Citi Premier Card Review: Is It an Ideal Travel Rewards Card for You?
Citi’s Premier Card is a travel rewards credit card that relies heavily on a trio of rewards rates as well as a rewards boost that increases the value of your points whenever you book them for airfare through Citi.
The card is an interesting choice because it combines a lot of the elements you might be looking for in a travel card: points transfers to loyalty programs, redemption boosts, and special bonuses for travel-related expenses.
Because the card has various bonuses as well as multiple ways to redeem points, it’s important to understand exactly how the card’s rewards work in order to know if it’s a good fit for you.
In this review, we’ll discuss how the Citi Premier’s rewards work, what its rates and fees are and how it compares to other travel rewards cards. Our final section is a conclusion that provides you with our thoughts on the card’s pros and cons and who it’s good for.
Pros: Industry-leading 3% rewards rate for travel and gas purchases, good sign-up bonus, plus 14 different international airline transfer partners.
Cons: No hotel transfer partners and the card has a penalty APR of 29.99% that presents problems for consumers who pay late and carry balances.
Estimated Yearly Travel Rewards: 44,498 points
|Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Regular APR|
|50,000 points||$0 for the first year, then $95||16.74% to 25.74%|
|Rewards Rate: 3x on travel and gas, 2x on restaurants and entertainment, 1x on everything else|
Citi calls the rewards points you earn “ThankYou points,” named after their ThankYou rewards program. When you log into your Citi account, you can see your ThankYou rewards balance and, when you’re ready, you can redeem them in a variety of ways we’ll talk about in a few minutes.
There are two ways to earn ThankYou points with the Citi Premier: a sign-up bonus and daily spending.
The sign-up bonus is common among nearly every rewards card, in that they offer free rewards points or miles if you can spend a certain amount of money in the first three months of owning the card.
Citi will give you 50,000 ThankYou points if you can spend $4,000 in the first three months of owning the card. Once you hit the $4,000 mark, it will take Citi up to two billing cycles (at least 60 days) to deposit the points to your account.
Regular purchases count toward this spending bonus but balance transfers and any fees or interest payments related to your credit card don’t count.
The second way to earn points involves your daily spending. The following list details the bonuses Citi gives you according to which types of purchases you make:
- 3% on travel
- 3% on gas
- 2% on restaurants
- 2% on entertainment
- 1% on everything else
Based on the average household spending data we’ve gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we believe that this hierarchy of bonuses can earn you 44,498 points per year.
Citi gives you a couple of different ways to redeem those rewards.
First, you can use them to book airline tickets through Citi’s ThankYou shopping portal. What makes this option lucrative is that Citi will boost your points by 25 percent.
Normally, 40,000 points, for example, would have a cash value of $400. However, if you use those points to buy a plane ticket from Citi, they’re worth $500.
The second way you can use your points is to transfer them to Citi’s 15 airline partners. They allow you to send your ThankYou points at a 1:1 rate to 14 international and one domestic airline frequent flyer programs, a move that, in some cases, provide more value than using your points to book tickets through Citi.
Here is a list of Citi’s airline transfer partners, according to rewards specialists Upgraded Points:
- Avianca Airlines
- Air France/KLM
- Cathay Pacific
- Etihad Airways
- EVA Air
- Garuda Indonesia
- Jet Airways
- JetBlue Airways
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qantas Airways
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Upgraded Points notes that your points transfer to these airlines can take anywhere from just a few seconds (Jet Airways, JetBlue) to up to six days (Etihad).
The third main way you can use your points is to redeem them for gift cards. For instance, 10,000 ThankYou points are worth a $100 gift card.
We like to discuss rates and fees because they represent the cost of using the Premier card. The following list presents the card’s most pertinent rates and fees. Afterward, we’ll talk about how the card’s interest rates can affect you:
- Interest rate for purchases and balance transfers: 16.74% to 25.74%
- Interest rate for cash advances: 27.49%
- Penalty interest rate: 29.99%
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
- Cash advance fee: $10 or 5%, whichever is greater
- Foreign transaction fee: None
- Late/returned payment fee: Up to $39
- Annual fee: $0 first year, $95 after
The Premier’s interest rates (“APR”) are what end up costing you the most money when you use this card. However, the APR’s only come into play when you carry a balance, which is what happens when you don’t pay off your entire balance when your payment is due.
That being said, the data we’ve seen from sites like CreditCards.com and ValuePenguin indicates that, if you use a credit card, the odds say that you’ll carry a balance. With that in mind, here is a chart showing you how much you’d pay in interest per year for three different APR’s across five different average daily balances:
|16.74% APR for one year||20.74% APR for one year||25.74% APR for one year|
|$1,000 daily balance||$167.40||$207.40||$257.40|
|$2,000 daily balance||$334.80||$414.80||$514.80|
|$3,000 daily balance||$502.20||$622.20||$772.20|
|$4,000 daily balance||$669.60||$829.60||$1,029.60|
|$5,000 daily balance||$837.00||$1,037.00||$1,287.00|
If this chart shows anything, it’s that, if you’re going to carry a balance, you need to have great credit scores to ensure that you get the Premier Card’s lowest APR. Once you move into the mid-range APR we estimated or the listed high APR of 25.74%, there’s a good chance that you could pay more in interest each year than what you earn in rewards.
Another interest rate we want to highlight is the card’s penalty APR. This is a 29.99% rate that Citi will place on your account, permanently, if you make a single late payment or have a payment return because your pay-from account didn’t have enough funds to cover the payment.
The rate, however, only applies to future balances that you rack up and not the balance you have at the time Citi institutes the 29.99% APR.
Travel cards come with various types of bonuses, rewards rates, and yearly rewards totals. The following chart puts the Premier card in the context of its top competitors:
|Citi Premier Card||Capital One Venture Rewards||Discover it Miles||Chase Sapphire Preferred||U.S. Bank FlexpPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card||Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard||Bank of America Travel Rewards Card|
|Intro offer||50,000 points||50,000 miles||45,000 miles||60,000 points||25,000 points||70,000 miles||25,000 points|
|Rewards rates||3x on travel and gas, 2x on restaurants and entertainment, 1x on everything else||2x on all purchases||1.5x on all purchases||2x on travel and dining, 1x on everything else||2x on cell phones, charitable donations and airlines, gas or groceries||2x on all purchase plus a 5% bonus on redeemed points||1.5x on all purchases|
|Yearly miles/points on $30K spending||44,498 points||60,000 miles||45,000 miles||34,865 points||40,531 points||63,000 points||45,000 points|
|Travel portal booking bonus||1.25x||None||None||1.25x||1.5x||None||None|
|Number of transfer partners||15 (14 int’l airlines, 1 domestic airline)||15 (14 int’l airlines, 1 domestic airline)||None||9 (6 int’l airlines, 3 domestic airlines, 3 hotels)||None||None||None|
|APR||16.74% to 25.74% (29.99% penalty APR)||17.99%, 22.74% or 25.24%||14.24% to 25.24%||18.24% to 25.24%||16.24% to 26.24%||18.24%, 22.24% or 25.24%||17.24% to 25.24% (29.99% penalty APR)|
|Annual fee||$0 first year, $95 after||$0 first year, $95 after||None||$95||$0 first year, $49 after||$0 first year, $89 after||None|
The Citi Premier’s sign-up bonus is better than average, as the chart shows. It’s not quite as lucrative as what you’d get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard but it’s twice as big as the U.S. Bank FlexpPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card and Bank of America Travel Rewards Card.
The rewards structure the card offers is beneficial to those who spend more on travel than the average person ($2,000 and above) and spend more on gas than the average person. It’s the only card that provides a 3% bonus on purchases, too.
Despite that, though, the Premier’s points totals get an excellent boost from Citi when you book flights through them. Also, the fact that you can transfer points to 15 airlines means there’s a good chance your points will be more valuable than their cash value and their 25% boost when you buy tickets through Citi.
The card’s interest rates are about average and its annual fee is tied for the highest with the Sapphire Preferred card.
As to which card is worth its annual fee, we’d say the Sapphire Preferred has a slight advantage because they have more domestic travel transfer partners that include hotels: JetBlue, United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG.
We think that the research indicates the Premier card’s greatest strength is a combination of its big sign-up bonus as well as the options you have for redeeming your points. You can choose to buy airline tickets through Citi with the 25-percent boost, but you can also transfer your points to the card’s 15 airline partners.
What this means is that you can do some comparison shopping between the value your points get via the Citi booking portal and the value they have in the frequent flyer programs of the airlines you’re able to transfer your points to.
There are two main downsides to the card, in our opinion. First, the penalty APR is a huge red flag if you tend to make late payments and you build balances over time. The interest payments you’ll likely end up paying will be astronomical.
Second, we believe the card’s travel partners are limited and, subsequently, not advantageous if you plan on doing most of your traveling in the United States as you only have one option for domestic air travel: JetBlue.
We believe this card is best suited for someone who flies often and tends to fly internationally. The travel partners the card features are primarily international and include top-tier airlines like Etihad, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
We also think it’s a great fit if you have a big travel budget each year, as the 3% rewards for travel purchases is the highest among the cards we highlighted in our comparison section.
Now, if you’re the kind of person who pays late, builds balances and tends to travel within the United States, we’d suggest using the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card doesn’t have a penalty APR, has a bigger sign-up bonus and has more U.S.-based travel partners.