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Citi Premier vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which Card Is Right for You?

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Citi Premier vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which Card Is Right for You?

Ethan SteinbergCiti Premier vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which Card Is Right for You?Million Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: Both of these cards are currently offering increased sign-up bonuses, so you can’t go wrong no matter which one you pick!

While the premium card market keeps heating up, the truth is that most people don’t want to spend $450 or more on annual fees even if they believe that they can get that value back in the long term. What I find incredibly surprising is that even though there are dozens of premium travel rewards cards on the market, there are really only two or three cards that offer a solid mix of benefits, access to transferable points and a reasonable annual fee.

While these cards are very similar on the surface, including offering nearly identical bonuses and earning rates, there are subtle differences that might give one card an edge for certain people. Today we’ll compare the Citi Premier Card vs Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and help you decide which one to add to your wallet.

Citi Premier vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which Card Is Best for You?

Apply Here: Citi Premier

Read our review of the Citi Premier

 

Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Welcome Bonus and Eligibility

While it’s not the only factor that goes into picking a new credit card, the welcome bonus is certainly the largest and most immediate thing that most people consider. On the surface, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier offer identical bonuses of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

With the Sapphire Preferred you’ll earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, while the Citi Premier earns Citi ThankYou points.

Of course not everyone who wants these cards will be eligible to apply for them, thanks largely to the Chase 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months across all issuers (excluding certain business cards), Chase will not approve you for its credit cards, including the Sapphire Preferred. This means that many experienced award travelers won’t be able to take advantage of this offer. You also can’t get the Sapphire Preferred if you currently have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or have received a bonus on any Sapphire card in the last 48 months.

Citi’s application rules are much less stringent by comparison, and you’ll be eligible for the bonus on the Citi Premier unless you received a new card member bonus on the  Citi Rewards+℠ Card, Citi ThankYou Preferred Card (no longer available), Citi Premier or Citi Prestige Card or have closed any of these accounts in the last 24 months. One important thing to note is that Citi is very inquiry sensitive, so even if you have stellar credit you might be rejected if you have too many recent inquiries on your credit report.

So how do you compare apples and oranges? Or in other words, which 60,000 points is worth more? To answer that question, we have to talk about the different options you have for redeeming your points.

Redemption Options: Citi vs Chase

If you aren’t comfortable using transferable points and simply looking for the easiest hassle free booking option, these cards are deadlocked in a tie. That’s because they both offer a 25% bonus when redeeming for travel through the issuers’ respective travel portals, making your points worth 1.25 cents each.

This means you are guaranteed an absolute minimum of $750 towards travel (including airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises) no matter which card you book with. What sets them apart is the more valuable redemptions you can latch on to by leveraging hotel and airline transfer partners.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has 12 transfer partners, and points transfer to all of these programs at a 1:1 ratio:

Airlines:

Hotels:

Meanwhile Citi ThankYou points have the following 1:1 airline transfer partners:

You can see that there’s some overlap, but not a whole lot. Chase Ultimate Rewards have a clear edge when it comes to hotel redemptions, offering three different transfer partners to Citi’s zero. Of these three, Hyatt is by far the best Chase hotel transfer partner. I still remember my first ever hotel redemption, when my travel plans fell through in Sydney leaving me “stranded” for the night. Rather than get discouraged or anxious, I grabbed my laptop, went to a cafe, and in no more than 10 minutes I’d transferred 30,000 points from Chase to Hyatt and booked myself an $859 room for free.

At 30,000 Chase points per night (transferred to Hyatt), the Park Hyatt Sydney is one of the best value points hotels in the world. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Chase points are also the better choice for oneworld travelers thanks to British Airways (great for short flights in expensive markets) and Iberia. Also if you have a Southwest Companion Pass, the ability to top up your Southwest Rapid Rewards account by transferring from Chase can be huge.

What about Citi? The Citi Premier card comes with access to 15 different transfer partners, 11 of which are unique from Chase. Of these 11, most of them are not worth your time. I can’t think of a single scenario when you’d want to transfer your ThankYou Points to Thai Airways, for example, except maybe to redeem for their A380 flight simulator experience in Bangkok.

Citi’s biggest advantage by far comes in the form of transfers to Avianca LifeMiles, an underrated loyalty program that offers some of the best value Star Alliance redemptions out there. In the last year, I’ve managed to book the following awards through LifeMiles without paying any fuel surcharges:

  • 75,000 miles for United Polaris from Chicago to Shanghai
  • 75,000 miles for EVA business class from Houston to Taipei
  • 90,000 miles for ANA first class from Washington DC to Tokyo

Chase used to be a great choice for Star Alliance travelers because of the ability to transfer to United Airlines, but since United is eliminating its award chart and switching to dynamic award pricing it’s lost a lot of that luster.

While we know that both 60,000-point bonuses are worth $750 on the lower end, they differ significantly on the upper end. While it’s hard to peg an exact number to it, I consider Chase points to be much more valuable than ThankYou Points because of the flexibility they offer.

While Chase has fewer total transfer partners, when it comes to quality they knock Citi out of the water. Unless you’re looking to specifically book international premium cabin Star Alliance awards, I can’t think of a good reason to pick Citi over Chase.

Bonus Categories

Hopefully you’re spending your points down quickly instead of letting them sit around and lose value to devaluations. If you’re thinking long term, it’s important to pick a card with good bonus categories and not just a high bonus.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred you’ll earn:

  • 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on dining
  • 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel
  • 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on everything else

Meanwhile the Citi Premier earns:

  • 3x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on travel
  • 2x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on dining
  • 2x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on entertainment
  • 1x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on everything else

The 3x on travel is one of the best multipliers you’ll see from a non-premium credit card, and the addition of a bonus category for entertainment is unique as well. Hopefully by now you realize that it’s not just about how many points you earn, and you need to focus on earning the most valuable points as well.

MMS team member Scott Lieberman has both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi Premier. Whenever possible, he likes to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points because he likes the Chase transfer partners better. For example, he’ll transfer to United Airlines to fly on their partners to Europe. But he often uses his Citi Premier to earn 2x points on entertainment expenses like concert tickets. This is exactly the reason I’ve held off on opening the Citi Premier: I’ve been hesitant about earning points in a program that I don’t value as much, though my recent string of Avianca redemptions has changed my mind.

Perks and Fees

The similarities of these cards continue from top to bottom: Neither card charges foreign transaction fees, and both cards have $95 annual fees that are not waived for the first year.

In terms of benefits, let’s start with the Sapphire PreferredWhile the Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier have many of the same travel benefits, the terms of Chase’s insurance policies are much more consumer friendly. The other good news is that your travel coverage kicks in even if you don’t pay for the entire trip with your card.

You just need to put a tiny portion of the trip, like the taxes on an award ticket for example, on your Sapphire Preferred in order to be covered. Sapphire Preferred cardholders will enjoy the following:

  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
    If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
    If you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card, you’ll receive primary insurance coverage up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the US and abroad.
  • Baggage Delay Insurance
    If your bags are delayed by six hours or more you can receive up to $100 reimbursement per day for five days.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement
    If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
  • Purchase Protection
    Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extended Warranty Protection
    Extends the time period of the US manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.

Meanwhile the Citi Premier offers customers the following benefits:

  • Travel Insurance
    Cardholders will enjoy up to $500,000 of travel accident coverage, up to $5,000 of trip cancellation and interruption coverage, and up to $500 of trip delay coverage.
  • Baggage Loss/Delay Insurance
    Up to $100 in baggage delay insurance and up to $3,000 in baggage loss coverage.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
    Citi offers primary coverage on rentals outside the US, but inside the US the coverage is secondary.
  • Citi Price Rewind
    Register select purchases with Citi price rewind and you will be refunded the difference if the price drops within 60 days, up to $200 per item and $1,000 per calendar year.
  • Purchase Protection
    If your purchase is damaged or stolen within 90 days Citi will repair or reimburse you for it up to $10,000 per item and up to $50,000 per year.
  • Extended Warranty Protection
    Citi offers an extended warranty on many purchases up to 24 months past the manufacturer’s warranty expiration, with a maximum of $10,000 in coverage.
  • Return Protection
    If you try to return an item within 90 days of purchase and the merchant refuses it, Citi may refund you the price of the item up to $300 per item and up to $1,000 per year.

Most of these perks fall under the heading of “nice to have, but hope you never need them” (i.e. insurance policies). Both cards offer a very respectable set of benefits relative to their $95 annual fees, and I don’t see these perks alone as being reason enough to choose one card or the other. Still, I know that I put all my travel expenses on my Chase Sapphire for the peace of mind it offers thanks to Chase’s excellent travel insurance policies. While I personally have the premium Sapphire Reserve, it has almost all the same types of coverage as the Preferred (they just kick in faster in most cases).

Which Card Should You Choose?

Now that you fully understand these two cards, how do you pick which one is right for you? First of all let me be very clear: even though this post is set up as comparison, there’s no reason you can’t get both of these credit cards. Assuming you’re under 5/24 with Chase, you can get both of these bonuses which are some of the most valuable ones on the market. Just be aware that applying for either card will cost you a 5/24 slot for future use with Chase.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is generally considered the all-around best first credit card for beginners because of its incredible simplicity and high-value transfer partners. If you’re new to the world of points and miles, I would recommend starting with the Sapphire. At the end of the day your average user is going to get more value out of a Sapphire and Chase Ultimate Rewards points than out of a Citi Premier, assuming they put in the same amount of work.

So when should you opt for the Premier instead? If you’re over 5/24, the Citi Premier can be a great way to quickly build up a meaningful amount of points in a new program. Also, you certainly don’t have to be an expert to maximize your redemptions with Avianca LifeMiles, but if you understand the value this program can offer you might opt for the Premier instead.

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier cards are incredibly and deceptively similar. Whichever one you pick, it will likely form the basis of your points strategy moving forward.

You really can’t go wrong with either card here, but if you’re eligible for both and unsure of what to pick there are a few compelling reasons to start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You want to be very protective of your 5/24 slots early on in the game, and Chase makes it easier to score good redemptions without putting in too much work. While Citi has more transfer partners to consider, you have to weed out a lot of chaff in order to find the gems.

For more about Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points, check out our guides:

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I don’t think it worthwhile to mention citi Premier card anymore. As of September 20th 2019, all benefits are no longer available.

I’ve been reading MMS for several years, but I count on getting accurate information. This is the second article touting Citi benefits that we have known are going away for several days now. 🙁

Will probably be relying primarily on other blogs from now on.

Closed my Chase card after they failed to stay behind me in a dispute with a jewelry merchant, their department simply hasn’t communicated to me all of the BS the merchant replied back to the dispute, and then closed it. I was like WTF why havent you told me since I have all the docs and witnesses that whatever the seller claims is not true? Chase isn’t as good as it used to be

Sorry to hear the dispute did not go your way. Was there anything unusual about the dispute? Less complex cases like “I paid and the goods never arrived” or “my card was stolen and I never bought the goods” usually end up being resolved in favor of the consumer, but I’ve heard that disputes can get more gnarly when there’s more to the story in a complex case.

You need to revise the Premier’s benefits…