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 Card 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® Card, the valuable airline redemption value of the Citi Premier® Card, 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® Card||Citi Premier® Card||Citi® Double Cash Card|
|Intro bonus||N/A||Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening; Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024||Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 19.24% - 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness|
|Earning rate||N/A||3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases||2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases|
||Learn more||Learn more|
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 transfer partners. Because Citi has a relationship with these airlines and their loyalty programs, that means you can then redeem your points for nearly free travel.
Citi's travel partners include:
If you transfer points to one of these loyalty programs, you could potentially get more value than usual.
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 a welcome 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® Credit Card. 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 can earn 5% total cash back on qualifying Lyft rides, 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. And the Chase Sapphire Reserve will give you 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.
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
- 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 everyday eligible business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on eligible purchases after that, making it a solid option for much of your everyday spending. The annual fee for this card is $0.
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, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 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.
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. The annual fee for this card is $695.
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 Cash
- Up to $200 credit for airline fees on a qualifying airline
- Up to $189 CLEAR® Plus membership credit
- Up to $240 in digital entertainment credits for select subscriptions, including Disney+, The Disney Bundle, Hulu, ESPN+, Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times
- Up to $200 in hotel credits at Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection (requires a minimum two-night stay)
- Up to $300 annually in statement credits for an Equinox digital or club membership
- Up to $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 applying for the other travel cards when you’re ready.
Unlimited Cash Back
Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back
5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases