Citi Premier Review: Rewards Are Easy to Earn, but Less Valuable to Burn

Earn 3 points per $1 spent on airlines and hotels, and at gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets (1X back on other purchases). But those points don't go as far as they can with other travel cards.

Erin HurdOctober 23, 2020
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Our Take

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: This card earns rich ongoing rewards and could be a good deal for those who frequently travel internationally. But other cards offer more useful partners and more expansive definitions of travel.

Citibank ThankYou Premier Credit Card

on Citibank's application

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

  • High rewards on travel, including gas

Cons

  • Has annual fee

  • Needs excellent credit

Alternate Pick: More valuable redemptions

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Greater flexibility

This card earns 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel (not just on airfare and hotels), plus 1 point per $1 on other spending. Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase, or you can transfer them to more than a dozen airline and hotel programs, including United, Southwest, Marriott and Hyatt. The annual fee is $95.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$95

Annual Fee

$95

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

The $95-annual-fee Citi Premier® Card offers bonus rewards across popular spending categories, so it could make for a good everyday credit card, especially if you do a lot of international traveling.

But it struggles to live up to the status its name suggests, especially compared with other travel credit cards at the same price point. Because of some drawbacks in key areas, like point values and transfer partners, it's not so much "premier" as it is middle-of-the-road territory.

There is a nice sign-up bonus, plus a yearly hotel credit that can cover the annual fee. But overall, the Citi Premier® Card falls short of the competition.

Nerd tip: Citi made significant changes to the rewards and perks on the Citi Premier® Card that took effect in August 2020, and these changes reduced its value for many travelers. Read about those changes here.

Citi Premier® Card: Basics

Card type: Travel.

Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Rewards:

  • 3 ThankYou points per $1 spent on air travel and hotels.

  • 3 points per $1 spent at supermarkets.

  • 3 points per $1 spent at gas stations.

  • 3 points per $1 spent at restaurants.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Redemption options:

  • Redeem for travel booked through Citi. You get 1 cent per point.

  • Redeem for cash back, gift card purchases, bill payments and more. For many redemptions, points are worth 1 cent each. Redeeming for cash back, though, will net you only 0.5 cent per point.

  • Transfer to one of Citi's partners, mostly international airlines, and mostly at a 1:1 ratio. Through strategic redemptions, you can potentially get more value out of your points this way. If you don't plan on traveling internationally — or don’t want to spend the effort to use alliances to book domestic travel on foreign airlines — this option is somewhat limited. JetBlue is the only domestic carrier.

  • AeroMexico.

  • AirFrance/KLM.

  • Avianca.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Etihad.

  • EVA Air.

  • Jet Airways.

  • JetBlue.

  • JetPrivilege.

  • Malaysia Airlines.

  • Qantas.

  • Qatar Airways.

  • Shop Your Way.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • Thai Airways.

  • Turkish Airlines.

  • Virgin Atlantic.

Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Other benefits: 

  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit. Terms apply.

How it compares with other Citi travel cards

Among Citi cards that earn ThankYou points, the Citi Premier® Card is a midtier option. The Citi Prestige® Card comes with more premium benefits — and an annual fee of $495 — while the Citi Rewards+℠ Card comes with an annual fee of $0 and lower ongoing rewards.

Here’s how all three cards compare:

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Citi Premier® Card

Citi Prestige® Card

Bonus offer

Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com.

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*

Rewards

  • 2x points on supermarkets and gas stations for the 1st $6k per year (1x points after that)

  • 1x points on everything else

  • 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels

  • 1x points on all other purchases

  • 5x points on restaurants and air travel

  • 3x points on hotels and cruise lines

  • 1x points on everything else

Other perks

  • Points round up to the nearest 10 on every purchase

  • 10% points back for the first 100,000 points redeemed per year

  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit

  • 4th night free hotel benefit (2x per year)

  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every 5 years

  • $250 annual travel credit

  • Priority Pass lounge access

Annual fee

$0

$95

$495

Why you might want the Citi Premier® Card

Triple points in 'the big three' everyday categories

This may be the biggest selling point for the Citi Premier® Card: Its bonus rewards cover three major line items in many household budgets — groceries, dining out and gas. Several cards offer bonus rewards in one or two of these categories, but it's rare to score 3X back across all three. Triple points at supermarkets, in particular, is more than you’ll earn in that category from many premium credit cards, including the Citi Prestige® Card.

Triple points on airlines and hotels

By offering 3 points per $1 in two of the biggest travel categories, the Citi Premier® Card has an edge on competitors that offer only 2 points per $1 on flights and hotels (and at the same price point).

Nerd tip: It's worth noting, though, that the Citi Premier® Card used to offer 3X points across a much broader definition of "travel" — airfare and hotels, yes, but also things like car rentals, cruises, travel agencies and aggregators, various commuter transportation, tolls, boat rentals and more. That's no longer the case. More on that below.

Multiple international travel partners = potential for outsize value

You can redeem points for travel through the Citi ThankYou portal, where you can expect a value of 1 cent per point. But you can also unlock higher value for your points if you opt to transfer them to certain airline loyalty programs. For example, as of this writing, you could transfer 172,000 ThankYou points into Singapore’s KrisFlyer program to cover a round-trip flight from New York to Frankfurt, Germany, in one of Singapore Airlines' luxury cabin suites. That same ultra-swanky experience would cost $10,000 if you paid cash.

If you’re willing to hack your way through a few hoops, you can use ThankYou points to find remarkable deals, like 7,500 Turkish Airlines miles one-way in economy to Hawaii (also as of this writing).

big sign-up bonus

The bonus on the Citi Premier® Card has fluctuated over time, and for a while it disappeared. The current offer: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. That's worth at least $600 in travel and potentially much more if you find a good deal with a travel partner, per above.

Citi Premier® Card: Drawbacks and alternatives

NARROW TRAVEL CATEGORIES

Compared with the Citi Premier® Card, other cards in its class have a much broader definition of what qualifies as "travel." Beyond just plane tickets and hotel stays, you could also earn elevated rewards on things like car rentals, cruises, rideshares, buses, trains and much more — depending on the card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for one, has a much broader definition of travel. It earns 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel (not just on airfare and hotels), and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. It, too, has an annual fee of $95. Or you could opt for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 2 miles back on all purchases, travel-related or not, and has a similar annual fee.

Lackluster value for simple travel redemptions

Though points earned with the Citi Premier® Card used to be worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for airfare through the Citi ThankYou portal, they're now worth just 1 cent each when used that way. This slide really cuts into the value of the card for many. The aforementioned Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns points that are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel (of any kind) through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal.

Limited choice of well-known or domestic transfer partners

Transferring credit card points to an airline's frequent-flyer program can be quite lucrative, depending on how you redeem. But almost all of Citi's transfer partners are international carriers, making them less useful for those who don't plan to travel overseas or don’t want to dig into complex award charts. JetBlue is the only domestic carrier among the transfer partners. There can be a lot of value to be found from these transfer partners, but it’s not usually low-hanging fruit. You’ll have to do some work to learn the ins and outs of new-to-you airline programs. You can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio, meaning 1,000 ThankYou Points equals 1,000 JetBlue TrueBlue points.

Nerd tip: Citi also offers one additional points transfer partner: You can choose to trade your ThankYou points for Shop Your Way points, good for retail purchases. (Shop Your Way is the rewards program and online bonus mall for the Sears credit cards, as well.) Each ThankYou point that you transfer is worth 12 Shop Your Way points.

If you're searching for more familiar transfer partners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could again be a better fit. It features a mix of foreign and domestic carriers, including United Airlines and Singapore Airlines, as well as hotel chains such as Marriott and Hyatt. The card earns 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel (not just on airfare and hotels), and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. As noted, those points are worth more when you redeem for travel via Chase. The card also offers a large sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

HOTEL DISCOUNT may be of limited value

The card offers $100 off a single hotel stay of at least $500 (not including taxes and fees) once every calendar year, when you book through Thankyou.com. That could be useful for some travelers — but do you normally spend $500 or more on a single hotel night? And are you willing to book it exclusively through Citi?

Lack of travel protections

You might expect a travel credit card to offer some travel insurance to give you some peace of mind on your trip. The Citi Premier® Card used to offer a modest amount of trip cancellation and interruption protection, along with car rental insurance, lost baggage protection and travel accident insurance. But Citi slashed the travel protections on most of its credit cards, including the Citi Premier® Card.

Is the Citi Premier® Card right for you?

For many people, the answer won't be a resounding yes.

It may merit a look if you spend a lot on gas, dining, groceries or certain kinds of travel, as points can add up fast. But those points won’t be as valuable as they once were, and if you want to transfer them, you’ll have to navigate a handful of less-familiar travel partners.

on Citibank's application

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