Mid-tier credit cards are great 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.
This post focuses on the American Express Everyday Preferred, American Express Green Card, Citi Premier, and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards. Three of the four cards have $95 annual fees that are not waived the first year. The Green Card is the exception with a $150 annual fee.
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.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a bonus worth 60,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. Those points can be earned by spending $4,000 in the first three months. The Citi Premier has the same bonus and minimum spend requirement. But you’re earning Thank You (TY) points instead of UR points.
The Amex Everyday Preferred Card has a bonus worth 15,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points. Those points can be earned after spending $1,000 in the first three months. This card bonus’s is lackluster compared to the others. However, its the best of the bunch if you cannot afford to spend $4,000 within three months.
And the Green Card has a bonus worth 30,000 MR points. Those points can be earned after spending $2,000 within the first three months. Like the Everyday Preferred, the Green Card’s bonus is lackluster compared to the non-Amex cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier tie for this category. Both cards offer more points than the the Amex cards, despite the much higher minimum spend.
Mid-Tier credit cards are known for their earning structures. That means that all four cards can earn travelers some serious points.
The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x UR points on Travel and Dining. Chase’s list of travel expenses includes airfare, hotels, tolls, taxis, ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft, etc.), and cruises. 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 Green Card earns 3x MR points on Dining and General Travel. Fortunately, the Green Card’s General Travel category is broad, making it an excellent earner like the Citi Premier.
The Citi Premier earns 3x TY points for Travel and at Gas Stations. It also earns 2x points on Dining and Entertainment purchases.
All other purchases earn one point per dollar on all cards.
The best earner for general travel and gas is a tie between Citi Premier and the Green Card. However, the Amex Everyday Preferred wins for grocery stores and those who will use their card at least 30 times per month. The Chase Sapphire Preferred by itself loses this category outright. But having multiple Chase UR-earning cards will help you compensate.
All four 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 two Amex cards are 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 credit cards. Mid-Tier credit cards sometimes 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. However, the American Express Green Card does come with some perks. That’s because the Green Card comes with a $100 annual Lounge Buddy credit and a $100 annual CLEAR credit.
Another example of a card without perks is the Citi Premier. This card used to be the winner of this category. However, Citi dropped most of the Premier card’s benefits on September 22, 2019. Citi did this to all of their cards, not just the Premier.
Therefore, the Chase Sapphire Preferred wins the category. The Sapphire Preferred has various travel insurances that make life easier when away from home. These include trip cancellation insurance, trip delay insurance, and baggage delay insurance. Such insurances are becoming increasingly rare on mid-tier cards, so having them with the Sapphire Preferred is awesome!
Credit Limit and Income
The American Express Everyday Preferred 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. Conversely, the Green Card is a charge card. And charge cards do not have a preset limit.
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 has a $2,000 minimum limit.
You can get any of these cards with a high enough income. But you might be more limited if you have excellent credit and low income.
Your mileage may vary with mid-tier 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.
The Citi Premier doesn’t have the best set of travel partners for domestic travelers. It also has very few perks. But it has a great earning structure and a large sign-up bonus.
The American Express Everyday Preferred and Green Card have a great earning structure and travel partners. But they both have meager sign-up bonuses. Plus, only the Green Card has substantive benefits. Either card is excellent 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.