Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Juan Ruiz
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Whether you’re ready to select a rewards-earning credit card for the first time or you’re planning to add a card to your current collection, our article today will be of interest.
We’re looking at 2 very popular cards that work well for the frequent traveler for both earning rewards on travel purchases and providing good value options at redemption time.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Citi Premier® Card are seasoned cards with proven value, but one may be a better fit for your particular spending mix and travel goals.
Join us as we look closer at the attributes of these travel rewards cards, including earning potential, redemption value, and the benefits and protections you’ll find on each card.
It’s an interesting comparison of 2 cards that have a lot of similarities, but in the end, your priorities will determine which card offers the better value for you.
Let’s get started.
When comparing 2 dynamic travel rewards cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Citi Premier card, there’s a lot of information to process. A side-by-side comparison helps bring all of the information together so you can easily compare the key features and benefits of each card.
Here’s how our 2 cards compare in each category:
|Benefit||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Citi Premier® Card|
|Welcome Bonus||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024.|
|Travel Benefits and Protections||
|Shopping Benefits and Protections||
|Annual Fees and Authorized Users||$95 annual fee; no charge to add authorized users||$95 annual fee; no charge to add authorized users|
The initial welcome bonuses offered on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Citi Premier card provide a valuable opportunity to jumpstart your rewards earning.
But welcome bonus opportunities can be fleeting, as you’ll have an initial window after card approval in which to meet minimum spending requirements to qualify for the bonus.
You’ll also find that bonuses fluctuate, so always check for current offers before applying.
Additionally, the value of the welcome bonus will differ depending on the redemption options you select — we’ll talk more about those redemption options shortly.
But first, here’s a snapshot of current welcome bonuses for our 2 cards, the associated minimum spending requirements, and our estimated value for each one.
A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.
Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.
Frequent flyers will enjoy 3x ThankYou Points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, and hotels.
The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent option for anyone looking for an all-around travel rewards credit card. The card helps you earn points fast with great 3x bonus categories such as restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotels. Plus, it offers access to airline and hotel transfer partners, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and has a reasonable annual fee!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns Ultimate Rewards points while the Citi Premier card earns ThankYou Points. While these reward currencies differ, you’ll experience accelerated earnings in bonus category spending on both cards and have several similar redemption options.
Let’s look closer at each card’s earning possibilities and the choices you’ll have at redemption time.
Both cards feature robust earning levels on travel purchases, select everyday spending, and at least 1x earnings on all other purchases.
Here’s how our 2 cards compare in the earnings category:
|Earning Category||Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Citi Premier Card|
|Travel||3x points on air travel and hotels|
|Additional Bonus Categories and Earnings||
||3x points at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants|
|All Other Purchases||1x points||1x points|
It’s worth noting that Chase defines online grocery stores with the following clarification:
“The online grocery (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs) category includes purchases for grocery pickup and delivery that are placed online with grocery stores, specialty food stores, or delivery service merchants that classify as grocery store merchants (excluding membership and subscription fees). Meal kit delivery services are included.”
Citi clarifies its supermarket category with this statement:
“You won’t earn three points for purchases made at general merchandise/discount superstores, freezer/meat locker provisioners, dairy product stores, miscellaneous food/convenience stores, markets, drugstores, warehouse clubs, wholesale clubs, specialty vendors, bakeries, candy stores, nut stores, confectionery stores, and meal kit delivery services. You also won’t earn three points for purchases made at online supermarkets if the merchant does not classify itself as a supermarket by using the supermarket merchant code.”
The better card for earning points will depend on your spending mix. Let’s look at a couple of annual spending mix examples to illustrate the difference in earnings:
Let’s assume 50% of the travel was purchased via the Chase travel portal on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and 50% was not. With 5x earnings on $2,500 (12,500 points), 2x earnings on the other $2,500 (5,000 points), 1x earnings at supermarkets (7,200 points), and 3x earnings on dining (10,800 points), you would earn a total of 35,500 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $710 by our valuation).
With the Citi Premier card, you would earn 3x on all $15,800 in purchases for a total of 47,400 ThankYou Points (worth $758 by our valuation).
Let’s look at another annual spending mix example:
Once again, we’ll assume the airfare and hotels purchased with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card were 50% on the Chase travel portal. This would result in 5x earnings on $5,000 (25,000 points), 2x earnings on $5,000 (10,000 points), 3x on online grocery store purchases (9,000 points), 3x on streaming (3,600 points), 1x at gas stations (2,400 points), and 3x on dining (12,000 points). The total earnings would be 62,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,240 by our valuation).
The Citi Premier would earn 3x points on the travel purchase (30,000), 1x for online groceries (3,000), 1x for streaming services (1,200), 3x at gas stations (7,200), and 3x on dining (12,000), for a total of 53,400 ThankYou Points (worth $854 by our valuation). Note that some online grocery stores could code as regular grocery stores and earn 3x versus 1x.
These examples are only meant to illustrate how spending mixes can affect your ultimate earnings. Additional non-bonus spending was not considered, and actual real-life spending mixes will differ.
Earnings are just a piece of the value proposition, as the actual value of your rewards will surface at redemption time.
Let’s look at the choices you can expect to have when redeeming rewards with each card.
The value you receive at redemption time will depend on how you redeem your points. You could redeem your points for a gift card, for example, or transfer points to a travel partner and have the potential of receiving much greater value.
We like that points earned on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Citi Premier card are flexible and transferrable, making these rewards more valuable than fixed-value rewards such as airline miles or other rewards that have limited redemption options.
Here are the redemption options you’ll find on our featured cards:
|Redemption Option||Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Citi Premier Card|
|Additional Redemption Options||Statement credits, Pay Yourself Back (rotating categories, including charitable donations), cash-back, gift cards, shopping at Amazon, Apple, or other partner retailers, experiences||
Hot Tip: Watch for periodic transfer bonuses — both Chase and Citi offer occasional transfer bonuses that allow you to receive additional bonus points when transferring your rewards to various hotel or airline programs. Transfer bonuses have included a Chase 50% bonus when transferring points to Marriott Bonvoy and a 30% bonus when transferring to British Airways. Citi examples include a 25% bonus to Air France-KLM Flying Blue and an offer of a 25% bonus to Avianca LifeMiles.
While Ultimate Rewards points and ThankYou Points are unique rewards currencies, redeeming points for travel by transferring to airline or hotel partners generally results in the best potential value, regardless of which points you’re using.
Let’s look at some examples of how you can redeem these rewards for good value.
Chase offers a unique opportunity to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to the World of Hyatt hotel loyalty program, where you may find great potential value such as the Category 8 Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort for 35,000 to 45,000 points. Check out our list of amazing Hyatt redemptions offering great value for your points.
Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and using those miles to book British Airways flights can be one of the best ways to get to the Caribbean from the U.S.
Transferring ThankYou Points earned on the Citi Premier card to Air France-KLM Flying Blue frequent flyer program for flights to Hawaii can be a good use of your points. Points transfer nearly instantly at a ratio of 1:1 and can be used to book with Flying Blue’s partner, Delta Air Lines. A business class flight from the U.S. mainland may be secured for just 30,000 miles.
See our list of dozens of ideas on the best ways to redeem your ThankYou Points.
Earning potential and redemption options may offer sufficient overall value to warrant selecting a specific travel rewards-earning card. However, benefits and protections may save you money or provide needed protection during your travels, therefore creating additional value to consider.
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Citi Premier card come with these distinct travel benefits:
While the Citi Premier card does not offer any additional key travel perks, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with a long list of travel benefits and protections.
Saving money is always a good thing, and having purchase protection can help make things right if something goes wrong.
Here are the shopping benefits and protections you’ll receive with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Citi Premier card:
If you’re paying an annual fee on a rewards-earning card, receiving value beyond the expense of that annual fee is important.
The same is true regarding any fees charged to add authorized users to your card.
Here’s how our 2 featured cards compare regarding annual fees and the cost to add additional users:
When it comes to overall value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card edges out the Citi Premier card with its collection of travel benefits and protections. Add in the additional value that could be realized when redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for travel and you have a valuable combination.
Yet the Citi Premier card does offer excellent potential earning power on everyday spending. If your spending mix matches well with its bonus category offerings, the card may be a good choice.
If you’re looking for a travel rewards card that offers travel benefits and protections, the Citi Premier card won’t live up to those requirements. Consider the card only if you have a travel rewards card that already offers these benefits.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a better travel rewards card than the Citi Premier card due to its long list of travel benefits and protections and the greater value of using points to purchase travel.
The Citi Premier card does offer higher earnings on everyday purchases, though.
The better card for you will depend on how your spending mix matches the bonus category rewards offered by each card, how you will redeem your rewards, and whether travel benefits and protections are important to you.
The better rewards currency will depend on the redemption option you select. If you purchase travel via either card’s proprietary travel portal, Ultimate Rewards points can be worth 1.25 cents per point versus 1 cent per point for ThankYou Points.
Transferring points to hotel or airline partners could result in similar values, regardless of which rewards currency you use. The list of partner hotel loyalty programs and airline partners does differ between Chase and Citi, however.
Fortunately, rewards earned on either card are flexible and transferrable, which results in several possible redemption options.
Transferrable rewards points can be transferred to travel partners’ loyalty programs and be used to purchase award flights or free hotel nights. These points are more valuable than rewards points or miles that have fixed redemption options, such as airline frequent flyer miles.
For example, with an airline’s frequent flyer miles, you may be locked in at redemption time to just that specific airline or partner airline. With transferrable rewards points, you have the flexibility to select any airline transfer partner, hotel partner, or other redemption option that fits your specific travel goal.
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