Why the Citi Premier Is Great for Road Trips and RV Rentals

Sep 3, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Road trips can provide great memories with family or friends, and the US certainly has some excellent routes across the country. There are great tools to rent vehicles for cheap: AutoSlash is a game-changer for finding cheap car rentals and those with flexibility can jump on RV rentals for $1 a day like I recently did. However, gas and other road trip expenses can add up quickly. So, if you’re looking for a solid credit card companion for your road trip or RV rental, the Citi Premier Card might be right for you. Here’s why.

Card Basics

Although the Citi Premier Card competes in the mid-tier card range ($95-100 annual fee), it packs benefits that rival some premium travel rewards credit cards. One area where it meets or beats these premium cards is a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Plus, the annual fee is waived for the first year.

Based on TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth over $1,000 when utilized for award flights via Citi’s airline transfer partners. However, if you value simplicity, you could instead book $750 of paid airfare directly at the Citi ThankYou travel center. Note that if you’ve opened or closed a ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card in the last 24 months, then you aren’t eligible for the welcome bonus.

Bonus Categories

Portugal, Lisbon, Humberto Delgado Airport, competing car rental counters, Avis, Budget, Europcar. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)
(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

Spending bonus categories are the main reason road trippers and RV renters should use the Premier as a primary credit card on their trips. The following wide-ranging travel categories earn 3x ThankYou points:

Airlines  hotels  car rental agencies • travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators • gas stations • commuter transportation • ferries • commuter railways  subways • taxis/limousines/car services • passenger railways  cruise lines  bridge and road tolls  parking lots/garages  campgrounds and trailer parks  timeshares • bus lines  motor home/recreational vehicle rentals and boat leases and rentals

Based on TPG’s valuation of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents, this means you’ll get a 5.1% return on spending in these 3x categories. Although this type of return isn’t unheard of for travel categories on other cards, it’s an exceptional return for gas purchases — a spending category which only earns a bonus on a few cards. Just remember that gas purchases at warehouse clubs, discount stores, department stores and convenience stores are excluded from the 3x bonus.

You’ll also earn 2x points on dining and entertainment purchases and 1x on all other purchases. The bonus categories and earning potential of the Citi Premier are so good that it may be a better choice than the other Citi cards for some travelers.

Car Rental Insurance

The Citi Premier offers insurance on car rentals worldwide as long as you pay with your card and/or Citi ThankYou points and decline the rental company’s collision loss/damage insurance. In the US, this coverage is secondary, but outside the US the coverage is primary even if you have another insurance policy.

All rentals of 31 days or less of motor vehicles with four or more wheels that are designed to be driven on public roads are covered. This is huge for RV rentals, since Chase and Amex (including Amex’s Premium car rental insurance) explicitly exclude RVs. Before renting an RV for $1 a day last summer, I called Citi’s card benefits department and confirmed that RV rentals are covered. So, if you’re renting an RV or a vehicle that’s excluded from the coverage provided by many other credit cards, most Citi cards — including the Citi Premier — may provide coverage when other cards won’t.

Roadside Assistance

Coming to aid of broken down motorist. (Photo by MachineHeadz / Getty Images)
(Photo by MachineHeadz / Getty Images)

If you don’t have AAA or a premium credit card that offers complementary roadside assistance services, then the roadside assistance benefit offered by the Citi Premier may come in handy.

With the Citi Premier’s roadside assistance benefit, you can call and request roadside assistance while on the road in any of the 50 United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Although this saves you from having to find and arrange a local provider, this assistance isn’t free, so you’ll be responsible for the costs of dispatch and roadside service.

Purchase Protections

Road trips and life on the road can be hard on your belongings. Luckily, the Citi Premier includes the following purchase protections:

  • Citi Price Rewind Protection to “rewind” your purchase price to any lower price you find within 60 days of your purchase. Note that rewinds are capped at $200 per item and $1,000 per year.
  • Extended Warranty Protection extends the manufacturer’s warranty of items bought with the card by 24 months.
  • Damage and Theft Protection may cover repairs or provide a refund if an item you bought with the card is damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase.
  • Return Protection may refund the purchase price of an item that you try to return within 90 days of purchase if the merchant won’t take it back,

Maximize Earning

Although the bonus categories are broadly defined for the Citi Premier, these bonus categories are limited to travel, dining and entertainment expenses. So, a solid general spending card and/or a card that provides a high bonus at grocery stores could be useful both at home and on road trips.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is an excellent general spending card with no annual fee. It normally earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but new cardholders will earn 3% cash back on all purchases in their first year up to $20,000 spend. Plus, if you pair it with a premium Chase card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, then you can earn transferable Ultimate Rewards points instead of cash back. TPG’s latest valuations value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, meaning you’d get a 6% return on the first $20,000 you spend on the Freedom Unlimited in your first year as a new cardholder. After that, you’ll still get a 3% return on all purchases. Check out the full Chase Freedom Unlimited card review for more details.

Want to earn more than the 1x provided by the Citi Premier on general spending, but don’t want to pay the annual fee on a premium Chase card? Then the Citi Double Cash Card might be a good fit for you. It comes with no annual fee and earns a total of 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay for it on your statement.

If you shop at US supermarkets frequently, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express might be a good fit. Although this card has a $95 annual fee and charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee (See Rates & Fees), it provides 6% cash back on purchases at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 of spending each reward year (then 1%). These earnings accumulate as reward dollars and can be redeemed for statement credits when you have a rewards balance of at least $25.

Bottom Line

If you road trip or travel by vehicle frequently, you’ll benefit from a credit card that provides bonus earning for gas purchases. The Citi Premier Card provides 3x ThankYou points on all travel purchases, including gas bought at most gas stations. Plus, the card provides many other benefits, including 2x on dining and entertainment purchases and car rental insurance that’s secondary in the US but primary abroad and covers most vehicles with four or more wheels (including RVs).

If you’re interested in signing up, here’s the link to apply for the Citi Premier Card with a 50,000 ThankYou points bonus, and you can learn more about the Citi Premier by checking out these stories:

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, please click here.

Featured image by Mario Gutiérrez / Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.