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Adventurers who dabble in travel rewards face quite a selection of mid-range credit cards, and the process of choosing one can be overwhelming. The annual fees on these cards are usually under $100, and they offer compelling points earning structures.

The two cards we’ll be focusing on are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Citi Premier Card, both of which earn flexible rewards.

We’ll take a look at the cards’ welcome offers, earning structures for rewards, transfer partners and other perks that can sway your ultimate decision.

Welcome Bonus

Most people who are looking to open a new credit card consider the incentives to apply for one in the first place. Let’s take a look at the welcome bonus you can earn with each offer and what you have to do to earn it.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card currently comes with 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for new card members who spend at least $4,000 on the card in the first three months after the account is opened.

Citi Premier Card

With the Citi Premier Card, you’ll earn 80,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 on purchases made within the first three months of the account opening.

As you can see, the minimum-spending requirements are exactly the same. However, one of the offers is bigger than the other. Because both cards award flexible points, we’re comparing apples to apples in this case, and the 80,000 points that come with the Citi Premier Card outweigh the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s welcome offer.

Earning Structure

A sign-up bonus from any credit card posts just once (unless you cancel and get approved for the same card again in the future, which isn’t possible with some banks). For this reason, you want to look at a card’s earning structure on everyday purchases and make sure it aligns with your spending patterns so you can continue earning rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card recently revamped its earning stricture, and you now earn bonus points in the following categories:

  • 5X points on travel booked via Chase Travel Portal, Lyft rides (through March 2022) and Peloton equipment (on purchases totaling $1,800 or more)
  • 3X points on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases
  • 2X points on travel

All other purchases earn 1X, plus you’ll earn a 10% bonus on all spend made each card membership year. Think of it as earning 1.1X points on all non-bonused spending.

Citi Premier Card

With the Citi Premier card in your possession, you’ll earn 3X points in the following categories:

  • Airfare and hotels
  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Supermarkets

You’ll earn 1X ThankYou Point on all spending in other merchant categories.

Although Chase offers a higher reward for purchasing travel in its portal by giving 5X points on it, all other travel purchases earn 2X Chase points. Because portal reservations are considered third-party bookings and are harder to deal with when things go wrong, purchasing flights directly with airlines and booking rooms directly with hotels and earning 3X ThankYou Points works out better in the long run.

Both cards offer 3X on dining worldwide, so that category is a wash. The Citi Premier Card has an edge when it comes to offering 3X points at supermarkets and gas stations. These two spending categories are more popular than streaming services and online grocery purchases, and that makes the Citi Premier Card a better option to earn rewards quickly.

Points’ Value

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The answer depends on how you redeem your points. If you choose to convert your rewards to cash back, then their value is 1 cent per point.

However, if you choose to use the points to book travel, such as airfare, hotel nights, cruises or activities, via Ultimate Rewards Travel, the value goes up to 1.25 cents.

If you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when the bonus is 60,000 points, the sign-up bonus is worth $750

Citi Premier Card

Unfortunately, Citi ThankYou Points’ value is slightly inferior to Chase Ultimate Rewards. When used for statement credits, Citi points are worth 0.5 cent, half of what you get with Chase. When redeemed through the Citi ThankYou Rewards portal, Citi ThankYou Points are worth 1 cent each, which is also a lesser value than Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The 80,000-point welcome bonus is worth $800 toward portal bookings.

Transfer Partners

If you’d rather avoid third-party bookings through a portal and prefer to transfer your points to an airline for a direct reservation, you can use both banks’ rewards and do exactly that to increase their value dramatically.

Several of these loyalty programs overlap, but certain partnerships are exclusive to a specific bank.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Ultimate Rewards partners with 14 loyalty programs: 11 airlines and three hotels.

AirlinesTransfer Ratio
Aer Lingus AerClub1,000 : 1,000
Air Canada Aeroplan1,000 : 1,000
Air France-KLM Flying Blue1,000 : 1,000
British Airways Executive Club1,000 : 1,000
Emirates Skywards1,000 : 1,000
Iberia Plus1,000 : 1,000
JetBlue TrueBlue1,000 : 1,000
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1,000 : 1,000
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards1,000 : 1,000
United MileagePlus1,000 : 1,000
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1,000 : 1,000
HotelsTransfer Ratio
IHG Rewards Club1,000 : 1,000
Marriott Bonvoy1,000 : 1,000
World of Hyatt1,000 : 1,000

Perhaps the most valuable transfer partner Chase has is World of Hyatt. The cash rates at Hyatt hotels are usually high, but the program’s award chart for free nights makes Hyatt rooms a lot more affordable. Getting at least 2 cents per point in value here is common.

As for airlines, both United MileagePlus and Air Canada Aeroplan, Chase’s newest transfer partner, make for compelling programs to use for booking Star Alliance flights. United, of course, lets you book a free flight segment within a round-trip itinerary, dubbed Excursionist Perk. Air Canada allows stopovers on one-way award bookings for an additional 5,000 miles.

Citi Premier Card

Citibank partners with 17 airline programs, one retail program and no hotel programs.

AirlinesTransfer Ratio
Aeroméxico Club Premier1,000 : 1,000
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1,000 : 1,000
Air France-KLM Flying Blue1,000 : 1,000
Avianca LifeMiles1,000 : 1,000
Emirates Skywards1,000 : 1,000
Etihad Guest1,000 : 1,000
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands1,000 : 1,000
JetBlue TrueBlue1,000 : 1,000
Jet Airways InterMiles1,000 : 1,000
Malaysia Airlines Enrich1,000 : 1,000
Qantas Frequent Flyer1,000 : 1,000
Qatar Airways Privilege Club1,000 : 1,000
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1,000 : 1,000
Thai Royal Orchid Plus1,000 : 1,000
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles1,000 : 1,000
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1,000 : 1,000
RetailTransfer Ratio
Sears Shop Your Way1 : 12

The two most interesting partner programs of Citi Rewards, at least those not accessible to Chase cardholders, are Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.

With Qatar, you’re able to book those coveted Qatar Qsuite awards directly, without having to hoard AAdvantage miles. The Turkish Miles&Smiles program is a great choice for those looking to fly with Turkish Airlines as well as other Star Alliance carriers. The award rates are solid, especially for business-class redemptions to/from Turkey.

Related: 6 Best Ways to Use Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Of course, having access to the American Airlines AAdvantage program is huge, but this partnership is limited and ends on Nov. 13 (unless extended). If you need to book something using these miles, don’t wait too long.

One more thing to note is that Citibank often offers bonus miles on point conversions to its partner programs. Depending on the promotion, you can get as many as 40% extra miles when you transfer points to a participating program.

Annual Hotel Credit

Conveniently enough, both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi Premier Card offer a version of an annual hotel credit that’s helpful in offsetting the annual fees you pay, which are $95 on both cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Whenever you make a hotel reservation through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal and use your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to pay, you get a $50 statement credit toward your booking. The credit applies once per membership year and doesn’t earn 5X points.

Citi Premier Card

The Citi ThankYou Premier Card offers a similar credit, but it works a little differently. To receive a $100 hotel savings benefit with Citi, you must make a single reservation via the Citi Rewards Travel Center totaling at least $500. The hotel credit applies once per calendar year.

Although the Citi hotel credit is for a bigger amount, it’s much more difficult to use. Not only do you have to spend more to use it, booking a $500 stay through the Citi ThankYou Portal could lead to giving up a lot of value elsewhere (especially if you hold elite status with a chain). The Chase hotel credit is easier to use, and you can book a less expensive property.

Other Card Benefits

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver: Decline a rental company’s collision insurance, pay your bill using the Chase Sapphire card and receive automatic collision coverage on your rental car if rented for no more than 31 days in the United States or abroad.
  • Trip cancelation / trip interruption protection: Cardholders and his/her family members are covered against accidental bodily injury, severe weather, terrorism or jury duty. Receive up to $5,000 per trip for single traveler and $10,000 for multiple travelers (up to $10,000 per year for a single traveler and $20,000 for multiple travelers).
  • Trip delay protection: If your trip is delayed at least 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you’re covered for up to $500 worth of meals, lodging, toiletries and medication.
  • Baggage delay insurance: If your luggage is delayed more than six hours, you’re covered for up to $100 for up to five days to pay for new clothes, toiletries or a phone charging cable.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: If your luggage is lost, stolen or damaged, you qualify for a reimbursement of up to $3,000 per person per trip toward valuables, such as electronics, money, tickets, furs or other valuables.
  • DoorDash DashPass: Receive one year of DoorDash DashPass membership for free (normally $9.99 per month) and enjoy free delivery on orders of at least $12.
  • Up to $60 credit for Peloton All-Access Membership: Receive a credit statement toward Peloton All-Access Membership (through Dec. 31, 2021).
  • No foreign transaction fees

Citi Premier Card

  • Citi Entertainment: Receive special access to event tickets, such as concerts and sporting events, including presale tickets and exclusive experiences.
  • Cell phone protection: As a World Elite Mastercard holder, your cell phone is covered against theft or damage for up to $800 per claim (up to $1,000 per year) as long as you pay your bill with an eligible credit card.
  • $5 Lyft credit: With another World Elite Mastercard perk, you qualify for a $5 Lyft credit after taking three rides in a calendar month with the ride-hailing company.
  • ShopRunner membership: Courtesy of World Elite Mastercard, receive a ShopRunner membership with free two-day shipping on merchandise and returns at hundreds of participating retailers.
  • DoorDash DashPass: Get three months of DoorDash DashPass membership for free ($9.99 per month) and get free delivery on orders of at least $12.
  • No foreign transaction fees

Although some of the World Elite Mastercard benefits are nice to have, the overall perks pale in comparison to those of the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. Unfortunately, the Citi Premier Card doesn’t offer any travel protections, and that’s a huge problem for a travel rewards card.

The trip delay as well as trip cancelation / interruption coverage, auto collision damage waiver and baggage delay / loss make the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card a clear winner in this category.

Annual Fee

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • $95

Citi Premier Card

  • $95

Both of these credit cards charge the exact same annual fee, so it’s sixes in terms of cost. Neither issuer waives the membership fee for the first year, which means you have to pay it to try out either one of the cards. However, either welcome offer alone outweighs the cost of keeping the card, and the fee shouldn’t deter you from applying for either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Citi Premier Card.

Final Thoughts

In many ways, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi Premier Card are similar. Both charge the same annual fee. Both have the same minimum-spending requirements to earn the welcome bonus. Both have valuable partnerships with loyalty programs.

Although the Citi ThankYou Premier Card has a slight edge when it comes to earning rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a higher redemption rate through its travel portal.

However, the one thing that makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card stand out is its travel protections. You never know when you’re going to need to use that trip delay insurance, but it’s certainly better to have it than not.

Still, we recommend making room for both cards in your wallet. Each bank partners with some unique travel partners, and it’s best to diversify your points as much as possible. With Citibank’s bonus transfers and Chase’s increased portal rates, you’ll be happy to earn rewards with both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi Premier Card.