Citi ThankYou Preferred Rewards vs. Chase Sapphire

April 4, 2013

There are two ways for a credit card issuer to construct a rewards program. One is to offer customers points or miles with a partner such as an airline or hotel chain. The other is to develop a proprietary program. Banks run these programs, issue points, and choose the options cardholders have to redeem their points.

To this end, Citi has its ThankYou Points program while Chase offers several cards that allow customers to earn points in their Ultimate Rewards program. When looking for one of these cards with no annual fee, Citi offers its Citi ThankYou® Preferred Rewards card while Chase features its Sapphire card.

Lets see how these two products match up:

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Rewards Card

ThankYou PreferredTo start off, new cardholders of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Rewards card earn 20,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $1500 within three months of opening a new account. One ThankYou point is earned from each dollar spent (2x Points on dining & entertainment), there are no limits, and points never expire. Furthermore, cardholders receive a small anniversary bonus each year, up to 3% after they have been a card member for at least two years.

When it comes time to redeem points, the value of these points varies depending on which option you choose. The statement credit returns a higher value of cents per point than cashback. Some – but not all – gift cards can be purchased at a value of one cent per point. In addition, flights can be booked through Citi at the rate of one cent per point using just points or a mixture of cash and points. And finally, those who have a mortgage or student loan with Citi can make a payment at one cent per point redeemed.

There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside of the United States.

Insider tip: This card comes equipped with an EMV smart chip that makes it compatible with unattended kiosks in Europe and other parts of the world. On my last trip to Europe, I can’t tell you how many Americans I met in train stations who couldn’t buy a ticket because their credit card did not have one of these chips.

Chase Sapphire

Chase Sapphire

Chase’s no fee offering in this segment is a lot like Citi’s. As with the Citi card, new applicants can earn 10,000 points after spending $500 within three months of opening an account. Cardholders then earn one point per dollar spent on most purchases, and two points per dollar spent at restaurants.

Once earned, points can be redeemed for one cent each in value as cash back, statement credits, travel, merchandise, and many other options.

There is no annual fee for this card, but there is the same 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside of the United States, just like the Citi card.

Insider tip: You can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points that you earn to other Chase cards. Why would you want to do that? The Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus cards all offer a 25% points bonus when booking travel with points. And more importantly, these cards allow you to transfer points to the programs of nine different airlines, hotels, and Amtrak. So you can earn points now on your standard, no-fee Sapphire, and later transfer them to another card with better reward options.

The Verdict

While the tally is reasonably close, Chase’s Sapphire comes out on top. Double points at restaurants is a good start, but the fact that all Ultimate Rewards points are worth one cent each toward any redemption option seals the deal.

There is fierce competition among banks that offer their own reward points, and the one that offers the most valuable points will always win. For now, that is Chase’s Sapphire.


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Jason Steele has been dissecting credit card bonuses and loyalty travel programs for years. Digging into the details of credit card offers has enabled his family to vacation in cool places around the world. Pay attention to the details he digs up about which card is best for you.

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