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:
- Call for a retention bonus that offsets the annual fee
- 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…
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.
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.