Battle of the Cards: Citi Trifecta Review

For those familiar with credit card rewards, it can make a ton of sense to pair cards together to maximize your earning. For a while, the “Chase Trifecta” was considered the best trio of cards for earning. However, with this year’s changes to the Amex Gold Card and Citi Double Cash, is there a new top trio?

Over the next week, we’ll be breaking down the best card trifecta from each of the three major banks: American Express, Chase, and Citi

In today’s installment, we’ll be breaking down our last and newest entrant – the Citi Trifecta.

Battle of the Credit Card Trifectas: Overview

  1. Introduction: Which Credit Card Trifecta is Best?
  2. Chase Trifecta Review
  3. American Express Trifecta Review
  4. Citi Trifecta Review
  5. Final Verdict: Which Credit Card Trifecta is Best?

What is the Citi Trifecta?

Citi Prestige Card Citi Prestige Card

You may have sensed a theme going on here. The Citi Trifecta also consists of (drumroll please)…three cards. The Prestige, Premier, and Double Cash. The Citi Trifecta differs from Chase and Amex in a major way – this trifecta doesn’t contain any business cards.

What about the Citi Rewards+?

The no annual fee Citi Rewards+ Card has a unique earning structure that a lot of readers could stand to benefit from. The card automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase. If you buy a $2 cup of coffee, you’ll earn 10 points. For small purchases, this card could benefit a lot of readers.

Is the Citi Rewards+ better than some of the other cards in the Citi Trifecta? Like many things credit card rewards, it depends. The Citi Rewards+ could make a great addition if you usually have a bunch of small transactions under $5. Otherwise, the Citi Double Cash already earns 2% back on all purchases.

Category Bonuses

Prestige

  • 5x at restaurants worldwide
  • 5x on air travel worldwide
  • 3x on cruises
  • 3x on hotels

Both restaurants and air travel are category leaders for the Citi Prestige Card. Air travel is tied with the Amex Platinum Card, while restaurants are unmatched by both Amex and Chase. Depending on how much you dine out, this could be a huge bonus category for you.

3x on hotels is solid, but matched by the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Depending on whether you book through Amex Travel, the Platinum Card could be a winner here with 5x on those bookings. Personally, I don’t take many cruises so I don’t put much value in the 3x on cruises. However, if you’re a person that does, this is another nice bonus category to have.

Premier

  • 3x on travel
  • 3x at gas stations
  • 2x at restaurants
  • 2x on entertainment

The Citi Premier complements the Prestige card nicely, despite some overlap. At first glance, the 3x on travel seems useless. After all, the Prestige earns 5x on airfare and 3x on hotels and cruises. However, similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Premier earns 3x on all travel. This mean that any other form of travel not covered by the Prestige will still earn 3x on the Premier Card. The 3x on gas stations is another nice to have. I don’t see much value in the 2x categories, since you can already earn 2% back on all purchases with the Citi Double Cash.

Double Cash

  • 2% back on all purchases: 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay for that purchase.

A recent change to the Citi Double Cash has made the Citi Trifecta a new entrant to the competition for best credit card trifecta. As of late September, Citi Double Cash Reward points gained the ability to transfer to ThankYou points. ThankYou Points will be transferable at a 1:1 ratio. Transfers will require a minimum of 100 points, which equates to $1 in cash rewards. Unlike the Amex Blue Business Plus, there is no limit to how much you can earn double points on.

Return on Spend

As expected, Citi’s premium card comes out ahead of their mid-range card. The Citi Prestige comes out as the most points-rewarding card in this battle, edging out the American Express Gold Card. What’s surprising is how unrewarding the Citi Premier is in this case. If you were to spend the exact same amount on the Citi Double Cash, you’d earn 48,000 points. That’s 3,000 more than the Premier without the annual fee!

That’s not to say that the Premier Card has no value. It’s important to remember that in order to convert Citi Double Cash Rewards to ThankYou Points, you must have a ThankYou earning card (Prestige or Premier). If you don’t want to cough up the $495 annual fee, the Citi Premier can make a nice complement to unlock ThankYou earning on the Double Cash.

Comparison to Chase and Amex

As is the theme with Citi, they fall in the middle. When it comes to points earning, the Citi Trifecta earns 4,500 less points than the Amex Trifecta. However, that’s with over $200 less in annual fees too. Meanwhile, the Citi Trifecta outpaces the Chase Trifecta by 10,000 points annually. Again, it’s important to keep in mind that these examples are based on the average person. One person may get more value from the Chase Trifecta, while another may get more from the Amex Trifecta. You should adjust your budget based on your personal spending habits for the most accurate analysis.

Annual Fees

  • Prestige: $495
  • Premier: $95
  • Double Cash: $0
  • Total Annual Fees: $590

The Citi Trifecta falls right in the middle of the three trifectas. At $590, it’s not cheap.

Fee Credits

The Citi Prestige Card is the only card in the Citi trifecta that includes any kind of credits. The Prestige comes with $250 in travel credits each calendar year. This gives you an opportunity to double dip in your first cardholder year. Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this credit is automatically applied to any travel-related purchases on your account. I consider these credits at cash value, which essentially reduces the card’s annual fee to $245.

Travel Protection

Citi used to be an industry leader when it came to travel protection on their cards. Unfortunately, Citi decided to strip nearly all travel benefits from their cards last month. This included the Citi Prestige. If travel protection is important to you, Citi’s travel credit cards may not be the best option.

Other Perks

While not as extensive as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum, the Citi Prestige Card still comes with a solid set of perks. Depending on your travel habits, they can easily justify the card’s annual fee.

  • Priority Pass Select membership, granting you access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide
  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit
  • 4th Night Free: This benefit is one of the more unique benefits as far as credit card rewards go. If you stay at a hotel four nights or longer using the Citi Prestige, you’ll get a night free. You’ll be reimbursed for one night at the nightly average rate excluding fees and taxes. If you’re staying at a luxury property, this benefit could easily save you hundreds of dollars. The benefit has a two use maximum and must be booked through Citi online at thankyou.com or over the phone.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to Citi cards, it might make more sense to go with a “Duo” than a trifecta. With the recent changes to the Citi Double Cash, it doesn’t make much sense to keep both the Prestige and Premier cards. However, it’s important to keep at least one to maintain the ability to earn ThankYou Points.

As a reminder, you shouldn’t apply for a credit card unless you’re confident you can meet the minimum spend for the sign-up bonus and you can pay off the full balance every month. If you’re confident in both of those things, adding a pair of Citi Cards can help boost your points earning.

Author: Stephen Hoechst

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3 Comments

  1. Stephen,

    Maybe the Citi Trifecta should be the Premier, Double Cash, and Rewards+

    Post a Reply
    • It certainly could be. The Rewards+ Card is great for people that make a bunch of small transactions (<$5). Especially when you consider it doesn't carry an annual fee! It all depends on your spending habits.

      Post a Reply
      • I was thinking more about the 10% rebate.

        Post a Reply

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