Why Doesn’t The Citi Premier Card Have A Sign-Up Bonus Anymore?

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A couple of days ago I posted about how Citi made a minor change to the terms of their credit card sign-up bonuses. Previously you were only eligible for the sign-up bonus on a Citi credit card if you hadn’t opened or closed the card in the past 18 months. They changed the terms of that to update the waiting period to 24 months, rather than 18 months.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable change, and means Citi is still significantly more generous than American Express and Chase when it comes to the terms of getting their sign-up bonuses.

However, Citi has made one surprising change which makes me wonder if there could be bigger implications.

Where did the Citi Premier’s sign-up bonus go?

The Citi Premier Card is Citi’s fantastic mid-range transferrable points currency card, intended to compete with the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The card was refreshed last year, at which point the sign-up bonus was increased to 50,000 points upon completing minimum spend.

Then in January of this year the bonus was decreased to 40,000 points upon completing minimum spend, which seemed like an odd move, since it happened at the same time that Chase offered an increased sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Preferred.

However, in the past couple of weeks the publicly available sign-up bonus on the Citi Premier has changed to… nothing! There’s no longer a sign-up bonus on the card, which is truly surprising. While Chase has historically been the strongest with sign-up bonuses, Amex has almost always offered at least some kind of bonus as well.

It’s strange to see Citi suddenly offer no bonus at all on the Premier Card.

Meanwhile the sign-up bonus on the fantastic Citi Prestige® Card is 40,000 ThankYou points upon completing minimum spend. This is the all around most compelling card out there, in my opinion.

Why the disparity in bonuses?

Why would Citi suddenly completely eliminate the bonus on just one very popular card? Will this spread to other cards?

I have some theories as to why this could happen, and they’re all more or less related. I think the most basic explanation is that like any other company, there are budgets and goals set for a specific product, and those were met and/or exceeded:

  • The card could have gotten so many new cardmembers over the past year that they’ve completely blown through their budget for new cardmember acquisitions, and a bonus on the card will return once that budget resets
  • The card could have gotten so many new cardmembers that they’ve reached their goal of new cardmember sign-ups, so are trying to space them out, so they can still meet/exceed management’s expectations in the following period
  • It could also be that Citi thinks the card sells itself, and they don’t need to offer an incentive to get people to sign-up; personally I think this is unlikely, as the industry practice has long been to offer some sort of a welcome bonus, and I don’t see that changing here, especially when the competition is offering bonuses

Bottom line

I’m scratching my head as to the lack of a sign-up bonus on the Citi Premier, especially when the card’s biggest competition is offering an increased sign-up bonus at the moment. I suspect Citi had simply exceeded their expectations on new cardmember acquisitions, and we’re seeing the results of that now.

I would speculate that we’ll see the Premier Card return with a sign-up bonus at some point in the not too distant future.

Hopefully the same doesn’t happen to the Citi Prestige® Card, given how awesome it is.

What do you think is the reason the sign-up bonus was eliminated on the Citi Premier Card?

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  1. Only the seriously uninformed would apply for Premier with no bonus (given the others available currently from Citi’s competitors) so I’m sure your reasoning is correct that they’ve reach the quota/budget for it. And since Prestige still has 50k, they seem to be trying to drive applications toward that product.

  2. Another data point–The points bonus has disappeared on the Citi ThankYou Preferred as well. They’ve now substituted 0% APR for 15 months over any ThankYou point bonus with minimum spending requirement. This is the no annual fee ThankYou card.

  3. Great point. Who would market their card without sign up bonus. None of the ft bloggers would. This means they got to much customers for this quarter.

  4. Noooooo!! Life is getting harder with the whole points and miles world. First Chase 5/24, then AA and Alaska devaluations, now citi joining the club as well . Somehow I have a feeling this is the beginning of the end of the whole game, but I just started 🙁

  5. This is about businesses squeezing every last cent from us. It’s going to get worse and maybe never get better. The business environment in this country is horrible and getting worse. Standby to repel boarders

  6. Any correlation with the treatment below? From acquisition to retention?

    “To thank you for being a loyal Citi ThankYou® Premier cardmember, we’d like to share this special offer with you:
    Spend $3,000 on purchases with your Citi ThankYou® Premier Card over the next 3 months starting April 15, 2016 and you’ll earn 10,000 bonus ThankYou® Points.*

  7. i am sure the churners are very disappointed but i am glad credit card companies are tightening sign up bonus requirements.
    i don’t churn and seldom close credit card accounts.
    it’s definitely harder to redeem when more miles/points are out there.

  8. Maybe it is time to focus on the analysis of a travel rewards credit card value proposition compared to a cash back credit card. Maybe it is finally time to show how points earning rates, redemption rates, annual spend, and annual fees contribute to the net return of a travel rewards credit card. Maybe it is finally time to show the narrow personal circumstances required (extensive international travel and overpriced business/first class airline seats) required to make many travel rewards credit cards pay. Just maybe, cash back cards are better for most folks most of the time. If the focus is on holding financial institutions accountable for their products, maybe we might get better products. I signed up for the AMEX 5% Blue Cash card and Citibank Double Cash card with no signup bonus because of compelling long term value and customer service (especially with AMEX) – what a concept – no churning required because I want to keep the card. But, cash back cards are boring, transparent, and do not play to our aspirations even though we can use the cash back for whatever we want. Many loyalty programs have been horribly devalued because points were easy to sell because of perceived “value” even as more and more obstructions have been fabricated to preclude reward redemption.

    So, relative to the Chase 5/24 rule and no signup bonus on the Citi Premier card, the solution is easy. Dump them. Find other more beneficial alternatives. They exist. Like rats, aren’t we tired of the banks, airlines, hotels, and travel industry constantly moving our cheese?

  9. Couldn’t this also be a glitch? Citi seems to have more of those than other banks. In the past couple months I can remember the contradictory terms on the Prestige’s 4th night free benefit as well as the “Earn 20,000 points after $0 spending in your first three months” offer for the Preferred.

  10. General question, so is the best thing to do now is to sign up for Prestige, meet the sign-up bonus, use the 250 dollar airline credit (*2), then call the downgrade as soon as possible in order for them to pro-rate the 450 AF since there is no benefit in signing up for the Premier or Preferred straight-up anymore?

    That is the smarter move to get retention rather than sign-up bonuses. I think the CC companies should think about that, make the sign-up bonuses lower (reducing the attractiveness to churners) but keep annual bonuses, maybe something small to account for the AF, but scale up based on spending. This will retain card-members and make it more likely they will keep using the card.

  11. Concerning the Citi “zombie link” mentioned above I Googled for “Citi 70,000 Hilton Honors” and signed up for a new card Sunday morning. 70,000 HH points after $2,000 spent in three months.

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