Citi’s New Bonus Rules: The Terrible Changes You Need to Know About & What This Means

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Citi Credit Card Bonus Rules Tighten

Citi Credit Card Bonus Rules Tighten

Things have changed quite drastically in this space over the past 12 months and dare I say in the wrong direction. Most notably when it comes to credit card bonuses, we have seen Chase implement and widen the 5/24 guideline, American Express restrict bonuses on business cards to once per lifetime and Citi change their bonus timeline from 18 months to 24 months. And that is just the big players!

Unfortunately it is getting worse. Yesterday we took a new blow. A huge one. Via Doctor of Credit, Citi has now instituted new language on all of their cards limiting bonuses per product line. For example, here is the new language on ThankYou cards:

Bonus ThankYou points are not available if you have had ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige cards opened or closed in the past 24 months.

and Hilton cards (this is the Hilton Reserve):

Weekend Night Certificates offer is not available if you have had any Citi®Hilton HHonors™  card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

and American Airlines credit cards:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi®/AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Heck it even applies to the Expedia cards:

Expedia+ Points Bonus Offer is not available if you have had any Expedia+ or Expedia+ Voyager card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

What This Means

About 18 months ago Citi became tremendously aggressive when it came to growing their business. They increased their bonuses to 50K on their top level cards (the Premier went to 60K at one point) and even began offering 3X points on travel with the ThankYou Premier. At the same time their retention department was the most generous in the business offering crazy promotions like 3X everywhere!

Unfortunately the gravy train did not and could not last. I have written before that technology is truly our enemy. Previously they could see what was losing them money in a broad sense, but now they can see which customers, which behaviors and specifically which products at which times are. Hence these new rules. Technology allows them to adapt quicker than ever and in a way that is not beneficial to those who look to optimize their own credit card strategy.

While I don’t know what the future brings with Citi, clearly with the expensive acquisition of Costco, the slowing of retention, the gutting of the Prestige card and now the significant changes to how they will issue bonuses, the company is changing how they see themselves within the market. What that vision is remains a mystery to me, but with a second rate loyalty program (yeah I am talking about you ThankYou) and weak co-branded relationships (both Hilton and AA have other partners) outside of Costco, perhaps they need to do something. But is this the right thing?!?

Other Thoughts

  • Based on the AA language, business cards do seem to be treated differently. That is good I suppose.
  • The “open or close” language has generally always applied to product conversions too, so I assume that these new rules do as well. That is of course not confirmed, but I would be careful converting to a new product until you confirm that it won’t prohibit you from getting a bonus on any other product within that family.
  • We may likely see bonuses return for the ThankYou Preferred and ThankYou Premier cards. While the language could just be boiler plate, I still think it is crazy that the premium Premier doesn’t have a bonus. This new language protects them enough that I think we will see bonuses return sooner rather than later!

Your Thoughts?

Is this the right move for Citi? Of course those of us who enjoy getting bonuses might not think so, but what do you think if you step back a moment? Will this hurt them from getting new customers or will it be a positive move since they will weed out credit card churners? Share your opinions in the comments!


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39 COMMENTS

  1. Do you know if there is a Citi equivalent to Chase Private Client to get around (5/24) to sort of get a backdoor around this?

  2. I don’t have any Citi cards, but was added as an authorized user on the Citi AA Executive for the lounge benefit. Will this prevent me from getting my own Citi AA card?

  3. I have a AA Citi Plat Select card that I opened 10 yrs ago. Since I haven’t opened/closed a Citi AA card in the last 24 months, can I still apply for one and get the bonus…or am i out of luck?

  4. This is a huge blow! You can now only get one of each product every 2 years, no more double dipping. Glad I got the premier and prestige at the same time last year. Even with the Hilton cards it was nice being able to get the points and free nights to make a solid week of vacation from two cards. On the bright side, it’s not as bad as chase and AMEX.

    • I think it is worse then Amex. You have to wait 2 years in between each category. Like having to get all amex charge cards 2 years apart.

      • amex is once per lifetime, citi is once every 2 years. amex is by far the worst in that it does not allow churning at all.

  5. Sure it’s a blow to us. We don’t make them money. Your average credit card holder doesn’t have 15-20 cards. Maybe 3-4. And even if they hold multiple cards from the same bank, most won’t see the “benefits” of having multiples of a co-brand, aside from a business version (which is why, smartly, Citi is excluding that).

  6. Not surprising. Most of us are probably losing them massive amount of money. I honestly think a significant chunk of this community is starting to progress more towards exploiting than optimizing. Bonuses will only get more and more restrictive from here on out.

  7. I see it from a business perspective. I think it will hurt some. I could see a person holding the prestige and premiere at the same time but now they probably wouldn’t want to. What they lose in business from normal people they more then make up for by limiting churners. I am surprised they didn’t do it sooner. I think the AA executive churning built it towards this.

  8. Sad for us, but good move on their part.

    And I prefer dealing with Citi’s new policy than with Chase’s 5/24 or Amex’ once-per-lifetime bonus. Unfortunately, I prefer Chase’s cards.

    If every issuer used Citi’s rules, we could still indefinitely rotate through all 3 issuers’ card bonuses so long as we paced ourselves reasonably, and doing so would probably make sure all of us were profitable to them while we did it.

    Bulls get fat, bears get fat — pigs get slaughtered.

  9. Will a product change of “AA Plat VISA –> Double Cash” make me have to wait for 24 months for next AA Plat MC?

  10. Perhaps the tighter restrictions all around (Chase, Amex, Citi) will drive away some of the bloggers. Affiliate links become less frequent / less lucrative.

  11. I’m getting ready to go through my collection of cards and narrow the field dramatically, focusing on strategic spending and less on sign-up bonuses. Though I might start churning BofA Amtrak cards the way you all do Alaska cards. 😉

    This comes at a pretty good time for me. My son is taking over my business in Dallas and moving it to Colorado where he lives. I’m retiring. I won’t be flying to DFW nearly as much, if at all, and won’t care about Admirals Club access after Sept. My Citi Prestige AF posts in a couple of weeks. I’m trying to figure out how to spend all of Hubby’s and my TYPs soon. Then, I’ll probably close all of my Citi cards and sit out Citi for a couple of years. They are pretty far down on my hit parade anyway these days. Maybe I’ll have used up my AA miles by then.

    Since we moved from Suburban NYC/ CT to Pittsburgh, my travel strategy has changed a lot. It is a much easier drive to a lot of places we want to go (Gettysburg, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville). We have a SW companion pass for domestic and Caribbean flights. Amtrak to NYC and Philly. So, I save most miles for 2 or 3 international trips a year. A lot of my focus lately has been on hotels.

    • “Though I might start churning BofA Amtrak cards the way you all do Alaska cards” Once you start, you will debunk your own myth within several applications.

        • When one becomes many, it will sound defensive. Now I suggest to stop thinking and onto action. Go ahead and hit BoA, and again, and again, best after 90 days like “the way we all do”. Next stop by and share your success 😉

          • I applied for my first BofA Amtrak card less than 60 days ago, after using up the Chase pts I transferred before the change. So, I can’t apply again until late Sept.

            I’m not sure who you are, but I wonder at you feeling like you need to give me unsolicited advice or judgment about my decisions. This isn’t your blog, correct?

  12. Don’t care whether it’s better for Citi or not. Assume it is.

    I’ve certainly benefited from their weird lax and sloppy policies in the past? A fourth Citi Exec in the span of a few months? Sure why not? I can only be thankful I’ve hit them for a bunch of these bonuses before this kicked in.

    Its still the same Citi. Will they mail me offers without the language? Will there be zombie links out there forever? Will they slip up periodically? Seems likely. Can only hope.

    With some cards the churn becomes pretty difficult. If you don’t see keeping the (newly devalued) Prestige card long term, you probably don’t want to pay another $450 fee just to avoid resetting the clock on (devalued) TYP cards so you can get 30K TYP on some Premier application in another year. After the first year the double airfare credit thing goes away…

    Who offers credit cards other than Citi, Chase and Amex again? Oh yeah, time to get another BofA Alaska card before they wise up…

  13. I have Business / AAdvantage Select Visa, opened 2012. Will this prevent me from getting Business® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® ?

  14. I am over 50 and have excellent credit I was denied the Citicard AAdvantage this week, shockingly so. I have excellent credit going back decades and I own my house outright– does the ‘0″ in the rent/mortgage box look suspicious?? I’ve had a Citicard in the past and always paid on time, have always maintained excellent credit. I was buying two tickets to Europe as a wedding gift for someone else and saw the bonus offer on the AA website so I went ahead and applied for the Citicard thinking I could get credit for that purchase right away (hey, other cards and other FF programs do it). I was instantaneously denied for the card! I am hovering right around 24 months since my last Citicard. I just got the Delta American Express card so maybe that is why I was denied… I don’t know, I wasn’t expecting a denial. I will be calling about it but I won’t hold my breath.

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