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A list of Citibank rewards credit cards: which ones are worth applying for?

Over the past year or so, Citi has made a few moves to revamp its credit card portfolio, so now’s as good a time as any to step back and take a big-picture look at Citi’s reward card offerings. Unlike other websites, I have no credit card links of my own so I’m pleased to offer you 100% unbiased, somewhat opinionated ratings.

MUST-HAVE:

Citi Double Cash: If you don’t know what you’re doing with credit cards, then this should be your primary card. In fact, I devoted a blog post to making that point. This card earns 2% cash back on everything, there is no annual fee, the redemption process is simple, and there are no gotchas. People may gripe about how you only get 2% after you pay your bill, but who cares? If you’re maximizing credit card rewards you’re probably not carrying a balance anyway.

Even if you’re a devoted credit card user with 30 different credit cards to your name, this one probably deserves a spot in your collection. The only other mass-market no-annual-fee 2% cashback card is the Fidelity Amex, and as we all know MasterCard enjoys wider acceptance than Amex.

WORTH IT FOR SOME:

The Thank You Point cards: As credit card loyalty programs go, Thank You Points have long been a distant third to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and Amex’s Membership Rewards. After some recent changes, Citi remains in third, but they’ve narrowed the gap. You can get some value here, but you need to know what you’re doing.

There are three TYP cards: ranked in order from least to most prestigious, they are the Preferred, the Premier, and the Prestige. (If you sometimes get these three names mixed up, don’t feel bad because I do as well.) The more typical redemption options for TYPs are not particularly enticing–you can get one cent per point by getting gift cards, less than that if you’re redeeming for statement credits.

Where it gets interesting is with air travel, and I’m drawing here from an excellent Devil’s Advocate piece at Travel Codes which you should read if you’re interested in more details. If you have the no-annual fee Preferred, you can redeem TYPs for one cent each on airfare. If you have the Premier ($125 annual fee, supposedly going to be reduced to $95, waived the first year), you can get 1.33 1.25 cents per point. If you have the Prestige ($450 annual fee, though that includes statement credits and other benefits), you can get 1.6 points for AA/USAir flights. All the cards earn 2X points on dining. And starting April 19, the Premier will offer 3X points on gas, so you’d effectively be getting almost 5% back on gas purchases if you redeem for an AA ticket, plus you get the miles on top of that.

The other air travel angle is transfers to airline programs. Travel is Free has a great rundown of the options, though note that Citi has added Virgin Atlantic since that post was written.

Finally: note that there is a fourth TYP-earning card, the AT&T Access Card (which I wrote about here), which you can probably ignore as it has a weak sign-up bonus and weak earning power. Its only distinction is 2X TYPs for online spending.

In conclusion: there is potentially some good value in the Thank You Points ecosystem, but you have to know what you’re doing or else be willing to put in the time to understand the nuances.

SOCK DRAWER CANDIDATES

The American Airlines cardsThere are two cards here: the Platinum and the Executive, plus a Business Platinum as well.. Both have a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus which is enough to take you a lot of different places. The Platinum has an annual fee of $95 which is waived the first year, and Citi will usually waive it each year after that if you call and threaten to cancel. Your first checked bag is free for you an up to four people traveling with you (I have four kids, so… ka-ching!).

The big difference between the Executive and the Platinum is that you get access to Admirals Club lounges, but you have to pay a $450 fee for that privilege. Note that there was a 100,000-mile bonus for this card last year. Is that bonus ever coming back? I have no idea.

Conclusion: if you travel AA with any regularity you already know whether or not these cards are valuable for you. If you take a family vacation once a year on AA, the Platinum could be worthwhile solely for the baggage benefit. And if you know how to maximize your AA miles, the sign-up bonus is very good. Generally speaking, though–unless you have an extremely high valuation of AA miles–you’ll do better putting your credit card spend on other cards and keeping these in the proverbial sock drawer.

Citi Hilton Reserve: It’s got a $95 annual fee, but you get gold status with Hilton, which can get you free breakfast and club access. My family had a two week stay at a Hilton a while back and gold status saved us quite a bit on meals and snacks. You can also get one free weekend night per year if you spend $10,000 with the card. Note that there’s also a plain Citi Hilton Visa which is good for the 40,000 HHonors point bonus but not much else. If you’re looking to acquire HHonor points by spending, the Amex Surpass is a better option since it gives you 6X points on gas, groceries, and restaurants.

BASICALLY WORTHLESS

Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager: Not much to recommend here unless you’re a diehard Expedia loyalist. Doctor of Credit did a pretty good review, please check it out if you’re at all interested in this one.

RIP TravelBloggerBuzz

If you haven’t heard yet, George has informed us that he’s more or less shutting down TravelBloggerBuzz. Which is kind of a bummer, as there was always something interesting to read there, whether it was George himself, the links he offered up, or his commenters.

Another reason for missing the blog is that even if I missed out on an interesting blog post when it was published, any must-see would show up in George’s blog. I’ve noticed more and more bloggers putting together “week in review”-type lists with links to all sorts of stuff, so I guess George should take credit for that?

Anyway, with George winding things down, what blogs (aside from the Saverocity blogs, of course, which it goes without saying are amazing) are still essential to your daily / weekly routine? What’s the best way to keep up with this hobby without spending ten hours a day on the internet?

Top 10 Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Cards!

It’s no secret that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the greatest, most awesome thing in the world and that you should totally apply for it. But you know what’s even better than the most awesome thing in the world? The ten most awesome things in the world! Here’s a list of the top 10 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Cards ever:

10. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: You just knew this one was going to be on the list, didn’t you?

9. Chase Freedom® Card: It wants to be as cool as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but it’s not, because it’s only a Chase Freedom® Card. But still, it’s a quality credit product offered by Chase which means that it’s still awesome, just not as awesome as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

8. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: You guessed it!

7. Chase. Sapphire. Preferred. ®. Card: You see how there are periods between each word? And how even the registered trademark symbol got its own period? All I’m saying is, there aren’t many cards that could pull that off. You think your Arrival card could? Think again, pal.

6. That Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card that got stolen, but it was okay because customer service took off the fraudulent charges and rushed you a new card: As if this card couldn’t get any more awesome, right?

5. Pulaski Bank Visa Credit Card: I’m not sure why that one is here, but internet top ten lists don’t lie! I guess it’s pretty awesome!

4. Pulaski Bank Visa Credit Card: Did the list mean the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead? No? Okay then, we’ll go with this, I guess.

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: That’s more like it!

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Black Card: You have to be a big spender to even be invited to apply for this super-elite card, which gets you into super-elite places like large airport lounges at major airports. OK, sure, technically this card doesn’t exist. But how can you get something close to it, if it did? By applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card today!

1. Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the most awesome thing in the world. But the The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® is the most awesome thing in the universe.

Mind: blown.

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Credit card rewards analysis: how much are BBVA Compass points worth?

UPDATE: Doc pointed out that the NBA card uses a different reward scheme called TripleDouble Rewards, which is apparently different from the other BBVA rewards. The website for that rewards scheme doesn’t let you see what’s going on, so we’re all in the dark on this one. That 5X may yet actually turn out to be 5%.

Doctor of Credit recently brought news of an interesting new card from BBVA Compass. I was absolutely thrilled to see this, in part because the card (the app is live here) is interesting but mostly because I wrote about a different product from this bank a over a year ago and just last week I was racking my brains trying to remember what bank it was. My memory kept saying “CSFB! CSFB!” and I was unable to convince it that Credit Suisse First Boston does not have any interesting credit card deals. So thanks, Doc, for helping an old man having a senior moment. And if anybody from BBVA Compass is reading this, can you please lobby for a name change? Four letters is a lot to remember.

Getting back to the point: the new card offers 5X points on all spending during the NBA finals. One lingering question from the review was, how much are BBVA Compass’s points worth? Does 5X really mean 5%? After digging around a bit, I found a rewards catalog here. And the answer to the big question is that unless you go big, 5X will not mean 5%.

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Why you should have gone to the FT4RL get-together, and how to get shut down on Bluebird

I had the pleasure of attending the Family Travel for Real Life meeting this past weekend. It was conveniently located in my hometown of Charlotte, and in fact it was within walking distance of my house, so kudos to Dia for holding a travel hacking conference I could walk to! Speaking of The Deal Mommy, she’s got a recap of most of the FT4RL recaps, so go take a look.

I’ve been to two of these sorts of things now, the other one being the Saverocity shindig last year, and both of them were good experiences. It’s nice to meet people you’ve been reading on the internet, in some cases for years in the flesh. I finally got to meet Chasing the Points, for example. We both started our blogs around the same time and have been exchanging emails for years but this was the first time we actually met.

But it’s not just bloggers you get to meet; there are plenty of other friendly, knowledgeable, helpful people out there who know just as much as bloggers–and often more (I’m looking at you, Bret B)–but they don’t blog about it. Talking to all the different folks there inspires me both to travel more and to earn more miles with which to travel.

One non-blogger I’ve met at both conferences I’ve been to is a fellow named Eric, who has the distinction of being the only person I’ve ever met who’s had their Bluebird account shut down by Amex.

What do you have to do to anger the powers that be at Bluebird? He bought something with an Amex gift card, returned it, and had the balance refunded to Bluebird. Boom! Immediate shutdown, and it took a while to get his money back too. He certainly wasn’t trying to defraud Amex, though I can see how that transaction might have looked suspicious to them.

The good news, however, is that he was able to open up a Redbird account after being shut down on Bluebird. This was somewhat surprising to me since Amex’s credit card blacklist is, as far as I can tell, the longest-lasting one in the industry. There was a scare recently when somebody on Flyertalk claimed to have been shut down for rapid loading and unloading of his account. The consensus on that one is that this was probably fake, but hearing that you can still possibly open another prepaid product makes it a little less concerning.