Credit Card Battle: Citi Premier vs Amex SPG - Running with Miles
Credit Cards The Basics

Credit Card Battle: Citi Premier vs Amex SPG

Citi Premier
Written by Dustin

A guest post that pits two popular cards against each other – the Citi Premier and the Amex SPG. Both have very strong points, which one might win out?

Advertiser Disclosure

Charlie: I am very pleased to have Dustin from Waller’s Wallet back with another excellent comparison post. The last one he wrote here – Credit Card Battle: Citi Premier vs American Express Premier Rewards Gold – had some great interaction and was very detailed in its presentation. I trust this post will provide the same level of interest for you as the last one. Also, he is celebrating his one year anniversary of his own blog – Waller’s Wallet – so make sure you check out his giveaway information below and help him celebrate this milestone!

I want to thank Charlie for letting me come back and guest post again. I was excited to come back and compare these two cards, especially since these are some of the top cards out there! Remember, the top card ultimately comes down to what works best for your goals! Let’s get down to business!

The Citi Premier has been my top ranked credit card after dethroning the Chase Sapphire Preferred and easily beating the American Express Premier Gold Rewards.  One card I see many bloggers ranks as a top card is the American Express SPG card. SPG has made some changes to their credit card, but does it do enough to take the top spot from the Citi Premier?

**Even though SPG has been sold to Marriott they are still separate programs. Although I think SPG will go away once their merger is finished, SPG has been considered a top travel credit card by many**

Citi Premier

Citi Premier: My Review

Citi Premier

SPG: My Review

Citi Premier vs SPG
Citi Premier SPG
Sign-up Bonus 50,000 25,000
Spending Requirement $3,000 $3,000
Bonus Categories 3x on travel including gas, 2x on dining & entertainment, 1x on everything else 2x at SPG hotels, 1x everywhere else
Foreign Transaction Fees None None
Reward Program Thank You has 13 transfer partners SPG has 33 transfer partners
Redemption Options Credit statement, Gift cards, transfer to partner, Citi travel center Transfer to partners, flight and nights, free nights,SPG moments, gift cards

Credit Score Required:

If your credit score is under 700, I would advise against applying for any reward card like these. There are credit cards available to improve your credit and eventually play this game

According to Credit Karma, individuals with the Citi Thank You Premier card have an average credit score of 793 with a low of 745 and a high of 819.

Individuals with the SPG credit card have an average credit score for approval is 738. The typical low is 649 and the typical high is 798.

Current Sign-up Bonus:

Citi Premier

The Citi Thank You Premier has a 50,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. I value Thank You points at 1.7 cents per point, making the 53,000 points (could be more from depending on your spending)  from the bonus worth about $901. It has been as high as 60,000 points recently, hopefully we’ll see that reappear at some point!

Citi Premier

The SPG has a 25,000 bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. Most people seem to value these points around 2 cents per point, making the 28,000 points from the bonus worth about $560. This bonus seems to go up to 30,000 points during the year, although it’s not a guarantee, this could go back up to 30,000 points before the merger is complete.

Winner: Citi Thank You Premier, for having a larger bonus and being worth almost $350 more!

Annual Fee:

The Citi Thank You Premier has an annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year.

The SPG has an annual fee of $95 (recently increased from a $75 annual fee), which is waived for the first year.

Winner: Tie. Both fees are waived for the first year.

Earning Rates:

I know this will change based on your spending needs/habits, but to keep this equal, I will look at the average American spending based on the Bureau of Labor Statistic:

Earning Comparison
Category Yearly Spend Citi Premier SPG
Gas $2,400 7,200 2,400
Entertainment $2,500 5,000 2,500
Groceries $4,000 4,000 4,000
Dining Out $2,600 5,200 2,600
Apparel $1,600 1,600 1,600
Travel or Transportation $6,600 19,800 6,600-13,200
Healthcare Expenses $3,600 3,600 3,600
All Other Expeditures $3,300 3,300 3,300
Total $26,600 49,700 (including bonus 102,700) 26,600-33,200 (including bonus 51,600-58,200)

**If you spent every travel dollar at a SPG property on your SPG credit card, you would receive 2x on all purchases. If not, you’d receive 1x, so I made a range to show the points you could earn.

The Citi Thank You Premier earns 3 Thank You points per dollar spent on travel, including gas, 2 Thank You points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, and 1 Thank You point on all other purchases.

The SPG earns 2 SPG points per dollar on charges at SPG properties and 1 SPG point on all other purchases.

Winner: Citi Thank You Premier.  This is not even close, I think the SPG card earns at a horrible rate. It doesn’t matter how valuable you consider these points, because based on the spending above, you wouldn’t even have enough points for a top property (if you don’t include the bonus). SPG needs to make better bonus categories for this card.

Foreign Transaction Fee:

Both the Citi Thank You Premier and the SPG have no foreign transaction fees.

Winner: Tie

Reward Program:

The Citi Premier earns Thank You points and they can be transferred to 12 airlines and 1 hotel program:

Citi Premier

Thank You Partners

Thank You Partners

SPG earns Starwood points and they can be transferred to 33 different airlines:

Citi Premier

SPG Transfer Partners

Winner: SPG. Citi has made some great strides, but SPG has SO MANY partners! This is not even close in the number of partners, but I don’t think you should confuse quantity with quality. Both programs offer quality partners.  

Many of Citi’s transfer partners are also SPG partners. If the partners are overlapping, using Thank You points is best since these are easier to earn.

One of the SPG partners that many rave about is the ability to transfer to American Airlines. Although it is a nice option, I don’t think transferring SPG points to American Airlines is the best way to fly American Airlines.

Although SPG has over 30 partners, I don’t think using your hard earned SPG points for airfare is the best option.

Both programs periodically offer bonuses when you transfer your points to a particular program. This is a great feature for both programs, now if only Chase would jump this bandwagon as well!

Redemption Options:

Citi has many redemption options:

  • Gift cards at 1 cent per point.
  • Statement credit at 0.7 cents per point
  • Using through their travel center at 1.25 cents per point
  • Transfer to one of their 12 transfer partners, I value these points at 1.7 cents per point

Although there is no wrong way to use your points, using them for a credit statement would yield the least amount of value. If you transfer to one of their partners you can expect to receive the most value. For hotel redemptions, you might actually receive the best value when using the Citi Travel center, as you will receive 1.25 cents per point.

SPG has plenty of redemption options:

  • Transfer to one of their 33 partners, many value these around 2 cents or more per point.
  • Flight and Nights
  • Free Nights
  • SPG Moments
  • Gift Cards- redeem for about 1 cent per point

When transferring points to SPG, you will receive a bonus of 5,000 points, when you transfer 20,000 points at one time. This essentially earns you 1.25 miles per dollar you spend. I think most people would like that, but unless you spend a lot of money at SPG (where you earn 2x SPG points), you would need to spend $20,000.

Flight and nights is a great redemption option, but is only available for Category 3 and 4 properties

Citi Premier

You receive 50,000 airline miles and 5 nights at a Category 3 or 4 hotel. You’ll redeem 60,000 SPG points (save 18,000 SPG points) at Category 3 and 70,000 SPG points (saving 20,000 points) at Category 4 property. This is a great way to stretch those hard earned SPG points.

Using your points for free nights is as another great option. Excluding the Category 1 and 2 properties, when you redeem for points for 4 nights, you will get the 5th night free. Although using your points for Cash & Point redemption won’t get you the 5th night free, it is a great way to stretch your SPG points.

Citi Premier

SPG Moments is an option and I think it is probably a better option for someone who prefers special experiences over travel, or has more SPG points than they know what to do with!

The least favorable option would be to redeem your points for gift cards, as you redeem for about 1 cent per point.

Winner: SPG. For the many redemption options it offers.

They have a large number of transfer partners, even though not all are 1:1. The flights and nights, although it cost many SPG points, is a great way to make the most out of your SPG points. I think the best option for SPG points is redeeming for free nights, especially at lower category hotels.

Other Considerations:

Citi is very good when it comes to offering retention bonuses, either in the form of points or statement credit for annual fee. SPG has improved on their retention offers, but range from nothing to 10,000 points, or even annual fee waiver.

Probably my favorite perk for any American Express card is American Express Offers! These have saved me hundreds of dollars. The offers keep getting better and better, especially around the holiday time!

Citi has recently rolled out Smart Savings, which is similar to American Express Offers. It is in the beginning stages and is not available to all cards, but I’m sure that could change. These offers are on the Citi Premier, but currently aren’t as lucrative as American Express offer. I would suspect these will improve and time goes on. This is a great option for us, since we could receive many great offers from 2 companies to save money and earn points!

Citi offers Citi Rewind, where you can make a purchase on your Citi cards and register your product with Citi. They will do the work and if they can find a lower price from 60 days of purchase, they will credit your account the difference. It takes just a few minutes to register your product.

The SPG card gives you unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi, when you enroll in American Express Preferred Plan.

Does SPG over take the Premier as the Top Travel Card?

After writing this all, I think it is closer than I initially thought it would be, but in the end I still believe the Citi Premier tops SPG. Here are the reasons why:

  1. The amount of points earned for a year based on average American spending, SPG would barely give you a free round trip domestic flight. Citi earns enough for about 2 domestic round trip tickets.
  2. The spending categories for SPG are terrible, there’s no other way to say it. If they want to be competitive top cards, they need to address this. Earning 1 point on all purchases (excluding SPG properties) is just pitiful. The Citi Premier offers some of the best bonus categories for a travel credit card.
  3. The bonus for the Citi Premier is double the SPG, and even if you value your SPG points at 2 cents, the “value” is roughly $350 less than the Citi Premier! If you include the bonus, the Citi Premier is anywhere from $580- $714 more! (Depending on your travel spending for SPG)
  4. Even though Citi has about one-third the transfer partners, many overlap and you can utilize these to fly anywhere. So, larger number doesn’t necessarily better. I mean, raise your hand if you have redeemed your SPG points on China Eastern Airlines.
  5. Citi has started rolling out a program to compete with American Express Offers. This should only get better as time goes on.

The Citi Thank You Premier keeps it’s crown as the top travel credit card. I’m sure we will see some new cards come along to challenge it, but who do you think it could be? Do you disagree with me?

Thank you again Charlie, for asking me to come back and be a guest on your site, I really enjoyed it!

Don’t forget to Like me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my blog. If you have questions, comments or would like a topic, leave a comment. Thank you for reading!

Last November, I started Waller’s Wallet and to celebrate one year of blogging (although it’s not as frequently as I would like), I am going to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card. To enter, Follow my blog, then either follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page and let me know what your top travel card is and why. I will select one winner and you’ll get a $25 Amazon Gift Card, perfect for some holiday shopping!

 

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Dustin

After completing 6 years of pharmacy school, I finally had the time to travel. I started investigating ways to travel for less and when I redeemed my first award flight for my honeymoon, I knew I was hooked! Fast forward a couple of years and places I had never dreamed of visiting like Budapest, Honolulu, Bermuda and many other places where all within my reach, and for little to no money out of my pocket. Now, I have collected well over a million points and miles, and try to help people travel for less on their wallet.

11 Comments

  • I have both cards. I use the SPG Amex for personal stays at SPG hotels (I was just at the StR Punta Mita last week), just as I use the SPG Business Amex for business stays at SPG hotels (I am now at the W San Francisco). I also use the SPG Amex for any non-bonus spend otherwise.

    I use the Citi Premier for my Uber rides (which also earn me SPG points because of the SPG-Uber partnership), and for any personal hotel stays that doesn’t include an SPG hotel.

    Since I am SPG elite, and I earn 4x SPG points, I still find myself using the SPG Amex (and especially the SPG Business Amex) much more than the Citi Premier.

    While Citi TY points are valuable, unless you are flying internationally I find their value to be a bit overrated–especially since Hilton redemptions are NEVER going to interest me. If you’re SPG elite, you likely prefer SPG hotels over Hilton properties in almost all cases. And SPG points give you the versatility of redeeming for great SPG hotels AND far more airlines, including AA, which is the only domestic airline between the 2 cards for which you can use your points! YOU may not think SPG points for AA awards are a good investment, but I’ve now used SPG points transferred to AA to get AA F awards and Air Tahiti Nui awards that would have been impossible using Citi TY. Not to mention that my most recent StR Punta Mita stay was entirely on SPG points–a VERY nice use of points over Thanksgiving week, I might add! Citi Premier TY has nothing that can compete with that using Hilton.

    For the period while we still have the SPG Amex cards–with the looming Marriott-Starwood merger making everyone wonder if these will survive–I plan to continue using the SPG cards more than the Citi Premier. If the SPG Amex cards go away, then I’m sure the Citi Premier will see more use.

    • Hey Bill,

      Thanks for the comment! It seems you have a great strategy for what works best for you! That’s awesome.

      Those trips are definitely great use for your SPG points. I agree SPG properties are very nice and most who stay there wouldnt like to stay at Hilton as the points are inflated. But they are also some of the easiest points to earn with their co-branded CCs. Not saying I use one, because I dont.

      It seems you rack up quite a bit of SPG points from business travel, which is great for your earning SPG points.

      Unfortunately, I think the SPG program will be gone once the merger is complete. I do think (I’m not alone) Citi premier or Prestige will become transfer with AA at some point in the next year.

      If SPG is gone, where so you plan to stay? Hyatt, Marriott?

      Again, thanks for the comment!
      Dustin

  • I have both cards, and I definitely use the CP for their bonus categories, but all non bonus spend goes on the SPG…

    Im still trying to figure out the best use of all these points are. Im great at earning, not great at redemption.

    • Hey Mark,

      Thanks for the comment! I typically have a goal in mind of what I want and work backwards. Earning points is great, but I always tell people to have a plan.

      Unless you have lots of nonbonus spending, I never understood using SPG for nonbonus spending. It would just take so long to earn free nights, etc. That’s just me though!

      If you need advice on redemption, just ask. There are lots of people who can give advice, including myself!

      Thanks again for the comment,
      Duatin

  • Does anyone know if Citi would claw back the airline credit if you end up cancelling the refundable airfare that you booked to receive the credit it?

    • Hey Dan,
      Im not 100% sure, but I would think when the transaction is reversed so would the credit. Why not buy a gift card instead? Plenty of data points with that working. Hope that helps

      Dustin

  • I was just approved for the Premier card. If I receive it in a week and use the airlines credit before the end of the year will I be eligible for another credit next year? Or would it go by the end of the billing period, which will end sometime in Janurary?

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