If you’re looking to earn travel rewards for your credit card spending, I always recommend doing what you can to earn transferable points currencies. That’s because these points give you the flexibility to transfer points to many programs, so you’re not invested in any single airline or hotel loyalty program.
American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards have the biggest suite of cards earning their points currencies. However, this is an area where Citi ThankYou is catching up, and the program overall is becoming more compelling.
In this post I wanted to take a look at the best cards for maximizing your Citi ThankYou points earning potential. For what it’s worth, as of now there are only personal credit cards earning Citi ThankYou points — hopefully some business cards are added in the future.
The two Citi ThankYou “hub” cards
While Citi has five valuable cards that can potentially earn you ThankYou points, the reality is that you need one of two cards for these points to efficiently be transferable to partners. Since one of the cards isn’t open to new applicants anymore, that means you need one specific card.
The good news is that the card is not only compelling in and of itself, but there are three excellent complements that can help you maximize your rewards. If you take the right strategy, you should easily be able to earn 2-5x ThankYou points per dollar spent on all your purchases, which is incredible.
First let’s take a look at the two “hub” Citi ThankYou cards, which earn you rewards that can be transfered directly to the Citi ThankYou airline and hotel partners.
Annual fee: $95
Bonus categories: 3x points on dining, 3x points on groceries, 3x points on gas stations, 3x points on hotels, 3x points on airfare, and 1x points everywhere else
The Citi Premier Card is the key hub card for maximizing Citi ThankYou points, as you need this card in order to maximize the value you get through the other cards. The card has fantastic bonus categories, no foreign transaction fees, a $100 annual hotel credit through the ThankYou portal, and more.
The card currently has a welcome bonus 80,000 ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of cardmembership. I’d argue this is the most well rounded mid-range credit card out there.
Annual fee: $495
Bonus categories: 5x points on dining, 3x points on airfare, 3x points on hotels, 3x points on cruises, and 1x points everywhere else
Let me start with the major catch — the Citi Prestige Card is no longer open to new applicants, so this card is only useful if you already have it. While the 5x points on dining on this card is nice, I’d argue it’s not nearly as well rounded of a product as the Citi Premier, which has solid bonus categories on dining, groceries, and gas, all with a more reasonable annual fee.
The three Citi ThankYou “booster” cards
There are three Citi credit cards that act as excellent complements to the Citi Premier Card. What’s fantastic is that all of these have no annual fee.
While they don’t independently earn points that can be transfered to airline and hotel partners, there’s a fun trick — in conjunction with the Citi Premier, the rewards on all of these cards can be transfered to partners. This process is really easy, and can be done online. With that in mind, below are the three cards, ranked in the order of the value they provide.
Annual fee: $0
Bonus categories: 2x points on all purchases (1x points when you make a purchase, and 1x points when you pay for that purchase)
The Citi Double Cash Card is an unrivaled product for non-bonused, everyday spending. The card offers 1x points when you make a purchase, and 1x points when you pay for that purchase. These rewards can either be combined with Citi ThankYou points earned on other cards, or can be redeemed for cash back at the rate of one cent per point. This is my go-to card for everyday spending, and it probably should be yours as well.
Annual fee: $0
Bonus categories: 5x points in your top eligible spending category every billing cycle, on up to $500 worth of spending per billing cycle, and 1x points everywhere else
The Citi Custom Cash has a unique rewards structure, as you can earn a massive 5x points, though you’re capped at $500 of spending per month for earning those bonus points. Eligible spending categories include drugstores, fitness clubs, gas stations, grocery stores, home improvement stores, live entertainment, restaurants, select streaming services, select transit, and select travel.
Some of those categories otherwise aren’t eligible for bonus points with many other cards, so this could be useful if you spend a decent amount at home improvement stores, or on entertainment, for example.
Annual fee: $0
Bonus categories: Purchases are rounded up to the nearest 10x ThankYou points, 2x points at supermarkets and at gas stations (up to $6,000/year and then 1x), and 1x points everywhere else
There are a couple of things that make the Citi Rewards+ Card special. The bonus points at supermarkets and gas stations isn’t noteworthy, since the Citi Premier has better bonus categories there. Instead what’s cool is the ability to round up purchases. In other words, a $1 purchase would earn you 10 ThankYou points.
The other huge benefit of having this card is that you get 10% of your points back when you redeem them, up to 10,000 points back per year. This is awesome, because if you redeem at least 100,000 ThankYou points per year (even if they’re earned on the Citi Premier), having this no annual fee card will get you 10,000 points per year.
Best strategy for maximizing Citi ThankYou points
Often you can really supercharge your points earning potential by picking up credit card duos, and that’s an area where I think Citi beats any other issuer, at least for those looking to earn airline miles. I don’t think there’s a single better two-card strategy than picking up the Citi Premier Card and then the Citi Double Cash Card. Why is this such a great strategy?
- Between the two cards you’ll pay a single $95 annual fee
- You can pick up 80,000 ThankYou points with the amazing Citi Premier welcome bonus, which could earn you at least 80,000 airline miles or $800 worth of travel
- Between the two cards you’d earn 2-3x ThankYou points for all of your purchase — you’d earn 3x points on dining, groceries, gas, airfare, and hotels, and you’d earn 2x points on all other purchases; not only is that an unbeatable return on everyday spending, but there’s not another mid-range card with such broad bonus categories
If you’re going to apply for the two cards, I’d recommend picking up the Citi Premier Card first, and then applying for the Citi Double Cash Card at least nine days later, based on Citi’s application and approval rules.
That combination really can’t be beat. Now, if you’re willing to put a bit more effort into your strategy, I’d absolutely also recommend picking up the other no annual fee complements over time, including the Citi Custom Cash Card and Citi Rewards+ Card.
While the Citi ThankYou ecosystem isn’t quite as robust as those of Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, the options are still excellent. The Citi Premier Card is a reasonably priced “hub” card with excellent bonus categories and a reasonable annual fee, and then there are some excellent complements. In particular, I love being able to earn 2x ThankYou points with the Citi Double Cash Card.
Which Citi ThankYou cards do you have for maximizing points?