Case Study: Working Within Citi’s New Application Bonus Rules

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citi credit card churning rules

Citi Credit Card Bonus Rules

Within the past few months Citi has instituted new language regarding bonuses on applications for just about every single one of their products. While some zombie links are still around without this language, for the most part Citi’s policy regarding getting a bonus multiple times is the same across the board. This is both good and bad.

Here is the new language:

Bonus offer is not available if you have had a (insert Citi product name here) account that was opened or closed in the past 18 months.

Why This Language Stinks

I generally don’t think Citi is the smartest company, but from their standpoint this language is absolutely brilliant since it will catch most people in a trap. You cannot get a bonus within 18 months of opening your account and then when you close it the clock starts ticking again. The only wiggle room they give you is to have multiples of the same card which is sort of strange.

So here are your basic options for getting a bonus the second time while working within the rules:

  • Open a card and close it in 12 months. Wait an additional 18 months to reopen for a total of 30 months.
  • Open card and keep for 2 years. Get second card at 18 month mark. You can get a new card every 18 months.

Option #2 is obviously better, but it requires keeping a card and paying an annual fee in many cases. Of course the value of that will vary depending on the product and any retention offers you receive.

No matter which route you choose, it is always good to look at your options before closing any Citi credit card account since you will be barred for 18 months from getting another bonus for that type of card.

My Experiment

citi credit card churning rules

My wife has had a Citi HHonors Reserve card for two years. We ended up spending $10k on the card in year 1 (to get a bonus free weekend night) and got a decent retention offer so she decided to keep it for year 2. The annual fee on that card is due in a couple of days so we have to make a decision as to what to do.

Unfortunately that card has been in the sock drawer for a year, so we didn’t spend the $10k required to get a free night. So if she pays the $95 annual fee, then all she gets for it Gold status. Or she could play within the rules and get a new HHonors Reserve card right before cancelling the existing one. That way she would get 2 free nights. (There is an expiring version of the offer with a $100 statement credit as well. See this thread for more info.)

Based on the language, as long as she hasn’t opened or closed a Citi HHonors Reserve account within the past 18 months she should be eligible for the bonus. I plan to apply this weekend, on the day before her annual fee is due on the other card. The main reason for doing this is to test how Citi is enforcing their language since my wife will have closed her old card before the bonus is due to post.


We will see how the experiment pans out, although I suspect there shouldn’t be any issues with getting the bonus on the new account. Citi has definitely improved their IT a bit, but since my wife’s situation falls within their published rules, everything should be ok.

My plan is to report back in about a week after I confirm the bonus on the newly opened account with Citi. At that point I should have confirmation as to whether or not Citi is enforcing their rules as written, which is not something that has always happened in the past.

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  1. Just came across this older post about Citi cards. So with Citi cards you can get the exact same card and sign up bonus without closing the old one? Or do I have to cancel the card and wait 18 months to apply for it in order to get the sign up bonus? I have an AAdvantage MC I’ve had for years, trying to decide what to do with it to get more miles. Thanks in advance! -Joe

    • The rule is you cannot get the bonus on the same product if you have opened or closed that card in the past 18 months. The “loophole” in that is you can get the bonus again if you still have the card open and it has been 18 months since you got it. If you close the card first, the 18 month clock starts ticking again.

  2. Hey does anyone know if you can convert the discover it Miles card, to this now much better discover it cash back card? If not I may have to try to get both. 3% cash back everywhere from Discover it Miles, 10% on rotating categories with discover it cash back.

  3. I wonder how they would treat a Product Change, would it be treated the same as if you had closed the card?

    • That is an interesting question, but my understanding is a product change would mark the closing of that product. Of course the reality of how that is enforced may be different.

  4. Can’t wait for your next post. The citi hilton reserve is both a blessing and a curse. If your experiment works I will follow the steps you took as well. Would love another 2 free weekend nights. Blowing $10k/yr to stock up on hilton pesos hurts when the opportunity cost is 10k of SPG points I could have earned.

  5. After getting my 5th prestige card and noticing that I didn’t get the 50k thank you points I quickly opened the Hilton reserve card moving 11k. The rep said I had to keep 2k on the prestige and closed it moving the $450 to pay down a different citi card with a balance .


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