Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Vs. Citi ThankYou Premier Card: Which Is Better?

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Update: The offer on the Citi ThankYou Premier Card is no longer available. You can find the current offer details here.


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I recently wrote a post about the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is the single card I use more than any other. I consider this to be a super-card, of sorts:

  • The card has a generous sign-up bonus where you can earn 50,000 bonus points
  • It has a reasonable $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees, which is useful given how much time I spend outside the US
  • It allows you to earn 2X points on travel and dining (two categories I tend to spend the most on)
  • It offers one of the most valuable transferable points currencies, given that points can be transferred to programs like British Airways Executive Club, Hyatt Gold Passport, Korean Air SkyPass, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, etc.

CSP-Parking-Meter
Even paying for parking counts as travel with the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Citi’s equivalent of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, which is seeing a change in benefits as of April 19, 2015. I wrote a post a while back covering the new benefits of the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, and reader Sandeep asked if I could write an updated comparison between the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi ThankYou Premier cards.

With that in mind, I figured I’d compare the cards on the following fronts:

  • Sign-up bonus
  • Bonus categories
  • Value of points
  • Other perks/costs

I’ll be covering the Citi ThankYou Premier Card in terms of the benefits of the card starting April 19, 2015.

Comparing sign-up bonuses

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months
  • Plus, earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make their first purchase within three months

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus points after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Which is better?

If you max out the sign-up bonuses you’d get a 55,000 point sign-up bonus with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and a 40,000 point sign-up bonus with the Citi ThankYou Premier. While in general 55,000 points is better than 40,000 points, I also value Ultimate Rewards points slightly more than ThankYou points.

So I give the edge to the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Comparing bonus categories

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has the following earnings structure:

  • 2x points on dining
  • 2x points on travel
  • 1x point on all other purchases

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has the following earnings structure:

  • 3x points on travel
  • 3x points on gas
  • 2x points on dining out and entertainment
  • 1x point on all other purchases

Which is better?

Exact relative value of points aside, the Citi ThankYou Premier offers the following incremental bonuses relative to the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • An extra 2x points per dollar spent on gas
  • An extra 1x point per dollar spent on travel
  • An extra 1x point per dollar spent on entertainment
  • The same number of points on dining and other purchases

So I give the edge to the Citi ThankYou Premier in terms of category bonuses.

Comparing value of points

Both Ultimate Rewards and ThankYou Rewards have a large list of transfer partners — Chase has 11 transfer partners, while Citi has 12 transfer partners.

Citi TY

Their transfer partners are as follows:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardCiti ThankYou® Premier Card
British Airways Executive ClubAir France/KLM Flying Blue
Korean Air SkyPassCathay Pacific AsiaMiles
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerEVA Air Infinity MileageLands
Southwest Rapid RewardsEtihad Guest
United MileagePlusGaruda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubMalaysia Airlines Enrich
Hyatt Gold PassportQantas Frequent Flyer
IHG Rewards ClubQatar Airways Privilege Club
Marriott RewardsSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer
The Ritz-Carlton RewardsThai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
Amtrak Guest RewardsVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hilton HHonors

Which is better?

On the surface I’d say Citi’s transfer partners look more compelling. Who wouldn’t want to fly Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Garuda, Qantas, Qatar, Singapore, etc.? Well, the catch is that while those are great airlines, their frequent flyer programs aren’t as great for the most part.

Both programs partner with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which I consider to be an immensely valuable program. But aside from that, Citi really doesn’t have that many transfer partners that I’d consider to be especially worthwhile.

Singapore-A380-Suites-Class-05
Both Chase and Citi points are valuable for redemptions in Singapore Airlines Suites Class

Meanwhile Chase partners with British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SkyPass, United MileagePlus, and Hyatt Gold Passport, all of which are fantastic transfer partners.

By my personal valuation, here’s what I’d value the two points currencies at:

  • Value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points: ~1.8 cents each
  • Value of Citi ThankYou Rewards points: ~1.5 cents each

Comparing other perks/costs

Both cards have identical annual fees (waived the first year and $95 per year thereafter) and don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Both cards offer excellent though slightly difference coverage/purchase protection thanks to being Visa Signature and World MasterCard products. So I won’t dig too deep into that, because I don’t think that should be a primary motivation for getting either card.

I will note that Chase has a fairly good online shopping portal, Shop Through Chase, whereby you can earn lots of bonus points for purchases with select vendors.

Which is better?

I’d give the slight edge to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, though it’s negligible. Both cards offer great “additional” benefits when you take into account that they’re mid-range cards.

Bottom line

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offer compelling value propositions. They’re clearly both designed to be competitive with one another, so I don’t think there’s one clear winner.

I’d say the Citi ThankYou Premier has better category bonuses, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred has better transfer partners. So I guess it comes down to:

  • Which categories you spend the most in — for example, if you spend a lot on gas and travel, the additional points you earn from the Citi ThankYou Premier will really add up
  • How you like to redeem your points — if you like to redeem points primarily for travel on Singapore Airlines, for example, ThankYou Rewards will have you covered, while if your redemption patterns are different, the program may not prove as valuable
  • How much you spend — if you spend a ton, there could be value in diversifying your spend with both cards

Ultimately I don’t think there’s one clear winner, and it’s great to finally see Citi really competing with a flexible points currency card. Given the generous sign-up bonuses, I think it makes sense to give both cards a try.

Which do you think is more valuable, the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi ThankYou Rewards?

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Comments

  1. What makes UA a “fantastic” travel partner? Since last year’s deval they seem much less fantastic to me from the FF standpoint. And their service is among the worst these days. I cashed out my miles and haven’t really considered them since then.

  2. To answer RakSiam, even after the devaluation, UA’s awards can be quite reasonably priced compared to other airlines. Add to that the free stopover on round-trip tickets and a fair amount of flexibility on routes, plus often good award availability (on some partners and some routes). So, redeeming for UA award tickets can work out well.

    Truth be told, though, if the Citi card added AA as a partner, I’d be sorely tempted to switch over…

  3. It’s interesting that you value TYPs at 1.5 cents. With the Prestige Card ($100 annual fee with a CitiGold account), you can use TYPs for AA tickets at 1.6 cents cash — as you already know, I’m sure.

    What kills me with TYPs, though, is their lack of a real domestic US transfer partner or even a good fill-in like AA via Avios. Am I missing something?

  4. Yea citi is 1 decent transfer partner from being one of the strongest cards in the market IMO. perhaps it’s the merger holding AA back from any further contracts right now but I’d be in that in a heartbeat.

  5. “Both cards have identical annual fees (waived the first year and $95 per year thereafter) and don’t charge foreign transaction fees.”

    Hmm I think the CITI AF is $125; not $95. Even your Afil links say $125. Is that a typo or did the AF go down?

  6. @Miles

    That’s really stinks if its the case. Maybe its something they look at more in-depth after the merger has been fully completed and US has been fully integrated into AA.

    But on the other side, if AA does become a transfer partner how much would they change their award tiers now that AA miles would be ‘easier’ to come by…

  7. @ Vince — As I explained in the post, these are the benefits as of April 19, 2015. See this post for the changes to the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, which includes the annual fee being lowered:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/01/20/citi-thankyou-premier-lower-annual-fee-new-bonus-categories/

    Keep in mind that since the annual fee on the Citi ThankYou Premier is waived the first year, you’d only ever pay the $95 annual fee, starting next year.

  8. @ Tom — KrisFlyer miles can be used on United, but aside from that I agree. Would be awesome if they added AAdvantage.

  9. @ RakSiam — Ultimately these are all “niche” partners, in my opinion. Is MileagePlus nearly as valuable as it used to be? Nope. But there are still some good values to be had.

  10. @ Drew — Would be awesome if they were added, but it’s telling that they haven’t been added yet. Suggests to me they’re probably not interested.

  11. mileage plus saver award availability is HORRIBLE these days, across the board, no matter the carrier or routing. a shadow of what it was even one year ago this time. really only even remotely useful if you’re flexible to the point of booking 24 hours in advance — and even then the available domestic options on UA are awful.

  12. Lucky, I realize this is likely speculation, but can you think of any reason why AA wouldn’t be interested?

    As for the two cards, I’d personally give the edge to the TY Premier, simply because I could easily spend $2K in 3 months, but there’s no way I could spend $4K in 3 months, since I don’t MS.

  13. Interesting about both Kris Flyer and, from Pavel, the state of United 25K availability.

    Lucky, in a 2012 post you said Kris Flyer “sees” the same award space as does Mileage Plus. Is that still the case?

  14. Is the Citi definition of “travel” for bonus as flexible as CSP?
    Are there any other cards that are close to CSP for the travel category inclusions?

  15. I think most bloggers overlook Asia Miles. Their fuel surcharge is reasonable on CX and redemption rates are decent for long haul. They also have a One World partner distance chart that allows multiple stopovers, open jaws and transfers. The new only hard part is dealing with their call center.

  16. @ Naiquan — It would seem so. For the Citi ThankYou Preferred as of April 19, “travel” includes the following:
    “airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies, gas stations, commuter transportation, taxi/limousines, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, time shares, bus lines, motor home/RV Rental and boat rentals.”

  17. I am pretty happy that Citi is upping their game. I am one of the very few lucky ones who are grandfathered in with my old Citi Forward. As a result, I still get 5X on dining and amazon purchases… I wonder when they pull the plug on this super lucrative offerings.

  18. It’s also worth considering what happens when you combine either card with the entry level card from the respective bank.

    With no annual fee, the Freedom card is a nice way to get 5x in different categories throughout the year, most of which are quite useful even for people who don’t MS, but the Citi ThankYou Preferred doesn’t really offer over an earnings advantages over the Premier card. The trump card for Citi though is for people who might still be holding the Forward card, which still gets 5x on dining and bookstores (including Amazon.com).

  19. I recently got the Chase Sapphire card, and so far so good. One thing I can say, that their customer service via Twitter was outstanding. When my wallet was taken in Vienna, thanks to their Twitter handle, I was connected to their global assist line and had a new card to me in Slovakia in less than two days. My other cards took longer or never arrived, so for traveling internationally, if you get stuck, they were pretty responsive.

  20. I’m going to have to side with the previous commenters and razz you for valuing Mileageplus so highly. With the gigantic (not a big enough word! How about nuclear explosion?) devaluation at United, and now a mega-devaluation coming to Southwest next month, UR points have taken a huge hit. Sorry, but Chase simply minted WAY too many miles, and now the necessary devaluations are arriving. Woe be to any program that partnered with Chase UR.

    Citi’s transfer partners are not much better. A lot of poor plans, or niche players. Still, on the rewards front, Citi is the winner.

    Away from rewards, the card benefits seem to favor Chase, and their CSRs are great. Today it’s nothing like the Chase/FirstUSA bull service from the old days. Better than Citi.

    Personally, I carry the Citi card only because I got a targeted offer. As for CSP, we’ve had enough of the non existent award availability and are cancelling.

  21. @ Joseph N. — Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but my point was that those programs are in many cases the best options available. Is MileagePlus great? Absolutely not. But there are some markets where it’s the best program.

  22. Lucky,
    Do you know functionally the difference between “dining and entertainment” on citi and “dining” on chase? I use my cards a lot at restaurants and bars so I’m trying to ascertain if the citi card will give me anything more or if “dining and entertainment” basically means the same at Citi as “dining” does chase.

  23. @ Jay — Both cards have similar definitions of “dining.” Here’s how the Citi ThankYou Premier defines “entertainment:”
    “2 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at restaurants and on select entertainment merchants, including sports promoters, theatrical promoters, movie theaters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, record stores and video rental stores”

  24. I think Flying Blue is a fantastic partner. Their LAX-TLV flights are 50k points, which is better than the competition, and also the same as the sign up bonus.

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