Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Aug 31

Citibank Tightens Restrictions on Credit Card Bonuses

Credit card companies are in somewhat of a bind when it comes to credit card bonuses. On the one hand, they want people to apply for and use their cards. That’s how they make money. On the other hand, they are dealing with an increasing number of customers who are applying for the cards simply for the bonus and then never using the card again (or canceling it). That is not a way to generate a profit. And on the other other hand, they have to compete with banks doing the same thing. As competition for profitable credit card customers intensifies, the banks are offering higher and higher bonuses.

Citibank – One Card Type Per Person, Per Two Years

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Traditionally, Citibank has been the easiest bank to game.

  • Several years ago, for example, they offered a card that came with a 100,000 miles sign-up bonus. The $450 sign-up fee was supposed to be somewhat of a gating mechanism to keep out the undesirables, but 100,000 miles is still worth more than $450. But it got worse (for Citibank). Not only did they fail to limit how many cards a person could get (two per sixty days wasn’t much of a limit)  but they also refunded the annual fee if you canceled your card within 37 days of the fee hitting your statement. Customers would apply for the card, buy $10,000 worth of gift cards which they would then convert to money orders at Walmart (It’s no longer that easy.), pay their card bill and repeat the whole process. By the way, you also got to keep the $200 bonus that came with your first purchase. I know someone who got eight of these cards through this method.
  • A few years back, Citi introduced the Prestige Card. The card was meant to be the bank’s version of the American Express Platinum card, but it never got the street cred that the Amex did. It did, however, offer an array of bonuses that made the card ridiculously profitable for holders, including a huge cash credit and great airline lounge access. They have since cut out some of the bonuses, but it’s still a positive value expectation card.

Enough was finally enough for the bank and, a few days ago, it introduced a 24-month rule. You can no longer get a bonus for any card that you opened or closed within the past 24 months. But they made it worse: You can’t even get a card in the same family as the one you had. So if you had a Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card, you can’t get the bonus for opening the Executive World Elite version of the card. You could, instead, get something like the Citi Hilton card (although you’d also be limited to one of the two offerings in that family), but you’re restricted on AA miles for some time.

The Bottom Line

The game continues to get more difficult. Keep your eyes open and take advantage of opportunities when you get them.

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