Mid-tier cards are the way to go if you want to earn serious points without breaking the bank in annual fees. These cards offer great sign-up bonuses, nice rewards, and a few perks on the side. American Express released the Gold Card in 1966 as an upgrade to their traditional Green Card. All the while, they created what would become the Mid-Tier Card market.
As with everything in point and miles, your mileage may vary. Someone might find one card better for him while their best friend might another card better.
I will be focusing on the American Express Everyday Preferred, Citi Premier, and Chase Sapphire Preferred for this Card War. All three cards have a $95 annual fee. I’m not including co-branded cards like the World of Hyatt Card. Cards with higher annual fees like the Amex Gold Card are also not included.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. Those points can be earned by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The Amex Everyday Preferred Card has a bonus of 15,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points. Those points can be earned after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. This card has a targeted bonus of 30,000 points for $2,000.
The Citi Premier has a bonus of 50,000 ThankYou (TY) points. Those points can be earned by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred wins this category. It offers more points for the same minimum spend as the Citi Premier.
Mid-Tier cards are known for their earning structure. All three cards can earn travelers some serious points.
The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x UR points on Travel and Dining. Chase’s list of travel expenses is very inclusive. Airfare, hotels, tolls, taxis, ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft, etc.), and cruises are included. This card doesn’t earn much by itself. However, it has the potential to earn more if you have multiple Chase UR-earning cards.
The Everyday Preferred Card earns 3x MR points at Grocery Stores and 2x points at Gas Stations. The bonus rates only apply for the first $6,000 spent per year. You will receive a 50% points bonus if you use your card at least 30 times per month. The points bonus gives you the potential to earn 4.5x at Grocery Stores, 3x at Gas Stations, and 1.5x on everything else.
The Citi Premier earns 3x TY points on Travel and at Gas Stations. It also earns 2x points on Dining and Entertainment.
All other purchases earn one point per dollar on all three cards.
The best earner for general travel and gas is the Citi Premier. Meanwhile the Amex Everyday Preferred wins for grocery stores and those who use the card frequently. The Chase Sapphire Preferred by itself loses this category outright. However, having multiple cards within the Chase UR “ecosystem” compensates, especially if you love Chase UR points.
All three cards earn different points “currencies”, meaning that they all have different transfer partners. The winner depends on your travel itinerary and preference of travel partners.
The Sapphire Preferred is the best for domestic travel and hotels. The Everyday Preferred Card is the best for domestic and international travel, especially airfare. And the Premier is best for international travel.
The Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier tie for those who don’t want to transfer partners. This is because you can redeem their respective points for 1.25 cents each via the travel portals. Amex has their own website, but you will get less than 1 CPP when using points to pay for travel.
Perks are the draw for many Premium cards, but not so much for Mid-Tier Cards. Mid-Tier Cards often have “diluted” versions of perks that come with their premium counterparts. Other times, these cards don’t have any perks as their main focuses are earning and burning.
The Everyday Preferred Card is a great example of a card that does not have any significant perks. The Amex Gold Card is a better option if you want a Tier III card with some perks. However, the Gold Card has a $250 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).
Unlike the Amex Everyday Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a few benefits. The card has various travel insurances that make life easier when away from home. These include trip cancellation insurance, trip delay insurance, and baggage delay insurance.
The Citi Premier is the winner of this category as it has the most benefits. This card comes with Citi Concierge, Citi Private Pass, cell phone protection, and baggage delay insurance to name a few.
Credit Limit and Income
The American Express card is the most lenient with minimum credit limits. This is because its not limited by its card network. Amex revolvers have minimum limits of $500, making it easier to get for those with low income.
By contrast, the Chase card is a Visa Signature, which has a $5,000 minimum limit. And the Citi card is a World MasterCard, which also has a $2,000 minimum limit.
You can get any of these cards with a high enough income. But if you have excellent credit and low income, you might be more limited.
All three cards have $95 annual fees. However, the Citi Premier is the only one that waives the fee for the first year. The Amex Everyday Preferred and Chase Sapphire Preferred do not.
If you want to “test drive” a card before deciding whether to keep it, the Citi cards wins.
Your mileage may vary with credit cards. All three cards are fantastic options, but they each have strengths and weaknesses:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has strengths that lie in a great sign-up bonus and great travel partners for most travelers. Membership in the Chase UR “ecosystem” doesn’t hurt either. However, it’s not a great earner by itself and it doesn’t have that many perks.
The Citi Premier doesn’t have the best set of travel partners for domestic travelers. But it has a great earning structure, nice perks, and a large sign-up bonus.
The Amex Everyday Preferred has a great earning structure and travel partners. But it has a meager sign-up bonus and no perks. It’s also the best cards for those with lower income and excellent credit.
Consider your other cards, travel itinerary, and loyalty to transfer partners. All of these are huge factors that must be considered before acquiring a mid-tier card.