Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which Card Offers Better Travel Rewards?

Is one card better than the other in the Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred matchup?
Last updated Nov 20, 2020 | By Ben Walker
Puzzled woman making decision

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When you compare credit cards, you inevitably end up looking at cards from major credit card companies like Citibank and Chase. Among the Citi credit cards lineup, the Citi Premier Card is a mid-tier travel card that offers plenty of ways to earn rewards. Its closest competition within the Chase credit card lineup is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Preferred is also considered a mid-tier travel card, and it’s widely regarded as one of the best travel credit cards available.

In this Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred comparison, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between each card so you can see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. This will help you decide whether you should apply for one over the other.

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Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Citi Premier is a great option for frequent travelers who want to earn travel rewards on a variety of different expenses. It offers many rewards categories for purchases, which makes it easy to earn the points you need for award travel or other redemptions. And because your rewards are part of the Citi ThankYou points program, you get a lot of flexibility with how you want to redeem your points.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you don’t get as many ways to earn points, but you get loads of benefits. Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits include both travel and purchase coverages, plus the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with this card are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase travel portal.

Citi Premier Chase Sapphire Preferred
Annual fee $95 $95
Welcome bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Earning rate 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases
Redemption methods
  • Points can be redeemed for cash, statement credits, travel, gift cards, online shopping trips, and more
  • Points can be transferred to more than a dozen partner loyalty programs
  • Points can be redeemed for statement credits, electronic bank deposits, gift cards, travel, and to make purchases from participating merchants
  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • Points can be transferred to many partner loyalty programs
Intro APR None None
Annual credits None None
Travel perks
  • Receive $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more once per calendar year
  • Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip in trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Up to $500 in baggage delay insurance
  • Up to $500 per ticket in trip delay reimbursement
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
Other benefits
  • Exclusive access to purchase tickets to concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and more with Citi Entertainment
  • Damage and theft purchase protection
  • Extended warranty coverage
Foreign transaction fee None None
Credit needed Excellent Excellent, Good

What both cards excel at

Both the Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred are among the best travel rewards cards, which means they’re designed to help people travel more while spending less. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why they might have a few similarities:

  • Redemption options: Travel rewards cards are meant to be used for award travel, but that doesn’t mean the available redemption options are always valuable. With either of these cards, you can get a lot of value from your points through their respective rewards programs. Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, cruises, and much more. Or if you don’t have any travel plans at the moment, you can always redeem your points for cash, statement credits, gift cards, or discounted shopping trips.
  • Costs and fees: Rewards and benefits are nice, but not if you have to pay high costs and fees. However, that’s not the case with the Citi Premier or the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Neither card has foreign transaction fees, so don’t worry about racking up fees while you’re traveling abroad. Also, their annual costs aren’t outrageous. Both the $95 annual fee on the Citi Premier and the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred can be offset by the rewards and benefits they offer cardmembers.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Sign-up bonuses immediately give cardmembers the opportunity to earn a lot of points in a short time period. This makes it easy to book award travel soon after getting a card, which helps to offset any annual costs there might be. With the Citi Premier, you can earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. With the Sapphire Preferred, it’s 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
  • Purchase coverages: Both cards offer purchase protection and extended warranty benefits. These benefits can be helpful if your eligible purchases are damaged or stolen.

3 important differences between the Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

You may want a card that earns bonus points on certain purchases or you’re looking for specific benefits on your next travel credit card. By comparing the differences between the Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s easier to see where one card might better suit you than the other.

1. Earning categories

Many travel rewards cards earn points or miles on travel-related purchases. With the Citi Premier, you can earn 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases. With the Sapphire Preferred, you can earn 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

Overall, each card’s bonus categories are useful, but the Citi Premier takes the edge with how much you can earn and how many different bonus categories there are. Having more categories makes it easier to earn more points on purchases you’re already making. This may lead to faster and more frequent points redemptions, depending on whether you choose to save your points for future trips or spend them.

Earn Valuable Travel Points Even Faster

Citi Premier Card

Citi Premier Card

Citi Premier Card

Benefits

  • 60,000 bonus point sign-up offer
  • 3X points in several popular categories
  • No foreign transaction fee

2. Travel coverages

Earning travel rewards is helpful, but it’s even better if a credit card has travel benefits as well. Unfortunately, the Citi Premier doesn’t have any travel insurance benefits to keep you financially protected as you’re traveling. Instead, you’d have to go for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Sapphire Preferred has trip cancellation and interruption insurance, an auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and travel and emergency assistance services. Basically, this card can be useful to make sure you’re covered while traveling.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

3. Transfer partners

Both the Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred allow you to transfer your points to other loyalty programs, called transfer partners. This makes your points a lot more flexible because you get more opportunities to use them in different ways. For instance, a hotel or airline could offer a good deal when you book award travel through them directly. With a simple transfer of points from your credit card rewards program, you may be able to qualify for that deal.

Citi transfer partners aren’t necessarily better than Chase transfer partners, and vice versa, as it all depends on which partners offer you more value. Basically, the value you get depends on how you prefer to travel. Citi transfer partners include top loyalty programs like Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, and Qatar Privilege Club. On the other hand, Chase partners with a few major hotel brands and their loyalty programs, including IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt.

Which card should you choose?

There is no overall winner between the Citi Premier and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, although the Sapphire Preferred does have the edge in certain categories. It has a low-cost $95 annual fee, so it shouldn’t take much to offset its annual cost. The sign-up bonus alone should cover it for multiple years, and that’s without including the value of any benefits or additional rewards you earn.

You also get a 25% bonus on your points when you use them for travel redemptions through the Chase portal with the Sapphire Preferred, and its transfer partners are slightly more diverse than what you find with the Citi Premier. Citibank focuses mainly on airline travel partners, whereas Chase has partnerships with both airlines and hotels.

It’s also hard to overlook how useful the benefits on the Sapphire Preferred are. Travel coverages and purchase protections are amazing and can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. The Citi Premier doesn’t offer any travel insurance benefits, which is a bit unusual for a travel credit card.

Where the Citi Premier does shine, though, is with its earning categories. With so many common bonus categories to choose from, it shouldn’t be hard to earn valuable Citi ThankYou Rewards points. The Sapphire Preferred has a few bonus categories, but they don’t match up with what the Citi Premier has to offer.

To better illustrate how important the bonus categories can be, let’s do some math. Let’s say you spend $2,000 on travel, $2,000 on groceries, $2,000 on gas, and $2,000 on dining in a year. With the Citi Premier, these four spending categories all earn 3X points. In total, you’d earn 24,000 ThankYou Rewards points from your spending ($2,000 x 3X = 6,000 points; 6,000 points x 4 categories = 24,000 points) or $240 (24,000 x $0.01) worth of travel.

With the same spending on the same purchases with the Sapphire Preferred, you would end up with 8,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($2,000 x 2X = 4,000 points; 4,000 points x 2 categories = 8,000 points) from the travel and dining expenses and 4,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($2,000 x 1X = 2,000 points; 2,000 points x 2 categories = 4,000 points) from the gas and groceries expenses. This would give you a total of 12,000 points worth $150 (12,000 x $0.0125) toward travel.

In this example, the Citi Premier would offer more value because of its higher earning categories, even though the Sapphire Preferred gives you a 25% bonus for travel redemptions through Chase. However, the better card for you depends on your typical spending habits and what kinds of benefits are most valuable to you.

FAQs about the Citi Premier vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

Is the Citi Premier worth it?

The Citi Premier card is well worth it if you need a travel rewards credit card with flexible points redemption options. Compared to other travel credit cards, the Citi Premier may not have as many travel benefits or purchase protection benefits, but it makes up for it with a wide range of ways to earn bonus rewards on your purchases.

Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred a good card?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel credit cards available. It has a low $95 annual fee, earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and comes with helpful benefits like travel coverage and purchase protection. In addition, you’ll also earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

What credit score do you need for the Citi Premier?

To get approved for the Citi Premier card, you’ll likely need an excellent credit score. Excellent credit typically starts around 800 on either the FICO Score or VantageScore models.

What credit score do you need for the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

You’ll likely need a good or excellent credit score to get approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. A FICO credit score in the high 600s to the mid-700s is typically considered good, whereas credit above 800 is considered excellent.

The bottom line on the Citi Premier vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

The better credit card between the Citi Premier and the Chase Sapphire Preferred depends on what you’re looking for. Both cards have some similarities. They each earn valuable points that can be redeemed for award travel and provide helpful benefits as well.

Overall, the Citi Premier offers more opportunities to earn bonus rewards, but the Sapphire Preferred comes with travel coverages and offers a 25% bonus on travel redemptions. Solely based on the earning categories, the Citi Premier might be your best option. But with the travel insurance and bonus for travel redemptions, the Sapphire Preferred also has some huge positives. Still, the better card depends on your spending habits and what you’re looking to do with your points.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits