Citi Premier Card Changes: Should It Matter to You?

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Update:   One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.  Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.  Citi is an MMS advertising partner Doctor of Credit reports there are some big changes coming to the Citi ThankYou Premier card, starting April 19, 2015.

Citi is re-arranging the card’s category bonuses, and lowering the annual fee.  For many folks, this will be good news.

And they’re introducing new spending categories, like gas stations, which will earn extra points.

But if you’ve been using the Citi ThankYou Premier to earn 3 points per $1 on dining and entertainment, you might be disappointed.  I’ll explain!

What’s the Deal?

Link:   Citi ThankYou Premier Card

Citi is making 2 major changes to the ThankYou Premier card, effective April 19, 2015.

1.   Annual Fee Decrease

Right now, the annual fee on this card is $125, waived for the 1st year.  But FlyerTalk readers report that the annual fee is being reduced to $95 after the 1st year.

Citi Premier Card Changes Should It Matter To You
A Lower Annual Fee on the Citi ThankYou Premier Means More Money in Your Wallet!

I called Citi to verify, and they confirmed that the new annual fee is indeed $95 (and still waived for the 1st year).  That’s good news! 

2.   Changes to Bonus Spending Categories

Citi is switching around the bonus points you’ll earn for spending in different categories.  Depending on where you do most of your spending, this could be good or bad news!

Right now, here’s what you earn with the Citi ThankYou Premier:
  • 3 points per $1 you spend at restaurants and on entertainment
  • 2 points per $1 you spend on airfare, hotels, and travel agencies
  • 1 point per $1 you spend on everything else

Many folks liked this card because of the 3X bonus on dining and entertainment (which includes movie tickets, concerts, sporting events, tourist attractions, and amusement parks).

Citi Premier Card Changes Should It Matter To You
You Can Earn 3 Points per $1 on Entertainment With the Citi ThankYou Premier, but Not for Much Longer

After April 19, 2015, the 3X and 2X categories will switch!  It will be similar (but not identical) to the Citi Prestige card.

But the travel category is becoming much more broad.  You’ll earn 3 points per $1 you spend on:

  • Airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, and travel agencies
  • Gas stations
  • Commuter transportation, taxi/limousines, passenger railways, and cruise lines
  • Bridge and road tolls
  • Parking lots and garages
  • Campgrounds and trailer parks, time shares, and bus lines
  • Motor home / RV Rental and boat rentals

So you’ll have a lot more travel options to earn 3X points.  I especially like the gas station category, because you can buy lots of other things at gas stations, like groceries, automotive supplies, and many kinds of gift cards.  🙂

Citi Premier Card Changes Should It Matter To You
You Can Get 3X Points Buying All Kinds of Gift Cards at Gas Stations

The new travel categories make this card more competitive with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which earns 2X points on travel (but not gas stations!) or the Chase Ink Plus (2X points on gas stations and hotels).

But folks who spent lots of money on restaurants and entertainment might be disappointed, because those categories will soon only earn 2 points per $1 you spend.

That said, lots of gas stations sell chain restaurant gift cards, so with a little flexibility you can still earn 3X points on some dining.

Do the New Category Bonuses Make a Difference?

Remember, not all points are created equal!

So before you rush to get the Citi ThankYou Premier card, or switch your spending from other cards, think about how you use points and your travel plans.

For example, if you have a use in mind for Citi ThankYou points (like transferring to a partner airline like Singapore Airlines or Virgin Atlantic, which are also Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners), it might make sense to use the Citi ThankYou Premier card at gas stations, instead of the Chase Ink Plus.

But if you’re planning a trip using United Airlines, Hyatt, or other Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partners, it might not matter that the Citi ThankYou Premier earns more in these categories than certain Chase cards.  So consider your travel goals and see what makes the most sense for you.

Citi Premier Card Changes Should It Matter To You
Thinking About Changing Your Credit Card Spending? Your Travel Goals Make a Big Difference

Even if you’re not picky about airlines or hotels, remember that most Citi ThankYou airline partners are not US-based airlines (so getting domestic award tickets might be trickier).

And even though Citi ThankYou points transfer to Hilton at a 1 : 1.5 ratio, you’ll get far more value transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1 : 1 ratio to Hyatt.  That’s because Hyatt points are worth much more than Hilton points.

If you prefer to use points for cash back or booking travel online, you might consider the new 3X categories with the Citi ThankYou Premier. 

Because ThankYou points can be redeemed for cash back at 1 cent per point, or 1.25 cents per point when booking travel through the Citi ThankYou portal.  That’s the same rate as Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

And when using points this way, the 3X categories with the Citi ThankYou Premier make the card a better deal than the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.  Arrival points can be redeemed for 2.1% cash back towards travel.

Is This Still a Good Card to Consider?

Link:   My Review of the Citi ThankYou Premier

It depends on your travel goals and spending habits.

Overall, I think the category changes are positive, and the lower annual fee makes this a better deal than before.

If you like flexible points, and your travel plans include Citi ThankYou‘s airline and hotel transfer partners, the card is a good deal.  You can transfer points to 10 airlines (including Cathay Pacific, Flying Blue, and Singapore Airlines) and Hilton hotels.

Citi Premier Card Changes Should It Matter To You
This Card Is a Good Deal for Folks Who Like Transferring Citi ThankYou Points to Travel Partners, Like Singapore Airlines

You’ll earn a 50,000 point sign-up bonus.  That includes the 20,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months, and another 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of the 2nd year you have the card.

50,000 points are worth $500 in gift cards, ~$625 in airfare, and potentially more when transferred to airline and hotel partners.

But you’ll have to pay the $95 annual fee (and spend an additional $3,000) to get the last 30,000 points.  There are lots of ways to meet minimum spending requirements.

Citi Premier Card Changes Should It Matter To You
You’ll Have to Do Some Extra Spending to Get the Full 50,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus

Folks who spend a lot on the new 3X travel categories could do well with the new version of the card.

But if you already have cards that earn bonus points on gas (like the American Express EveryDay Preferred or the Chase Freedom at certain times of the year) or travel (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred) it might not matter as much to you.

And it really depends on whether you like to collect Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or American Express Membership Rewards points.  Or all three!

Bottom Line

Citi is reducing the annual fee and making bonus spending category changes to the Citi ThankYou Premier card, beginning April 19, 2015.

The annual fee is still waived for the 1st year, but is now $95 instead of $125.

After the changes take effect, you’ll earn 3 points per $1 on expanded travel categories (including gas stations, trains, and public transit) and 2 points per $1 on dining and entertainment.

Previously, it earned 2X points on travel (but only airlines, hotels, and travel agencies) and 3X points on restaurants and entertainment.

Some folks may decide to change their spending habits to make the most of the new 3X categories.  But that’s only worthwhile if you have a definite plan for Citi ThankYou points.

That’s because other programs, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, have better and more valuable transfer partners.  Always consider your travel goals!

How do you feel about the changes to the Citi ThankYou Premier?

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