There are many travel rewards credit cards with annual fees of just under $100. Most of these cards are co-branded with airline and hotel programs. And while these frequent flyer and hotel cards have their advantages, savvy reward card users are flocking towards non co-branded cards that offer rewards which can be transferred to airline miles with multiple different carriers. Instead of locking you into the rewards program of a single airline or hotel, these cards allow you to redeem your rewards with over a dozen frequent flyer programs. And each one of these programs could potentially offer you the chance to redeem its miles for award flights on over a dozen of its partner airlines. In fact, the biggest disadvantage of these programs can be the staggering number of options that you have when you’re trying to decide how to redeem your points for an award flight.
Two of the top cards that offer this ability are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Citi Premier℠ Card. Let’s take a look at these two cards and see which one may be right for you.
This card currently offers new applicants 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. It also offers 2x points on all travel and dining purchases. These points are earned in the Ultimate Rewards program, which offers transfers to both airline miles and hotel points including United, Southwest, Singapore, and Hyatt. Points are also worth 1.25 cents each towards travel reservations booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Travel Center, which is now powered by Expedia. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Citi is currently offering 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. You also earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel including gas stations, 2x points for purchases at restaurants and on entertainment and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points can be transferred to frequent flyer miles with over a dozen airlines, or can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards airfare with any airline when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Which is right for you?
Both cards have some strong advantages and significant disadvantages, and you’ll have to choose the right card for you based on your needs. Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers new applicants more bonus points than the Citi Premier℠ Card, but the Citi card’s annual fee is waived for the first year. Chase also offers a selection of airline transfer partners that is best suited for US travelers, including United and Southwest. Chase also offers valuable hotel partners like Hyatt, while Citi no longer has any hotel transfer partners. Finally, you can combine the Ultimate Rewards points you earn from this card with points you earn from other Chase cards like the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited and Ink business cards.
On the other hand, the Citi Premier offers 3x points on travel and gas, while the Sapphire Preferred only offers 2x on travel and 1x on gas. The Citi Premier also offers you 2x points on entertainment; while the Sapphire Preferred only lets you earn 1x.
In the end the deciding factor might be the list of airline transfer partners, as you have to see which card’s partners can offer you the most value for your points. By closely examining the features and benefits of both of these competitive cards, you’ll find the one that best fits your needs.