Premier, you can receive a $100 hotel credit when you spend $500 on a single hotel stay booked through the Citi portal. That alone offsets the fee. For Sapphire Preferred, you receive up to $50 statement credit each year toward hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards.

Additionally, Sapphire Preferred cardholders receive a points bonus each year equal to 10 percent of your spending in the previous year. Therefore, if you spend $10,000 on the card in a year, you’ll receive 1,000 bonus points.

And, if those extra perks aren’t enough, there’s always regular earning to help offset the fee.

For example, if you spend at least $61 per week on gas, groceries or dining out with your Citi Premier Card, you’ll earn enough points (9,516 annually, worth $95 in rewards) to make up for the annual fee. The same is also true if you spend $1,900 annually (9,500 points) on Lyft rides or travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal with your Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Foreign transaction fee winner: Tie

Neither card charges foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside of the United States. That means you can travel abroad with either option without worrying about incurring additional costs.

Which card earns the most?

The card that earns you the most depends on what you spend your money on. So, let’s take a look at a possible spending scenario. Keep in mind, however, that what you earn isn’t necessarily as important as the value when you redeem the rewards.

Credit Card
Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred spending example
Using your Citi Premier Card, say you spend $200 on gas, $800 on groceries (in-store), $100 dining out and $1,000 on a plane ticket and hotel accommodations in a given month. Since each spending category earns 3X points, you’ll receive 6,300 points on these purchases. If points are worth 1 cent each, these points are worth $63.

Now, let’s say you make the same purchases using your Chase Sapphire Preferred, with the exception that you buy groceries online instead of in-store and you purchase travel through the Chase portal. You’ll receive a total of 7,900 points, which is worth $79 at a 1-cent-per-point value. If you then redeem these points toward travel through the Chase portal, they’ll be worth 1.25 cents each, which means your points will be worth $98.75.

However, if you remove the airfare and hotel expenses, you’d earn 3,300 points ($33) with the Premier and 2,900 points ($29) with the Sapphire Preferred. So, if you plan to use your card primarily to cover general living costs, the Citi Premier will likely net you a slightly larger payout. But if you plan to use your card more for travel, the Chase Sapphire Preferred would be the better option.

Why should you get the Citi Premier?

Additional benefits

Citi Premier benefits extend beyond its rewards program — most notably its $100 annual hotel discount on a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) when you book through or 1-800-THANKYOU.

You can also enjoy Citi Entertainment, which gives you access to VIP packages and presale tickets for in-demand concerts, performances and sporting events. Finally, you’ll benefit from World Elite Mastercard perks such as a complimentary ShopRunner membership, a $5 Lyft credit after you take three rides in a month (for up to $60 in credit annually) and more.

Combining points with other ThankYou points cards

The best travel rewards strategy will involve holding multiple credit cards and using them strategically to maximize your earning or redemption options.

For Citi Premier, that could mean adding the Citi Rewards+® Card or even the Citi Double Cash® Card (the “cash back” can be redeemed as ThankYou points) to your wallet as well.

Redemption options

You can maximize the value of your points by transferring them to one of Citi’s airline and hotel partners. However, other redemption options include:

  • Travel through the Citi portal
  • Direct deposits
  • Statement credits
  • Personal checks
  • Payment credits (toward eligible loans)
  • Shopping with points at eligible retailers (like Amazon and BestBuy)
  • Gift cards
  • Charitable donations

Recommended credit score

You’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Citi Premier. That means your credit score should be between 670 and 850 when you apply.

Why should you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Additional benefits

You’ll generally get more benefits with the Chase Sapphire Preferred than with the Citi Premier. For example, you’ll get trip cancellation and interruption insurance, an auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance services, purchase protection and extended warranty coverage.

Plus, after each cardmember anniversary, you’ll get up to $50 in statement credits on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. You’ll also earn a generous anniversary points bonus that’s equal to 10 percent of your total spending from the previous year.

Additionally, you’ll get a complimentary one-year subscription to DoorDash DashPass, which includes $0 delivery fees and lower service fees on eligible orders (though you must activate by Dec. 31, 2024). You’ll also get a complimentary Instacart+ membership for six months, along with up to $15 in statement credits each quarter, through July 2024. Finally, you can receive a $10 statement credit per month on eligible Gopuff orders through Dec. 31, 2023.

Combining rewards from other Ultimate Rewards–earning cards

As with Citi Premier, Sapphire Preferred is just one option in the universe of cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you truly want to maximize your rewards earning possibilities, you’ll want more than one Ultimate Rewards card at your disposal.

Excellent options to combine with Sapphire Preferred include Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠, both of which offer rewards on more everyday purchases. There are also a number of Chase business cards that combine well with Sapphire Preferred.

Remember that points under Sapphire Preferred are worth 25 percent more when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. That means the points earned with those other cards can be moved under your Sapphire Preferred to make them worth even more.

Redemption options

While your most lucrative option is to transfer your points to a Chase airline or hotel partner, you can also redeem for:

  • Travel through the Chase portal
  • Chase Pay Yourself Back
  • Cash back
  • Statement credits
  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise (including Apple product purchases)
  • Chase Experiences
  • Shopping with points on Amazon or via PayPal

Recommended credit score

Like the Citi Premier, the Chase Sapphire Preferred requires a good to excellent credit score.

The bottom line

If you want a card that rewards everyday expenses and some travel purchases, the Citi Premier Card could be a great addition to your wallet. But if you’re more interested in travel rewards and support, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is likely a better fit. Remember, though: There’s no rule that says you can’t have both. With both cards in your wallet, you can be handsomely rewarded for just about any purchase.

Information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Citi Double Cash® Card has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.