Citi Offers Limited-Time Benefits on Travel Cards in Response to Coronavirus

Citi is offering new spending categories and benefits on its cards in response to the pandemic.
outdoor dining with social distancing

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Citi has recently announced limited-time benefits to its two travel credit cards, the Citi Premier℠ Card and Citi Prestige® Card. These benefits include new spending categories and spending credits for expenses like hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. The updates make the cards more useful for cardholders while travel is still limited.

During the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are unable to fully utilize their travel rewards credit cards, and many are considering whether they should continue paying hundreds of dollars a year in annual fees. Citi joins several other credit card issuers in expanding benefits in its products to keep cardholders spending money on its cards.

New Citi card spending categories

Citi has added the following benefits to promote spending and keep cardholders from canceling their cards:

Citi Premier℠ Card changes

New benefit:

  • 3X per $1 spent at restaurants, including takeout.
  • 3X per $1 spent at supermarkets.
  • $100 annual hotel credit (eligible on $500+ purchases made through Citi’s travel portal).

New benefit is meant to offset:

  • 3X per $1 spent on travel, including gas.
  • 2X per $1 at restaurants and entertainment.

Thoughts on these adjustments:

These changes are great for grounded travelers looking to earn more travel rewards. Because Citi ThankYou points can be transferred to Citi's travel partners such as JetBlue and Singapore Airlines, they are valuable to earn and redeem.

As for the hotel credit, consider it to be “fluff” on top of the other updates. If you can utilize it without going out of your way, great. By doing this, you have negated the card's $95 annual fee. But if you aren’t able to use it, it’s not worth worrying about.

Citi Prestige® Card changes

New benefits:

  • 5X per $1 spent on all online purchases, capped at 7,500 ThankYou points, which is valued at $1,500 (through Aug. 31, 2020).
  • $250 credit for supermarkets and restaurants purchases (between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020).

New benefits are meant to offset:

  • 5X per $1 spent on air travel.
  • 3X per $1 spent on hotels.
  • 3X per $1 spent on cruise lines.
  • $250 travel credit.

Thoughts on this new spending category:

The new earning category is convenient as online shopping grows in popularity, but the strict earning cap makes it underwhelming. As many Americans shift their shopping to digital retailers like Amazon, a $1,500 cap doesn't go far enough to make up for spending on categories like air travel and hotels.

However, the $250 travel credit being shifted to restaurant and supermarket purchases is a simple way to recoup half of the $495 annual fee.

How these benefit changes compare to other issuers

American Express and Chase recently made changes to their card products in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Because many travel rewards credit cards come with annual fees, consumers are considering closing their cards since they can't use benefits such as travel insurance, airport lounge access and annual travel credits.

Here are the recent changes from American Express and Chase. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See for more information.

Card issuerNew benefitsMeant to offset
American Express, Hilton portfolioEarn 12x Hilton Honors points at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020.

Eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery, will now qualify toward the up to $250 Hilton resort credit benefit from June through August 2020.
12x points on Hilton properties
American Express, Delta portfolioEarn 4x miles at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020.4x points on Delta purchases
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressUp to $320 in statement credits on select streaming and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020.$200 airline fee credit

$200 Uber credit
American Express® Green CardUp to $80 in statement credits on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $10 per month) from May through December 2020.3x Membership Rewards points per $1 on travel
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Pay Yourself Back, with each Chase Ultimate Rewards point worth 1.25 cents toward a statement credit on grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments.

This benefit lasts from May 31 through Sept. 30.
1.25 cents for travel statement credits
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Pay Yourself Back, with each Chase Ultimate Rewards point worth 1.5 cents toward a statement credit on grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments.

This benefit lasts from May 31 through Sept. 30.

$300 travel credit will apply to purchases at grocery stores and gas stations from June 1 through Dec. 31.

Renewal annual fee lowered to $450 after July 1 through the end of 2020 (currently, cardholders get a $100 statement credit toward the $550 annual fee when they renew their membership).
$300 travel credit
$550 annual fee

How to maximize Citi credit card benefits

To maximize these new benefits, be sure to pay with your credit card at the qualifying merchants.

Of the two cards, the Citi Premier℠ Card is offering a better set of spending categories if you spend significantly on groceries or eating out. With many Americans drastically limiting their discretionary spending during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all consumers can maximize spending at supermarkets or restaurants.

However, the Citi Prestige® Card online purchases category covers expenses like online grocery orders, online drugstore orders and online retail purchases — making it easy to use for many consumers. And the $250 travel credit converting to supermarket and restaurants gives the Citi Prestige® Card a solid argument to stay in your wallet.

The information related to Citi Premier℠ Card and Citi Prestige® Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Brett Holzhauer

Brett Holzhauer is ValuePenguin’s travel rewards expert, focusing on credit card rewards maximization, consumer travel trends, and personal finance news. He has earned and burned over 5 million points and miles throughout his travels, saving him roughly $75,000 in travel expenses.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).