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The Citi Premier℠ Card is a travel rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee (waived during the first year) and an expansive loyalty program that lets you redeem for general merchandise, gift cards, cash back, and travel, including airline tickets and hotel stays. Most redemptions occur through Citi’s ThankYou® portal, but you can also use your accumulated ThankYou points to make purchases with partner vendors such as Amazon.com and LiveNation.
Premier is comparable to a number of other cash back and travel rewards cards with annual fees, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($95 annual fee), Capital One Venture Rewards Card ($95 annual fee), and various airline- and hotel-branded cards, such as American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles ($95 annual fee). It’s also comparable to cash back and travel rewards cards without annual fees, such as Discover it Miles, though the benefits tend to be less generous.
When you spend at least $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, you get 50,000 bonus points. That’s worth up to $625 when redeemed for airfare at Citi’s ThankYou® portal.
Earning ThankYou® Points
This card earns an unlimited 3 ThankYou points per $1 spent on all travel purchases, including airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, trains, taxis, tolls, and other forms of local and long-distance conveyance. The card earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment, including tourist attractions, music venues, and more. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent.
Redeeming ThankYou Points
You can redeem your accumulated ThankYou points at the Citi ThankYou portal for a wide variety of merchandise, travel, experiences, and cash and cash equivalents, including gift cards, statement credits, and paper checks. You can also redeem for direct purchases at Amazon.com and with LiveNation. Point values vary based on how you redeem.
Travel booked through Citi’s travel portal offers the best bang for your buck – points are worth $0.0125 apiece with this option, meaning a 40,000-point haul translates to $500 in travel purchases. Plus, there are no blackout dates on Citi travel bookings – and, if you don’t have enough points to cover the full cost of a travel purchase, you can pay the difference with a credit or debit card.
Gift card redemptions are worth a straight $0.01 per point. All other redemption options are worth between $0.005 and $0.01, with cash redemptions on the lower end of this range and Amazon.com redemptions on the higher end. Redemption minimums vary by redemption method as well – for instance, they start around 1,000 points for merchandise redemptions and 5,000 points for paper check redemptions.
Transferring Points to Travel Partners
If you don’t want to redeem for any of the options listed above, you can transfer your accumulated ThankYou points to about a dozen travel loyalty programs, often at a one-to-one ratio, and sometimes better. You typically need at least 1,000 ThankYou points to complete a transfer.
Most transfer partners are airlines that operate overseas, such as Qantas and Malaysia Airlines, but a handful of popular U.S. brands participate as well, including Virgin America and Hilton (which also has the best transfer rate: 1,500 Hilton Honors points for every 1,000 ThankYou points).
This card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived during the first year of card membership. There is no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%, and late and returned payments both cost $35.
Citi Private Pass
Citi Private Pass is a useful fringe benefit for cardholders who enjoy entertainment, outings, and VIP privileges. Private Pass perks include VIP access to popular concerts, sporting events, and other productions, as well as exclusive access to specially organized events, such as celebrity dinners.
This card’s additional benefits include 120 days of purchase protection for stolen or damaged items bought with the card, up to $1,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year; complimentary loss and damage coverage for car rentals charged in full to the card; 24/7 concierge service for travel and event bookings; and complimentary one-year warranty extensions on all items with original warranties set to expire after five years or less.
This card requires excellent credit. Even minor dings can affect your application and reduce your chances of approval.
- Rapid Point Earnings on Travel Purchases. Every local and long-distance travel purchase earns 3 points per $1 spent. If you’re planning to redeem exclusively for travel, that’s an effective 3.75% return on your spending, or a 3% return if you plan to redeem for gift cards. Many competing cards, such as Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select and American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles, earn just 2 points for each $1 spent on travel.
- Very Nice Sign-up Bonus. This card’s sign-up bonus is worth 50,000 points – up to $625 in value when redeemed for airfare at Citi’s ThankYou portal. That’s nearly on par with top-rated travel rewards credit cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred (whose sign-up bonus is worth $750 when redeemed for travel).
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. This card doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee. That’s great news for frequent travelers who regularly set foot – and use their cards – outside U.S. borders. It’s also a distinct advantage relative to competitors such as the Expedia+ Card.
- Points Worth 25% More on Citi Travel Redemptions. The Premier Card’s travel benefits don’t stop with its rapid point earnings on travel purchases. When you redeem your ThankYou points for travel purchases made through Citi’s travel portal, your points go 25% further (relative to the gift card rate, which is the highest otherwise available). By contrast, Discover it Miles and Capital One Venture Rewards both have flat-rate ($0.01 per mile) travel redemptions.
- Versatile Redemption Options. You can redeem accumulated ThankYou points for pretty much anything – not just travel and gift cards. You also don’t necessarily have to redeem through the ThankYou portal, as ThankYou points can be used on direct purchases with Amazon and LiveNation.
- Lots of Fringe Benefits. Premier comes with a slew of fringe benefits. The most notable is Citi Private Pass, which can be very valuable for cardholders who enjoy special events and experiences – including those off-limits to non-cardholders. And, as this card caters to frequent travelers, the 24/7 concierge service feature can be valuable and convenient as well.
- Has an Annual Fee. The Premier Card has a $95 annual fee after the first year. If you don’t use this card heavily enough to offset that recurring cost, you’re better off with a fee-free alternative, such as the Citi Rewards+ Card.
- Point Values Lower for Cash and Merchandise Redemptions. ThankYou points are worth less than $0.01 apiece, and sometimes as little as $0.005 apiece, when redeemed for anything other than gift cards and travel – including hard cash. This is a drawback relative to Chase’s rewards cards, which offer cash redemptions at a flat $0.01-per-point rate.
- Limited Point Transfer Options. While it’s nice that you can transfer ThankYou points to airline and hotel loyalty programs, the options aren’t exactly a “who’s who” of popular American travel brands. Aside from Hilton Honors, which offers a 50% boost on transferred points (in other words, 1,000 ThankYou points becomes 1,500 Hilton Honors points), most transfer opportunities involve international airlines that are liable to require huge quantities of points when it comes time to redeem. In most cases, you’re better off redeeming ThankYou points for Citi travel bookings.
- Charges Penalty Interest. This card charges penalty interest at a 29.99% APR. If you occasionally miss payment due dates, that can quickly add up. Some competing cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, never charge penalty interest.
The Citi Premier℠ Card isn’t a straight-up cash back card – after all, its cash redemption values are pretty low relative to its peers. It’s also not exclusively a travel rewards card. And, despite solid earnings on dining out, it’s not only a restaurant credit card either. It’s a mashup of all these things and more – making it a powerful ally for consumers who spend in its favored categories and enjoy being able to redeem rewards for pretty much anything they want.
Of course, the Premier Card has drawbacks, including a sizable annual fee and uneven redemption options that can eat into the value of your accumulated points. However, if you’re not sure which types of rewards you value or intend to use most, it could be the right card for you.