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One of the most popular travel credit cards on the market is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With a modest $95 annual fee and a strong rewards program, it’s hard to go wrong choosing the Sapphire Preferred as one of your primary credit cards.
However, another card worth considering for your wallet is the Citi Premier® Card, which also has a $95 annual fee. It also earns valuable rewards that can be redeemed in a myriad of ways. So which one is the better of the two?
Select walks you through the benefits of both cards so you can choose the one that best aligns with your spending habits.
3X points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on hotels and air travel, 1X points on all other purchases
80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
15.99% to 23.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
Both cards are currently offering higher than normal welcome bonuses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering new cardholders the chance to earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months from account opening. Citi Premier new cardholders can earn a welcome offer of 80,000 points with the same spending requirement and timeframe as the CSP.
Chase Ultimate Rewards are extremely valuable because they hold a value of 1.25 cents per point. The 100,000-point bonus is worth $1,250, when redeemed through the Chase travel portal or through the Pay Yourself Back feature. The Pay Yourself Back tool allows you to wipe out eligible grocery, dining and home improvement purchases on your statement using your Ultimate Rewards points at the same rate as when you redeem them through the travel portal.
ThankYou® Points are only worth 1 cent per point when redeemed through Citi’s travel portal or for gift cards. So 80,000 points would be worth $800 toward gift cards or travel.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred, by a long shot. New cardholders can earn 20,000 more points with the same spending requirements, and each Chase Ultimate Reward point is worth 25% more than the Thank You Points when used for purchases in the Chase travel portal or with the Pay Yourself Back feature.
Both cards offer excellent rewards programs.
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can earn 2X points for every dollar spent on travel and dining, and 1X points for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
Citi Premier is a bit more generous with its rewards: You can earn 3X points for every dollar spent on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels. All other eligible purchases earn 1X point for every dollar spent.
For those who spend regularly in the travel category, it may seem like the Citi Premier is the best choice, since you can earn 3X points per dollar, rather than 2X points per dollar of the Sapphire Preferred.
Keep in mind that rewards have different values, and when you compare the value of Citi ThankYou® Points against Chase Ultimate Rewards®, the latter presents a more approachable value proposition. Chase offers more domestic travel partners and hotels, whereas Citi offers a longer list of international airlines and no hotel partners.
Select calculated how many rewards the average American can earn if they optimize the way they use their Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier points. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.
The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). We broke out travel spending to just hotels ($621) and airlines ($546) when calculating the amount of rewards the Citi Premier would earn.
Here’s how many points you can earn with your Sapphire Preferred in each category:
- Groceries: 5,174
- Gas: 2,218
- Dining out: 7,349
- Travel: 4,489
- Utilities: 4,862
- General purchases: 3,953
- Total: 28,045
If you redeem those points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you’d receive a 25% bonus — increasing the approximate $280 value to about $351, depending on how you choose to redeem points.
Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $1,506 in the first year of card membership, thanks to the welcome bonus, and $2,528 over five years with the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, net the $95 annual fee. This assumes that cardholders are redeeming points for a typical maximum value of 1.25 cents per point.
Here’s how many points you can earn with your Citi Premier in each category:
- Airlines: 1,638
- Gas: 6,653
- Dining: 11,024
- Hotels/Lodging: 1,862
- Groceries: 15,523
- All other purchases: 9,982
- Total: 46,592
Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated 126,592 ThankYou® Points in the first year of card membership, including the welcome bonus. If you redeem your rewards for 1 cent per 1 point, you’ll earn $1,170 in the first year, and after five years of using the card you’ll earn rewards worth $2,655, net the $95 annual fee.
Extreme points optimizers might be able to achieve more value, and you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.
Winner: Citi Premier Card. Even with Chase Ultimate Rewards points being worth 25% more, Citi Premier cardholders can earn enough points to realize more value.
Once you earn rewards, it’s now time to redeem them. However, to get the best value for your points, you must be strategic.
There are ample opportunities to redeem your points for less than the best value. Redemptions such as statement credit and gift cards are heavily advertised by credit card companies as the value is much less than if you were to redeem them for travel.
You can redeem Citi points in a number of different ways. For example, you can transfer them to airline programs such as the Turkish Airlines’ loyalty program, Miles and Smiles, and redeem them for United Airlines flights through their airline alliance. This method often provides better redemptions rates than booking through United itself. Whereas with Chase, you have the ability to transfer your points to more domestic loyalty programs, including both hotels and airlines.
Between these two cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is likely the better option if you want to redeem your points for travel. You have access to more domestic transfer partners like Southwest, United and Hyatt Hotels. Citi only has international airline partners.
Additionally, when you book through the Chase Travel Portal, where your points are worth 1.25 cents per point, and you can book any type of travel including flights, hotels, rental cars and more. And if you pair the Preferred with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, those points become worth 1.5 cents per point.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers more redemption options through the Pay Yourself Back tool, and a 25% bonus for booking with points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Consumers with either card can benefit from:
- No foreign transaction fees
- A variety of airline and hotel partners to transfer rewards
- Both cards are widely accepted with Visa and Mastercard as the servicers
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders enjoy these benefits:
- A complimentary one-year subscription to DashPass by DoorDash when you enroll by December 31, 2021
- Up to $60 back on Peloton Digital or All-Access memberships when you sign up by December 31, 2021
- Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, zero liability protection
- Baggage and trip delay insurance
- Purchase protection
Citi Premier cardholders enjoy these benefits:
- $100 hotel credit on single stay over $500 when booked through Citi travel portal
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred, by a mile.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The Citi Premier is a great card in many respects, but in a head-to-head battle, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the clear winner. With the Sapphire Preferred you’ll have an easier time redeeming points for good value and will enjoy more travel protections and perks.
It trumps the Citi Premier in most categories, but the one caveat is that it can be difficult to qualify for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Keep in mind before applying, you are only eligible to sign up and receive a welcome bonus if:
- You don’t currently have another Chase Sapphire card, and
- You haven’t received a welcome bonus from a Chase Sapphire card in the last 48 months, and
- You are under the dreaded Chase 5/24 rule, which means you have less than five new credit cards opened in the last 24 months.
If you meet the above criteria and are able to earn the 100,000 point welcome bonus without overstretching your budget, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may be a great fit. And if you’re looking to snag some ThankYou® Points, now is a great time to apply for the Citi Premier Card given its elevated 80,000-point bonus.
But when comparing two travel credit cards, be sure to reverse engineer your spending habits. By analyzing your own financial needs first, you will find the card that is best suited for you.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.