If you spend at least $209 per month between groceries, dining, and gas, the Citi Premier should be in your wallet

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Let’s talk domestic flights. When’s the last time you saw a $95 one-way from your home airport to a place you actually want to go?

Yeah, there might be two or three deals floating around (Denver, Chicago, and Miami tend to have great sales), but unless your thirst for travel can be quenched via notoriously cheap routes (e.g. Los Angeles to Portland), good luck finding a one-way flight to anywhere that’s under $95.

If you’ve got the Citi Premier® Card, however, it’s quite effortless to achieve a one-way flight for $95 each year — and even multiple round-trip flights each year — if you’ve got at least $209 per month of combined spending in groceries, dining, and gas. This credit card is one of the best for each of the aforementioned spending categories.

I’ll show you why, and explain why the Citi Premier may be the single best travel credit card for domestic flights.

Spending $209 per month on restaurants, groceries, and gas could get you a ticket to Hawaii each year. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Citi Premier is the best credit card for free domestic flights

The Citi Premier® Card comes with 60,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. We estimate Citi ThankYou points value to be around 1.7 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,020 on average. But let me explain why this bonus can be worth much more:

  • You can transfer Citi points to Turkish Airlines (one of their many airline partners) at a ratio of 1:1 (in my experience, it takes a little under 24 hours for your points to transfer)
  • With Turkish Airlines miles, you can book domestic flights on Turkish Airlines’ partner, United Airlines
  • Domestic flights (including to Hawaii) on United Airlines cost just 7,500 Turkish miles each way

In other words, this 60,000 point bonus is worth four round-trips from anywhere to anywhere within all 50 states — as long as United Airlines flies there. And if you want to travel internationally, Citi has a ton of partners that are great for that too — check out our guide on the best ways to use Citi ThankYou points.

Check out our guide on how to use Turkish Airlines to learn how this works. And read my post about how to book business class flights to Hawaii with Turkish miles.

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How easy is it to earn a free one-way flight?

The Citi Premier comes with five bonus categories. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar for:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Supermarkets
  • Gas stations

This card is absolutely worthless for travel insurance, so I recommend only using the card for purchases made at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations. If you spend at least $209 per month on these purchases, you’ll earn enough points for a free one-way flight annually ($209 x 3 bonus x 12 months = 7,500+ points).

However, you probably spend a lot more than that. My wife and I spend an average of $850 per month across groceries, dining, and gas stations — and that doesn’t count the money we spend at restaurants when we’re traveling. By using my Citi Premier® Card, I can average 30,600 Citi ThankYou points per year. That’s enough for two round-trip domestic flights between pretty much anywhere — including Hawaii.

Let’s look at a few examples on the Turkish Airlines website.

1) Round-trip flight to see family

We have a lot of family living in Oklahoma City, and tend to visit once or twice per year. Performing a quick search on a random date, you can see there are loads of seats available on a handful of flights for early next year — and they start at just 7,500 miles one-way. And business class seats are available, too, starting at 12,500 miles each way!

For 15,000 miles, I can book a round-trip flight to Oklahoma City. While the average price of a domestic flight is ridiculously low right now, the same exact flights still cost $295. This means I’m getting a return of 1.97 cents per point. In other words, swiping my card for 3x points on groceries, dining, and gas equates to a return of 5.9%. That’s excellent!

By using the Citi Premier for those expenses all year, my wife and I could easily save $567 (after taxes and fees) on airfare to visit family. That’s DEFINITELY worth a $95 annual fee.

2) Visit the West Coast

Just to illustrate that you’ll pay a flat 7,500 points no matter where you’re going domestically, here’s a random search from Cincinnati to the West Coast. This is just about the farthest I can fly within the Continental U.S. from my home airport. Again, tons of seats available, as well as 12,500-point business class options.

3) Midwest (or anywhere) to Hawaii

Yes, you can book to Hawaii from anywhere in the contiguous United States starting at 7,500 miles. But let me add a disclaimer: If you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest (like me), you’ll have one heck of a time finding flights to Hawaii on the Turkish Airlines website if you don’t search from United Airlines hubs like Newark, Chicago, or Washington, DC (IAD). From those airports, there’s almost always a ton of available (economy) seats.

When I’ve booked flights to Hawaii with Turkish, I book from Chicago and spring for a $150 round-trip flight from Cincinnati. Still a great deal for a round-trip to Hawaii.

Below you’ll see the astounding number of available flights with countless seats, as well as a 12,500-mile business class option. Business class to Hawaii is a big deal, especially if you can manage to book a lie-flat seat!

This particular round-trip flight costs about $550 (which is ridiculously cheap, by the way — it’s usually MUCH higher). And if I were to book a business class flight for 25,000 miles round-trip, the cash price would be closer to $1,500. That means I’d get a value of:

  • 2.67 cents per point for booking a coach seat (I’m paying 15,000 points and $150 for a round-trip to Chicago)
  • 5.4 cents per point for booking a business class seat (I’m paying 25,000 points and $150 for a round-trip to Chicago)

That’s worth the $95 annual fee, I’d say. Swiping my card for 3x on groceries, dining, and gas means I’d get a return between 8% and 16.2% when going to Hawaii on these dates.

Bottom line

$209 is the magic number. If you spend that amount per month between groceries, restaurants, and gas, you’ve got a free one-way to just about anywhere domestically from your home airport, just by using the Citi Premier Card.

My wife and I spend double that on groceries each month, so just by sticking our grocery bill on the Citi Premier, we’ll earn enough for a round-trip flight from anywhere to anywhere within the U.S.

Let me know if you plan to open the Citi Premier and read the review if you want to learn more about the card! And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card tips and info like this delivered to your inbox once per day.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

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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