Arguably I take maximizing credit cards to the extreme, given that I have over two dozen credit cards. In separate posts I shared my Amex card strategy and Chase card strategy, and in this post I wanted to share my Citi card strategy.
Citi has several valuable rewards cards, and personally I have a total of four Citi cards, which help me maximize ThankYou points and also get lounge access. Below I’ll share some general things to be aware of when applying for Citi cards, and then a summary of my Citi card strategy.
Restrictions On Applying For Citi Cards
There are a few major restrictions to be aware of when applying for Citi cards:
Citi 8/65 Day Rule
This is pretty straightforward. Citi will approve you for at most one card every eight days, and at most two cards every 65 days. If you are considering applying for multiple Citi cards, you’ll want to pay close attention to the timing.
Citi 24 Month Rule
With Citi’s 24 month rule, you are typically not eligible for the bonus on a particular card if you’ve closed that card or have received a new cardmember bonus on that card in the past 24 months.
Citi Family Card Rules
Citi cards earning ThankYou points (like the Premier, Prestige, and Rewards+) have family card rules. For these cards:
- You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus on any of those cards if you’ve received a new cardmember bonus on any of the cards in the past 24 months
- You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus on any of those cards if you’ve closed any of them in the past 24 months
Citi 48 Month AAdvantage Rule
American AAdvantage cards have different eligibility requirements than other Citi cards. Generally speaking with AAdvantage cards you’re not eligible for the bonus on a particular card if you’ve received a new cardmember bonus on that exact card in the past 48 months. In these situations there’s no family rule, but rather there’s an extended restriction for a specific card.
The Four Citi Credit Cards I Have
At the moment I have the following four Citi credit cards:
- The Citi® Double Cash Card (review)
- The Citi Rewards+® Card (review)
- The Citi Prestige Card (review)
- The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review)
I have the first three cards in order to be able to maximize my Citi ThankYou points, while I have the last card for lounge access, so let me discuss that in a bit more detail.
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.
At this point I’d say I have a pretty close to perfect Citi ThankYou strategy (with one possible exception). 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, including takeout and delivery
- The card offers a $250 annual travel credit, which helps offset the annual fee; in 2021 this can even be used towards supermarkets and restaurants
- 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 Citi Prestige. I am increasingly thinking that I should downgrade this card to the Citi Premier® Card (review), but I’ll get into that in a bit more detail below.
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.
The Citi Double Cash is my go-to card for everyday spending
Citi Rewards+ Card
- 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 the Citi Rewards+ 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 essentially scores me 10,000 ThankYou points per year, assuming I redeem at least 100,000 ThankYou points per year
Having this card will earn me 10,000 ThankYou points per year
Should I Downgrade To The Citi Premier Card?
I have three Citi cards that can potentially earn me ThankYou points, and the way I view the value proposition:
- I’m essentially 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 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)
- The Citi Premier has an annual fee of only $95, and it would still allow me to maximize the value of the Citi Double Cash and Citi Rewards+, which is what I care most about
- I consider the Citi Prestige to really “cost” me $245 per year (after the $250 credit), though the only real incremental benefit I’m getting is 5x points on restaurants; maybe I’d be better off cutting that fee by $150 and forgoing some number of bonus points on dining
- The Citi Premier even offers some incredible bonus categories, including 3x points on dining, gas, groceries, airfare, and hotels
I like earning ThankYou points for airline mileage transfers
Why I Have The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
Under normal circumstances this is an incredible card:
- As the primary cardmember I get an Admirals Club membership
- I can then add 10 authorized users to the card and they each get Admirals Club access as well
- Admittedly this card is less valuable at the moment with reduced travel, but last year some existing cardmembers were being offered a $225 credit, which helps offset the annual fee
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.
The Citi AAdvantage Executive is the best card for Admirals Club access
I have four Citi credit cards, which allow me to maximize my Citi ThankYou points, and also get American Admirals Club access.
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?