When you’re trying to find the cheapest price for gas, all you have to do is read the sign as you drive by a station. If one station display has a lower price than the other, it’s simply a better deal. But with credit cards, banks seem to be trying to make it as confusing as possible when you’re trying to find the best deal. The Citi Rewards+℠ Mastercard is a great example of this. It has a complicated formula for offering you bonus points, as well as numerous ways to redeem these points for rewards that vary in value. Let’s take a quick look at this card, and see what real value it has.
How the Citi Rewards+℠ Card works
This card offers you 15,000 sign-up bonus points after you make $1,000 in new purchases within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 2X ThankYou points for purchases at supermarket gas stations, but only for your first $6,000 spent each year, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Also, Citi will round up your rewards to the nearest 10 points on every purchase, with no cap. Finally, you’ll receive 10% of your redeemed points back on your first 100,000 points redeemed each year.
The points you earn are in Citi’s ThankYou® Rewards program, and they can be redeemed in many different ways including gift cards, merchandise, travel reservations, and loan repayments. Points are generally worth about one cent each towards these options. But if you also have a Citi Premier or Prestige, then your ThankYou points can also be transferred to miles with 15 different airline transfer partners. When you’re able to transfer your rewards to miles and redeem those miles for expensive reservations in business or first class, you can often realize much more new Citi rewards than one cent in value per point redeemed. If you only have the Rewards+ card, then you can’t transfer your points to miles.
New accounts also receive 12 months of 0% intro APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers (completed within four months of account opening), with a 3% balance transfer fee. There’s no annual fee for this card, but there’s a 3% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the United States.
How does this card compare to its competitors?
The real competitors for Rewards+ are other rewards cards with no annual fee. First, there are several rewards credit cards such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Discover it Miles that offer 1.5% cash back on all purchases, without all of the complicated rewards formulas of the Rewards+. The American Express Blue Cash Everyday is another similar card. This credit card offers 3% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 spent each year, 2% back at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% back on all other purchases. It also has no annual fee.
However, Citi’s own Double Cash is probably a better deal than any of these cards, because it offers 2% cash back in the form of 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay for your purchase. The Double Cash also has no annual fee, and it’s difficult to imagine that you’ll earn as much value from the Rewards+.
Who this card is right for
Since there’s a better cash back card offered by Citi itself, what’s left for the Citi Rewards+card are points that really work well for those who already have other Citi cards and collect Citi ThankYou points from their Citi Premier or Prestige card. If you use the Rewards+ card to compliment your other Citi ThankYou cards, and you plan on transferring your points to miles, then you’ll have the chance to utilize all of this card’s various bonuses to earn more rewards than you could with just the Premier or Prestige alone. This assumes that you’re going to be transferring your points to miles, and finding some really good uses for your miles.
And as always, reward cards are best used by cardholders who avoid interest by always paying their balance in full. When you carry a balance, and you’re better off using a card with the lowest possible interest rate.
Citi has come up with a really complicated rewards structure, but it can make sense for those who know how to make the most of their Citi ThankYou points. But if you’re just looking for a simple card that offers great value, keep looking. Instead, focus on a top cash back card, one like Citi’s own Double Cash. Don’t be distracted by confusing bonus systems, and focus on finding a rewards card that offers great value. When you do that, you’ll be able to decide if Citi’s Rewards+ is right for you.