My Citi Credit Card Strategy: Perfected, At Last!

Filed Under: Citi, Credit Cards
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With a simple Citi credit card downgrade this morning, I now have what I’d consider to be the ideal Citi card strategy for earning ThankYou points.

The perfect Citi ThankYou card trifecta

In general I like to earn transferable points currencies for my credit card spending, since they offer the most flexibility. Within each points currency “ecosystem” (whether it’s Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards), there’s the possibility to build up a portfolio of cards so that you can maximize your points earning.

This morning I product changed my Citi Premier Card to the Citi Rewards+ Card (since the $95 annual fee was due), and with that, I now have what I’d consider to be the ideal combination of cards for earning ThankYou points.

Here are the three cards I have that are earning ThankYou points, and why I consider this combination to be so ideal:

Citi Prestige Card

The Citi Prestige Card is my “premium” card earning ThankYou points, as it’s essentially the Citi equivalent of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review). The card has a $495 annual fee, and here’s why I have it:

  • The card offers 5x ThankYou points on restaurant purchases (which admittedly used to be a much bigger category for me than it is now)
  • The card offers a $250 annual travel credit, which helps offset the annual fee
  • This is a card that I can use to pool ThankYou points that I earn on the two no annual fee cards below

The card has a lots of useful benefits that others might value, though the above are the reasons that I have the card.

Read a full review of the Citi Prestige Card here.

The Citi Prestige offers a $250 annual travel credit

Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash Card is my go-to credit card for everyday spending, and I think it’s more valuable than ever before.

This no annual fee card offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase.

While that’s a solid cash back return, what makes this card truly exceptional is that you can convert the cash back into ThankYou points at a rate of one ThankYou point per cent. That’s incredible, because personally I value ThankYou points at ~1.7 cents each, increasing the value of my rewards by 70%.

This card offers the equivalent of two ThankYou points per dollar, which by my valuation makes this the best credit card for everyday spending.

Read a full review of the Citi Double Cash Card here.

The Citi Double Cash is my go-to card for everyday spending

Citi Rewards+ Card

I just got the Citi Rewards+℠ Card today, as I downgraded my Citi Premier Card to this. This card has no annual fee and:

  • Offers 2x ThankYou points at supermarkets and gas stations, for the first $6,000 spent per calendar year (and then 1x after that)
  • Rounds up purchases to the nearest 10 ThankYou points
  • Gets 10% of points back for the first 100,000 ThankYou points you redeem each year

This is an incredible complement to the other cards. While I won’t be using this card for supermarkets and gas stations (since there are better options out there in my card portfolio), I love this card for two reasons:

  • I can earn 10 ThankYou points even for a tiny purchase of a dollar
  • Having this card will essentially score me 10,000 ThankYou points per year, assuming I redeem at least 100,000 ThankYou points per year

Read a full review of the Citi Rewards+ Card here.

Having this card will earn me 10,000 ThankYou points per year

Big picture Citi ThankYou card strategy

I have three cards that can potentially earn me ThankYou points. The way I view it:

  • I’m really paying about $245 per year for this combo, since one card has an annual fee, while the other two don’t; the Citi Prestige has a $495 annual fee, and I’m getting a $250 annual travel credit, which is more or less worth face value
  • The Citi Prestige is earning me 5x points on restaurant spending, which is the best return of any card for that category
  • The Citi Double Cash is the best card for everyday spending
  • If nothing else, the Citi Rewards+ is earning me 10,000 ThankYou points per year when I redeem at least 100,000 points, which is great for a no annual fee card (I value the 10,000 points at ~$170)

I like earning ThankYou points for airline mileage transfers (in the future)

I also have the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

While not related to earning ThankYou points, I should mention the one other Citi credit card that I have. I’m talking about the $450 annual fee Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® (review).

Under normal circumstances this is an incredible card:

While this is a card I might not be getting value from at this very moment, it’s still one that’s worth keeping, given the huge long-term value it has offered.

This is the best card for Admirals Club access

Bottom line

I have four Citi credit cards, and with my credit downgrade this morning, I now have my ideal Citi card portfolio.

I’m maximizing my ThankYou points by having the Citi Prestige Card, and complementing that with the no annual fee Citi Double Cash Card and Citi Rewards+ Card.

Then I have the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card, which is ideal for Admirals Club lounge access. Admittedly that’s of limited value right now, but I’ve gotten outsized value in the past, and plan to continue to keep this card.

How does this compare to your Citi credit card strategy?

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Comments
  1. I currently have Citi Prestige and Citi Premier. Can I downgrade Citi Premier to Citi Double Cash? And when downgrading, do I need to transfer points under Citi Premier to Citi Prestige to prevent losing them with the downgrade?

  2. Similar question about points. When I called to downgrade my preferred I was told I could transfer points to my prestige but they would only be active for 90 days. Is that still true? I don’t have a use for them in 90 days but also don’t want the preferred anymore with the prestige.

  3. @ T. — You should be able to downgrade the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier to the Citi Double Cash. That could be a great strategy — just keep one card earning ThankYou points, and complement it with the Citi Double Cash.

    The issue is what happens to your points. The Citi Double Cash doesn’t earn “traditional” ThankYou points, so your rewards wouldn’t be maintained if you downgrade. Therefore if you’re going to downgrade you’d want to either transfer your Citi ThankYou points to an airline partner, or you’d want to transfer them to the other card earning ThankYou points, though note that they’d expire after around 60 days.

    This problem shouldn’t exist for the Citi Rewards+, since that card does earn ThankYou points.

    The downgrade situation here is pretty complicated…

  4. @ Steve — That is true if you’re converting the card into the Citi Double Cash, since it doesn’t earn ThankYou points on the surface. I don’t believe that 90 day rule should apply if you downgrade to the Citi Rewards+. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, because knowing that would be useful for my situation as well. 😉

  5. Overall I still prefer the Chase system and for everything else I use the Amex Blue Business at 2 points on everything.

  6. I had a citi simplicity card for several years I barely used with a decent limit so I switched over to citi + rewards and will occasionally use it for a small purchase. Maybe they will offer bonus promotions ? It’s been a few months and haven’t seen any.

  7. @Steve;

    Yes, that’s true. Which is why I value Citi TYP lower than Chase UR or Amex MR which you just need one mid-tier card to keep all the points.

    I transfered a bunch to Cathay Pacific when I closed my Premier. Then the pandemic hits and I might lose the Asia Miles in a year. Would rather have 4 Amex points than 5 TYPs.

  8. Best downgrade strategy for a Prestige or a Premier card is to convert to a Rewards+ card. That way you preserver your points and they don’t expire after 90 days.

    If you downgrade to a Double Cash card, your points will expire.

  9. You could save $290 per year on the annual fees if you opened a Citigold account since that entitles you to a credit of $145 for each of the Prestige and AA card.

    There is a minimum balance but that can be met by having an associated brokerage account and moving any stocks or mutual funds into that so that there are no fees or other costs.

    Getting the Prestige for only $100 annual fee ($350 less the $250 travel credit) makes it a bargain.

  10. Darn, I didn’t understand that, and converted to a REwards + card but moved the points. They are still as valuable once you go to Rewards+

    Lucky, very nice points. I hadn’t realized the 10% rebate on the Rewards +, which I was going to convert to Double Cash.

    You did’t discuss Premier much, isn’t there a higher multiple on some categories than the Premier (although not as high perhaps as other cards).

  11. @ beachfan — You’re absolutely right, if I were to focus exclusively on the ThankYou ecosystem then I would have the Citi Premier. However, since I’m also earning points with other programs, I find the 5x ThankYou points on dining has the biggest relative advantage, because in the case of the Citi Premier I can do better with Chase and Amex cards.

  12. @ Steve — That’s a GREAT point, and something that’s on my radar to add soon. Getting $290 in savings on annual fees on these cards would be awesome.

  13. Citibank also runs sign up promotions for Citigold. Right now you can earn $400-700 for opening an account, depending on the balance you deposit. The also run parallel bonuses for opening a savings account and you can earn both though they require separate deposits.

    Citigold is worth having for anyone who with the Prestige. Even more so if you have both Prestige and the AA card.

  14. Can you convert Citi DC cashback to TYP and then transfer to someone else who has a Citi Premier as TYP fully convertible to air miles or cash-out-able at 1.25cpp?

  15. JD you can however be aware that when you transfer TYP to someone else you have a very short window to convert them to air miles. I believe it’s 90 days.

  16. Pass on the prestige and exec. You only need $99 for the premier and DC is free. Much better value for 2020, considering restaurant and travel spend is down.

  17. I just downgraded the Citi Prestige to Citi Double Cash. Could not justify paying $245 for an extra point of dining. TY airline partners are no longer unique after Amex added LifeMiles, and the Prestige is a shadow of the card that launched in 2015. I have the Citi Premier for diversity of points.

  18. OK, I just have to address this: CitiGold may have a good value, but Citi’s service (at every level, including CitiGold) is horrid. Yes, you’ll save $140 on the prestige. But when you are trying to disable paper mailings, change cash sweep options, you’ll be physically mailing letters. They take weeks to respond to any major account openings. Their trades are not $0 like every other major vendor.

    So, short version: you will pay them back with your soul and other fees.

  19. There’s a pretty good argument that replacing the Prestige with a $95 Premier is the best “starter” trio out there too. 3x points on restaurants, gas, airfare, hotels and supermarkets, 2x on everything else with the DC and the 10% rebate with the Rewards+. That’s a pretty powerful combo for $95 a year. Add in the frequent transfer bonuses and it gets even better.

    The only downside is lack of domestic transfer partners, but Flying Club, LifeMiles, Asia Miles, etc., give plenty of flexibility and most aren’t that complicated to redeem.

  20. I have Premier card that I’d like to downgrade to Rewards+, can I still transfer TYP to airline partners?

  21. Is Citi still a pain in the rear when it comes to moving credit lines? I have been wanting to use my Double Cash card more but the credit line is paltry compared to my AA Executive card and Citi Premier, which I hardly use but don’t really want to close. Last time I called them to move credit line to the Double Cash they told me I couldn’t. So I’m sitting here thinking I need to product change my Premier to a Double Cash and upgrade my Double Cash to a Premier so I can get the bigger credit line on the Double Cash.

  22. Ultimately I can’t justify Citi Prestige as a hold as I prefer the Amex Duo (Schwab Platinum + Amex Gold), the Chase Trifecta and a variety of cobrand cards (some of which are expensive). I would rather earn 4x on dining and grocery on Amex Gold as MR are more flexible for me, the credits on those cards fit my spending, etc. TYP are ultimately limited without a big hotel partner or a domestic airline partner outside of JetBlue. If you want hotel points, it may make more sense to earn 1.5x with Freedom Unlimited than 2x with Double Cash (Hyatt) and 4x Dining with Amex Gold than 5x with Citi Prestige (Hilton with transfer bonuses)

    However I do have four Citi cards right now:
    Premier
    Double Cash
    AAdvantage Platinum
    AAdvantage Mileup

    In terms of Citi, $190 in total fees for my four cards is fine in order to have access to TYP and AA. It especially works if I can take advantage of the free bags with the AA card I will earn TYP opportunistically throughout the year, especially using the Double Cash. Citi is also good with various promotions through the year. I will look to add additional AA and TYP cards for bonuses next year.

  23. Citi Gold doesn’t get you a discount on the Prestige card anymore. I’m Citi Gold, and when my Prestige came up for renewal a couple of months ago, they wanted to charge me the full $450 fee.

    Downgraded it to a Travel Rewards card, and the card numbers and points balance stayed the same. To transfer those points to airlines you do need something like a Premiere though. You transfer the points to the Premiere, and then to the airline account within 90 days. By keeping those points in the Travel Rewards account, they won’t expire until you have a use for them.

  24. I switched my Prestige to Rewards+ just this past Monday. In the current world, the card is barely worth $95, never mind 400 higher.. It was such a good card 4 years ago which makes it extra sad

  25. @Steve–what were you downgrading your preferred card to? The Pref and Rewards+ are both 0 AF cards. Just keep it open and your associated TY points won’t expire.

  26. Robert Citi assures me that the $100 off is still active and they have no plans to discontinue it. My Prestige renewed and I go the lower rate. Perhaps your Citigold account wasn’t properly linked. Did you call and ask if you were entitled to the credit and did they say no? If not, it might just be your account isn’t properly tied to your card.

  27. If you have two rewards+ can you get 20k/yr rebate?

    Sitting on
    2 DCs
    ATT+
    Premier
    Prestige
    Rewards+

    Not sure I will get value from prestige going further and not dropping premier ever due to the great bonus categories.

    As far as transferring lines in response to an above comment. Citi stinks for this.

    There is just one partner citi has that really sticks out, and has been incredibly useful for years.

  28. I’ve always thought that this combination of cards is much more valuable than the Chase trifecta you tout so much. The 2X points on the Double Cash is obviously better than the 1.5X on the Freedom Unlimited, the bonus categories on the Prestige are better than on the Sapphire Reserve, the travel credit on the Prestige is $50 lower but the annual fee is $55 lower, the transfer partners for ThankYou I find much more valuable than Ultimate Rewards (ever since the loss of SkyPass and the MileagePlus devaluation I’d argue that World of Hyatt is the only useful partner Chase has), and really the only knock against the Prestige when compared to the Sapphire Reserve is the lack of travel insurance, but that can be purchased relatively inexpensively these days anyway so It’s hardly enough to sway the needle for me.

  29. Reading all this carefully as my Prestige, up for renewal now, is a question mark. And I agree with comment by Andrew that Citi service is inconsistent at best, and far too often a generally inefficient and frustrating experience dealing with non-native english-speaking reps to negotiate your way through even the simplest of transactions.

    As for the + card that is argued to have extra value as it can bring you the 10K refund on 100K points spend – well how many times can you realistically do that?

  30. @Ben,

    What’s the max exposure limit with citi ? I’m at $45k on prestige and $30k on Costco, I vaguely recall 5 years ago when I had to call in for the prestige approval- they told me that was the max limit.

    I want the double cash- it seems like my best strategy would be to apply for another prestige, get the 50k bonus then downgrade my older prestige to cash.

    If the $75k max exposure is still true- I’ll be taking a haircut on my Costco credit line (which is fine).

    And yeah I’ll do it via your link since I give you such crap all the time.

  31. @ John G — Regarding the limit, I think it really comes down to each individual person and your financial situation. I don’t think there’s a single set $75,000 limit for anyone, and even if you were told that at some point, it might have changed since then. You can always just apply and then if need be you should be able to switch your credit line around.

  32. @ Ben,

    I’ll apply tomorrow and see what happens.

    Citibank has been targeting me for a 50k thank you bonus for opening citi gold account with an additional 25% bonus on annual CC spend for two years. I’m debating on if I should pull the trigger on that before applying for a second prestige.

    Chase has told me the 5/24 doesn’t apply to me because I’m a JPM client (JPM Reserve) but I have no experience on whether or not that’s true or not.

    Maybe being citi gold would help prior to applying.

  33. From the Citi “AdditionalInfo-CitiPrestige” page – does Uber Eats count as an “online dining delivery services” that does not qualify? Even if we are getting the bonus today, this gives them an out?

    Certain Non-Qualifying Purchases. Restaurants – You won’t earn 5 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on purchases at restaurants for purchases made at bakeries, caterers, restaurants/cafes inside other establishments (such as hotels, department stores, grocery stores, discount and convenience stores or warehouse clubs), or purchases made through online dining delivery services.

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