The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi Premier Card have a lot in common: With sizable welcome bonuses, good returns on spending, transferable points, and manageable annual fees, they’re both excellent starter cards for points-and-miles beginners.
But which one is best suited to your particular travel goals, lifestyle, and spending habits? Answering that question involves drilling down into the details. Here we’ll compare the benefits, earnings structures, and more from both cards to help you make the optimal selection.
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Since a sign-up bonus is far and away the best way to earn a large sum of points in a short amount of time, it’s pretty important to pay attention to the offer on any card you’re thinking of taking out.
In this case, though, it might not help you make a decision between the two cards. The offers from Chase and Citi are identical, with each card offering 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
Of course, those bonuses could wind up being worth very different amounts depending on how you choose to use them—but we’ll get to that in a bit.
This is another wash, as both cards bear annual fees of $95. Unfortunately, instead of waiving the annual fee for the first year—as Chase has done in the past—both Chase and Citi charge the fee as soon as you take the card out.
On the bright side, the fee is comparatively reasonable. If you’re looking for a card that will net you great perks and help you earn lots of points on everyday spending, $95 is pretty much the best you can do! Plus, those sign-up bonuses alone are well worth it, as 60,000 should be enough to get you a round-trip international trip in economy, for example.
While a sign-up bonus might be an important consideration early on, a card’s earning rate is much more important when it comes to determining if a card will be a good fit for you long-term.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2x points per dollar spent on dining and travel, 5x points per dollar spent on Lyft rides through March 2022 (thanks to a new partnership), and 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Chase defines travel broadly, meaning that 2x will be good on everything from tolls to taxis to plane tickets to cruises. The restaurant category, meanwhile, covers everything from Dunkin’ Donuts to Michelin-starred restaurants.
The Citi Premier, meanwhile, currently offers 3x points per dollar spent on travel (including gas stations, which Chase doesn’t include), 2x points per dollar spent at restaurants, and 2x points per dollar spent on entertainment, such as concerts and sporting events.
Come the end of the summer, though, those categories will be changing. Beginning August 23, Citi plans to offer 3x points per dollar spent on air travel, hotels, gas, restaurants and supermarkets, as well as 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
This is where each card begins to shine in its own way. A broad range of 3x categories likely gives the Citi Premier the upper hand for most people when it comes to earning, but if you’re someone who either uses Lyft as a main mode of transportation or spends a lot on travel purchases that fall outside of air travel, hotels and gas—Airbnbs or train tickets, for example—the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be the better option.
Of course, your points are only as valuable as what you can get for them. Luckily both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi Premier earn points that can be transferred to a range of airline and hotel partners at what’s almost always a 1:1 rate—but the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and the Citi ThankYou program each have different partner lists.
Before choosing one card over another, it’s worth taking a look at each program’s partners and looking for transfer options you’re likely to use. While Chase seems to get more praise in this regard, recent devaluations to United MileagePlus have weakened one of its more attractive transfer options for many U.S.-based fliers.
Standout transfer options for Chase still include World of Hyatt and British Airways Executive Club, while Citi’s roster features Avianca and Turkish Miles & Smiles. Both Chase and Citi count Singapore KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Air France-KLM Flying Blue among their transfer partners.
In addition to transferring, you have the option to use points to book travel directly through Chase and Citi’s respective travel portals. Chase has the edge here, as you’ll get 1.25 cents per point through its portal. With Citi, you’ll only get 1 cent per point, which is usually well below the value you could get through transferring.
While these cards aren’t as loaded up with perks as their pricier sister cards—the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige—they’ll each net you a nice handful of benefits, such as no foreign transaction fees when using either of these cards abroad.
From Chase, those benefits also include a complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash for a minimum of one year, as long as you activate it by December 31, 2021. For starters, that subscription will waive your delivery fees on orders from eligible restaurants that total $12 or more.
But the real highlight, at least for frequent travelers, will be the Sapphire Preferred’s access to some of Chase’s top-notch travel and purchase protections. With the Sapphire Preferred, you may be eligible for primary car rental insurance, trip interruption and cancellation protection of up to $10,000, trip delay protection of up to $500, baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection and extended warranty protection on selected purchases.
Citi, on the other hand, slashed almost all of its travel and shopping protections last year, meaning if those are important to you, the Sapphire Preferred could be a better pick.
That said, Citi does have some exclusive benefits of its own, such as Citi Entertainment, which gets cardholders access to exclusive events and presales for concerts and other events.
We’ve already covered the cards’ main attributes, but there’s another factor that might help you determine which is right for you: What’s your goal in taking out a points-earning card credit in the first place?
If you’re all about fancy hotels, Chase provides the single best hotel transfer partner option in the points and miles world with Hyatt. On the other hand, if you’d love to get the chance to check out a variety of international airline partners—and learn how their points programs work—the Citi Premier might be your best pick.
If you’re still at the beginning of your points journey but planning to go all-in, there’s another option, too, and that’s to get both! But before you do, be aware of Chase’s 5/24 rule, which says that if you’ve taken out more than five credit cards in the span of 24 months—Chase cards or otherwise—you’ll automatically be rejected for many of Chase’s offerings.
That’s a point in the column for picking up the Chase Sapphire Preferred (and Chase cards in general!) before cards from other issuers, such as Citi.
When it comes down to it, you really can’t go wrong with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Citi Premier. Both will put you well on your way to free travel with a great sign-up bonus and keep you poised to keep earning with bonus points on your everyday spending. As to which one is best, that depends on personal factors, so make sure to examine each card’s bonus categories, redeeming options and other perks carefully before making your choice!
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