If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card with no annual fee that still offers a sign-up bonus, you should consider the Citi ThankYou Preferred and Amex EveryDay cards. They’re great no-fee cards because they give you access to two of the biggest rewards programs: American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou.
If you don’t have access to ThankYou or Membership Rewards, these cards are a great way to get to know the programs without spending any money on fees. And if you’re a current member of these programs, the sign-up bonuses are an easy way to earn some quick points.
As you might expect, these no-fee cards don’t come with as many benefits as the premium cards offered in their respective programs, but they still come with some nice perks. You’ll earn double points on some purchases and you’ll get many of the same cardholder benefits, such as purchase protection and car rental insurance.
Here’s a summary of what these cards have to offer:
|Citi ThankYou Preferred||Amex EveryDay
|Sign-Up Bonus||20,000 ThankYou points||10,000 Membership Rewards points
|Earning Potential||2x on dining and entertainment; 1x for everything else||2x at supermarkets; 1x for everything else
|Airline Transfer Partners||0||16
|Other Perks||None||20% extra points if you make 20+ purchases in a billing period
Now let’s take a closer look to find out which card might be right for you.
The Citi ThankYou Preferred card comes with a bigger sign-up bonus and a slightly higher minimum spend. You’ll have to make $1,500 in purchases in the first three months to get the 20,000-point bonus, which works out to $500 a month.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
- 2x Points on Dining and Entertainment
- 1x Points on Gas
- 1x Points on Travel
- 1x Points on All Other Purchases
- 3% foreign transaction fee
If you’re just looking for a quick injection of points to an already existing account, the Citi card has the obvious advantage. But if you want more from your card, there are other things to consider.
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
- 2x Points at Supermarkets
- 1x Points on Dining
- 1x Points on Gas
- 1x Points on All Other Purchases
- 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months
- 20% more points if you use your card 20 or more times in a billing period
- 2.7% of each transaction in U.S. dollar
You can get more value for your points if you strategically transfer them to frequent flyer programs instead of purchasing airfare through a reward program’s travel portal. And if you want that option from your card, the Amex card is the way to go.
With the EveryDay card, you can transfer your points to 16 different frequent flyer programs. There are some great airlines covered by those programs, including Delta, British Airways, Air France and KLM. If you like flying in style, you can also transfer your points to some of the most luxurious airlines in the world, such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
American Express’s transfer partners also cover all three of the major airline alliances, so you’ll be able to book award travel to anywhere through the Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam.
The ThankYou Preferred card, on the other hand, does not allow you transfer points to airlines. Some of the other cards offered by Citi do allow transfers, though. If, for example, you also have the ThankYou Premier card, you can then transfer the points you earn with the Preferred card to frequent flyer programs.
It’s worth pointing out that even with full access to ThankYou’s transfer partners, Membership Rewards is a slightly better program because of the quality of the carriers it works with. ThankYou is not a partner with any of the three major U.S. legacy carriers, and the airlines you can transfer to are mostly foreign, such as Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Qantas and Eva Air.
While you still have access to all three major alliances with ThankYou, you’ll have to book your tickets through the smaller foreign carriers, which could result in poorer redemption rates and/or less award availability on routes from the U.S.
Both cards give you access to their rewards websites, so you can purchase travel, including airfare, through the Membership Rewards or the ThankYou Travel Center. This can be a great option due to the ease and flexibility of using either program. Airfare is purchased at the current cash price, and you can pay for part or all of your ticket with points.
You can earn double points on certain purchases with either card. This is a great benefit you don’t always get with no-fee cards. Which earning scheme is better for you depends on your spending habits.
The ThankYou Preferred card earns double points at restaurants and for entertainment. The EveryDay card, on the other hand, offers double points for supermarket purchases
What Else Do You Get?
The EveryDay and Preferred cards don’t have as many benefits as the premium cards in their programs.
The Amex EveryDay does have one unique perk, though. If you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period, you’ll get 20 percent bonus points. For example, if you make 20 purchases that equal $1,000, you’ll get a 200-point bonus.
These cards come with some, but not all of the cardholder perks that their sibling premier cards offer.
With both cards, you’ll get car rental insurance, roadside assistance, travel and emergency assistance, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption protection, extended warranty and damage and theft purchase protection. Citi offers cardholders concierge service, and with Amex you’ll get access to the Global Assist Hotline. Both cards charge foreign transaction fees and do not include baggage insurance.
Neither card charges an annual fee.
Which Card Do You Get?
If you’re looking for a solid travel rewards card, the Amex EveryDay is probably the better option because you can transfer your points to 16 different frequent flyer programs. With no annual fee, plus a sign-up bonus and double points on groceries, it’s a decent card.
The ThankYou Preferred card does come with a larger sign-up bonus, and it is comparable to the Amex card in most ways. It has no annual fee and offers double points at restaurants and for entertainment.
The biggest drawback of the card, though, is that you can buy award flights only through the ThankYou Travel Center website. You can’t transfer your points to frequent flyer programs.
You’ll probably want to pair the ThankYou Preferred card with another Citi card, such as the ThankYou Premier card. Then you’ll be able to transfer your points to 12 different frequent flyer programs. Plus, you’ll get a 25 percent bonus on purchases made through the ThankYou website.
In short, if I already had access to the full ThankYou program via one of its premium offerings, I’d definitely add the Preferred card to my collection. If I didn’t, I would probably get the Amex card so I could transfer my points to frequent flyer programs.