Citi Premier Will Become Less Valuable for Travelers

Claire TsosieApril 9, 2020
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Citi has announced major upcoming changes to the Citi Premier® Card that will take effect Aug. 23, 2020, generally making the card less valuable for travelers — despite some added benefits. Overall, the long-planned changes are negative for the $95-annual-fee card, which has long been a top choice for travelers because of its broad bonus categories and solid travel redemption options.

Citi Premier® Card: Before and after

The changes to the Citi Premier® Card make it better for spending at supermarkets and on high-cost hotels booked through the Citi ThankYou portal, but worse for travel in general.

On Aug. 23, 2020, the card will add bonus rewards at supermarkets — a potentially valuable category for some cardholders — but remove other travel and entertainment categories. Certain travel redemptions will soon become less valuable. It will also add a discount for certain high-cost hotel stays — but that perk might be hard for some cardholders to use.

While the rewards are getting an overhaul, the annual fee and sign-up bonus will remain the same, Citi confirms. And as before, the card will charge no foreign transaction fees.

The issuer notes that these changes are meant to align with consumers' spending habits.

“As our cardmembers’ needs evolve, we want to ensure we’re evolving with them and offering products that best meet their spending habits and deliver exceptional value,” says Lora Monfared, general manager of proprietary rewards products at Citi, in a statement.

Also worth noting: The card's $0-annual-fee sibling card, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, will also get different rewards categories. Because it's not taking new applications, these changes will affect only current cardholders, Citi confirms. The Citi Rewards+℠ Card effectively replaced this card in 2019.

Positive changes

Supermarket bonus category

Currently, the Citi Premier® Card doesn't offer bonus rewards on supermarket spending. The new version will earn 3 points per dollar spent in that category, a nice bump for those who spend heavily on groceries.

Hotel discount

The updated version of this card will offer $100 off on a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) once per calendar year through Thankyou.com. That's a great perk for some travelers. But for those who don't normally spend $500 or more on a single hotel stay, or for those who don't book stays through Citi's website, it might be difficult to use.

Negative changes

Fewer travel bonus categories

Currently, the Citi Premier® Card has a wide-ranging definition of what counts as travel and can earn bonus points. But the new version's take on travel is much narrower. Unlike the current version, the new version will no longer earn bonus points on:

  • Car rental agencies.

  • Travel agencies, travel aggregators and tour operators.

  • Commuter transportation.

  • Ferries.

  • Commuter railways.

  • Subways.

  • Taxis, limousines and car services.

  • Passenger railways.

  • Cruise lines.

  • Bridge and road tolls.

  • Parking lots and garages.

  • Campgrounds and trailer parks.

  • Timeshares.

  • Bus lines.

  • Motorhome and recreational vehicle rentals.

  • Boat leases and rentals.

No more bonus rewards on entertainment

The new version of the card will no longer offer 2 points per dollar spent on entertainment. That means in the future, cardholders will no longer earn extra rewards on the following:

  • Select entertainment, including live entertainment, live theatrical productions, concerts and live sporting events.

  • Movie theaters.

  • Amusement parks (including zoos, aquariums, circuses and carnivals).

  • Tourist attractions (including museums and art galleries).

  • Record stores.

  • Video rental stores.

  • On-demand internet streaming media.

Less valuable travel redemptions

Points earned on the Citi Premier® Card are currently worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Citi ThankYou portal for airfare. With the new version of the card, though, points redeemed this way will only be worth 1 cent each. For some travelers, that could significantly cut into the card's value.

What it means for existing cardholders

For cardholders with the Citi Premier® Card, these changes will take effect automatically. Here's when the changes will roll out:

  • Aug. 23, 2020: Current cardholders will start earning rewards on new categories, in addition to the old ones. They'll also be able to use the $100 discount for a single hotel stay costing $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) once per year through Thankyou.com.

  • April 10, 2021: The old bonus categories not included on the new version of this card — such as entertainment and certain travel expenses including cruises, toll, and parking — will go back to earning 1 point per dollar spent. When redeeming for airfare through the Citi ThankYou portal, points will only be worth 1 cent apiece.

Starting Aug. 23, 2020, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card will also go from earning 2 points per dollar spent on restaurants and entertainment to 2 points per dollar spent on cable and popular streaming, live entertainment and restaurants.

Information related to the Citi Premier® Card and the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.

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