Q&A With Jud Linville, CEO of Citi Global Cards

Jul 29, 2017

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With the refresh of the Citi Prestige and its gigantic 75,000 point sign-up bonus we brought just about the best person to talk about the Citi products, Jud Linville, the CEO of Citi Global Cards. Linville’s been at Citi since 2010 and helped revive their ThankYou program. In a conversation with The Points Guy, Linville hit on topics like the future of their rewards program, other banks entering the premium credit card market and his favorite 4th night free redemption.

Here’s a recap with highlights from their recent Facebook Live broadcast:

How do you foresee the premium space? Are there going to be more entrants and do you think Citi is positioned sufficiently?

I’ve been around the premium space for quite some time. We launched Prestige back in 2013, and when I arrived at Citi we said we need to build a good, better, best model with rewards points. Citi had a ThankYou program that was a strong program — but it just atrophied over time. In my prior life [when Linville was at Amex], we looked at it in comparison to Membership Rewards and said this was a killer program. So part of it was to bring back ThankYou the second was to build a high-end card that would go head to head with the Amex Platinum card.

What we announced this past week was really a refresh of that program. If you look at Reserve and how it got built, these program look awfully similar in a lot of ways. The thing that’s unique about the Prestige is the 4th night free — and that came directly from our research on millennials and what they value.

What’s been your favorite or most valuable 4th night free redemption?

I got a call from my daughter who said “Dad, I have to take two weeks off. It’s mandatory since I work on the trading desk. It’s going to be a dad-daughter trip.” And I said “Good, I’m in. What are we doing?” She said “Africa.” She was in charge of all the planning — and did a phenomenal job.

We went to South Africa and we went to multiple places; in South Africa to Botswana and to Zimbabwe. But the hotel in Cape Town [was] absolutely spectacular. I stayed at One&Only Cape Town.

Are you the prowl for other co-brands and acquisitions? In this new digital age will we be seeing the Airbnb card or the Blue Apron Card and all these new brands?

We are always in the market looking at different kinds of distribution and loyalty programs. I’d say we are very focused on brands that fit with us — because not everyone does. The other is that we look for companies that have obsessed customers — that have a high degree of engagement either because of the experience that that partner provides or their loyalty program. Because it also allows us to different distributions, where people can gain access to our products in different kinds of ways. The other thing is these kinds of things are years in the making; Costco was years in the making.

You have to always be in the marketplace to see what looks attractive and figure out where you want to play. In regards to some of the digital startups that are scaling up pretty quickly, absolutely [we are looking at them]. In Singapore, we have deals with Grab, where you can use your points in the taxi. With Alipay and WeChat, we have different distributions deals… it’s not just co-brands.

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