4 Things Holding Back Citi ThankYou From Being the Best Points Program

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For too long, Chase Ultimate Rewards has been considered the best all-around points program for peeps who like collecting them (myself included).

You welcome

You welcome

AMEX is failing miserably at just about everything right now, except for AMEX Offers.

They lost Costco and jetBlue, might lose Starwood, Membership Rewards doesn’t have (m)any great transfer partners (maybe Delta, Aeroplan, and ANA for niche award flight redemptions), and they’ve absolutely failed to make timely and industry-leading adjustments to their credit card and points line-up for a long time (thanks for dropping forex fees after like, a decade…).

That left the door wide open for Citi to swoop in (Barclays and Bank of America were never a concern). And man, they really took their chance.

I went from having 1 Citi AAdvantage card to wanting multiple Citi cards in a short while. I’m in love with Citi Prestige because of all the money it’s saved me in the few months I’ve had it.

Current Citi cards I have and want

I already have these 3 Citi cards:

And I’d like to add 4 these, too:

  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select – 50K bonus miles before the devAAluation in March 2016
  • Citi AT&T Access More – 3x Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on online shopping
  • Citi ThankYou Premier – 3X Citi ThankYou points on all travel including gas, and a nice sign-up bonus
  • Citi Hilton Reserve – 2 weekend nights at nearly ANY Hilton hotel, which would be nice now that I’m Hilton Diamond. Kinda like the Chase Hyatt Visa, which gives 2 nights at ANY Hyatt with no restrictions
1 of each, plz

1 of each, plz

Could I get them all? 

I doubt Citi would let me have 7 cards all at once. Maybe 2 more. I’d probably snag the Citi AT&T Access More and Citi ThankYou Premier, and forgo the other 2.

But this is a great problem for a consumer to have – Citi has a lot of compelling products right now.

However, it’s not enough for me to abandon Chase Ultimate Rewards as my primary points program.

4 Things I Wish Citi Would Change

I touched on these topics before. But it’s worth expanding on. Because Citi is sitting on a goldmine… if they’d only make a few tweaks.

1. Remove dumb expiration rules and multiple types of Citi ThankYou points

As far as I can tell, there are 4 types of Citi ThankYou points:

  • Points earned from ThankYou credit cards – no expiration and can be transferred to partners
  • Points earned from checking accounts – expire in ~5 years and can’t be transferred to partners
  • Points transferred from someone else’s checking account to your checking account – expire in 90 days and can’t be transferred to partners
  • Points transferred from someone else’s ThankYou credit card to your ThankYou credit card – expire in 90 days and can be transferred to partners
Ugh, le whatever

Ugh, le whatever

This is a lot to keep track of. The upside is that if you have Citi Prestige, they’re always worth at least 1.6 cents toward AA flights and 1.33 cents toward other flights.

With Chase Ultimate Rewards points, a point is a point (is a point). It never expires and can be transferred to partners if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Ink Plus/Bold. Simple.

Citi needs to clean this up, because the tiers are confusing, and it’s a good way to alienate customers who expect one thing from their points only to find limitations (or worse, expiration) later.

2. Add 4X or 5X categories

As it stands, the most number of Citi ThankYou points you can earn per $1 spent is 3.

Gimme five. A 5X bonus category, that is

Gimme five. A 5X bonus category, that is

With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can earn 5 points per $1 with the Chase Ink/Bold/Cash card at office supply stores, and on cable/phone/internet charges. And, it’s a huge, wide-open category.

It’s also industry best. Citi needs to match it with some good categories.

3. Add a shopping portal

I use Shop Through Chase all the time to earn extra Ultimate Rewards points.

It’s easy and it works.

as

Just add ThankYou points instead of cashback and viola!

It seems like it’d be pretty easy for Citi to add a ThankYou shopping portal given they already have the Citi Bonus Cash Center. Give it good payouts, earn commissions, and let peeps increase their points balance.

AMEX used to have a Membership Rewards portal they took down citing maintenance, and then shuttered. That was a few years ago by now.

Come on, Citi. Compete!

4. Add at least 1 GOOD transfer partner

American Airlines or Alaska Airlines would be the dream. Preferably American though, to soothe the sting of the jacked-up award prices coming in March 2016.

as

It’s time

It also makes sense because Citi is their main credit card issuer. And, it would put American on par with the banking relationships of other legacy carriers (AMEX to Delta, Chase to United).

K cool, get even more flexible again

K cool, get even more flexible again

Or why not, I dunno, Korean or ANA or LifeMiles or some other decent international points program?

Another hotel program would be welcome, too.

Bonus. Make Citi Smart Savings awesome

Citi Smart Savings should be a viable contender to compete with AMEX Offers.

It had a promising start. And when they rolled it out before Black Friday, I braced for the torrent of awesome offers.

Then it just kinda… sucked. And still currently sucks.

Failure to launch

Failure to launch

Great offers on Citi cards would easily convince me to use them more. As it is, I use other cards for non-bonused spending. Either a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, or my Fidelity AMEX for 2% cashback (while I still have it).

as

Citi Smart Savings + Citi Price Rewind would be an excellent duo for Citi cards

Combined with Citi Price Rewind and the AT&T Access More card’s 3X points for online purchases, this could be an excellent shopping trio!

Bottom line

Citi has all the makings of a world-class points program.

They have the card products in place, the transfer partners, the infrastructure for a shopping portal, and the skeleton of an offers program.

All they need to do is go for it.

They’ve been going for it, so it’s like rooting for the little engine that could to go just a little farther. They could be the best points program if they made some changes.

So this is my wish list. What could Citi change that would make ThankYou your #1 points program?

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. I believe the Prestige now includes gas in its 3x category. Seems adding the Premier would mostly be about the sign-up bonus, or if you want to dump the Prestige for a cheaper AF.

  2. You can definitely have all those cards, and more, at once!

    I currently have open from Citi:

    1 DoubleCash card
    1 TY Pref card
    1 TY Premier card
    1 AA Business Platinum card
    1 AA Gold World Mastercard
    1 AA Bronze card
    1 AA Amex
    1 AA Platinum World Mastercard
    1 Hilton Reserve card
    1 Hilton Signature card

  3. I seem to care about this more than most, but the delay in transferring TY points to most of the transfer partners really bugs me. In my experience TY points transfer much slower than other issuers’ points do to the SAME programs (e.g. TY vs. AmexMR to both Flying Blue & Virgin Atlantic = 2+ days vs. nearly instant). I really like the flexibility that MR and UR give me to book on a whim and not have to have a “backup plan”, which really isn’t possible for me sometimes; I’m not a churn-o-matic kind of guy so i don’t have extra points lying around in every which program. That’s my #1 complaint about what i think is otherwise a really useful program.

    • Oh, that’s an excellent one to add! Agreed, award space changes fast and sometimes 2 days is a deal-breaker – then you have points in a program you can’t use.

      I’m not sure how much pull they have to speed that up – but instant is always better. Thanks for adding!

  4. I have the Citi AA Platinum and Citi AA Amex. There Is no AF on the Amex as long as I have the Platinum. Is that always the case (i.e, with new cards)?

    I recently got the Citi Thankyou Preferred. It had a 20K bonus and I’m out to build up a few more no AF cards for long term hold.

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