Citi, Chase, and American Express have some of the most flexible and best rewards credit card programs around. While Chase and American Express have historically made it easier to rack up rewards through multiple cards in the same program, Citi has become more competitive.
That's because Citi Double Cash cardholders can convert their cashback rewards into points via a linked ThankYou Rewards account. In other words, you can combine the premium perks of the Citi Prestige, the valuable airline redemption value of the Citi Premier, and the rewards earning power of the Citi Double Cash. What’s more, you can better maximize the value of your rewards through Citi’s airline transfer partners.
But does that mean the Citi trifecta is the right one for you? Maybe not. You still have Amex vs. Chase to consider.
Here's what you need to know about the Citi vs. Chase vs. Amex trifectas so you can pick the smartest and most powerful combo for you.
What is the Citi trifecta?
A credit card trifecta is a group of three cards offered by the same issuer that allows you to maximize the rewards program to the fullest — that includes earning as many points as possible through different bonus categories, gaining access to travel partners or potential redemption bonuses, and taking advantage of luxury travel perks.
|Citi Prestige||Citi Premier||Citi Double Cash|
|Intro bonus||Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening||Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months||None|
|Earning rate||5X points on airline purchases and at restaurants; 3X points on hotels and cruise lines; and 1X points on all other purchases||3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases||Up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay|
||Learn How to Apply
||Learn How to Apply
Note: The Citi Prestige is not currently open to new cardholders, but if you already have this card you can still take advantage of creating a Citi trifecta.
How to use the Citi trifecta cards together
The best way to maximize the value you gain from the Citi trifecta is to use the Citi Prestige and Citi Premier for their bonus rewards categories and the Citi Double Cash for everything else. That way, you’ll always be earning at least 2 points per dollar (after conversion). This helps you make the most out of your potential to earn Citi ThankYou points.
For example, let’s say you spend the following amount each year in common spending categories:
- Dining out: $3,000
- Gas: $4,000
- Air travel: $2,000
- Hotels: $2,500
- Other travel purchases: $1,200
- All other expenses: $25,000
If you have all three cards, you can use the Citi Prestige for dining out, travel and hotels, the Citi Premier for gas and other travel expenses, and the Citi Double Cash for everything else. If you did this, you’d earn 98,100 annually in rewards points. If you were to just use the Citi Double Cash, which offers the highest base rewards rate, you’d earn 75,400 each year.
One of the best ways to redeem your rewards is by transferring them to one of Citi’s airline partners. Because Citi has a relationship with these airlines and their loyalty programs, that means you can them redeem your points for nearly free travel.
Citi's airline partners include:
- American Airlines Aadvantage (through Nov. 2021)
- Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- EVA Air
- Flying Blue (Air France & KLM)
- InterMiles (formerly Jet Airways JetPrivilege)
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
The most you can get when redeeming points for air travel through Citi is 1.25 cents per point, and that’s only if you have the Citi Premier. But if you transfer points to one of these airline programs, you could potentially get much more value than that.
Also, using the Citi Prestige in tandem with the other cards allows you to get a better travel experience through airport lounge access, expedited security and customs clearance, and more.
If you don't yet have a Citi card, you could also potentially benefit from an sign-up bonus offer.
How the Chase and Amex trifectas compare
Although the Citi trifecta offers some incredible value to cardholders who can manage the three cards effectively, some may gain more value through the Chase trifecta or Amex trifecta instead. Let's take a look at the card offers involved in these trifectas.
The Chase trifecta is typically made up of these Chase credit cards:
If you’re a business owner, you may be able to swap out one of the Freedom cards for the Ink Business Preferred. If you already have a Chase Freedom, you can use that card in place of the Chase Freedom Flex, although the Freedom Flex offers better earning rates. Some people also prefer to work the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card into their trifecta. As you can see, it's very customizable.
One thing to keep in mind with the Chase trifecta is that it’s not easy to get all three cards if you’ve opened multiple credit card accounts in the past couple of years. Chase’s 5/24 rule makes it hard to get approved if you’ve opened five or more new credit cards in the last 24 months.
If you can get all three cards, however, you can take advantage of a solid base rewards rate, lucrative bonus rewards categories, flexible redemption options, and premium perks. Even though some of the Chase cards are technically cashback cards, they actually earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can pool together.
With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll earn 5% on Lyft rides, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases. And the Chase Sapphire Reserve will give you 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else.
When it comes to redemption, you’ll get 50% more value on travel booked through the Chase travel portal with the Sapphire Reserve, so consider transferring your points earned with the other cards to your Sapphire Reserve account to take advantage of that perk.
Alternatively, you can transfer your points to the Sapphire Reserve account and then transfer them to one of many airline and hotel rewards programs that are Chase transfer partners. This strategy could get you even more value.
The Sapphire Reserve also offers several major travel perks, including an annual travel credit, complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge access, an application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and more.
If you prefer American Express Membership Rewards points over Citi ThankYou Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Amex trifecta can make it worth your while. All three of these cards earn Amex Membership Rewards.
The Amex trifecta usually includes:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
- The American Express® Gold Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
With the Blue Business Plus Card, you’ll earn a flat 2X Membership Rewards points on business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on purchases after that, making it a solid option for much of your everyday spending. The annual fee for this card is $0 (See rates and fees).
With the Amex Gold Card, you’ll earn 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases. The annual fee for this card is $250 (See rates and fees).
Finally, the Amex Platinum offers 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases, plus new cardmembers can earn 10X on restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases during the first 6 months, after that 1X). The annual fee for this card is $695 (See rates and fees).
With these rewards rates, it makes sense to use the Platinum Card for air travel and hotels (plus groceries if the card is new to you), the Amex Gold for dining out, and the Blue Business Plus for everything else. These cards may also feature generous welcome bonuses that could help you earn rewards too.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you need a business to qualify for the Blue Business Plus. However, anything you do to earn a little extra money on the side could be considered a business for that purpose.
All three cards allow you to transfer your points to the many airline and hotel rewards programs that are Amex transfer partners. And you don’t need to worry about pooling your points earned with each card because Amex does that for you.
When it comes to redemption, transferring your points is likely your best chance of squeezing as much value out of them as possible — travel redemptions through Amex generally offer a value of 1 cent per point. Amex has both airline and hotel partners.
Consider the Amex trifecta if your top priority is to get as many valuable perks as possible. The Amex Gold, for instance, offers up to $120 in annual dining credits, and the Platinum Card comes with the following:
- Up to $200 in annual Uber credits
- Up to $200 credit for airline fees on a qualifying airline
- A $179 CLEAR® membership credit
- Up to $240 in digital entertainment credits for select subscriptions, including Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times
- Up to $200 in hotel credits at Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection
- Up to $300 back on qualifying Equinox fitness club memberships
- A $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue shopping credit
- Complimentary access to lounge networks including Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs
- An application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
- Elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy
- Complimentary rental car privileges, including discounts and upgrades on car rentals
Keep in mind that enrollment is required for select benefits.
Citi vs. Chase vs. Amex trifectas: Side-by-side
Here’s a quick summary of all three card issuer trifectas to help you compare them side to side.
|Citi trifecta||Chase trifecta||Amex trifecta|
|Total annual fees
Which trifecta should you choose?
None of the credit card trifectas are ideal for every cardholder, so it’s important to know what your preferences and spending habits are:
- People who spend a lot at grocery stores and at restaurants, for example, will likely benefit most from the Amex trifecta on those everyday spending categories. It’s also best for people who prioritize travel perks over other card features.
- If you want to maximize your rewards on gas and travel-related expenses, the Citi trifecta may be the better choice. The card issuer doesn’t provide as many perks as the other two, however.
- If you want more flexibility with the categories you earn bonus rewards on and redemption options, the Chase trifecta may be worth considering. The card issuer offers more perks than Citi but not Amex.
To determine which trifecta is right for you, take some time to think about your travel and spending habits, preferences for perks like purchase protection, and your ability to pay the card annual fees. You might prefer the discounts available in Chase Offers vs. Amex Offers after you do a little research, for example. Or the opposite!
You may also want to consider if you want a checking account or savings account with this same bank, since all three of these credit card issuers also offer banking products.
The bottom line
If you’re looking for opportunities to maximize your travel rewards and take advantage of valuable perks, the credit card trifectas from Citi, Chase, and Amex are worth considering. Cards from all three of these issuers are among those on our list of the best rewards credit cards and also among the best credit cards in general.
If you’re not ready to get credit cards with high annual fees, consider starting with the no annual fee card in each group and then apply for the other travel cards when you’re ready.
Earn Cash Back Twice
Citi Double Cash Card
Citi Double Cash Card
up to 2% cash back
- 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
- 2% cash back on all purchases - 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay
- No annual fee
- Foreign transaction fee
- No sign-up bonus
- Earn cash back twice: 1% when you buy + 1% when you pay
- up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay
- Intro balance transfer 0% offer: 0% for 18 months then 13.99% to 23.99% (variable)