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Citi ThankYou Points Showdown: Citi Premier vs Citi Prestige

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Citi ThankYou Points Showdown: Citi Premier vs Citi Prestige

Andrew RCiti ThankYou Points Showdown: Citi Premier vs Citi PrestigeMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: You can redeem your Citi ThankYou points in many ways, including for gift cards and cash back. But arguably the best way to get the most value out of your points is to transfer them to any of Citi’s airline travel partners. 

If you’re new to Citi ThankYou points, and want a card that allows you to transfer your points to airline partners, your options are the Citi Prestige Credit Card or popular Citi Premier Card, which has a much lower annual fee than the Prestige. You’ll have to pick one, because Citi has strict application rules which prevent you from applying for both at the same time.

For years, the Citi Prestige was one of the most valuable high-end cards available, competing directly with the likes of The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In the latter half of 2018, Citi stopped accepting applications for the Prestige altogether. But it’s now available again, albeit with some changes (good and bad).

Each card has its strengths and perks that we love, so deciding which is best for you will depend on your travel style and spending habits. For the average traveler, the Citi Premier is a much better deal. But we’ll help you decide.

Citi Premier vs Citi Prestige: Use Citi ThankYou points to experience incredible history and culture in Rome. (Photo by emperorcosar/Shutterstock)

We’ll walk you through both cards and help you figure out which one deserves a spot in your wallet.

Comparing the Citi Premier vs Citi Prestige – Which Citi ThankYou Points Card Is Better for You?

There are other cards that earn Citi ThankYou points, like the new Citi Rewards+ Card and Citi Rewards+ Student Card. But only the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige allow you to transfer points to over a dozen airline partners, and each card includes perks and benefits geared to the frequent traveler.

Both cards come with hefty welcome bonuses, including a higher-than-normal offer on the Citi Premier, but beyond that, the perks you’ll get (and annual fee) are vastly different. Let’s have a look at each card.

The Citi Premier Has Strong Bonus Categories and Benefits With a Low Annual Fee

Apply Here: Citi Premier℠ Card

Read our review of the Citi Premier℠ Card

Many MMS team members have the Citi Premier – some of us for years. Joseph keeps his because it’s earned him tons of points on gas. Jasmin’s redeemed Citi ThankYou points from the card for an epic stay at the Conrad Tokyo which would otherwise have cost hundreds and for five round-trip flights to Hawaii with her family. Scott and Jason have it in their wallets too.

With the Citi Premier, you’ll earn 60,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. That welcome bonus is worth much more than the card’s $95 annual fee, so even if you’re not sure if the card is right for your wallet, you can still try it out relatively risk-free.

The Citi Premier Card has great bonus categories you can use to boost your ThankYou point balance. You’ll earn 3x Citi ThankYou points per dollar spent on travel including gas stations (also airfare, hotels, car rental agencies, parking, tolls, etc.) as well as 2x Citi ThankYou points per dollar spent at restaurants and on select entertainment (like amusement parks, museums, sporting events, movies and more).

Scott uses his Citi Premier to earn 2x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on dining – with no foreign transaction fees when he’s abroad. (Photo by Scott Lieberman/Million Mile Secrets)

Unlike the Citi Prestige, points in your Citi Premier account are worth more when you redeem them for travel through Citi’s ThankYou travel portal. Your ThankYou points are worth 1.25 cents each towards flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises when booking through the portal. That means this sign-up bonus is worth – at a minimum – $750 (60,000 points x 1.25 cents per point). You can also transfer your ThankYou points to the airline partners and potentially get much more value per point.

The Citi Premier Card comes with excellent benefits, including:

  • Citi Price Rewind – When you pay for registered items at certain online merchants, Citi will automatically check for a lower price at other merchants. If Citi finds the same item at a lower price within 60 days of your initial purchase date, you may receive a credit for the price difference
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement – If your trip is delayed more than 12 hours, Citi will cover $500 per ticket in expenses while you are delayed. This is a great perk, especially if your flight is delayed overnight and you need a place to stay
  • Extended Warranty – By paying for an eligible item with the Citi Premier card, you can extend the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional 24 months (total coverage between both the manufacturer’s warranty and extended warranty cannot exceed 84 months)
  • Baggage delay – Get up to $100 per covered traveler if your bags are delayed six or more hours
  • Trip cancellation & interruption – You may be reimbursed up to $5,000 per covered traveler per trip if the trip is cancelled or interrupted for an eligible reason

Frequent Travelers Could Do Well With the Citi Prestige, but It Has a High Annual Fee

Read our post about the new offer for the Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige is a great card for frequent travelers looking to earn tons of valuable ThankYou points and get premium travel perks. It comes with a lower welcome bonus than the Citi Premier50,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. The spending categories and benefits are different. You’ll earn:

  • 5x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on air travel and dining purchases
  • 3x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on cruise line and hotel purchases
  • 1 Citi ThankYou point per dollar on all other purchases

Another perk of the Citi Prestige is the annual $250 travel credit which will allow the first $250 you spend every year on travel (airfare, hotels, rental cars, Uber rides, etc.) to be erased from your statement. This perk can help offset the high annual fee of $495, which isn’t waived for the first year.

Yes, the annual fee is steep. But the Citi Prestige has other benefits for frequent travelers, which can make the fee well worth it, including:

  • Complimentary fourth night stay at any hotel of your choice after a minimum four-consecutive night stay booked through either ThankYou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge. Starting September 1, 2019, you’ll be limited to using this perk twice per year and you’ll only be able to make bookings through the ThankYou.com website or by calling Citi ThankYou directly (not the concierge)
  • Free Priority Pass Select membership to hundreds of lounges around the world
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years
  • Citi Price Rewind – When you pay for registered items at certain online merchants, Citi will check for a lower price at other merchants. If Citi finds the same item at a lower price within 60 days of your initial purchase date, you may receive a credit for the price difference
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement – If your trip is delayed more than six hours, Citi will cover $500 / ticket in expenses while you are delayed. This is a great perk, especially if your flight is delayed overnight and you need a place to stay
Use your Citi Prestige to earn 5x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on your fancy restaurant avocado toast. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)

You’ll be able to book travel through Citi’s ThankYou travel portal, or you can transfer your ThankYou points to several airlines that partner with Citi at a 1:1 ratio, including Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific), Flying Blue (Air France / KLM), JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic and more.

If you travel frequently and can make the most of the benefits (like airport lounge access), especially if you’ll have hotel stays of four or more nights, you can get a value worth more than the annual fee. Otherwise, the Citi Premier is a better fit for most folks.

Why Can’t You Get the Citi Premier AND Citi Prestige?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to earn a welcome bonus on both the Citi Prestige and the Citi Premier close together. That’s because Citi limits the sign-up bonuses you can receive within the same “family” of cards. Citi says:

Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+SM, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi PremierSM or Citi Prestige®, or if you have closed any of these cards, in the past 24 months

That means if you open the Citi Premier card now, and keep it open, you won’t be able to earn a welcome bonus on any Citi ThankYou points-earning card (including the Prestige) for 24 months after you earn the bonus. Citi seems to have made some recent changes to some of their cards though which suggest they might soon be moving to a 48-month waiting period.

Which Card Should You Choose?

I think the Citi Premier is better for the average flyer who won’t utilize the Priority Pass and TSA PreCheck/Global Entry perks. Also, if you typically don’t book paid hotel stays for four or more days in one location, the Prestige’s fourth night free benefit won’t really help you. To me, the $495 fee is too pricey if you don’t utilize all the perks.

However, if you do plan on utilizing the fourth night free perk twice per year, the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, the free Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, and the $250 annual travel credit, the Citi Prestige can offer tremendous value and cover the annual fee and then some. The annual fee is only $245 after you factor in the travel credit. You can easily earn $250+ in value using the fourth night free stay perk. In addition, you’ll earn a ton of ThankYou points with 5x points per dollar on airfare and dining and 3x points per dollar on hotel bookings.

Redeem Citi ThankYou points for flights, or pay with your Citi Prestige to earn 5x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on airfare. (Photo by windwalk/Shutterstock)

It really does come down to your personal spending habits and travel style. I would think about how you plan on using the card, whether you have other premium travel cards that already give you most of the perks the Prestige would give you, and then make the decision based on your own unique situation.

Bottom Line

The Citi Premier Card and Citi Prestige both offer the opportunity to earn valuable welcome bonuses after meeting minimum spending requirements. But they’re otherwise quite different.

Most folks will do best with the Citi Premier Card, because it comes with valuable bonus categories, the ability to transfer points to airline partners and better redemption values through the Citi Travel Portal. And it’s got a relatively low $95 annual fee.

The Citi Prestige can make sense for frequent travelers, because it comes with a $250 annual travel credit, earn 5x Citi ThankYou points per dollar on airfare and dining and 3x points per dollar on hotel stays, a complimentary fourth night at any hotel of your choice after a minimum four-consecutive night stay (twice per calendar year after September 1, 2019), free Priority Pass Select membership to hundreds of airport lounges around the world, and up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years. The annual fee is much higher at $495, and it’s not waived the first year.

You’ll need to decide between the two because won’t be able to earn the sign-up bonus on both in a short time frame.

Which card do you like best? Let us know in the comments.

To learn more about Citi ThankYou points, you can check out these articles:

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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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Citi Cards = Sh**tty Cards

Yeah, it’s a tougher sell with the removal of these benefits. Unfortunate, really.

A strange time to post such an article exactly after so many benefits you touted have been removed from Citi’s new massive Nike of their benefits, you could at least put in an update to all of this!

Uh, you are a day late and a dollar short. All of their so called benefits are ending in September. Don’t know why anyone would want either of these cards.

Seeing the older comments, I guess this is a repost of an older article. But there’s a big problem…almost all the benefits of both cards were announced yesterday to be going away in September. So, posting an article comparing those benefits a day later is rather bone-headed.

Premier because I use a LOT of Gasoline and I do not find the perks worth the large annual fee because I do not fly but once or twice a year and have my hotels paid for by my company. Prestige is just not for me personally.

Gasoline is expensive! Lessens the pain with a strong rewards card at least 🙂

It does lessen the pain some and I already have Chase Freedom which is running Gasoline in the 3rd quarter again as a bonus category. Now if I get Premier I can save on Gasoline. That is the perk for me with this card.

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