Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi ThankYou Premier vs. Bank of America Premium Rewards

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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi ThankYou Premier vs. Bank of America Premium Rewards

There are plenty of high rollers who love the thrill of spending $450 annually to get major perks. And then there are the wheelers and dealers who thrive on finding those no annual fee credit cards to milk. If you’re an average, middle of the road kind of cardholder, then there’s another category of credit card that’ll most appeal to you. I’m talking about the cards that charge a reasonable annual fee (in the $100 ballpark) and offer great benefits in return. If you like the idea of finding the happy medium between premium and free, then check out this battle between three of the major card players in this field: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi ThankYou Premier vs. Bank of America Premium Rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Major Benefit:

  • The rewards program, including the most variety and best assortment of transfer partners, along with a great transfer rate and fastest transfers (instantaneous usually)

Biggest Drawback:

  • No airline fees credit

Best For:

  • People looking to maximize their travel benefits

Up first, we have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Chase is well-known for having outstanding credit cards, and this one is right in line with the rest of them. With an incredible signup bonus, terrific rewards program, and excellent benefits like hotel upgrades and car rental discounts, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has plenty of points to get excited about. Check out some of the best features:

Highlights:

  • 50,000 points $4,000 ($625 value)
  • 2x dining and travel purchases
  • $95 annual fee waived first year
  • 9 frequent flyer programs and four hotel chains you can transfer your points to for a 1:1 exchange rate

It’s a pretty awesome card by all standards. The signup bonus is 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in three months. Not too shabby. Trade that in for $625 worth of travel purchases. Plus, you get 5,000 more points when you add your first authorized user (and they make their first purchase with the card). That’s a lot of rewards points to rack up in no time. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also has a great rewards program. You'll earn 2x points for all dining and travel expenses, and the breadth of that category is tremendous. You can even earn 2x points for things you never would think were included like tolls, parking garages, and your Uber! Redeeming your points is another plus for this card. It is not just easy to do, but you have a lot of options including gift cards, deposit, statement credits, and even cash. You’ll get the best rates, though, if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program which offers 50% more value per point. Booking travel arrangements directly with a partner airline will also yield the best rewards, transferring points on a 1:1 ratio. Participating airlines include:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Flying Blue aka Air France aka KLM
  • Hyatt
  • Iberia
  • IGH
  • Korean Air
  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

This list ticks off some of the biggest airline chains along with a few smaller ones, so you’re pretty much covered however you like to fly. It also includes the Hyatt which is the most competitively valued points structure (valued at 1.8 cents each, almost a full cent more than others like the Ritz and Marriott). The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also gives you plenty of additional benefits with things like travel insurance, purchase protection, and auto rental collision waivers. Finally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a $95 annual fee. That’s a great price considering all the benefits you’ll receive. Plus, Chase waives the first year, so you get all that credit card goodness for free!

Citi ThankYou Premier

Major Benefit:

  • Highest earn rate for travel and gas purchases, plus good earn rates for dining out and entertainment

Biggest Drawback:

  • No hotel transfer partners

Best For:

  • People who want a great all-around rewards points earn rate

The Citi ThankYou Premier card also comes with a whopping 50,000 points signup bonus. It doesn’t value as much as the Chase card does, but it will still give you plenty of mileage, especially if you are planning to transfer it over to one of the partner airlines. Here are some key highlights of this card:

Highlights:

  • 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in three months
  • Earn 3x on gas and travel also includes public transportation, tolls, etc.
  • 2x dining and entertainment
  • $95 annual fee waived first year
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Citi ThankYou Premier card also has a colossal rewards program you can take advantage of. Earn 3x points per dollar spent on gas and travel expenses. Plus, get 2x points for dining out and entertainment purchases. That’s most of the expenses you’d be pulling out your plastic for from month-to-month, so this is a great category break down. What’s more, the Citi ThankYou Premier partners with some great airlines for a 1:1 points transfer as well. The airlines included are:

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • EVA Air
  • Etihad Guest
  • Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways
  • JetBlue (1,000:500)
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas
  • Qatar
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Sears Shop Your Way (1:12)

That makes purchasing airline tickets easy and economical when you use your rewards points. There are no hotels to partner with, but with no foreign transaction fees and the first year annual fee waived, the Citi ThankYou Premier card ranks highly.

Bank of America Premium Rewards

Major Benefit:

  • Points can be redeemed for cash or statement credit for any purchase

Biggest Drawback:

  • No point transfer partners

Best For:

  • People with a Bank of America account with at least $20,000 daily balance

The Bank of America Premium Rewards card is the ideal card for those with a BofA account, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, take a look at its stats so you can understand all of the benefits that come from this piece of plastic:

Highlights:

  • 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in 90 days
  • 2x points on travel or dining expenses
  • 1.5x points for everything else
  • 75% earn rate boost for Bank of America Preferred Rewards program members
  • $100 incidental statement credit is good for things like baggage fees, in-flight purchases, and seat upgrades
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement

What people like the most about the Bank of America Premium Rewards card is its flexibility. You can use your points for almost any purchase you want, so you aren’t boxed into a certain category, allowing you to really maximize the value of your points. At first glance, the 1.5 base earn rate is a little underwhelming. Upon closer inspection, however, you'll see that this can be the most lucrative middle ground card on the market. If you have a Bank of America checking account, you could earn as much as 75% more. Here’s the breakdown from BofA:

  • $20,000 daily balance earns you 25% more points
  • $50,000 daily balance earns you 50% more points
  • $100,000 daily balance earns you 75% more for a grand total of 3.5x points per dollar

If you have a BofA account, you get the most value you for your money from this points earn structure. Add to that the $100 annual incidental statement credit and the Global Entry reimbursement, and the Bank of America Premium Rewards card is a shoo-in for success.

Conclusion

Which is the best? I'd have to say there's no real overall winner here. Each of these middle ground cards offers great perks, and one is likely to appeal more to you than another based on your personal preferences or travel requirements. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is excellent for points transference, the Citi ThankYou Premier card has a solid earn rate for gas and travel categories, and the Bank of America Premium Rewards card will give you up to 75% more points when you qualify. Weigh your options, and cash in on the best deal for you this coming year.

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