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Today Citi made some updates to the Citi Premier Card, including a lucrative new sign-up bonus offer, a reduced annual fee, and improvements to the bonus spending categories. You can now earn 50,000 ThankYou Points after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. That’s a huge improvement from the previous bonus, which you couldn’t earn fully until your second year as a cardholder.
I value ThankYou Points at 1.6 cents apiece, so I think the sign-up bonus alone is worth $800. However, the other recent changes make it even more attractive. For starters, Citi lowered the annual fee from $125 to $95, and will continue to waive that fee for the first year. That puts ThankYou Premier more in line with its main competitor, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
As for the bonus categories, Citi increased the bonus to 3x points per dollar spent on travel, and broadened the travel category to include gas and a wide range of other expenses. In addition to airlines, hotels, and travel agencies (which were already included), you’ll now earn 3x ThankYou Points for spending on car rental agencies, gas stations, commuter transportation, taxi/limousines, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, time shares, bus lines, motor home/RV Rental, and boat rentals.
The one casualty among today’s updates was a decrease in the bonus for dining and entertainment purchases, which now earn 2x points per dollar instead of 3. However, the list of qualifying expenses hasn’t changed, and still includes restaurants and select entertainment merchants, such as sports promoters, theatrical promoters, movie theaters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, record stores, and video rental stores. You’ll also still earn 1 point per dollar for all other purchases.
Other benefits — like no foreign transaction fees and the 25% bonus on redemptions through the Citi ThankYou Travel portal — remain unchanged.
Citi has made great strides in the travel rewards space over the past year by bolstering the ThankYou Rewards program with 11 new airline transfer partners and adding quality benefits to its premium product, the Citi Prestige Card. Having recently launched an increased sign-up bonus for Prestige, it makes sense for Citi to reintroduce this offer for the ThankYou Premier card and bring in award travelers who are interested in the program, but prefer the lower annual fee.
Despite the improved redemption options, I still think ThankYou Rewards falls a bit short of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. However, the program is just one or two major transfer partners short of breaking out. If Citi could bring American Airlines AAdvantage into the fold along with another hotel partner (even an unspectacular one like Choice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards, or Best Western Rewards), I think ThankYou Rewards would become much more popular.
Nonetheless, this sign-up bonus for the ThankYou Premier Card is a no-brainer, especially with the relatively low spending requirement and minimal hassle required to earn it. I’m not sure why Citi felt compelled to lower the bonus on dining and entertainment — since keeping it would have put the card firmly ahead of Sapphire Preferred — but overall I think the improved bonus for travel purchases outweighs that decrease.
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