Citi PremierPass Elite Review: $200 Gift Card Bonus

The Citi PremierPass cards are rewards cards that are targeted towards people who like to travel, especially those who fly on a variety of airlines and business travelers. There is a standard version with no annual fee and the Elite version with a $75 annual fee.

Sign-up Bonus and ThankYou Points
The Citi PremierPass Elite card is offering 20,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $600 within 3 months.

10,000 ThankYou points can be redeemed for $100 in gift cards to a variety of places like Overstock, Macy’s, Sears, or Gap. In addition if you used the fixed flight redemption option, you can convert 20,000 ThankYou points for any domestic coach flight up to $400 in value with no black-out dates. I’ve redeemed for a flight before and if it’s on, you can have it. So if you get the Elite card bonus, you are basically getting a free flight.

Unique Rewards Program
Most of us are familiar with credit cards linked to a specific airline. But with the PremierPass Elite card, you can earn 1 ThankYou point for every mile you fly, on any airline. Perfect for work travel. In addition, you can earn 1 point for every miles flown on any tickets purchased with your card, even friends and family. You also get 1 points for each dollar spent on anything (with double points on everyday purchases at supermarkets and gas stations). This is in addition to the usual carrier-specific miles you’d usually earn.

So let’s say you buy a $300 cross-country flight on Delta Airlines for yourself or a friend that travels 2,500 miles on the card. You’d get 300 ThankYou points for the purchase, 2,500 Delta miles, and 2,500 ThankYou points for flying. On a airline-specific branded credit card, you’d only get 300 miles for the purchases and the standard 2,500 miles.

Supposedly you can even get free unlimited companion travel on eligible fares – “Get Complimentary companion travel when you use the Citi PremierPass – Elite Level to purchase a round trip Coach Class excursion fare ticket for $299 or more in the continental United States and Hawaii.” I’m skeptical as to what “excursion fare” means, though. (See comments below.)


  1. I’m a big fan of this card and fly frequently (reached the 100,000 mile cap for the year). So far, I’ve made use of the companion ticket offer plus redeemed an international flight to asia from using this card. Few things to note: 1) in order to get the companion ticket, you need to purchase the ticket from spirit incentives (an agency citi appointed to sell the air tickets). The flights are only available on major airlines and airports, plus they tend to sell for more than what you can find online. Hence you don’t quite get a “50%” discount but it’s still significant. I flew 2 to NY for labor day weekend for just $600 from SF to JFK. The equivalent cheapest online would have cost me $1000. 2) When you redeem points for air tickets, you can only redeem for the ticket price, not the taxes and surcharges. My international ticket would cost $1400 on expedia and using my points, I redeemed for the ticket price which was $1000 and paid $400 in taxes. So again, it’s not as much savings as you expect from reading the terms but it’s still good. 3) I was upgraded to the world elite mastercard level (not sure why) and that gives you access to the additional perks from the virtuoso network. I haven’t tried the offers but apparently you can get companion tickets on business class tickets or get free upgrades from economy to business. You’ll have to buy through them again (i suspect for more than online prices) but it’ll probably be still a nice bargain. The annual fee is a bummer but I can’t complain since I already got more value from it than any other card I’ve used. 4) when you call customer service, somehow I get the impression the service level is much higher. I have other citi cards and the reps from premierpass elite always seem to be more resourceful and courteous. YMMV. 🙂

  2. I switched from my American Airlines Citi card to the Premier Pass Elite card. It’s simply getting too difficult to redeem miles with a carrier for saver awards. Everything that this post says about the Premier Pass Elite card is true, and since I bank with Citibank as well, it’s quite easy to rack up the Thank You points. I’m skeptical how long the Thank You point system will stay in place before Citi starts backing out the awards, but nevertheless, it does give you the flexibility to redeem for airline tickets, purchase merchandise or get gift cards (and “cash out” your points).

    A couple of things to note though, which Citi does not advertise in connection with its promotion of these cards. First, the free companion ticket is a joke. The promotion is administered by a group called Spirit Incentives. Google them and you’ll see lots of complaints. I’ve tried several times to use this feature, but inventory is very limited, so it doesn’t make sense to shop for flights on your own and then calling these people to try to book it. I would severely discount this selling point if this is what’s driving your reason to pick up the Premier Pass Elite card.

    Second, you get flight points for every mile flown on a ticket purchased with this card. However, they will not award the flight points until you have accrued a similar amount of purchase points. Thus, if you flew on a 5000 mile trip, but had not spent $5000 with your card yet, they will only award those points for the flight up to the amount of points you’ve earned through purchases. If you churn your purchases through your card for points, this shouldn’t be a problem though.

    Third, to get flight points, you have to fax in documentation after you take your trip. Citi does not automatically award the points. It’s an administrative hassle. They say they can’t figure out the mileage without it, but that’s bunk. It’s just like a rebate — they are betting that many will forget or simply be too lazy to send it in.

    All in all, this card offers great perks. But, like everything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and in this case, there are some negatives that they do not tell you about up front.

  3. I have stopped using the Premier Pass card. Acquiring points from everyday shopping do not amount to much and they have asked to verify my flights even though I purchased tickets. And when I send in proof like itinerary and boarding passes, they still do not reward me the points for air travel. Further, customer service for Citi or the Thank You Rewards are not very helpful.

  4. Jon,

    I’m curious to know if you apply for these credit cards for the intro benefits? I know you talk about a lot of different promotions on your website; but are these things you actually participate in. I’d imagine if you did you would have quite a few inquiries on your credit history which may have an adverse effect on it? Just curious. Thanks.

  5. Rob, Brian Ron – Thanks for sharing your opinions. Companion passes are usually like that, more like 50% off the 2nd fare, sad to hear it is the same here.

    The flying credits sound very similar to the Citi Driver’s Edge card and their mileage points… those posted pretty reliably for me though.

    Patrick – It depends on how the card fits my spending patterns. I was exploring this card because I have a bunch of conferences and expos coming up, paid by work. (e.g. Park City.) If I get approval for going to three trips this year, I’ll probably apply for this card and keep it for one year and see how it goes.

    I definitely have more cards than the average person. I think I’ve mentioned that I want $100 in total rewards and am okay with applying for 5 credit cards per rolling 6 month period. That’s 10 per year, and I haven’t had any problems at that level. For example, I have the Citi Professional, Discover More, Discover Miles, Amex Gold, Starwood Amex, Chase Freedom, Fidelity 529 (grandfathered 2%)…

    More info here on # of cards and credit score.

  6. I have this card and I love it. I’ve gotten two free flights (one to europe, one domestic), and over 700 dollars cash back. If you fly a lot, the fee is worth it. I fly frequently and the points rack up. I highly recommend this card.

    “Third, to get flight points, you have to fax in documentation after you take your trip. Citi does not automatically award the points. It’s an administrative hassle. They say they can’t figure out the mileage without it, but that’s bunk. It’s just like a rebate — they are betting that many will forget or simply be too lazy to send it in.”

    They get credited to me automatically. Sometimes the cards misses the flight (ie doesnt get the flight information) but a quick fax of the boarding passes and all is solved. This has only ever happened to me once.

  7. Thanks for that reply Jonathan. I was curious like Patrick also. I have to book a ticket to Australia soon through an Australian airline (so useless frequent flyer program for me) and was looking for another way to make the miles valuable. Brian’s comment about miles matching purchases dissuaded me from applying though since I’ll be abroad for a year and Citi charges foreign transaction fees on their credit cards.

  8. Question from a reader: If you have a flight that is an award flight, does that earn ThankYou points too?

    I would think so, but I’m not sure.

  9. Jon,

    Thanks again for the response. Regarding the promotion through Citibank I noticed they also have a Citi PremierPass® American Express®Card with a 10,000 bonus at sign up. I assume these are the same promotion, i.e. one could not sign up for the MasterCard and the amex and get 20,000 points total. This brings me to another question; say I’d like this particular amex card through Citi. Have you dealt with amex cards with another banks names tagged onto it? Would there be the same benefits of going through Citi as there would be through amex directly or greater benefits of an amex when I go through them directly? On the surface it seems as though I would be eligible for many of the same benefits i.e. travel insurance; price protection and extended warranties.



  10. Could you explain this: “But with the PremierPass Elite card, you can earn 1 ThankYou point for every mile you fly, on any airline, even if you didn’t pay for the ticket.” Are you saying I could use my corporate card from work and still get points through the PremierPass card? How does that work?

  11. I was informed that if the flight is an award flight, so long you paid for the taxes and surcharges with the premierpass card, it will be eligible for points too. Regarding the issue with faxing in boarding passes, it really depends on where the ticket is purchase. In some instances, when you purchase a ticket through sites like expedia, airline sites, your statement will already show the flying locations next to the cost and the miles will be added automatically after 6-8 weeks. But if you purchase from other sites like priceline, spirit incentives, they only record the price of the ticket without flight info, and then you’ll need to fax in the passes. I’ve have experienced both scenarios about 3-4 times each this past year. Hope this helps.

  12. Patrick – A co-branded AmEx probably has very similar Amex benefits (depends on the card), but also can the slightly lower acceptance in smaller stores and internationally due to higher merchant fees.

    Jeff – Yes, that is exactly what is unique about this card. You get points for any flight flown, even if it has nothing to do with this card. Bought by work directly, bought by corporate card, whatever.

    Rob – Thanks for the info, I’ll pass it along.

  13. Jonathan,

    I have the no-fee version of this card and is curious about your response to Jeff. I thought you can get flight miles only if you use the PP mastercard when buying airline tickets, but it sounds like what you mean is you can still get the flight miles credited to the account even when the airline tickets were purchased with another card. Can you clarify how to do that, if it is indeed the case? I have many flights on my AMEX corporate card and would like to credit the miles to my account.

  14. @ Jonathan and Diana
    I actually believe you have to charge your airline purchases on the PP card to earn the flight points portion. It doesn’t really make sense for Citi to award you any points for putting your purchase and flight on ANOTHER card irrelevant to them.

    I think this may be confused with the option to redeem the points on any airline you want. Or am I totally missing something obvious? :/

  15. The Citi Platinum American Express card may be a better option for some as it earns 5x TYP for EDP and 3x TYP for everything else, along with 15,000 bonus points at signup.

    The card also comes with free Citi identity monitoring service (typically 9.99/mo) and 3 free airport lounge visits per year (typically $30/day depending on the airline).

  16. I have carried the Citi Premier Pass World Elite card since 2005 and it comes with the free companion fare on flights booked through Spirit Incentives of $299 or more. I advise anyone considering the card for this benefit to be prepared to NEVER receive this benefit in the way that it is originally described in the credit card offer. Spirit Incentives, who Citi has hired to manage the companion airfare program, is an AWFUL company. Every single time I’ve called in to use the benefit, they either 1) can’t find a fare that is at least $299 or 2) can’t find a fare less than twice the cost of hundreds of other fares available online. Thus, the benefit becomes completely useless.

    The agents at Spirit Incentives are rude, a manager is NEVER available to take calls, and if you choose to leave a voicemail for a manager, they never call you back. The agent will always tell you that they can’t control what the airlines allot them for use in the program and that the prices change all the time. If I have a choice between buying two roundtrip tickets to SFO for $219 each via the internet or getting two tickets for $750 total (one supposedly is free + taxes and fees) from Spirit Incentives – I am obviously better off booking the travel myself online. The program and Spirit are a complete sham.

    The upside… I’ve never had a problem receiving the flight points owed to me. They always show up in my account automatically – however, I’m also one of those people who use my CC for everything and never carry cash or use checks. The points really to add up fast, especially if you spend and travel frequently.

    Jonathan/Eric/Diania/Jeff — I don’t know of any documentation that states that you can purchase a flight on a different credit card and earn flight points on the PP card. However, you can purchase flights for OTHER PEOPLE and earn points for the miles that THEY fly along with points from the $ cost of the flights.

    The really great thing about the flight points is best illustrated by the following example:
    1. You buy a ticket to SFO for $400 and a ticket for a friend to travel to SFO for $350. You receive a total of 750 points for the ticket purchase.

    2. On that ticket, you fly 1800 miles roundtrip and your friend flies 750 miles roundtrip (imagine you’re both coming from different cities). You then get 2550 flight points from the same tickets for a grand total of 3300 points for your PP card (750+2550=3300).

    3. Both you and your friend are enrolled in frequent flyer programs with the airlines that you just flew on – therefore, you get the miles you just flew deposited in those programs as well. Essentially, you get to double up on the miles that you fly.

    Hope this has been helpful. Also, the Concierge Service that comes with the PP card is a lovely bonus. They’ve helped me plan things to do on trips, secure restaurant reservations, get sold-out tickets (at a premium of course), and recommended little-known points of interest too.

    Again, Spirit Incentives is an AWFUL awful company and Citi would be wise to find another company to administer the companion fare program. Total joke.

  17. Thanks Ms. Sally.

    Everything you said was well documented elsewhere as I was researching the card. Even with the scam-ish companion benefit, I still think it’s a great card if you have a lot of miles to fly coming up.

  18. It looks like you guys are right that the flights must be purchased on the card now to earn points. But I swear this was not always the case?

    These days, I usually get my flight info included on my credit card statement with departure and arrival airport codes. So most of the time the miles should be credited automatically.

    Also, it appears that the 20,000 point bonus counts as “Purchase Points”. So your first 20,000 flight miles points should be ready for redemption immediately.

  19. During 2008, I made some significant purchases and was award about 40k purchase points. Unfortunately, I didn’t fly as much so I only earned another 30k points from flying. So I am left with 10k of unmatched purchase points. Does anyone know what happens to this 10k purchase points? Does this balance carry over to 2009? In other words, if I don’t make any purchases with premier elite card, but fly 10k, will I get credit for 10k points?

    Thanks for your help!

  20. I seem to be a little late to this thread, but just wanted to put in my 2 cents about the companion fare. Yes, it is a complete scam. Not only does the ticket you’re buying have to be greater than $299 before taxes and fees, but ALL of the SIX major airlines have to have the route you want at above $299, regardless of layovers. So, if I want to go from Boston to Denver direct on United which is $400, but Continental is offering 2 layovers but for $298 (which incidentally they currently are), then I am completely ineligible for ANY companion fare.

    I tried some reverse logic with the customer service agent, if they use the $298 fare on Continental to determine whether I can get a companion fare on United, when I finally someday get to use this thing, shouldn’t my United ticket be charged the Contintental price? It was all lost on her of course, but I just wanted to share the way this thing actually works. Because believe me, its nowhere to be found in the small print (I looked!) BEFORE you apply for the card and pay the $75 annual fee.

  21. Thanks for running such a helpful website.

    For all those that are considering this card – don’t.

    Effective March 1, 2009, Citi has canceled the “fixed point flight” redemption option. This means that the option to redeem 20,000 points for an airline ticket under $400 will no longer exist. Instead you will redeem 100 points for every $1 of the ticket price (a 1% value).

    I am switching to the Starwood Amex card, though the new Discover card looks tempting.

  22. I have a Premier Pass World Elite Level and have spent many frustrating calls fighting with Citi about giving me flight points for long international travel. For example, several months ago my wife and I flew to South America on tickets purchased with the card (should be ~25,000 points). After several calls where I was told “don’t worry the points are coming,” I was finally told I would need to open a dispute. After doing that, we sent in our complete itinerary and boarding passes. Citi responded by stating that we would be getting points for one of the tickets (at some unspecified point in the future), without explanation as to whether further points would be awarded or why, if not, Citi believes we are not entitled to the other 12600 points (to which, of course, we are entitled). After several more calls (and being accused of trying to defraud Citi), I still don’t have an answer as to why the remaining points have not been awarded. I have little doubt that Citi makes a practice of refusing to award flight points on long flights without first forcing the customer to call several times and jump through countless hoops. In theory, it’s a great card for frequent flyers. In practice, however, it seems to be another avenue for Citi to defraud customers through deceptive practices.

  23. Brian W. says:

    I just recently picked up one of these cards and within 3 months of use was able to book a round trip ticket LAX to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Like mentioned in another post, if it’s available on Expedia, you can have it. AND unlike frequent flier programs, the point cost is directly proportional to the actual dollar cost (100:1). So, for example, a $300 flight would cost you 30,000 points through the ThankYou Network, rather than the 50,000 points you would typically use through frequent flier programs. This also applies to international flights as well, which are typically double domestic flights in most frequent flier programs. So, in short, I was able to get the same flight for 30,000 points that would cost 75,000-100,000 miles through Star Alliance. Unless the ticket price on expedia is over $500 for a domestic flight or $1000 for an international flight, this point system allows you to get free travel much faster. I travel a lot for work and this card has been well worth it.

  24. I am delighted with how many points I’ve earned from booking international and domestic flights with my PremierPass card. Round-trip for two to Europe last year netted me 29,000 points total: 1,000 for the flight cost, 14,000 for the flight miles for the two of us, and another 14,000 into my airline’s own FF program.

    In another case I redeemed regular airline points for an award ticket to Europe, paid for the $200 total taxes on my PremierPass card, and was still awarded the full bonus point amount for the mileage flown – for three round trip tickets! I’m sure it was an error, and it will take me some time to spend $20,000 to match the bonus ThankYou points that trip earned, but who’s complaining?

    Finally, I was easily able to redeem points for domestic flights and hotels at both the 20,000 “fixed point” option (now defunct), and the one-point-per-cent option. With several 5-figure bonus point amounts, plus the enrollment incentive promo when my friends signed up, I got FAR more value for my spending over the past few years than a regular airline card.

    No annual fee for Citigold customers…

  25. As many other Citi Premier Pass holders my experience is that I have to fight each time in order to get credit for my flights. usually they credit some segments and then the return flight is missing. When I call them they tell me to submit a bunch of documentation, boarding passes, itinerary, etc, etc. even if the ticket shows up clearly on the previous credit card statement.

    Even after submitting everything they won’t do anything – I never get any written response and then when I call its “No, we did not get anything from you” sometimes they want me to send the documentation to florida, then to South Dakota…. They don’t have a toll free fax number so I have to use snail mail because I can’t fax to long distance numbers.

    I feel that this is part of their system to make extra profits – my conclusion is not to use this card anymore. I am waiting for some ThankYou points that have not been posted yet, after using them up I will close this account and use my other credit cards. i am just tired of wasting my time with these clowns.

    The other thing is that ThankYou constantly deflates the value of their points. I remember when you were able to get a $ 50 Shell gas card for 5000 points. then the price went up to 6000 points and now you can only get gas cards from Sunoco – there are no Sunoco gas stations in this part of the country. Thankyou points are almost worthless, better go with rewards programs from other CC companies…

  26. I agree about the COMPANION ticket baloney.. SPIRIT INCENTIVES should be eliminated from the package.. I booked a flight thru them from Boston to LAS VEGAS RT AIR $ 662. I FOUND CHEAPER FLIGHTS
    everywhere on the internet.. You do not get a free companion ticket.




  27. In case anyone’s wondering if this card has gotten better, NO – the pain continues. I’ve been trying to book a companion flight to various destinations for more than a year and *never* been able to use this benefit, which was the only part that merited the annual fee IMO. The customer service during the flight searches is TERRIBLE, often even worse than Comcast service (and that’s saying something, for those of you who’ve never experienced the joys of Comcast). I’m extremely dissatisfied with this card and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

  28. I love my elite card, I never had to fax in documents to get my flight points but i buy it with my pp card on expedia, could it have something to do with buying it online?

    I also noticed no one seemed to have mentioned the free priority pass membership that comes with this card?
    I got the priority pass card mailed to me which is a separate card than our premier pass card after 1 year of using the premier pass card. Apparently with the premier pass elite card you get a free membership to priority pass, which if you got by itself cost $99 annual membership fee. Priority pass is a airport lounge club membership that gives you access to 600 executive airport lounges worldwide. Priority pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program. To find out more go to priority pass website by searching on google priority pass.

  29. i used my elite card to buy a rountrip ticket from SFO to HKG. i received 13828 points for the flight miles but they won’t release these points and transfer them to my thankyou account. i was told i have to made another $13828 purchases on the card to get these points!!

    basically i have the points but i can’t use them. is this happened to everyone??

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