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

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citi credit card churning

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Navigating Citi’s New Bonus Rules – The Results

A couple of weeks ago I talked about Citi’s new credit card bonus rules and how they can be a bit difficult to navigate. Basically they won’t allow you to have a bonus if you have opened or closed a card within the last 18 months. Here is the exact 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.

This policy opens up a sort of sweet spot if you keep a card longer than 18 months, but want to cancel or convert it before paying the 2nd year annual fee. This was exactly the situation I was in, so I decided to do an expirement.

The Experiment

citi credit card churning

My wife had a Citi HHonors Reserve card that she had kept past the first year following a retention offer. The card was 24 months old and thus was coming up on the 2nd year’s annual fee. She wanted to cancel or convert it, but that would mean she wasn’t eligible to get a bonus on the Reserve card for 18 months.

I theorized that applying for a new HHonors Reserve card before cancelling the other card would work to earn the bonus. Even though that should be evident based on the language, Citi has been erratic in the past with enforcement and I wanted to confirm this for myself and everyone else looking to do the same thing.

The Results

citi credit card churning

My wife applied for the new HHonors Reserve card on the last day before the annual fee was due on her old card. The application went to pending, so she called in and verified some information for them before being instantly approved.

The very next day (the day the payment was due on the annual fee), she called Citi and decided to ultimately convert the old Reserve card to a Dividend instead of closing it. Fast forward a few weeks later and the new Reserve card has come and I have verified in writing with Citi that she is eligible for the bonus on the new card.


Now that we know Citi’s new bonus rules are being enforced as written (at least in this case), we can begin to carve out a strategy like I laid out in my original post. There is a lot of value in being able to get a bonus more than once and knowing a bank rules is valuable.

Do you have a data point to add to this discussion? Let us know in the comments!


Shawn Coomer
Shawn Coomer earns and burns millions of miles/points per year circling the globe with his family. An expert at accumulating travel rewards, he founded Miles to Memories to help others achieve their travel goals for pennies on the dollar. Shawn also runs a million dollar reselling business, knows Vegas better than most and loves to spend his time at the 12 Disney parks across the world.

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  1. So I just reached my renewal fee this month for Citi AAdvantage (Personal). Charge has already posted on statement. I’ve had this card for 4 years now and this is the first time they wouldn’t waive the annual fee. Based on your experience, do you suggest that I downgrade the card (which they did offer – no annual fee, 1 point for every $2 spent type-of-thing) and then apply for this card again?

    I guess I understand that you can apply for the same card and get the bonus as long as you don’t have that card anymore and in the right window of time from opening closing and account.

    I was thinking of closing it but then I’d have to wait 18 months before applying for it again due to the new rules. It’s been 20 months since I last applied and was approved for any Citi card. It’s been 22 months since I last closed a Citi card.

    Thanks Shawn!

  2. Shawn: If I have an AA Platinum Select Visa Card that renewed my first year on Jan 7 (they gave me 95.00 credit to keep it) I could now apply for the same credit card which which is now 18 months later (since I applied for it) even though I already have an AA Platinum Select Visa card

  3. Did Citi just took a possible bonus from me? I have an American Airlines Citi for 2 years and I have had a no fee citi card (originally dividend, then citi forced a change to a no fee ThankYou) for 5 years. This 5 year old account was closed by Citi due to inactivity fir 24 months. I’m not active on churning but like to apply for credit cards here and there for bonuses. With this rule, I cannot get a bonus for Hilton Citi or another Citi card with bonuses. Did I understand this rule? I’m quite upset with Citi because I have no intentions of closing my no fee ThankYou card.

  4. Looks like I’m personally screeeeewed for sometime. And maybe that’s ok.
    -Just recently downgraded Executive #1, Closed #2 month later due to thinking I’d open my line to auto approved again.
    -Have all the Chase I could want, but based on their new rules am shut down for a year.
    -Have some flexibility with AMEX but have only not owned the plat products. May be able to churn biz.
    -Alaska Air here I come? (Though not interested).
    Ugg. But hey.. I’m on vacation thanks to these guys!

  5. Any clue how a downgrade event my play into this scheme? Last Nov I downgraded my HHilton Reserve card to the no fee version, which I then canceled a few months ago. My plan was to reapply soon for the Reserve card, but now it sounds like I need to wait quite awhile. Or did the downgrade-then-cancel help me out at all?

  6. I also was wondering if there was some benefit to waiting to the last minute (or at 24 months) to apply for the second card (as opposed to applying at say month 19)?

    • No benefit to waiting. These rules are new and thus I worked this strategy into my big picture strategy. That is why I waited until the last day. In fact, it would probably be most efficient to do this at 18 months.

  7. I’m in the exact same situation as your wife was, but with my Citi AA Platinum Select. My AF for the 2nd year is due on July 1st. I’ve already called Citi twice, spoken with two retention reps, both nice, on different days, but since Citi already comped my AF fee last year, they can’t offer to do it a second time, and apparently there’re no other retention offers on my account (i.e. spend this much and we’ll give you double/triple miles), so I haven’t known what to do, but now I think I may do what you guys did, but I’m not sure I want to wait until the day right before I cancel. Was there any reason you guys did that, and didn’t want to do it, say, a week prior? Is there any benefit to waiting right up until that very last day?

  8. I had the same outcome with my Citi Premier application. My current Premier cards (Visa/MC) are 2 years old, obtained from 2 browser trick when it was working. Every year retention dept. gives me a statement credit that covers annual fee. Anyway, since it was more than 18 months since I got Premier cards and now Citi offers 50K for their Premier cards, I applied, was approved, got a letter with bonus mentioned, spent $3K and got my 50K TYP. So, now I have 3 Premier cards.

    • Premiere card is fee free for citigold clients no?
      if that is the case could I get 3 Premiere cards without a fee?

  9. I kindly ask if you don’t mind providing a 3rd update on this topic. I would like to know if citi actually ends up issuing the 2 free weekend nights as they had confirmed in writing. Without any follow up on your end that is… Ie will it be automatic or will it be a nightmare of back and forths between you, citi and hilton.

  10. As your wife had not closed the first credit card, and as she called for approval on the second — did they not ask why she was taking out a second of the same card she already had? What was or would your response to that question have been?

    • For every application over the past year or so my wife and I have had to call Citi to verify information. We never get approval, but the reps on the phone never ask any questions. Basically we call up, verify our information and they say congratulations I can approve you.

    • Sorry for not being more clear. The Dividend is Citi’s version of the Chase Freedom. It has rotating 5% categories every quarter. Unfortunately Citi has discontinued it for new customers, but you can still convert an existing card to it.

  11. As she opened her second card of the same type without closing the first, and as she had to call for approval — did they even ask why she was attempting to get a second of the same card she already had?

  12. I thought that Citi restricted one Reserve card per person. Would I be able to open another one if I am past 18 months and intend to keep both cards?

    • Apparently that isn’t the case under the new rules. Yes you should be able to open a second one, since my wife could have kept her old one and had two if she wanted.


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