Reader Mailbag – Citi Cards

Citi Double Cash

Someone in my Facebook group emailed me with a few questions. Before I answer, let me shamelessly plug the Facebook group. Not only do I have a Newbie Monday post every week that addresses topics for people new or inexperienced in the points and miles world, but there are good discussions about points and miles and travel throughout the week.

On to the Mailbag. David writes:
I just noted in a comment on your FB group a question regarding Citi. I have the Custom Cash Card and will max out the 5% categories each month. I just have another 2% cash back card right now for stuff I cannot throw in a bonus category, but seeing your comments about transfer points, have learned from you it is better to save these points/miles for a transfer into a combined program that allows partner transfers (Rewards+ or Premier it seems). So I guess I should see if Citi lets me add the Double Cash card to use for this purpose? What card is better than 2% back on non-bonus categories?
Apparently I have missed the boat regarding Chase BTW – I have a Chase Freedom for rotating categories but I think I need to transfer those points to another Chase account before I can maximize their value – they earn Ultimate Reward points but the site does not appear to let me transfer those to e.g. an airline partner. In any case, I am beyond the 5/24 limit so may as well focus on other programs now (i.e. Citi above) and just earn points on my Chase card for a couple of years and then see what my options are there for a new card and more beneficial transfer of those.

So, let’s address the first question. Citi Double Cash is a very good 2% on everything card, especially when paired with a Citi Premier or Prestige. Unfortunately, the Prestige has closed for new applications for now so let’s put that one aside. The Citi Premier has a $95 annual fee and the current sign-up bonus is 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in 3 months. The card has some great bonus categories: 3x points on dining & restaurants, 3x points on gas stations, 3x points on groceries & supermarkets, 3x points on airfare and 3x points on hotels. There are also purchase protections and no foreign transaction fees, but note that unlike the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the card does not add primary rental car insurance.

As David notes, the Citi Custom Cash card is also good if you can max out the 5% category each month. You earn 5x on purchases in your top eligible spend category (including all the Premier bonus categories listed above and some additional ones too) each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent. The points earned can be combined with your other Citi Thank You points earned on the Double Cash, Premier and the Rewards+ card. Speaking of the Rewards+ card, that card earns you the following: 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations (up to the first $6,000 spent per year) and 10% points back for the first 100,000 ThankYou Points redeemed per year (which can earn you some easy points back in your account). Rewards are also rounded up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase, so if you buy a $1.49 pack of gum, you get 10 points instead of 1 for the purchase. Unfortunately, David is under the mistaken impression that holding this card gets you access to the Thank You point transfer redemptions. This is incorrect. You must have a Citi Premier (or Prestige) to open up the partner transfers.

Citi has some restrictions on opening new cards for sign-up bonuses (usually one every 48 months per card) and very specific rules about application timing. You can only apply for one card (personal or business) every eight days and no more than two cards in a 65-day window. You can only apply for one business card every 90 days.

Citi is also pretty good about product changes. For example, I used to have a Prestige card, but I didn’t want to pay the $450 annual fee when they stripped a lot of the benefits from the card. I product changed it to a no annual fee Citi Preferred card (which I didn’t really use, but it’s almost always better to product change than close a card outright for credit utilization purposes). When the Citi Rewards+ was introduced, I product-changed again to that card to take advantage of the 10% points rebate on redemptions. So, if David doesn’t want to open too many cards, he can always product change within the Citi universe and avoid adding to his 5/24 count.

That brings us to the second part of his email: Chase 5/24. Chase does not allow you to open new cards (business or personal) if you have opened five new cards in the past 24 months. He’s correct that he will not be able to get Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (business or personal) to pair with his Chase Freedom if he’s over 5/24, but I would just hang on to those Chase points until he can unlock their value when he adds a card that can open up airline or hotel point transfers. So, how does he get under 5/24? The answer is either 1) wait (yawn that’s boring) or 2) switch to business cards for a while. There are plenty of great business cards that can be opened which won’t increase his 5/24 count while allowing him to earn some great sign-up bonuses. These include cards from American Express that earn Membership Rewards or co-brand cards from Hilton, Marriott or Delta and co-brand cards from Citi such as American Airlines.

Thanks to David for his questions and hopefully this answer is helpful.

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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