Is The Citi Rewards+ Juice Still Worth the Squeeze?

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Maximize Citi Rewards+

Maximize Citi Rewards+

I’ve had my share of fun with the Citi Rewards+ card over the past few years.  The tinkering started in earnest with my 2020 Citi Rewards+ strategy, and I tweaked it a bit for 2021.  Before I get too far into 2022, I’m looking back on how I did with the Rewards+ last year.  No matter what the results are, I’m still having a good time with the card.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s rewarding enough for me.   Is it still worth the effort to maximize Citi Rewards+?  Let’s see.  But first, I’m sharing a quick recap on what makes the Rewards+ attractive.

A Quick Reset on How I Maximize Citi Rewards+

The Rewards+ holds two unique features for cardholders.  First, the round up feature increases the earning on every purchase to the next 10 points.  For example, a $9 purchase earns 10 ThankYou points.  A $0.25 purchase also earns 10 points.  Small purchases obviously earn at a much higher rate.  Second, the points back feature provides 10% of redeemed points back into a cardholder’s account annually on up to 100k redeemed points.  That’s an easy 10k points back each year for any healthy ThankYou point earner.

Maximize Citi Rewards+

My 2021 Results

Back in late 2020, I decided to put all 2021 purchases under $5 on my Rewards+ card.  Upon reviewing my 2021 Rewards+ purchases, though, none of them came even close.  My largest transaction was $3.08, and that was the only one over $3.  I made a few purchases between $1 and $3, but the vast majority of 2021 transactions were under a buck.

In total, I made 91 purchases with my Citi Rewards+ in 2021 and spent $61.41.  As expected, I earned a meager 910 ThankYou Points at an outstanding 14.8x rate.

Should I Bother to Maximize Citi Rewards+?

First things first.  I redeemed plenty of ThankYou points in the past few years and received the maximum 10k ThankYou points back into my account annually.  I primarily cashed out ThankYou points last year, so that’s an easy $100 value.  Simultaneously, I earned at a 14.8x rate on the Rewards+ using my simple strategy.  Obtaining $100 while earning at a high rate on a no fee card is a no-brainer, right?  Not necessarily.

Credit Line Opportunity Cost

An irony of the Citi Rewards+ is that it is more rewarding from a return perspective when one spends miniscule amounts on the card.  While the Rewards+ has a few bonus categories, most all of us can do better with those of other cards.  These two factors could lead one to essentially waste a significant amount of unused credit line with Citi on the Rewards+.  What’s the point of a big Rewards+ credit limit?

Therefore, perhaps I and other cardholders should consider a product change to another Citi card.  In particular, points enthusiasts who tend to max out their other Citi card credit limits may benefit.  This hits home even more when taking into account two other Citi wrinkles.

First, it can be relatively difficult to significantly raise a Citi card’s credit limit.  Citi has gotten slightly better here over time – you can now request an increase online, and Citi randomly provides credit limit increases automatically.   But it’s easier to move around credit limit from other cards with other banks, in my experience.

Second, Citi is very flexible with product changes.  I’ve been able to product change to most any Citi card I want, including hopping card “families.”  For instance, I product changed a Citi AA MileUp card to a Custom Cash not too long ago.

Maximize Citi Rewards+

Citi Product Changes To Consider

If the Rewards+ isn’t useful enough for you, what Citi cards should you consider product changing for?  Let Citi’s bonus categories, your spending habits, and redemption preferences lead the way.  Here are just a few examples:

Premier:  Consider product changing to this card if you significantly spend in the 3x grocery, gas, and/or dining bonus categories.

Double Cash:  If you have a very diverse spending pattern and need more 2x everywhere, this may be the right move.

Custom Cash:  Consumers who don’t spend over $500 monthly on credit cards and enjoy 5x earning in their favorite category (including grocery, gas, and dining) may do best here.

Maximize Citi Rewards+

The Best of Both Worlds

Can you take advantage of the best benefit of the Rewards+ without wasting your credit line there?  Yes!  But how?  By making timely product changes.  Let me explain.

Early in a calendar year, redeem at least 100k ThankYou points to maximize the points back feature of the Citi Rewards+.  After you receive the 10k points back in your ThankYou account (and redeem them, if necessary), product change to your preferred Citi card.  Moving forward, you can optimally leverage the full credit limit of your new Citi card, particularly in the bonus categories.  And thanks to Citi’s product change flexibility, you can always convert again in the future, maybe even back to the Rewards+.

Conclusion

I’ve already gotten all 10k points back thanks to the Rewards+ in 2022, but I have no need to product change currently.  Like many of you, I have plenty of credit line with my other Citi cards, so the product change isn’t necessary.   But like much in this hobby, things can change quickly, and it’s nice to know I can easily adapt with Citi.  For right now, I’ll keep the Rewards+ for purchases under $3.  How do you maximize Citi Rewards+?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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7 COMMENTS

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I was LOVING this card for a couple years until early last year. I was selling a LOT of stuff on eBay and charged each ship label separately and as eBay fees built, would pay them off a couple bucks at a time, up to 4-4 times a day, EVERY day. No cost to me since the costs were all from the eBay sales. Meant 4-5k points a month and since the mailman picked up here, I never had to leave my property but when I wanted to go look for more loot to sell.

    Quit the eBay though due to them becoming idiots and also screwing things up.

  2. I can’t think of a single purchase I’ve made recently that was under $3. Especially with inflation nowadays…
    Only strategy I can think of is reloading your Amazon balance $0.50 at a time, but that seems like a huge PIA to get 20X, and also seems like it would get shut down by Citi or Amazon eventually.

  3. I go to my trainer 3-4 times per week and street parking is $1.75. So it’s 10 points each time. I can’t get 5x parking anywhere else. It’s a strange card but pairs well with others in the Citi universe.

    • Mark,
      I can identify with that point. I’ve found myself rationalizing unexpected but necessary small purchases by thinking to myself, “at least I earned at a high rate with my Rewards+.”

  4. How often can you product change the same card? I know you have to wait a full year when you first acquire a new card, but does that hold for PC’s? Would it be possible to do a PC to Rewards+ every year when you want to redeem the 100k miles, then switch back soon after?

    • Darin,
      Great question, and I don’t know if there’s an absolutely right or wrong answer there. I’ve never PC’d a Citi card twice within a year. I welcome readers to chime in with their experiences here. If you timed it right, though, what’s the big rush to get the Rewards+ back? The round-up feature is nice, but not that big a perk where I want it back ASAP, in my opinion.

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