There are many aspects to maximizing your credit card rewards, including taking advantage of the best welcome bonuses, spending categories, and card benefits. Admittedly, some of us take credit card maximization to the extreme, having dozens of cards.
Sometimes I think it’s interesting to break down a card strategy by issuer, so in this article I wanted to share my Citi credit card strategy. Citi offers several excellent credit cards, especially those that earn Citi ThankYou points.
Here’s an overview of what you need to know to get approved for a Citi card, a summary of my strategy, and then the Citi cards I’m most interested in.
How many Citi cards can you have?
There is no formal limit to the number of Citi credit cards you can have. I have “only” three Citi credit cards, although I know many people who have many more Citi cards than that. Generally, the limiting factor with Citi is the total amount of credit you will be given, rather than the number of cards.
The other big restrictions relate to the application process, as I will explain below.
Restrictions on applying for Citi cards?
There are a few major restrictions to be aware of when applying for Citi cards…
Citi 8/65 day rule
It’s quite simple. Citi will approve you at most one card every eight days and at most two cards every 65 days. If you plan to apply for multiple Citi cards, you will need to pay close attention to timing. Note that this does not take into account cards that you request from other issuers.
Citi rule 24 and 48 months
Citi has 24 and 48 month rules for earning welcome bonuses, with the timing depending on the card you are applying for:
- With the 24 month rule, you are not eligible for the bonus on a particular card if you have closed that card within the last 24 months or received a new cardholder bonus on that card within the last 24 last months.
- With the 48 month rule, you are not eligible for the bonus on a particular card if you have closed that card within the last 48 months or received a new cardholder bonus on that card within the last 48 last months.
As you can see, the timeline here specifically refers to when you earned the bonus on a card, rather than when you requested the card. Additionally, it also refers to when you actually closed a card – having an open card does not necessarily make you ineligible to earn the bonus in the future.
Citi Family Card Rules
Some Citi cards have family card rules. For these cards:
- You are not eligible for the welcome bonus on a listed card if you have received a new cardholder bonus on any of the cards in that “family” within the last 24 months
- You are not eligible for the welcome bonus on a listed card if you have closed a card in this “family” within the last 24 months
What Citi cards do I have?
At the moment, I have the following three Citi credit cards:
I have the first two cards so I can maximize my Citi ThankYou points, while I have the last card for lounge access, so let me discuss that in a bit more detail.
How do I use my Citi cards?
There are two main reasons why I have Citi credit cards:
- One I have for the continued benefits it provides
- Two I got for the return on spend they offer
Let me explain why I have the three Citi cards I’m doing in a bit more detail.
Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is for lounge access
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card has an annual fee of $450 and is well worth it for the amazing lounge access benefits it offers:
- The primary cardholder receives full Admirals Club membership, which would normally cost significantly more than the annual card fee
- You can add up to 10 authorized users to the card at no additional cost, and each of them also has access to the Admirals Club, with the possibility of bringing two guests with them
Getting Admirals Club access for up to 11 people (plus guests) is a pretty incredible deal. I consider it one of the best cards for authorized users, and it’s also one of my favorite credit cards in terms of benefit value.
Citi Prestige & Citi Double Cash are ThankYou points
In general, I like to earn as much transferable point currency as possible for my credit card spending because it offers the most flexibility. Within each points currency ‘ecosystem’ (whether Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One or Chase Ultimate Rewards) there is an opportunity to build a portfolio of cards so you can maximize your earnings points.
When it comes to earning Citi ThankYou, I have the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi Double Cash Card.
The Citi Prestige Card is no longer open to new applicants, but here are the basics of the card:
- The card has a $495 annual fee, but offers a $250 annual travel credit, which to me is more or less worth its face value; that means the card is really costing me $245 a year
- The card offers 5x thank you points on restaurant purchases, making it one of the best cards for dining; I spend quite a lot of money on food so this is a big category for me
- Having this card unlocks the full value of the Citi ThankYou program, as you can transfer all Citi ThankYou points to airline and hotel partners if you have this card
Then you have the no annual fee Citi Double Cash Card, which I consider to be one of the best cards for everyday spending. The card offers 1x ThankYou points when you make a purchase and 1x ThankYou points when you pay for a purchase. Earning a total of 2x thank you points after paying your bill is a great return on spend and makes this card a keeper.
Should I replace the Citi Prestige with the Citi Premier?
As mentioned above, the Citi Prestige Card is no longer open to new applicants. The other popular “premium” card that earns Citi ThankYou points is the Citi Premier.® Map (revision). I keep coming and going to find out if I’m better off with the Citi Premier or the Citi Prestige.
For a little background on the Citi Premier Card’s $95 annual fee, which I consider incredibly well-rounded:
While the Citi Prestige has a $495 annual fee, it also offers a $250 annual travel credit, so I consider the card to really “cost” me $245 per year. That’s $150 more than I would pay on the Citi Premier. Is it worth earning essentially 5x points on meals rather than 3x points? I’ll have to do some math there…
Which Citi Cards do I want the most?
Admittedly, I don’t have the strongest Citi credit card wallet (at least compared to the Chase cards I have), but at the end of the day, I can only have so many credit cards. on all transmitters. There are a few other Citi credit cards that would be nice to have:
- I’m interested in the Citi Rewards+® card with no annual fee (review) because it has an innovative “rounding” feature on spend, and the card also offers a 10% discount on redemptions, which can earn you up to 10,000 ThankYou bonus points per year
- The Citi Custom Cash℠ card with no annual fee (review) offers 5x points on your main eligible spending category each billing cycle, up to $500 in spending per billing cycle; potential categories include pharmacies, fitness centers, gas stations, grocery stores, home improvement stores, live entertainment, restaurants, some streaming services, some public transportation, and some travel
I actually had the Citi Rewards+ card in 2020, but the account was closed to me due to lack of activity. Oops.
At the end of the line
I currently have three Citi credit cards, which allows me to maximize my Citi ThankYou points and get access to the American Admirals Club.
I maximize my ThankYou points by having the Citi Prestige card and the Citi Double Cash card – the former earns me 5x points at restaurants and the latter earns me 2x points on daily spending.
Then I have the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card, which is great for accessing the Admirals Club lounge. It not only offers Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder, but also offers Admirals Club access for up to 10 authorized users.
How does this compare to your Citi credit card strategy?