What are the New Bonus Rules?
Citi has continued to add restrictions to their rules that limit how often you can earn a sign-up bonus on their credit cards. Citi cards used to be among the most churnable in the industry. Then they added language that limited bonuses to once every 18 months per card, which was later increased to 24 months.
The new rules limit you to one sign-up bonus per product line every 24 months. This means that you can only receive one AAdvantage bonus, one HHonors bonus, etc. per 24 month period. Therefore, receiving a bonus on one card prevents you from earning a bonus on multiple cards before the 24 month waiting period ends.
However, the new rules do not go into effect until August 28th.
Citi allows you to apply for two cards every 65 days, but they must be eight days apart. Therefore you could get up to two new cards before the new rules go into effect. If you want to get two new cards you will need to apply for them by the 19th and 27th of August at the latest.
What are the Citi Product Lines?
Citi has 5 product lines to which the new bonus restrictions apply:
- Hilton HHonors
- Citi Thankyou Points
Potential Strategies Going Forward
First, it must be emphasized that the current rule stating that you cannot receive a bonus for a product which you have opened or closed within the past 24 months still applies. Therefore, you need to focus your applications on products which fall outside this window for your individual situation. In addition, personal and business cards are treated separately, so you can receive two bonuses for substantially the same card.
Citi ThankYou Cards
There are three cards in the Citi ThankYou product line with the following bonuses:
If you are interested in acquiring Citi ThankYou points, this one is a no-brainer since only one of the three ThankYou point-earning cards, the Citi Prestige card, currently has a sign-up bonus.
The Citi Prestige card has been one of the best overall cards in the travel industry in recent years; however, Citi recently announced massive changes to the card that will significantly reduce the value proposition. For those who are approved for this card before September 1, the current benefits will remain until July 23rd, 2017. However, on that date, the follow changes will go into effect:
• No more American Airlines Admirals Club access
• Redemption rates for airfare will drop to 1.25 cents per point from the current rates of 1.6 points for American Airlines and 1.33 points for all other airfare
• No more three free rounds of golf
• The reimbursement for the 4th night free hotel benefit will be based on the average price and will not include taxes
This card has a $450 annual fee, so you will need to carefully consider if the remaining benefits are worth that much to you. The primary remaining benefits are an annual $250 airline travel credit, the aforementioned 4th night free hotel benefit, Global Entry/TSA Precheck reimbursement and a Priority Pass airport lounge membership which includes access for two guests.
American Airlines AAdvantage Cards
There are three cards in the AAdvantage product line with the following bonuses:
• AAdvantage Executive – 60,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months
• AAdvantage Platinum – 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
• AAdvantage Gold – 25,000 miles after spending $750 in the first three months
Deciding between these cards largely depends on how often you fly American. The Executive card comes with a hefty $450 annual fee, but also comes with an Admirals Club membership with access for authorized users at no additional charge. If you will be able to make frequent use of this benefit and don’t have access via other means, this card may be worth a long-term hold.
However, if you are considering these cards primarily for the sign-up bonuses, the Platinum card is probably best for you as the bonus is nearly as high as the Executive and the annual fee is only $95, waived for the first 12 months. In addition, many people who have received a bonus on this card in the past 24 months have been able to receive another as Citi has been sending out unsolicited upgrades from World MasterCard to World Elite MasterCard within a few months of account opening for many cardholders. Since these are considered different products people have been able to receive multiple bonuses. It helps to have a pre-qualified offer or a targeted mailer, so do some research before applying if this is part of your strategy.
Hilton HHonors Cards
• HHonors Visa Signature – 75,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
• HHonors Reserve – 2 free weekend nights after spending $2,500 in the first 4 months
The 75,000 point offer for the Signature card is the highest it has been historically. This card has no annual fee, so it could be a solid long-term hold for Hilton fans. It is possible to extract massive value from the Reserve card since the free weekend night certificates can be used at almost any property. This card also comes with Gold status, which is one of the best mid-tier hotel statuses since it comes with free breakfast. The Reserve card comes with a $95 annual fee, so consider if the ongoing benefits are worth a long-term hold based on your frequency of Hilton stays.
Expedia+ and AT&T Cards
We’re going to lump these two together and simply say that none of these cards have compelling sign-up bonuses (some have none at all) that are worth wasting one of your two possible new Citi card applications on before the new rules go into effect.