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.
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?!?
- 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!
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!