My 2017 Citi Credit Card Strategy

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While I write quite a bit about credit card sign-up bonuses, that’s only one aspect of maximizing the rewards you can get from credit cards. So I’m writing a brief series about my credit card spend strategy with the major issuers. A couple of days ago I shared my American Express card strategy, and in this post I’ll share my Citi card strategy. Which cards do I have, which do I spend money on, etc.?

How many Citi cards can you apply for and have?

As far as I know, Citi doesn’t have a strict limit on how many credit cards you can have with them. The major restriction with Citi is regarding how many cards you can apply for in a given timeframe:

  • You can only apply for one Citi card every eight days
  • You can apply for no more than two Citi cards every 65 days

There’s not a firm limit on how many cards you can have, though at some point you may find that you’re maxed out in terms of the credit they’ll extend you. That number varies from person to person, presumably based on your income, credit score, etc.

What are the rules regarding earning sign-up bonuses on Citi cards?

While the exact rules vary by card, as a general rule of thumb you’re eligible for the bonus on a given Citi card if you haven’t opened or closed the card in the past 24 months. So the bonuses aren’t “once in a lifetime,” but you do have to wait two years after you applied for or canceled a card before you’re eligible for a bonus again.

Unfortunately Citi added a further restriction last year, as you’re not eligible for the bonus on a card if you’ve had the same “type” of card in the past 24 months. For example:

Which Citi cards do I have?

At the moment I have the following four Citi cards:

Which Citi cards do I use most?

To be honest, at the moment I’m not putting too much spend on my Citi cards, though I still have reasons for why I hold onto some of them.

The Citi Prestige® Card is by far my favorite Citi card, and actually the single credit card that gets me the most value. The card has a $450 annual fee, though has a $250 annual airline credit, which can be used towards any airline purchase.

The way I see it, the real “out of pocket” on this card is $200 per year. For that I get an incredible fourth night free hotel benefit, that I’ve written about extensively. In my first year of membership that perk saved me over $2,000, and it’s on track to save me at least that much this year. That’s an incredible perk.

I was going to cancel the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card last year since I think the benefits are largely redundant with the Prestige Card. However, when I called to cancel they gave me a solid retention offer, so I’ve held onto it. However, I haven’t been putting too much spend on it.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® I hold onto for a very simple reason. The card offers a 10% refund on redeemed American miles, for a total of up to 10,000 refunded miles per year. I redeem at least 100,000 American miles a year, meaning I’m always able to max this out. The card has a $95 annual fee, so the way I look at it, this is an opportunity to pick up American miles for ~0.95 cents each. If you don’t have this card, keep in mind it also has a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus at the moment, with the first year’s annual fee waived.

Historically I had the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card because it offers Gold status for as long as you have the card. However, in the meantime The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN also offer Gold status for as long as you have those cards.

However, the card has two other cool perks:

  • You get Hilton Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the card per year
  • You get an annual free weekend night certificate valid at virtually any Hilton family property when you spend $10,000 on the card per year

So I find it worth at least putting $10,000 of spend on the card for that free night. While I’m Hilton Diamond through a status match at the moment, perhaps at some point I’ll find it worthwhile to put more spend on the card to earn Diamond.

Bottom line

At the moment I’m finding Citi cards most valuable for the perks, like the fourth night free benefit on the Citi Prestige. I’m not really finding it worthwhile to put much spend on their cards, given the other great offerings out there. However, the Citi Prestige continues to have my single favorite perk offered by any credit card.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I just got invited to upgrade to the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card this week. What got my attention was the increased number of points (10 instead of 6) for Hilton spending (I am doing a business group dinner and hotel nights on March 2 at Embassy Suites) + 3 points for each $1 spent on “other” purchases + no foreign transaction fee. We are buying a painting in Paris so putting it on the new card made sense to do. That will put me over $10K.

    However, redeeming Hilton points isn’t especially great. Starwood and Hyatt take about 30,000 points for a great room and it takes about 70,000 Hilton points for a nice room. I think points earned are all a matter of marketing. It takes more to redeem at those places that offer a lot of bonus points for spending. [This is poorly written but hopefully conveys why I upgraded the card. The new $95 annual fee vs. the prior $0 fee is no big deal to me.]

  2. @ Sean — I forgot exactly what it was, but I believe it was something like having the annual fee waived plus a few thousand bonus points if I spent $1,000 on the card per month for three months. Not an amazing offer, but figured it was worth holding onto the card under those terms.

  3. @ John — Hah, in this case the strategy is to hold onto three of the cards, but not put much spend on them.

  4. The only citi card I see now worth spending much on is the citi att access and more card. I used to put a lot of spend on the forward before they nuked it, but that ship has sailed.

    In case you don’t know the att gets you 3x ty points on att and “online purchases.” I use the chase ink plus for 5x ur for my cell phone, but online is a broad catagory. Usually this includes plastiq for my mortgage or other random times i used to send checks, paypal, the united mileagexplus instant gift card app, and a lot of other online purchases.

    I have to decide which thank you card to get for transferring points, probably the prestige for the amazing 4th night free, but maybe the premier. Right now im just accumulating.

  5. Lucky,
    I’ve had the AA Platinum select for several years with the AF coming up. I’m hoping to open a new AA Platinum account for the bonus. If I product change the old account to a no AF card, would this disqualify me from the bonus?

  6. @EB if you close it that would start the clock over. Apply for the new card once the 2 year clock is up and once you get approved then downgrade the first card to the double cash etc.

  7. @Lucky — If I am not mistaken, the Citi ThankYou Premier card SPECIFICALLY gives you 3x on gasoline purchases, whereas the Citi Prestige card does not. Indeed, I just got off the phone with Citi, and the service center says the Prestige card does NOT include gasoline purchases in “Travel.”

    THIS is the reason I keep my ThankYou Premier card.

  8. Like others have said, it would be nice to hear what your plans are. Are you going to keep/cancel your existing cards? What type of retention offer will you consider? Are there any Citi cards you are planning to apply for, or monitoring for increased signup bonus?

    My strategy: I have Citi Prestige with only $350 AF, so as long as they give me that deal I think it makes sense to keep, even with the impending nerf. I also have both plat and gold personal AA cards, so I’m also waiting for increased signup bonuses on AA business, as well as for the Hhonors cards.

  9. I also liked the card for the AA club access, which is going away (I only used it twice but it was nice in the US). The Priority Pass on both the Chase Reserve and the Citi work well in Europe and Central America. Not sure I will realize the value anymore over the Chase Reserve for me (sure I will get the airfare credit). We will see if I use the 4th night free this year much. I also had a bad experience with Citi not helping on a poor hotel experience in Italy where we had to leave because or mold issues before we spent a night…..which for a customer that spends over $50k/year on the card just had me feeling like I need to cancel the card – they wouldn’t even give me a name or direct email to elevate my issue (just send it to a general email) – poor customer service for a premium card. I spend $40k plus/ year on airbnb and the Chase Reserve card 3% is awesome for me.

  10. @MTB sez: “Starwood and Hyatt take about 30,000 points for a great room and it takes about 70,000 Hilton points for a nice room.”

    That is a baseless statement.

    On average, on earns ~3x more Hilton Honors points a pop than Hyatt points, and ~6x more HH than starpoints.

    The highest redemption rate (at category 7 [top] Hyatt properties) is 30K points; the highest redemption rate (at category 10 [top] Hilton proper) is 95K. Again, the EARN ratio of Hilton vs. Hyatt points is 3:1. The ratio of the two programs’ top REDEMPTION rates is 95K:30K or about 3:1, same as the earn ratio, meaning that one needs PROPORTIONATELY the same number of points to afford a top Hyatt award as one does to afford a top Hilton award. Top Starwood/SPG awards, on the other hand, are almost an order of magnitude more expensive than either Hyatt’s or Hilton’s or Marriott’s.

    I thought I would dispel the myth for the Nth time.

    G’day!

  11. I Should have included the first part of @MTB’s statement I just addressed above: “However, redeeming Hilton points isn’t especially great. Starwood and Hyatt take about 30,000 points for a great room and it takes about 70,000 Hilton points for a nice room.”

    Now, it should be clear why the statement is “baseless”. Hilton awards cost about the same is Hyatt’s, whereas Starwood’s awards are an order of magnitude more expensive, especially at their top “aspiratioanal” tier hotels.

  12. I am no expert when it comes to points!! I was just giving my own opinion on how I earn and use points and why I like the new HHonors Reserve card.

    I based my comparisons on points needed at hotels such as Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, St. Regis New York and other nice hotels around the world … mainly hotels I frequent. I always thought Marriott took way too many points for a nice room vs. Starwood, but now that may not be the case since Starwood’s are worth more to get to the Marriott points needed for a stay. I don’t PAY for a lot of hotel rooms so the 1X/2X/etc. points I earn on spending is something I consider in my total equation. Again, I am no points expert but I have plenty of Excel sheets that work for me.

  13. Lucky: I missed something. What happens to Citi Executive Platinum Card in July for Admirals Club? Or does anything happen? I may have missed one of your posts. I applied for the Aviator Card as I hope to upgrade to the newer one eventually to grab EQM spending threshold.

  14. The Hilton Surpass Card from American Express earns more Hilton Honors points per dollar spent than the Hilton Honors Reserve Card, and has the similar benefit of Diamond status is you spend $40,000.00 in a calendar year.

  15. I have a Citi Hilton Reserve that has been open for three years. Can I get another one and have two at the same time (and get the signup bonus again)?

  16. If you aren’t putting much spend on the Platinum MasterCard why not cancel? Over the next two years you “lose” 20,000 miles in awards rebates, save $190 in annual fees and after two years you’re eligible for maybe 50,000 miles on a new card. That’s been my strategy.

  17. None of the reasons you cited apply to me, but it’s interesting to read your analysis. I don’t fly AA, I don’t use hotels (airbnb is superior for our destinations so far), and I have plenty of lounge access from other cards. At some point, I’ll reconnect with more TY points, but this isn’t the year for that.

  18. I called Citi to cancel my Thank You because I also see it as redundant to the Prestige and I don’t use it anymore. I was told I would lose all Rewards Points even after I transferred them to my Prestige account. Was the agent correct?

  19. @ Brent Frost — Sort of, unfortunately. You could transfer them over to the Prestige, but you’d have to redeem the points within 60 days. It’s a more restrictive policy than Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards.

  20. I just got a $50 per month for 7 months after spending $1,500 per month when I called to cancel the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. New cost of card $100.

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