December 8, 2023

Citi Premier Vs. Citi Prestige: Crunching The Numbers

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Citi Premier Vs. Citi Prestige: Crunching The Numbers
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I have over two dozen credit cards, and I reassess my strategy every so often based on my spending patterns, and based on how card benefits evolve. For the most part I’m quite happy with my card portfolio, though there’s one thing I keep going back and forth on — I currently have the Citi Prestige Card, but should I downgrade it to the Citi Premier® Card (review)?

Why I want either the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige

The reason I want either the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige has very little to do with either actual card. Rather it’s because the no annual fee Citi® Double Cash Card (review) is my go-to card for everyday spending, and in order to maximize the value I get from the card, I need either of the above cards:

  • The Citi Double Cash offers 1{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} cash back when you make a purchase, and 1{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} cash back when you pay for that purchase
  • If you have the Citi Double Cash in conjunction with either the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, then all rewards can be converted into Citi ThankYou points at a rate of one cent per point, and can then be transfered to airline partners
  • Since I value Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, that increases the value of these rewards by 70{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5}, by my valuation; this makes it the best card for everyday spending, by my valuation

The Citi Double Cash earns me 2x transferable points per dollar spent

Breaking down the Citi Prestige value proposition

I already have the $495 annual fee Citi Prestige, though in many ways the card has become less valuable to me over time. Here’s how I view the breakdown of the card perks:

  • The Citi Prestige offers a $250 annual travel credit, which I value more or less at face value; therefore I consider this card to really cost me somewhere around $245 per year
  • The only money I actually spend on the Citi Prestige is in the dining category, as the card offers 5x ThankYou points on dining spending, which is industry-leading
  • The Citi Prestige offers a Priority Pass membership, which many other people may value; however, I have Priority Pass memberships through many cards, so this isn’t a perk I personally value
  • The Citi Prestige used to offer an incredible fourth night free hotel benefit, which I used to consider to be the single most valuable credit card benefit out there; unfortunately in 2019 this was significantly devalued, and I haven’t used it since

In other words, I’m paying ~$245 per year, and for that I have the ability to maximize the value of the Citi Double Cash, and also earn 5x points on dining purchases.

The Citi Prestige offers 5x points on dining

Breaking down the Citi Premier value proposition

The main reason I’m considering the Citi Premier is because it has an annual fee of only $95, and it would still give me full access to the value of the Citi Double Cash:

  • I’d much rather pay $95 per year than $495 per year, though perhaps it’s really more like $95 per year vs. $245 per year, after factoring in the Citi Prestige’s $250 travel credit
  • The Citi Premier is incredibly well rounded, as it offers 3x points on restaurants, gas, groceries, air travel, and hotels
  • For the average consumer I think the Citi Premier is tough to beat in terms of bonus categories, though I have a lot of cards with great bonus categories, so I’m not sure I’d actually put much spending on the card

The Citi Premier would allow me to still maximize the Citi Double Cash

What the math comes down to for me

This brings me to the math in deciding between these two options, both of which allow me to maximize the Citi Double Cash:

  • I could keep paying the $495 annual fee on the Citi Prestige, which really costs me $245 per year; this allows me to earn 5x ThankYou points on dining, when my next-best option for dining spending is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review), which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points
  • I could downgrade to the Citi Premier, which will save me $400 per year (or really $150 after factoring in the Citi Prestige’s $250 travel credit), but then I won’t actually use the card for spending

For me the math seems to come down to how much I spend on dining. With the Citi Prestige I earn an ~8.5{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} return on dining spending (based on my valuation of 1.7 cents per ThankYou point), while the next best option is to earn a ~5.1{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} return on dining spending with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (the card offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each).

That’s an incremental ~3.4{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} return on dining, so I’d make up the $150 difference in cost between the cards with ~$4,400 of dining spending per year. I easily spend that per year on dining, especially when you consider that it includes takeout and delivery.

Perhaps the math works out differently if I were to get the American Express® Gold Card (review), which offers 4x points on dining. Then I’d only be giving up 1x points per dollar spent, so the breakeven point is more like ~$8,800 per year in dining spending.

The math all comes down to how much I spend on dining

Bottom line

For the average consumer who doesn’t go great lengths to maximize credit card rewards, I think the combination of the Citi Premier and Citi Double Cash is tough to beat, as you earn 2-3x points on all purchases.

I keep considering downgrading the Citi Prestige to the Citi Premier, but I can’t quite make the math work. That’s simply because the 5x points on dining on the Citi Prestige really adds up, and is incrementally worthwhile to me over the Citi Premier.

To others who use the Citi Double Cash for everyday spending, do you complement it with the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige? How does the math work out for you?