As I was saying one of my hopes (and fears) for 2018 relates to Citi’s ThankYou Point program: I hope they’ll re-invigorate the program but I fear they’ll walk away from it altogether.

I’m actually a pretty big fan of the ThankYou Points (TYP). There are several ways to earn them and there is upside when redeeming for travel. That’s a winning combination in my book.

TYP can be redeemed for airfare through their slightly quirky 1:1 air travel partners. Or with some amount of uplift when booked through the Citi travel portal depending on which Citi card you have.

Cruises and hotel redemptions are worth more than 1 cent a piece if you have both the Premier ($95 annual fee) and/or the Prestige ($350-$450 annual fee depending on when you got it and your other relationships with Citi).

I appreciate this kind of flexibility because it lets me use points to pay for a more “complete” vacation.

Current Citi [anti-]churning policy

I’d currently rank Citi #3 among popular bank point programs with Chase and AmEx #1 and #2.

I like that the Citi AT&T Access More card earns 3x TYP at [many] online retailers. And the Citi ThankYou Business card can be useful as well with its rotating 3x categories.

But we all know that credit card signup bonuses are the easiest way to quickly accrue points.

With shutdowns for shenanigans seemingly on the rise (or perhaps they’ve always happened and we’re just hearing about them more) it’s nice to remain “above board” and within bounds of their stated policies.

Here is their current language as it relates to earning a Citi TYP card signup bonus after having earned it previously:

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

Policies like this vary across banks (here’s a good post from Frequent Miler summarizing churning policies across all banks). But the net of it given Citi’s policy is that we want to avoid resetting the 24 month clock by closing a card.

Alternatives to closing a card

Generally speaking it’s tempting to cancel a card like the Premier after the first year when the annual fee comes due. But doing so will reset the 24 month clock and it’ll then be a total 3 years between signup bonuses within the TYP family.

To avoid that, and qualify for a signup bonus every 2 years, there’s two things we can do:

  1. Call for a retention bonus that offsets the annual fee
  2. Product change to a different card (usually one without a fee)

In the case of the Premier/Prestige combo I’m inclined to keep both for their benefits and synergy they provide.

Specifically, I like Citi Prestige’s liberal guest policy when visiting Priority Pass lounges (effectively the JetBlue lounge at Terminal C at Boston Logan). Additionally I like the Premier’s 1.25 cent per point uplift towards cruises. And Citi Prestige 4th night free.

So ideally, my first preference would be to keep both cards through retention bonuses effectively worth as much or more than the annual fee.

Tip: Citi has historically been generous with retention bonuses, but be sure to get passed through to a specialist with the best offers rather than taking a first line rep’s word that no retention bonuses are available. With Citi be sure to use the keyword “cancel” and “fee” in your plea to get to the account specialist best equipped to give out quality retention bonuses.

If they don’t seem to be in the mood to dish out good retention bonuses when your fee is due, consider a product change. The obvious choice in the TYP family is the fee-free Preferred, though you can switch to other Citi cards.

It’s not 100% clear to me whether a product change to a card within another family of Citi products (say a Citi AT&T card or a Dividend card – their card that earns 5% cashback in rotating quarterly categories) resets the clock.

But I do have some other specific scenarios I can report success on…

Datapoints/Questions

Even with a careful read of their policies it’s always good to have successful datapoints for specific scenarios you might be considering. I’ve got a couple I can share that I’ve seen raised up for discussion here and there.

Doctor of Credit’s post roughly on this topic is helpful, as are the comments. There seemed to be clarity at the time of that post on what we all thought the rules were, but things trailed off from there in terms of people actually going through the process and getting the bonus (or not). And there are a lot scenarios.

Here are some additional datapoints of my own:

After 24 months, can I earn a signup bonus a 2nd time for the same exact card without cancelling the first card?

Yes. I got my first Citi Prestige card in July 2015. In July 2016 I called and got a retention bonus that was good enough to offset the annual fee. Then in September of 2017 I got another Prestige card without cancelling the first one. I wanted a second Prestige card for the signup bonus which I earned after meeting the minimum spend, as the T&Cs indicated I would.

Does a product change within the same product family reset the 24 month clock?

No. My wife got the Citi Premier in August 2015 then downgraded to a fee-free Preferred in September 2016 when the annual fee came due. In October of 2017 she signed up for Premier, met the min spend, and earned the signup bonus.

Update (3/29/2018): I did a product change from a Citi AA Platinum to a Citi AA Bronze card which did result in a new card number. We’ll see whether this reset my 24 month Citi AA personal clock…

Does a product change out of a product family reset the 24 month clock?

Not sure, but it seems to. From comments on this DoC post it seems the pattern is product changing out of a product family (ie, TYP to Divided/Double Cash, AA to Citi AT&T Access More) results in a new card number. And according to this post from Frequent Miler a new card numbers resets the 24 month clock.

So if your goal is to avoid resetting the clock, it’s safest to product change in the same family to a fee-free version of the card.

Does it matter whether the product change resulted in a new card number?

Not sure. The T&Cs don’t mention this specifically but indicates from DoC/FM/TPG seem to indicate that a product change that results in a new card number resets the 24 month clock. For my wife’s case she had the same card number after product changing from a Premier to a Preferred so I can’t speak to this with a personal datapoint. Anyone else?

How do you check what your card number was back in the day?

Check your old statements. If your old statements online don’t go back far enough you can submit a request for older statements. It usually takes about 24 hours for them to fulfill requests for old statements. If you received email notification of old statements, check your email. It should have the last 4 digits of the card.

What’s the upshot of all this?

You may not actively be in the market for a new Citi ThankYou Point card, especially since the bonuses are lackluster at the moment.

But you may be considering cancelling a card at some point in the future, and the point of this post is to suggest you avoid resetting Citi’s 24 month clock. Instead of closing a Citi card, seek a retention bonus that offsets the fee -or- do a product change to a fee-free card.

If you choose to product change the safest thing to do is product change to another card in the same family.

It would be good to know whether someone has successfully earned a signup bonus after product changing to a different family (say AA Platinum to Citi AT&T Access/More, or a TYP card to something non-related) while checking whether your card number changed as part of this conversion. Let us know in you’ve got some useful datapoints?

Here’s hoping Citi bumps the bonus on the Premier and Prestige to something respectable some time soon.

– Written by Robert Dwyer, contributor at Milenomics. Connect with me on Twitter @RobertDwyer

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17 thoughts on “Things to keep in mind before canceling/product changing a Citi card

  1. It’s all too confusing to me about whether or not the clock is reset when downgrading….I’ve read your linked DofC post and it doesn’t give me a warm feeling that there is a black-and-white path to downgrade.

    For me, the big takeaway from your post is that you can get a 2nd Prestige card. So why not do that, get the sign on bonus and then cancel the original card a month later. Rinse and repeat. Would that work?

    Besides, I find that the Citi Prestige card pays for itself. I’ve used the flight delay/lost baggage, the price matching, the 4th night free and the bonus insurance, as well as the lounge access (which is 2nd only to the CSR) and, of course, the annual $250 no-need-to-play-games travel insurance. It’s a GREAT card!

    • Agreed it’s about as confusing as it gets. They couldn’t have come up with a more complicated scheme if they tried.

      Yes, getting a 2nd Prestige card works and cancelling the original one a month later *could* make sense.
      Complicating factors: My original Prestige is somehow grandfathered in at the $350 annual fee, presumably related to some prior CitiGold situation.
      Plus my original Prestige got a nice retention offer of a $50 statement credit (for 7 months) for spending $1,500 on the card each month.
      So I want to keep the original Prestige, especially as long as it’s got “just” a $350 annual fee.

      But I agree: In general, cancelling the other card shortly after getting a new one is smart because the clock has been reset with the new card so you may as well reset it again quickly by cancelling. At some point we’ll have more Citi cards than we’d (and more importantly *they’d*) like.

      Still – it’s worth figuring this stuff out because a spouse might be in a different situation and there’s at least a couple families of cards that are useful (TYP and AA).
      I’m sure by the time we figure it out they’ll change it.

      • I wanted to clarify your comment on cancelling a card right after you apply for the same card again (2 years later) to get the signup bonus and avoid the 24 month rule? Shouldn’t you have to wait until you get the bonus from the “new” card first, before cancelling the old card? Or does the 24 month rule only apply at application (and not when they dole out the bonus)?

        thanks in advance fro your reply

        • That’s a good question.

          I would *think* it would be okay if you cancelled it right after getting approved for the new card, but their T&Cs aren’t clear on this. To be safe you could wait until they [hopefully] dole out the bonus like you suggest.

          That wouldn’t seem too painful if the card you were cancelling was fee-free.

          But if you got a retention bonus on the original card the first year but not the second I could see where you’d like to cancel it as soon as possible to avoid the annual fee.

          With the ThankYou cards we haven’t had the heightened bonuses out there with enough regularity to exercise this.
          And with the AA cards I suspect people are skirting the 24 month waiting period by finding targeted offers.

    • That’s a very good question. Coming at this from an entirely different angle.
      The signup bonuses on the Premier/Prestige have been so volatile the past few years. Like “nothing” to 75k to “nothing”.

      If you can make use of the 3x online retail category I might ease into it by PC’ing one of your lesser Citi cards if you have some spares that aren’t serving a purpose into an AT&T Access More. The one with the $95 annual fee that’s offset by spending $10k each year with 10,000 TYP. Start earning points through that and then at some point, hopefully, the Premier and Prestige bonuses will get back to something respectable? I suggest this both in terms of getting the signup bonus for the Premier and Prestige as well as the redemption upside they offer.

      But if that card isn’t appealing it’s going to be a long hard slog with only the Premier with any signup bonus at all at the moment, and a paltry 30k doesn’t seem worth it.

      • Can the ATT More card do airline transfers?

        And I have an AA Biz Plat that needs a product change soon, wondering what to do with that.

        • Sorry, I missed this comment previously.

          The AT&T Access More card cannot do airline transfers itself. But if you have a Premier or Prestige points earned on the AT&T card can be transferred to airlines.

          I see now that the 50,000 Premier offer is back. This would be a good opportunity to get into TYP if starting from scratch.

  2. I have a citi bank aadvantage mileage card with an annual fee of $95.00
    I was able to get the get a “Purchase bonus” of $95.00 last year to offset my
    annual renewal fee. I had to stipulate to spending $95.00 with 30 days.
    I hardly use the card except for domestic travel, which I make use of the free
    bag on American.
    I called and tried to get the fee waived again this year and the best they would offer me was
    a $45.00 “Purchase bonus” if I agreed to spend $45.00 in the next 30 days.
    I told them I would think about it. I was talking to the retention department.
    My question, Do you think or have others had any luck getting another offer, ie $95.00 rather than the $45.00
    after having receiving the $45.00 offer.

    • You’ve done better than I have.
      I called twice and was able to get no retention bonus at all.
      I asked the rep to transfer me to the retention department and he said “there’s no retention department, but there is an account closure department – but they’re not available for this product”.

      I downgraded to an AA Bronze fee free card.
      Strangely, during the disclosure he said the account number would change. We’ll see.

      Oh Citi….

      • Nearly identical to my last attempt to get a waiver on an AA card. I think they’re wise to our game by now. Can vividly recall Citi rep saying “you never use this card, why do you want to keep it?”

  3. If a business AA card was closed, that wouldn’t reset the personal AA card’s 24 month clock, correct?

    It’d only reset business card’s 24 month clock?

  4. Nice write up. Another reason to product change within same family as it applies to typ is your typ expire 60 days after account closure but stay alive if pc to another typ card

  5. FYI: The change in card number is almost certainly the deciding factor. There was even a DP of someone being denied the bonus due to fraudulent activity that caused an old card to be reissued IIRC.

    The d/g question is very complicated. I can say from personal experience that some intrafamily PCs change (AA to AA) and some interfamily do not (TYP to Div). Of course, we’d expect most interfamily to keep the same number but that’s not guaranteed. So that is the million dollar question: which PCs are safe?

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