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.
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 cards: There 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.
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.