Citi Premier Card: A Travel Card With Good Grocery, Restaurant and Gas Rewards

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The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent midtier travel credit card with a sizable welcome bonus. As I reach my tenth anniversary as a cardholder, I fondly look back at my travels over six continents (I’m not sure many merchants accept credit in Antarctica, anyway), which were almost entirely financed with my Citi Premier Card. 

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I applied for this card initially because it has no foreign transaction fees. I could go anywhere in the world and use it where Mastercard is accepted, without worrying about additional fees. After a six-month trip, I found that the benefits of the Citi Premier Card significantly outweighed the $95 annual fee. In other words, this card nets me a lot each year in both rewards and convenience.

In this article

Intro OfferEarn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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APR15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

Recommended Credit Excellent, Good

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Reward Rates

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  • 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

Intro Purchase APRN/A

Balance Transfer Fee Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Balance Transfer APR15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

Late Payment Fee Up to $40

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Foreign Transaction Fees 0%

Penalty APR Up to 29.99% (Variable)

  • 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, while not as large as it has been in the past, is sizable relative to the rest of the market. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your card within the first three months of account opening. This is equivalent to $600 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 is identical to that of the Citi Premier, with the exception that it can be redeemed for 25% more value 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. 

Though there is an introductory $0 annual fee for the first year, the annual fee of $95 kicks in after. 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 $300 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 (13.99% to 23.99% 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. 

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, click here.

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.



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