Looking for a credit card with lots of reward points? There's only one catch. (Isn't there always?)
Smartphone models are upgraded each year, often accompanied by price cuts, and it’s big news. Credit cards? They’re updated less frequently, and they rarely make headlines. Maybe this one should.
The Citi ThankYou Premier card offers ThankYou points, which are generally worth one cent each toward gift cards, merchandise, and travel reservations booked through Citi. That climbs to 1.25 cents per point for airfare. Now that’s being upgraded…
- 3x ThankYou points on dining & entertainment
- 2x ThankYou points on airfare, hotels, and travel agencies
- 1x ThankYou point on all other purchases
But starting on April 19th, the card will offer…
- 3x points on gasoline as well as all travel purchases, including cruises, railways, public transportation, and even parking
- 1.25 cents per point when redeemed for not just flights but also travel reservations, including hotels, cruises, and car rentals
- a reduced annual fee, down from $125 to $95
It’s not all good new, though: Dining expenses will drop from 3x to 2x.
Why is Citi doing this?
Citi is clearly trying to compete with Chase’s popular Sapphire Preferred card, which already offers double points on all travel and dining expenses and a $95 annual fee. By offering 3x points on gasoline and all travel purchases, it appears Citi is actually trying to one-up Chase’s offer.
But it’s not really an apples-to apples-comparison.
The real value with both cards is the ability to transfer points to travel partners such as airlines and hotels. Citi offers transfers of points to miles with 10 different airlines (most recently, Virgin Atlantic) and Hilton hotels.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program features transfers to five airlines, four hotel programs, and Amtrak Guest Rewards. Further, Chase’s airline partners are far superior to Citi’s. Chase includes big names like United, Southwest, and British Airways, while Citi’s list is filled exclusively with foreign carriers like Malaysia, Garuda Indonesia, Qatar, and Etihad. The most useful options are Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, and the Flying Blue program of Air France and KLM.
Should you get this card?
This card’s offer of 3x points on gasoline and travel is fairly compelling, especially to travelers who really want miles for Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, or one of those other odd airlines in this program.
The annual fee is waived the first year, so new applicants will only have to pay the lower $95 fee next year. But for serious collectors of points and miles, diversification has always been the name of the game. So while I’m not ready to say that the new Citi ThankYou Premier is better than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I can say it’s a worthwhile addition to your travel rewards portfolio, perhaps alongside of it.