It has been fascinating to see how banks and credit card companies have reacted to global markets over the past two years as travel has started to return. Two years ago, when no one was on the road and consumer spending was uncertain, they cut sign-up bonuses. But with the sudden return of travel, banks have suddenly stepped up their marketing with some of the best deals I’ve ever seen. For example, Marriott offered five free nights for its Boundless card, worth up to 250,000 Bonvoy points.
Citi ups the ante with the Citi Premier Mastercard
I am constantly amazed by what banks are willing to offer just to get people to acquire their credit cards. In the case of Citi Premier Card, that number starts at $800. All you have to do is spend $4,000 in your first three months as a cardholder and pay the $95 annual fee.
Fortunately, the annual fee is easy to pay. Citi offers a $100 travel credit every year on a hotel stay that costs $500 or more, so you’ll end up earning $5 at the end.
The bonus comes in the form of 80,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards points, which are Citibank’s exclusive “currency”. Rather than using them for just one type of award or miles on just one airline, Citi gives you a variety of options, some better than others. I will focus on the best.
Bonus categories for spending – Citi Premier
One of the best features of the card is the number of categories in which you will earn bonus points. While you earn one point per dollar for certain purchases, there are a ton of daily spend categories where you’ll earn triple points, including:
- 3X points at gas stations
- 3X points in supermarkets
- 3X restaurant points
- 3X points for air travel and hotels
Bonus categories are great for racking up miles quickly because most of us shop in these categories several times a week.
There are two main uses for points
Like any other rewards program, there are several redemption options, but some are better than others. I think there are two particularly interesting options for thank you points.
Option 1: $800 easy
There’s nothing like a bank giving me money for free. In this case, they hand over a check for $800. If you choose to take your rewards points in cash, all you have to do is go online, tell Citi you want them to convert your points to cash and they’ll credit your statement, send you a check or directly deposit the money. I have no doubt that by next year they will be able to owl it.
But transfer the Points to miles might be the best option
If you prefer to travel with your points, you could win big. Citi lets you transfer your points to one of 14 global airlines, two hotel companies, or, oddly enough, the Shop Your Way program. The airlines will offer you the best value for money and you have the choice between:
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Cathay Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest Miles
- Eva Air Infinity MileageLands
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Thai royal orchid
- Turkish Miles and Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Aeroclub
What can I do with my Miles?
Airline miles are converted from 1 to 1, so you’ll earn 80,000 miles, which can take you just about anywhere you want to go in style.
If you have never traveled on the famous Singapore Airlines in business class, now is your chance! You can start with Europe, because a flight from JFK to Frankfurt will only cost you 81,000 KrisFlyer miles. And if you take a few more, you can get to Singapore from either coast, the trip costing around 110,000 miles. Don’t worry about the return flight; once you arrive in Singapore, you may never want to come back.
Want to stay a little closer to home? Try JetBlue. TrueBlue uses variable redemption prices, so the point cost will vary with the cash cost of the ticket. And while JetBlue has been slowly decreasing the value of TrueBlue points, your 80,000 points can still earn you over $1,000 in travel.
The beauty of ThankYou points is that you’ll have many airlines to choose from when booking your reward. So if one airline charges an exorbitant number of miles to get to your destination, but another can do it for much less, you can simply transfer to the cheaper partner.
The Citi Premier Card is a basic card to carry
The Citi Premier Card has a rare combination of a huge sign-up bonus and great spending bonuses, so it’s worth keeping the card past the introductory period. Also, be sure to use the $100 travel credit to offset the annual fee.
Check Citi Premier Card.