Citi Premier® Card review: Boosted travel rewards for everyday spending
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Citi Premier® Card Overview
The Citi Premier® Card shed quite a few benefits and bonus reward categories in the past, but the two 3X ThankYou points on supermarket and gas station categories make it a much more attractive option if you’re looking for a travel rewards card to earn points on everyday purchases.
Although the travel rewards and benefit offerings are a bit weaker than other travel-oriented rewards cards with a $95 annual fee — like those from American Express, Chase and Capital One — the Citi Premier has a lot more to love than before for a wider variety of cardholders. The typical cardholder may find that the card’s broad coverage of popular everyday expenses provides the opportunity to reap more rewards than they would with categories catered toward travel expenses. In fact, it has the potential to outperform other travel rewards cards in its class based on your spending habits.
However, you’ll have to leverage Citi’s transfer travel partners to possibly milk more than a standard 1 cent point value out of your hard-earned rewards, and the Premier card doesn’t deliver a rich portfolio of travel protections and features like some of its rivals. Consequently, options like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may give more frequent travelers a better bang for their buck.
On the bright side, its annual $100 discount on a hotel stay of $500 or more can recoup your annual fee alone. Since your points can also be redeemed for a 1-cent value toward cash back — a rare flexibility among travel rewards — you’ll have an excellent back-up option for your rewards if you’re an occasional traveler. Several credit cards (including the Chase Sapphire Preferred) have redesigned their rewards categories to better suit day-to-day spending in the wake of the pandemic, but the Citi Premier card has gone the extra mile if your travel needs have diminished.
What are the pros and cons?
- $95 annual fee (which can be easy to offset)
- Next to no shopping or travel protections through Citi
- Point value is only 1 cent, even for travel, outside transfer partner opportunities
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 3X points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases; 1X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: 80,000 bonus ThankYou® points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Annual fee: $95
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 19.74 percent to 27.74 percent (variable)
Current welcome offer
For a limited time, new cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Depending on how you redeem your points, this could be one of the best sign-up bonuses at this card level. ThankYou points can be redeemed at a 1:1 value for non-travel options, making your bonus worth $800 toward gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com. However, finding the right Citi airline transfer partner could bump your bonus up to $1,520, according to Bankrate’s points valuation of 1.9 cents.
Either way, you shouldn’t have a problem qualifying since you can earn points on all sorts of everyday and travel purchases. It would take spending about $1,334 each month for the first three months — and based on typical spending habits, the majority of cardholders can reach this threshold when they use the Citi Premier as their primary credit card.
The Citi’s Premier Card rewards redesign last year made it easier to earn travel rewards on everyday spending, steering it away from travel-rooted categories and perks. In hindsight, these changes are for the better for many cardholders by bolstering its rewards roster with higher-value bonus categories. But it’s worth factoring the Premier card’s narrower pool of eligible travel purchases into your decision.
How you earn
Previously, cardholders earned 3X points on travel-focused purchases (including transit) and 2X points on entertainment purchases. You’ll now earn 3X Citi ThankYou points on gas station, air travel, hotel, restaurant and supermarket purchases, along with 1X points on all other purchases.
This is a fantastic rate on a variety of bonus categories that you won’t have much trouble earning rewards toward either cash back or travel if your spending habits change. Shifting rewards weight to day-to-day purchases has been a trend among travel cards since the beginning of the pandemic, and the Citi Premier is no exception. But while other travel cards have added limited-time everyday categories or similar categories with lower rewards rates, the Citi Premier’s reinvention may make it more a valuable option overall if you’re searching for boosted travel rewards without the regular travel purchase focus — which is a rarer sight.
If you have a Citibank Checking Account, you have more opportunities to earn ThankYou points (up to 75,000 points per year) based on your account package and banking activity. The basic Citibank Account Package lets you earn up to 450 points each statement period, as long as you make a direct deposit and bill payment in that period. You can earn 75 to 150 points by completing specific actions like having a money market or savings account tied to your checking account — which alone is worth up to 1,800 points, or $18 in rewards value, per year.
How to redeem
Nowadays, taking advantage of Citi’s airline transfer partners is the best way to give your points a bit more mileage if you find a valuable transfer rate. There isn’t a fee for transferring, but the minimum transfer amount is 1,000 points. However, you can book travel through the Citi Travel Center (entirely with points or a combination of points and cash), including:
- Hotel stays
- Rental cars
- Vacation packages and other activities
In case your upcoming travel is limited, Citi provides a bounty of other things to use your points on, such as:
- Cash back in the form of eligible savings and checking account direct deposits, statement credits and personal checks ($5 minimum for checks)
- Payment credits, including mortgages, student loans or online bill pay (in preset increments from $25 to $1,000)
- Gift cards
- Shop with Points at popular retailer websites, including Amazon and PayPal, and in-person with partner merchants (although this may incur a fee), including Best Buy, CVS and select gas stations
- Transfer points to another account or charity
How much are the rewards worth?
As one of Citi’s premium credit cards, the Citi Premier’s points are most lucrative when used toward travel.
We found Citi’s no annual fee credit cards — like the Citi Rewards+® Card — earn “basic” ThankYou points, which can’t be transferred to travel partners and are valued at 1 cent apiece. Similarly, using your Citi Premier’s points on non-travel rewards like gift cards will also provide a 1-cent value. This is especially helpful if you’re an infrequent traveler considering not all travel rewards can be redeemed for cash back at an equal value.
For now, transferring your points for travel partner airfare is the most valuable use of your points. Booking travel through Citi will always yield a 1-cent, 1:1 value, but finding the right transfer partner may be able to boost your ThankYou points up to 1.9 cents.
Other cardholder perks
Outside the point transfer system and the new $100 annual hotel savings credit, Citi doesn’t offer many benefits apart from the standard Citi Entertainment service. It’s not a bad feature roster, but it omits standard features in its class, like a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® application fee credit and travel insurance. A few competitors like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Card offer more value in the travel perk department.
Fortunately, the Citi Premier still carries a few Mastercard benefits as a World Elite Mastercard.
$100 annual hotel savings benefit
You can receive an annual $100 discount on a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) when you use your card and book through ThankYou.com or 1-800-THANKYOU.
The $100 annual hotel credit is easily the Citi Premier’s best perk and can single handedly recoup the annual fee. Not all of its rival cards offer an annual statement credit of this size, but it’s worth noting that several do. It stacks up to the Bank of America Premium Rewards card’s up to $100 of yearly statement credits toward airline incidental expenses and eclipses the Sapphire Preferred card’s up to $50 of annual hotel statement credits for stays through Chase.
World Elite Mastercard perks
Although not every World Elite Mastercard will come with the entire portfolio of benefits, the Citi Premier offers these features, including standouts, such as the following:
- World Elite discount and access programs for hotel stays and other travel packages
- $5 Lyft credit after three rides, once per month
- 5 percent cash rewards on HelloFresh orders, usable on future purchases
- Complimentary ShopRunner membership, offering free two-day shipping and free returns with 100+ online retailers
- World Elite Concierge for 24/7 service personal assistance
First-year vs. ongoing value
The Citi Premier certainly doesn’t run out of steam after its first year — it has one of the best average yearly rewards values* among its rival cards. We calculate the typical cardholder will earn $423 in rewards value each year, which towers above the $327* the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the $256* the Bank of America Premium Rewards card earnings on the same spend. Even with a higher point value, the Sapphire Rewards card barely tops the Citi Premier’s average rewards potential with a $434* yearly value. Ultimately, the Citi Premier’s shift to everyday rewards categories adds up to a better rewards potential than several travel-oriented rewards rivals.
The average cardholder shouldn’t have a tough time making up for the annual fee either, only about $264 each month across the 3X categories is required to recoup the $95 annual fee if the rewards are redeemed through Citi at a 1-cent value. Transferring points to achieve Citi travel partners’ top 1.9-cent Bankrate point value whittles this spend down to a mere $147 — less than what the average household spends at restaurants each month*.
The Citi Premier card’s sign-up bonus is solid as well but doesn’t provide the strongest first-year value among its peers, especially since there aren’t any other introductory perks to back up the welcome offer. Still, it provides enough value to cover the annual fee more than six times over.
|Benefits and costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Welcome offers||+$800 value (80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months)||—|
|Perks (of monetary value)||
*Based on our formula used to calculate each card’s average rewards rates and average ongoing rewards value, using Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data and an assumed $15,900 yearly spend over three years ($1,325 per month).
Rates and fees
The Citi Premier card carries a $95 annual fee, but there is no annual fee for authorized users. This could be a big help when collecting rewards — especially since it only takes spending at least $267 per month across your 3X points categories to offset the fee. Apart from that, Citi Premier is a pretty low-maintenance card. There are no foreign transaction fees to keep up with either.
However, there aren’t any zero-interest introductory APR offers (which is normal for cards of its caliber), so you’ll have to avoid carrying a balance to keep the 19.74 percent to 27.74 percent variable APR at bay. It’s important to dodge interest on your rewards card to begin with, but the low end of the ongoing APR is at least on par with the current average credit card interest rate.
How the Citi Premier card compares to other rewards cards
Citi Premier is a great “jack of all trades” card, but you might want to look at other rewards credit cards if you need more specialized rewards based on your spending—or more travel-focused features.
Citi Premier Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
As far as travel cards with a $95 annual fee go, it’s hard to beat the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when it comes to ongoing value.
Not only does the Sapphire Preferred earn rewards from more travel categories and offer better travel redemption options — including a 25 percent travel redemption value boost through Chase Ultimate Rewards — but its benefits also carry more weight. While the Sapphire Preferred card’s up to $50 in statement credits each account anniversary year for hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards falls short of the Premier card’s $100 discount on a hotel stay of $500 or more, the card stands out for its top-shelf travel insurance and an account anniversary bonus that matches 10 percent of your previous year’s rewards.
However, the just Citi Premier’s 3X bonus categories can make a stronger case for everyday spenders. Although the Sapphire Preferred’s 3X points on select streaming services is useful, the Citi Premier’s 3X supermarket category isn’t tethered to online grocery shopping and its 3X gas station category will probably be more valuable than the Chase card’s streaming service rewards for many cardholders.
With this in mind, the Sapphire Preferred is a much better option for frequent travelers, but the Citi Premier may be more lucrative for cardholders more focused on earning rewards on everyday spending.
Citi Premier Card vs. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
If you prefer the Citi Premier card’s previous rewards on transit and entertainment, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express includes 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming services and 3 percent back on transit in addition to its other stellar bonus categories.
The Blue Cash Preferred may also be a more valuable pick if you aren’t planning to take advantage of transfer partners and tend to lean on grocery purchases. In fact, the Blue Cash Preferred’s 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1 percent) is perhaps the best rewards rate for groceries available.
The Blue Cash Preferred is light on additional features outside basic shopping protections and the Pay It Plan It alternate payment options, so the Citi Premier has an edge when it comes to offsetting the annual fee (the Blue Cash Preferred has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95). Depending on your spending habits, the Citi Premier card’s broader category coverage may offset the Blue Cash Preferred card’s supermarket and streaming focus, especially if your dining and travel expenses outweigh your supermarket expenses or your grocery budget well exceeds $6,000 per year.
Best cards to pair with the Citi Premier Card
Other Citi credit cards are usually the best match for the Citi Premier. The most flexible option is probably the Citi® Double Cash Card since you can convert the up to 2 percent cash back (1 percent at purchase, then 1 percent upon payment) it earns on all purchases to ThankYou points. These are normally “basic” points, but they’re transformed into full-fledged ThankYou rewards when they’re redeemed with your Citi Premier card.
Citi’s rewards card, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, also happens to be one of the best partners for the Citi Premier. Its unique rewards program earns an incredible 5 percent cash back in your top spending category each billing cycle (up to $500, then 1 percent back). Since it only earns rewards in one of 10 categories, the Citi Premier covers some of the costliest categories — like dining, groceries, gas and travel — and allows you to earn stellar rewards in rarer categories like transit, select streaming services and live entertainment. Even better, because the Citi Custom Cash earns “basic” ThankYou points that can go toward cash back, you can pool your points with the Citi Premier instead and redeem them for a higher value with transfer partners.
If you make a lot of small purchases at supermarkets and gas stations, then the Citi Rewards+ card will also make a great no annual fee partner. It only earns 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in purchases each year (then 1X points), but it rounds up all of your rewards to the nearest 10 points on each purchase. Plus, you can get a 10 percent bonus on the first 100,000 points you redeem each year.
Bankrate’s Take — Is the Citi Premier Card worth it?
The Citi Premier card may have fewer benefits and reward-earning opportunities geared toward travel than some competing cards at the moment, but the supermarket and gas station rewards should be much more appealing if you want to reap travel rewards from day-to-day spending. Combined with the Citi Premier’s World Elite Mastercard benefits, Citi’s quality roster of supporting rewards cards can also work to fill in a few of these travel-centric gaps.
All of these factors add up to make the Citi Premier a great choice for collecting travel rewards, but you’ll have to put in a little more elbow grease to capture your points’ maximum value through transfer partners when it comes time to book a flight.