Citi Adds Further Restrictions On Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

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Update: This offer for the Citi Prestige® Card is expired. Learn more about the current offer here.

Update: This offer for the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is expired. You can find the current offer details here.

In April I wrote about how Citi tightened up the terms on their credit card sign-up bonuses. With this change, you could only earn the sign-up bonus on Citi cards if you haven’t opened or closed that specific card in the past 24 months, while previously the policy was that you had to wait 18 months. So they basically added a further six month wait.

Adding more restrictions on sign-up bonuses and new approvals follows the industry trend in general, with American Express and Chase also both having become stricter about sign-up bonuses this year:

So relatively speaking Citi has still been the most lenient with their rules, in my opinion.

Citi adds further restrictions on sign-up bonuses

Well, Citi has just added a further restriction to their credit card sign-up bonuses, and now limits you to one sign-up bonus per “type” of card every 24 months.

Citi-Prestige-Premier

For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard® lists the following terms:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Meanwhile the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card lists the following terms:

Bonus Hilton HHonors points are not available if you have had any Citi® Hilton HHonors™ card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

The Citi Prestige® Card lists the following terms:

Bonus ThankYou points are not available if you have had ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Citi-Bonus

So as you can see, you can only earn the welcome bonus on an American AAdvantage, Hilton HHonors, or Citi ThankYou card if you don’t have any similar type of card in the past 24 months. Previously the 24 month restriction applied to only that specific type of card, but you could get a bonus on both the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card and Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card just several days apart, for example.

While I get what Citi is going for here, I think they’re missing that there are many long term cardmembers who hold onto multiple “similar” cards in a way that makes sense, and not just for the sign-up bonus. For example, I have both the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou Premier Card. I put a ton of spend on the Prestige, including airfare and hotels, while I put a lot of my other travel purchases on the Premier.

Even with the same co-brand partner there are distinct enough benefits between cards that it can make sense to hold onto multiple cards.

Bottom line

This new rule is something to be aware of, and puts Citi closer to being in line with the new restrictions on American Express and Chase cards. You can now only earn one “type” of sign-up bonus if you have or have had a card in the past 24 months, so it’s something to consider when applying for cards going forward.

What do you make of Citi’s new restrictions on welcome bonuses?

(Tip of the hat to Doctor of Credit)

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Comments

  1. I applied for the Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard last week, after receiving their regular AAdvantage Mastercard in June. Do you know if I can expect to receive the 60,000 mile bonus advertised in the AAmirals Club where I applied for the card, or is this change retroactive to a particular effective date?

    Thanks.

  2. I respectfully disagree with the assertion that Citi is missing something. I think thy know exactly what they’re doing.

    There’s nothing here stopping anyone from holding multiple ThankYou cards (as you do) it only the sign-up bonus thats restricted.

    This rule encourages this who want to earn ThankYou points (for example) to keep hold of their credit card for longer than they otherwise may as there’s a lot less incentive to swap to a different ThankYou card now.

  3. So the fact that I’ve had a no annual fee Thank You card since 2003 precludes me from opening a $450 annual fee Prestige card in 2016? If so, that’s ridiculous.

  4. @Mike – you could open a Prestige card no problem. This just states that you can’t receive a signup bonus if you opened/closed in the past 24 months a similar card. What seems confusing to me is if you are ineligible for a signup if, like in your case, a card is already open.

  5. @Mike Arbucci, no it does not! It never precludes you for once, it only precludes you of getting the sign-up bonus. Also, that only applies you if you OPENED or CLOSED a card in the past 24 months, not simply if you have the card.

  6. @ Gilbert — The terms should be based on when you applied. I believe this rule is brand new, so I think you should be fine.

  7. As I read the terms, you can have the Prestige and the Premier and earn sign-up bonuses on both. You’d just have to wait two years from opening the first one before you can apply for the second one, if you really want the sign-up bonus on both. This still seems much less restrictive than Chase or AmEx–and not terribly unreasonable given that they don’t want people hoarding sign-up bonuses from multiple cards. AmEx’s lifetime ban is much more punitive for someone who, say, uses a Delta card loyally for a decade, then moves for work to an AA or UA hub and cancels their Delta card in favor of one from those other airlines, and a few years later moves back. It’s weird that AmEx wouldn’t welcome that person back. This Citi policy only applies to people who are simultaneously opening multiple closely related cards — which really only miles and points hobbyists (not the audience they want to target) are likely to do.

    Note, by the way, that although they never advertised this policy, AmEx at times would not even allow someone to open more than one personal and one business credit card. (Charge cards and Delta credit cards were not subject to the policy.) Likewise Chase’s 5/24 policy can preclude you from getting a card. At least Citi will give you the cards — they just won’t give you the sign-up bonus.

    We should also consider whether, over time, policies like these will lead to larger sign-up bonuses for legitimate customers (or at least to bonuses being cut less than they otherwise would be). These banks clearly are having problems with a small number of customers constantly churning the cards to get sign-up bonuses. Reducing that might allow them to be more generous than they otherwise could be to legitimate customers.

  8. Hoping that this change just came into effect over the past two days (10th/11th) – I signed up and was approved for the 75k Hilton Signature on Monday (8th), and I’ve only had the Reserve since Oct 2014.

    I’ll report back on whether I end up getting the bonus.

  9. So, if I hold the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum card for two years and one day, then apply for the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite card (while my Platinum card is still open), would I be eligible for the sign-up bonus? Or does it strictly relate to opening and closing cards?

  10. Beyond collusion. A few giant players in the domestic travel space eliminate virtually any differences in frequent flyer programs. Now, the few giant financial institutions magically devolve to a least common denominator approach when it comes to sign up bonuses. One (1) thing the American consumer definitely needs is more mergers resulting in fewer competitors in a given industry sector. smh

  11. I also just added the Citi AAdvantage Gold Mastercard in addition to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard for the extra 25,000 AA miles. I just got the card last week so it looks like I just beat them to the punch *wiping my brow*!

  12. I was holding off on the Citi Premier card, and applying if/when a new bonus pops up but with this rule I guess that wont matter much…though its already been about 15 months since I applied for the CitiPrestige card so I can wait out the rest.

    I think this rule is pretty bad, up there with Amex’s once in a lifetime policy.

  13. Does this mean that having the Citi Hilton HHonors Signature now affects the ability to earn two free nights on the Citi Hilton Reserve?

  14. No, ThankYou points. I’ve never had a Citi travel rewards card before. I won’t get one because of this new rule. Citi has lost its competitive edge in the market. Why bother?

  15. If I apply and hold a Citi card for more than two years and then close that card does the ” 24 month clock” restart upon closing that card and essentially require me to wait four years from originally opening the card to earning another similar card bonus?

  16. Its a negative change for those who rotate through the various cards churning, but its not a once in a lifetime bonus like AMEX. Going to have to be creative and find/use the cards with the multipliers for spend to max out earning.

    Very, very curious to know if there are any rumors about new Citi AA cards with their new AA contract starting in January?

  17. @John

    You misunderstand it in your first sentence.

    As of Aug 10, you will NOT get both bonuses if you apply on Aug 10 and afterward.

    You will only get ONE sign up bonus in each BRAND. Therefore, while you can get both the Prestige card AND the Premier card at the same time, you would get ONLY ONE bonus between 2 cards – just how to choose which one, is totally unclear and that might cause tons of confusion down the road – as whether it is automatically assigned by the sequence of approval (the easiest way to program) or what?

  18. @ Ruin N and Justin
    I would only open the Prestige if I’d get the bonus, obviously. I think the bigger questions is whether or not it means OPEN as in new account within 24 months or or OPEN as in the acct has existed within 24 months. If it’s the former, then we’ll all just suck it up and wait longer between apps. If it’s the latter, then people like me who’ve had a card for many years lose big time as far as earning a bonus on the big ones.

  19. @Mike Arbucci

    I have three open Citi AAdvantage cards — apparently I’ve had them for like 4 years according to the retention rep.

    Anyway, just to test the waters, I applied for the 50k Citi AAdvantage offer. I was given the “under review” message, and told to call the reconsideration. I did so. They asked me no questions whatsoever and approved me for the card. I’m assuming that means I’m getting the bonus miles.

    At second glance, I did close “Cit Platinum Select World Mastercard” late last year, so it looks like they’re not enforcing the “closed” aspect of the cards.

  20. @Carey — yes.
    If you open a card, then clock starts and it is 24 months before you can get another card in same family AND get bonus.
    If you close a card, then clock starts again and it is 24 months before you can get another card in the same family AND get bonus.
    Shorter than 24 months, they may issue you the card, but you wont be eligible for the bonus.

  21. @Dan,
    reports are that the new language will not go into effect until 8/26/16 – so perhaps your account closure wont impact you. However, just because they issue the card is no insurance you will get the bonus.

  22. This rule “may not” go into effect until 9/15. The reason I say that is because I recently opened a citi prestige card, and today was targeted/email for a AAdvantage card, with an expiration date on the offer of Sept. 15.

  23. Any word on if this will affect the current loophole with targeted mailers that don’t have we month language?

  24. @ Dan Larsen

    I’m not so sure you would be eligible for the bonus, though you can certainly open a new card. The way I’m reading these new restrictions is:

    A) cust holds a card in the same family that’s still open and it’s been more than two years since bonus was received = QUESTIONABLY ELIGIBLE FOR NEW CARD BONUS

    B) cust holds a card in the same family that’s still open and it’s been less than two years since bonus was received = INELIGIBLE FOR NEW CARD BONUS

    C) cust holds a card in the same family that was opened less than two years ago, regardless of whether or not bonus was received = INELIGIBLE FOR NEW CARD BONUS

    D) cust holds a card in the same family that was opened more than two years ago, regardless of whether or not and when bonus was received, closes card today, so the clock resets again…two more years to wait due to closing the acct= INELIGIBLE FOR NEW CARD BONUS UNTIL TWO YEARS HAS PASSED FROM CLOSURE DATE

    E) cust holds no card in the same family and has not ever had one = ELIGIBLE FOR NEW CARD BONUS

    F) cust holds no card in the same family and has not held one for at least two years = ELIGIBLE FOR NEW CARD BONUS

    This is how I read the new terms. Someone please correct any errors, and if there are any data points to elucidate the results of option A above, please let us know!

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