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Citi Premier Card: Top Rewards on Four Major Spending Categories

The Citi Premier Card offers a competitive rewards rate on travel, groceries, gas and restaurants.

Citi is an advertising partner.

The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent midtier travel credit card. Though less known as a travel credit card than some of its competitors (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card), you can earn top rewards on travel purchases -- along with the other biggest spending categories most people incur: supermarkets, restaurants and gas stations. So it's good credit card for everyday use, not just when you're planning a trip.

There are no foreign transaction fees, so you can use this card abroad without any extra costs, and the welcome bonus is enough to essentially compensate you for the $95 annual fee for a few years. There are a few ways to squeeze more value out of this card than others, though, so read on to understand the rewards program and other perks. 

In this article

Citi Premier® Card

Card Highlights
Intro OfferFor a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
APR18.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Annual Fee$95
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR18.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Late Payment Fee Up to $41
Foreign Transaction Fees 0%
Penalty APR Up to 29.99% (Variable)
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Rewards and welcome bonus

The rewards rates on purchases are pretty all-inclusive. Citi offers 3x points in four prominent categories: restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets and travel (air travel and hotels) anywhere in the world. You earn 1x point for all other purchases. Each point is worth 0.01 cents when redeemed as a statement credit, which means you're earning 3% back on gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets and travel (air travel and hotels), and 1% back on everything else. (Make sure to read about redemption options below so you don't get tricked into a lower redemption rate like I initially did.)

These rates make the 3x points categories competitive, especially because you won't often find these categories bundled together and emphasized equally. At the same time, the flat rate on other purchases is on the lower end of the spectrum since many credit cards offer a 1.5% or even 2% flat rate on purchases. So if your spending is typically outside of these top four categories, a higher flat rate cash-back card might make sense.

The welcome bonus is sizable relative to the rest of the market. You'll earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your card within the first three months of account opening. This is equivalent to $800 in gift cards redeemed at Thankyou.com or statement credits, among other redemption options.

Traveling with the Citi Premier Card

With the Annual Hotel Savings Benefit, you can get $100 off a hotel booking of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) when booked through Thankyou.com, Citi's rewards portal, once per calendar year.

The fact that there are no foreign transaction fees makes purchasing abroad simple and transparent. Normally, foreign transaction fees run between 1% to 3% of your total transaction cost, so the savings with the Citi Premier Card add up quickly when you're outside of the country.

There's one caveat when traveling with any credit card: Always remember to alert your credit card issuer before your trip so your account doesn't get frozen for suspicion of theft. I forgot to do this and found myself in a predicament. While you can call Citi to sort out the problem, if you don't have international cell service and rely only on Wi-Fi, it may be more challenging, especially since you need to call from the cell phone number registered with your Citi account for security purposes. 

To avoid any problems and let Citi know that you'll be traveling, schedule a trip by going to your online account, navigating to Travel services within the Services tab, and selecting Add a travel notice to enter your trip dates and destination(s). You can submit travel notices up to 180 days in advance.

Redemption options

There are a handful of ways you can redeem your Citi ThankYou® points: Statement credit, shopping at retailers like Amazon, redeeming for gift cards or purchasing travel through Thankyou.com.

Travel from Thankyou.com includes search functions for flights, hotels, cars, activities, cruises and deals, and the range of options within the portal is expansive. Points for travel bookings through Thankyou.com are worth 1 cent each.

Cash back can get a little tricky with this card. It wasn't until recently that I noticed there is a right way and a wrong way to redeem points for cash back or statement credits with this card. Unfortunately, I redeemed points the wrong way for most of my time as a cardholder: I had been using the Pay with Points feature that is advertised on my account home page, at a rate of 0.8 cents per point. Then I discovered that if you redeem for a statement credit via the Thankyou.com portal, you actually receive a value of 1 cent per point -- and you don't have to worry about matching the point amounts to purchase amounts for redemption. You can just claim your cash back as a statement credit, direct deposit or check by mail.

Additionally, you can redeem your points for brand gift cards or Shop with Points at participating retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and PayPal. When you Shop with Points, your Citi Premier Card is loaded into your account with a ThankYou points partner, and you can use the points as currency to cover part or all of your purchase. Aside from convenience, there isn't much benefit to using these options, since they yield a lower rate than other redemption methods.

Other benefits

Citi is the only major credit card issuer currently offering virtual credit cards, or virtual account numbers, directly through your online account. Virtual account numbers are randomly generated disposable credit card details that mask your true information when making online purchases, thus helping to prevent credit card fraud and identity theft. Other banks will make you take extra steps to download apps and browser extensions to generate virtual credit cards, which isn't easy to do when you're traveling and dependent on Wi-Fi or shared computers (speaking from experience on that one).

Depending on your account history and standing, Citi may offer you a Flex Loan through your account -- a low APR loan from your credit limit, often combined with a credit limit increase if you accept the loan and qualify. It is important to note that terms, conditions, and eligibility may vary on this offer. My offer has come in consistently at 6.99% APR, with no additional fees, for a length of time of my choosing up to five years. This is much cheaper than requesting a cash advance from your credit card, which often comes with an upfront fee as well as an exorbitant APR.

Purchase protection is an often-hidden credit card benefit that most Citi credit cards offer, including the Citi Premier. For any purchases made with your Citi Premier Card or ThankYou® Points, you can be reimbursed for damage or theft up to 90 days after the purchase or delivery receipt, whichever comes first. You may be covered up to $10,000 per incident, for up to $50,000 per calendar year. 

Comparable cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a close equivalent to the Citi Premier. It is another midtier travel card with a $95 annual fee and a similar rewards bundle. You earn 5x points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 2x points on other travel purchases, 3x points on dining, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 3x points on select streaming services and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. While these options are weaker than Citi Premier's due to restricted travel and grocery rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points have the potential to be redeemed for higher value when booking travel. Like ThankYou points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are valued at 1 cent per point. And if being redeemed through travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, they are worth 1.25 cents.

The welcome bonus of 60,000 points (after you spend $4,000 in the first three months) is lower than the Citi Premier, but it can be redeemed for $750 if you're using points to book travel and willing to do it through Chase's portal. There is also 1-to-1 points transfer with airline partners as well as no foreign transaction fees.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
While not specifically a travel card like the others, the rewards value of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is most similar to Citi Premier's package. Unlike the Citi Premier that earns you points, the Blue Cash Preferred is a cash-back card: You can earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% on transit, 3% at U.S. gas stations and 1% on other purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Either the Citi Premier or the American Express Blue Cash Preferred may be better to optimize your rewards value depending on your typical spending habits. 

The annual fee is $95. While there are not many travel-specific benefits, there is car rental insurance, which Citi Premier does not offer. And with the welcome offer you can earn a $350 statement credit after spending $3,000 within the first six months of account opening. That makes for an easier spending threshold to meet, but a lower welcome offer than the Citi Premier. At the same time, the Blue Cash Preferred offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening (16.24% to 26.24% variable APR thereafter), giving it an edge over the Premier.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

FAQs

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards turn purchases into points or miles that can be redeemed for travel purchases, like flights and hotel stays. Sometimes you can redeem those points for cash or a gift card, but you typically get the best rate when using them to book travel. The top cards have their own travel booking portals through which you can find flights, hotels and rental cars. Sometimes, points are worth more when used in credit card company portals.

Airline credit cards and hotel credit cards operate like loyalty programs in that you stay in a closed-loop rewards system. You earn rewards when you purchase flights or book hotels through your chosen companies, and you can use those points for perks or future bookings through the same airline or hotel group.

How do you choose the best travel credit card?

The points and travel benefits that you accrue through a travel rewards program are often redeemed through your credit card issuer's website (or app), or they appear as a statement credit reimbursing you for past purchases you made with your credit card. Points or miles can also be transferred to travel partners -- mostly hotels and airlines -- at a fluctuating conversion rate, where they can then be used to book a flight or hotel room.

In choosing the best travel credit card, there are a few key factors to consider: 

  • Annual fees: Most travel rewards programs have annual fees, with some climbing as high as $695, but those fees are usually mitigated by monthly or annual credits. 
  • Exclusive perks: Some travel rewards card options also grant access to exclusive travel perks, like airline lounges, priority boarding or VIP welcomes at hotels. The value of those perks is subjective and something you'll have to evaluate based on your needs and wants.
  • Foreign transaction fees: The best travel cards don't make users pay a foreign transaction fee, so that's not something you have to worry about.

What extra benefits do travel credit cards usually offer?

Most travel credit cards, some of which carry hefty annual fees, include benefits that add value to those cards, such as travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, trip delay reimbursement or protection, lost luggage reimbursement and rental car collision insurance.

Our approach to credit card evaluation

We review the cards that are in the highest demand and offer the best benefits. We scour the fine print so there aren't any surprises when you open an account. We find the key factors that make a card stand out and compare them to other top cards. That way, readers can opt for a different card with similar features if our pick isn't right for them. Our reviews are regularly checked and updated to incorporate new recommendations, as well as to reflect changes in offers and the market. 

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.