Citi Premier℠ Card Review – 3x Points on Travel
The Citi Premier℠ Card is a travel rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee (waived during the first year) and an expansive loyalty program that lets you redeem for general merchandise, gift cards, cash back, and travel, including airline tickets and hotel stays. Most redemptions occur through Citi’s ThankYou® portal, but you can also use your accumulated ThankYou points to make purchases with partner vendors such as Amazon.com and LiveNation.
Premier is comparable to a number of other cash back and travel rewards cards with annual fees, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($95 annual fee), Capital One Venture Rewards Card ($95 annual fee), and various airline- and hotel-branded cards, such as American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles ($95 annual fee). It’s also comparable to cash back and travel rewards cards without annual fees, such as Discover it Miles, though the benefits tend to be less generous.
When you spend at least $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, you get 50,000 bonus points. That’s worth up to $625 when redeemed for airfare at Citi’s ThankYou® portal.
This card earns an unlimited 3 ThankYou points per $1 spent on all travel purchases, including airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, trains, taxis, tolls, and other forms of local and long-distance conveyance. The card earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment, including tourist attractions, music venues, and more. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent.
You can redeem your accumulated ThankYou points at the Citi ThankYou portal for a wide variety of merchandise, travel, experiences, and cash and cash equivalents, including gift cards, statement credits, and paper checks. You can also redeem for direct purchases at Amazon.com and with LiveNation. Point values vary based on how you redeem.
Travel booked through Citi’s travel portal offers the best bang for your buck – points are worth $0.0125 apiece with this option, meaning a 40,000-point haul translates to $500 in travel purchases. Plus, there are no blackout dates on Citi travel bookings – and, if you don’t have enough points to cover the full cost of a travel purchase, you can pay the difference with a credit or debit card.
Gift card redemptions are worth a straight $0.01 per point. All other redemption options are worth between $0.005 and $0.01, with cash redemptions on the lower end of this range and Amazon.com redemptions on the higher end. Redemption minimums vary by redemption method as well – for instance, they start around 1,000 points for merchandise redemptions and 5,000 points for paper check redemptions.
If you don’t want to redeem for any of the options listed above, you can transfer your accumulated ThankYou points to about a dozen travel loyalty programs, often at a one-to-one ratio, and sometimes better. You typically need at least 1,000 ThankYou points to complete a transfer.
Most transfer partners are airlines that operate overseas, such as Qantas and Malaysia Airlines, but a handful of popular U.S. brands participate as well, including Virgin America and Hilton (which also has the best transfer rate: 1,500 Hilton Honors points for every 1,000 ThankYou points).
This card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived during the first year of card membership. There is no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%, and late and returned payments both cost $35.
Citi Private Pass is a useful fringe benefit for cardholders who enjoy entertainment, outings, and VIP privileges. Private Pass perks include VIP access to popular concerts, sporting events, and other productions, as well as exclusive access to specially organized events, such as celebrity dinners.
This card’s additional benefits include 120 days of purchase protection for stolen or damaged items bought with the card, up to $1,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year; complimentary loss and damage coverage for car rentals charged in full to the card; 24/7 concierge service for travel and event bookings; and complimentary one-year warranty extensions on all items with original warranties set to expire after five years or less.
This card requires excellent credit. Even minor dings can affect your application and reduce your chances of approval.
The Citi Premier℠ Card isn’t a straight-up cash back card – after all, its cash redemption values are pretty low relative to its peers. It’s also not exclusively a travel rewards card. And, despite solid earnings on dining out, it’s not only a restaurant credit card either. It’s a mashup of all these things and more – making it a powerful ally for consumers who spend in its favored categories and enjoy being able to redeem rewards for pretty much anything they want.
Of course, the Premier Card has drawbacks, including a sizable annual fee and uneven redemption options that can eat into the value of your accumulated points. However, if you’re not sure which types of rewards you value or intend to use most, it could be the right card for you.
Updated: October 29, 2018
The Citi Premier℠ Card is a great card for frequent travelers who have excellent credit, are able to spend heavily enough – especially on travel and dining – to offset the annual fee, and don’t mind redeeming points for travel purchases and gift cards. It’s not ideal for light spenders, those who don’t travel frequently, and those who prefer to redeem for cash.
This card’s awesome point earning and redemption rate on travel, a great sign-up bonus, its versatile non-travel redemption options, and the lack of a foreign transaction fee are nice fringe benefits which count in its favor. However, the annual fee, poor point transfer options, low point values for cash and merchandise redemptions, and penalty interest charges count against it. Overall, it’s a very good rewards card for frequent, high-spending travelers.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.
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Citi Premier℠ Card Review – 3x Points on Travel
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