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: My Review
SPG: My Review
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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:
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!
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!
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.
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:
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**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.
The Citi Premier earns Thank You points and they can be transferred to 12 airlines and 1 hotel program:
Thank You Partners
SPG earns Starwood points and they can be transferred to 33 different airlines:
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!
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
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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!
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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