Having a credit card that rewards purchases related to airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, and other transportation can be a method to save a substantial amount of cash each year. Travel rewards points or miles translate quickly into dollars. But not every travel rewards program is equal. Two of the top-rated travel rewards credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi ThankYou Premier, each offer strong earning potential to card members. However, the credit cards vary in how miles are earned, how they can be redeemed, card member benefits, and cost. Let’s take a closer look at both travel rewards credit card options.
Rewards Program Breakdown
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has one of the strongest rewards programs for travelers. Each dollar spent on dining at restaurants and travel, including airfare, taxis, hotels, and trains, earns card members two rewards points. All other purchases earn a single point for each dollar spent. There are no caps on earnings. New card members can maximize earnings by taking advantage of the promotional offer of 50,000 bonus points earned when $4,000 is spent on the card within the first three months after account opening. Adding authorized users adds an additional 5,000 bonus rewards points when a purchase is made within the same time frame.
The Citi ThankYou Premier credit card also offers a strong rewards program. Cardmembers earn three points for each dollar spent on travel-related expenses. Unlike the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Citi ThankYou Premier card offers the enhanced points potential on gas purchases as well. Cardmembers earn two points for each dollar spent on dining and entertainment purchases too. All other purchases made with the Citi card earn one point per dollar spent, with no cap on earnings. Currently, Citi ThankYou Premier card members do not have the chance to earn a one-time rewards bonus as an introductory offer. This makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred card a better choice for those who want an upfront perk.
Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card members have the option to redeem points for travel on air, land, or sea directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. Cardmembers can receive as much as 20% off travel purchases through the redemption site. There are no blackout dates or restrictions imposed. Citi ThankYou Premier cardmembers can utilize points to redeem gift cards, shopping through select partner retailers, cash, and even charitable donations. ThankYou points may also be used to purchase travel through Citi’s Travel Center. Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for hotel stays, cruises, car rentals, and airfare purchases. The redemption options through Citi are far more robust than through Chase. They are especially attractive to those who want flexibility above and beyond travel-related purchases.
Both cards allow cardmembers to transfer accumulated rewards points to partner loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. Citi does not specifically list the transfer partners eligible under the ThankYou points program, but Chase includes the following:
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- Marriott Rewards
- IHG Rewards Club
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- United MileagePlus
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Korean Air SkyPass
- British Airways Executive Club
In addition to transfer potential, each travel rewards credit card offers supplemental benefits to cardmembers. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi ThankYou Premier account holders have access to chip-enabled card technology. This allows for wider acceptance around the world. Chase customers have a variety of travel and purchase protection benefits, including trip interruption, cancellation insurance, and extended warranty protection. Citi customers can access a personal concierge service anytime, day or night. Purchases are covered with damage and theft protection up to certain limits. Both Citi and Chase cardmembers have $0 liability for fraudulent or unauthorized charges.
Card Member Costs
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardmembers and Citi ThankYou Premier account holders won’t have additional fees for transactions made outside the United States. However, both travel credit cards come with an annual fee of $95. Currently, both card providers waive the annual fee for the first year. Neither Chase Sapphire Preferred nor Citi ThankYou Premier applicants are offered a low introductory interest rate on purchases or a promotional rate on balance transfers at this time.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has a variable interest rate that fluctuates with the broad market. This typically ranges from 16.24% up to 23.24%, depending on the creditworthiness of the applicant. Balance transfer interest rates are the same as purchase rates. A fee of $5 or 5% (whichever is greater), is applied to all balances transferred to the card. The cash advance APR for Chase Sapphire Preferred customers is 25.24%, and a fee of $10 or 5% (whichever is greater) applies.
The Citi ThankYou Premier credit card also has a variable interest rate for purchases, depending on credit history and score. Similar to the Chase option, balance transfer made to the Citi card receive the same APR as purchases, and a $5 or 3% (whichever is greater) applies. Cash advance interest rates are a standard 25.49% with a $10 or 5% fee (whichever is greater).
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi ThankYou Premier credit cards are great options for individuals who are on the go. For those interested in an upfront bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a smarter option. Those looking for higher rewards potential on travel purchases should look at the Citi card. Both travel credit cards offer substantial discounts on trips arranged through their travel sites. The absence of foreign transactions fees for either card make them both appropriate for overseas travelers. The other fees are comparable. Neither card is great for someone looking for an introductory 0% offer on purchases or balance transfers. Prospective card members should consider the total cost of each card and the corresponding benefits prior to applying.