It’s been a while since I wrote anything much about credit cards but I have to say over the past several months the miles and points business seems to have shifted back towards credit card sign up bonuses as opposed to huge amounts of easy spending, and at the forefront of this for me has been Citibank.
Now while I have had a lot of fun with the Citi AA Executive cards, it looks like the door is closing if not completely closed on that particular fun game. However Citi has just significantly spruced up it’s Citi Thank You credit cards and I understand you may have read about this elsewhere but since I don’t tend to read many other blogs these days I really can’t be sure 😉
Basics – The Three Flavors of ThankYou Cards
First of all let’s look at the basics. Citi has three different types of ThankYou credit cards. They all have similar sounding names all beginning with ‘Pre’ so personally I was a little confused as to what was what so hopefully this will clear it up for anyone as dumb as I am:
Citi ThankYou Preferred
This is the base card with no annual fee, and a low sign up offer of 20,000 points for $1,500 spend within 3 months. The sign up bonus is NOT available if you have had this card – open or closed – within the last 18 months. (HT to Pointie in the comments for correcting me this card is not churnable)
For those of us lucky to get in on the wonderful 5x for first 12 months offer, those cards were Citi ThankYou Preferred cards. While there is nothing particularly exciting about these cards, they don’t carry a fee and there have been reports of some good retention offers to increase the value of retaining the card.
Also it’s worth noting that if you also get the Citi ThankYou Prestige card (detailed below) then the sign up bonus is actually worth $320 in American Airlines travel. That is actually not a bad sign up IMHO.
Citi ThankYou Premier
This is the intermediate card with a $95 annual fee (waived in the first year to get you hooked in!) and is where things start to get interesting.
First of all there is a nice sign up offer of 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. So that’s a $500 value right off the bat, or $800 if you get the Prestige version (detailed below). However note the language in the sign up offer exclude anyone who has had this card – open or closed – within the last 18 months. So you can only get this card at least 18 months after closing a prior Citi ThankYou Premier.
The Premier also has a reasonably attractive earning structure, which is:
- 3x on Travel including Gas
- 2x on Dining out and Entertainment
- 1x on the rest
The big earning point to note is the 3x on Travel which includes gas. The Premier is the only version of the card that gives an earning multiple on gas, though I am not sure this is a significant enough feature to justify keeping the card long term compared to what the Prestige offers.
An important point to note is this version of the card allows you to transfer ThankYou points to various airline programs. If you only have the Preferred version you cannot do this (in many ways this is similar to Chase with their base, no fee Freedom card offering no transfer options but the $95 annual fee Sapphire Preferred version opens up the transfer door).
If you don’t fee you can justify the higher base fee of the Prestige as detailed below, or you spend a gazillion on gas, this could be a card worth keeping. And my bet is there will be some decent retention offers to compensate for the $95 annual fee after the first 12 months are over. But for the sign up on it’s own, this is a very attractive card.
Citi ThankYou Prestige
This is the top of the range card and where things start to get really exciting, at least for me.
The public sign up offer is 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. However there are numerous reports of a 60,000 ThankYou points sign up if you apply in branch, and further reports of targeted 100,000 ThankYou points offers.
A key differentiating benefit of the Citi ThankYou Prestige card is it allows you to redeem for paid American Airlines (and US Airways while they still exist) tickets at a rate of $0.016 per 1 ThankYou Point. So that values these sign up offers at $800 – $1,600 in American Airlines tickets! That makes this sign up offer about one of the most lucrative on the market currently at time of writing (April 2015). Similar to the Citi ThankYou Premier card above, the sign up bonus is only available if you have not had a Citi ThankYou Prestige card – open or closed – within the last 18 months.
This is Citi’s top of the line ThankYou credit card that competes in the same bracket as the likes of the American Express Platinum cards, so here are the key terms:
- Annual fee of $450 (or $350 if you are a Citigold client) NOT waived
- $250 annual airline credit that can be used on any airline purchases
- American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access along with Priority Pass Select access for you and up to two additional guests
- $100 global entry fee credit
- Fourth night free on hotel stays
The annual fee for the card may be steep, but the benefits listed above significantly offset them. If you are thinking of just keeping the card for the first year then the annual fee is a no brainer as you will be able to get the $250 airline credit twice as this is a calendar year benefit (defined in the terms and conditions as being December to December). However if you are really averse to the annual fee it is worth noting that if you cancel a Citibank credit card within 37 days of the annual fee posting, then that fee will be refunded back to you. And of course if you think there may be exciting offers on this card in 18 months time, that may be another incentive for not keeping it after you get the sign up bonus. It definitely is down to personal aims.
The earning structure for this version of the card is also pretty attractive and certainly more attractive than the Amex Platinum:
- 3x on Air Travel and Hotels (note excludes gas unlike Premier)
- 2x on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
- 1x on the rest
The earning on travel is very attractive as that means you are earning 4.8x if you plan to redeem your points for American Airlines travel, and even the base 3x earning structure is competitive with the likes of the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card.
Comparison of the Three Citi ThankYou Pre Credit Cards
This table shows a summary comparison of the key points of the three different flavors of Citi ThankYou Pre credit cards:
|Card||Annual Fee||Sign Up Bonus||Churnable||Earning Structure||Other Benefits|
|Citi ThankYou Preferred||$0||20,000 ThankYou Points after $1,500 spend in 3 months||18 months after closing account||2x on dining at restaurants and entertainment, 1x on the rest||None|
|Citi ThankYou Premier||$95||50,000 ThankYou Points after $3,000 spend in 3 months||18 months after closing account||3x on Travel including Gas
2x on Dining out and Entertainment
1x on the rest
|Ability to transfer ThankYou Points to airline miles|
|Citi ThankYou Prestige||$450 / $350 for Citigold||50,000 ThankYou Points after $3,000 spend in 3 months. Potential 60-100k offers available||18 months after closing account||3x on Air Travel and Hotels
2x on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
1x on the rest
|Ability to transfer ThankYou Points to airline miles
Ability to redeem for American Airlines tickets at 1.6x
Admirals Club and PriorityPass lounge access
4th night free for hotels
Global entry credit
Notes on Applying for Citi Credit Cards
While I am l loathe to call it a “rule” as you will not find it written officially anywhere in any terms and conditions, there is significant anecdotal evidence to suggest that as at the time of writing Citi implements the following restrictions on applying for credit cards:
- You can only apply for one credit card in a 7 day period
- You can only apply for two credit cards in a 65 day period
- YMMV but generally they do not like more than 6-7 hard inquiries in the past 6 months
So if you plan on getting multiple versions of these cards, keep these “rules” in mind. In particular when trying to follow the 7/65 day “rule” note that a declined application counts as well, so if you get it wrong you can screw things up for yourself. And definitely keep in mind that with Citi these “rules” are a moving and evolving target, so if it works today be aware it may not work tomorrow. That’s a risk we all have to take in this game.
It really is great to see Citi spruce up this line of cards and offer something really competitive in the credit card space. Things have been getting quite depressing from American Express of late with cutting back on benefits, limiting sign up bonuses to once per lifetime and declining customer support, so it’s great to see Citi breathing some life into this arena.
For me it’s likely I will keep a Citi ThankYou Preferred or two in my credit card arsenal, and I will definitely be keeping the Citi ThankYou Prestige for it’s line up of great benefits which for me at least massively offset the seemingly steep annual fee. I will probably get the Citi ThankYou Premier too but that one may be a sign up bonus play only. What about your wallet?
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