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One of the hottest travel rewards credit cards out there right now is the Citi Prestige Card. The card was recently updated with additional features and a new sign-up bonus of 75,000 ThankYou points after $7,500 in purchases within three months of account opening. For many readers, spending the equivalent of $2,500 per month on a credit card may not be that easy, so today I want to go through my list of six tips to ensure that you hit that threshold to earn the full sign-up bonus.
Before getting into my list, there are two critical reminders I have to point out. First, If you apply for the Citi Prestige and start working toward the $7,500 threshold, note that the $450 annual fee does not count toward this limit. You may be tempted to simply aim for three consecutive statement balances of $2,500, but you will miss out on the bonus if this is the case. I would recommend going for $3,000 in month one (which will include the $450 annual fee) and then $2,500 in months two and three. The last thing you want to do is fall just short of a sign-up bonus, especially one worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
Second, be sure to take note of the following language from the application page of the Citi Prestige:
“Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”
Be sure to look back carefully at your previous accounts to make sure that it’s been at least two years since you carried one of these three cards in your wallet. You’d hate to apply, get approved, spend the $7,500 to earn the sign-up bonus and then find out you weren’t eligible because you canceled your Citi Premier Card 23 months before applying for the Prestige.
So how can you accelerate your progress toward the sign-up bonus on the Citi Prestige Card? Here are some suggestions:
1. Pay Your Rent or Mortgage
The first method to consider utilizing is to pay your rent or mortgage using the Citi Prestige. As noted in the previously linked post, finding a landlord, apartment complex or bank to accept this payment without charging a fee is relatively rare. However, if the only way you’ll earn the sign-up bonus is by swiping the card for an expense you don’t normally charge, it can be worth it.
For example, let’s say that you had a monthly rent or mortgage payment of $1,000 and you’d have to pay a 3% fee to use a credit card. When you looked at your typical spending patterns, you realize that you’d probably only be able to get to $5,000 in purchases over the first three months with your new Citi Prestige, well short of the threshold needed to earn the sign-up bonus. However, if you added three months of rent/mortgage payments, you’ve now earned the 75,000 bonus points.
Here’s how that breaks down mathematically (assuming you’re earning just 1 point per dollar on all purchases for simplicity’s sake):
Don’t pay the rent/mortgage with the Prestige:
Total purchases: $5,000
Earnings: $5,000 x 1 point per dollar = 5,000 ThankYou points (worth $80)
Return on spending: $80 / $5,000 = 1.6%
Pay the rent/mortgage with the Prestige:
Total purchases: $5,000 + $3,000 + $90 = $8,090
Earnings: $8,090 x 1 point per dollar = 8,090 ThankYou points (worth $129.44)
Sign-up bonus: 75,000 ThankYou points (worth $1,200)
Return on spending: $1,329.44 / $8,090 = 16.4%
If you want to look at it another way, you’re essentially paying an extra $90 to earn 75,000 ThankYou points. Again, if this is the only way you’d be able to hit the $7,500 threshold, it’s a no-brainer.
2. Pre-Paying Insurance, Utilities or Other Regular Expenses
Another way to boost your spending to hit the $7,500 threshold is to investigate pre-paying certain expenses. Many utility and insurance companies will bill you monthly, and you can often choose the size of the payment you make to cover that month’s bill. You could add an extra $100 to your utility bill payment for the first three months of cardmembership, or you could prepay three or even six months of insurance to ensure you’re reaching the amount needed to earn the sign-up bonus. Just be sure that you’re accounting for these expenses and can afford to pay your monthly balance off in full — my first commandment for travel rewards credit cards.
Another option would be to pay an annual or bi-annual bill early (again, as long as you can afford to pay the entire statement balance in full). For example, my wife and I utilize a fantastic local company for regular yard and pest treatment, and we are billed a flat amount each year. If I knew that this bill was coming in January, outside of the three-month timeline for earning the sign-up bonus, I could call and simply ask to pay it in advance. If you’re struggling to hit $7,500, it could make sense to look ahead six months and see what bills are coming due that could help get your across that threshold.
3. Offer to Pick Up the Tab When Dining Out With Friends
An easy way to generate “free” spending is when you’re dining out with a large group. Even though I’ve sung the praises of travel rewards credit cards and the fantastic awards they unlock, many of my friends and family members still use cash or even debit cards when we’re at a restaurant. I’ve also run into situations where the waiter or waitress is unwilling to split a check, and it becomes a scramble to figure out who owes what, who has cash and who doesn’t, etc.
Enter you with the Citi Prestige Card and your desire to hit the minimum spend. Offer to put the entire meal on your card (earning 2x ThankYou points in the process) and have them either give you cash on the spot or send it for free via an online service like PayPal or Venmo. Because you receive the funds to cover their portion of the bill, your only true out-of-pocket expense is your meal. Of course, you may not want the hassle of chasing your less-than-reliable friends who don’t pony up immediately, but if you’re all right with that wrinkle, this can be a nice boost toward $7,500.
4. Pick Up Some Gift Cards at Your Local Pharmacy or Grocery Store
Another possible option for pulling future expenses into the three-month window for earning the sign-up bonus is to purchase gift cards. Many pharmacies and grocery stores carry these cards for a variety of retailers, including Target, Home Depot, Macy’s and Starbucks. This could be a great way to prepay future expenses at specific merchants, but you could also use them as gifts. Christmas is still well over four months away, but by the time the prime holiday shopping season is upon us, you’ll probably be well past the window for earning the sign-up bonus.
Just be aware that the amount of gift cards you’re able to purchase at these stores with a credit card may be limited. I know my local Publix supermarket limits these transactions to $100, so don’t think you can pick up thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards in one fell swoop.
5. Put a Down Payment on a New Car
If you’re in the market for a new car, this can be another great way to ensure you meet the minimum spend on the Citi Prestige Card. You may not be as lucky as TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr, who was able to charge an entire car to his Platinum Card® from American Express, but you could still get a sizeable chunk of your $7,500 out of the way with a down payment. Just be sure to confirm a final deal with the salesperson before discussing the possibility of swiping your card, as this will help ensure the dealership doesn’t tack on extra fees for the privilege.
In addition, you’ll likely find that you’re limited in the total dollar amount that can be put on a card; I’ve read that $5,000 is a typical limit, though my wife just traded in her old leased Lexus for a new one, and her preferred dealership had a $3,000 maximum. Naturally, she put that full amount on her card:
6. Pay for Your Kids’ College Tuition
A final strategy that can help you hit this $7,500 threshold to earn the sign-up bonus on the Citi Prestige is particularly appropriate for this time of year: paying college tuition for your kid(s). You’ll likely find that colleges and universities fit into three different categories when it comes to this option:
- Tuition cannot be paid with a credit card (like my undergraduate alma mater, Wake Forest).
- Tuition can be paid with a credit card with no fee (like one of the graduate schools I attended, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas).
- Tuition can be paid with a credit card with a fee (like the University of Florida, where I obtained my MBA).
You’re obviously out of luck with the first category, while the second category is a no-brainer. For the third, it’s once again up to you to crunch the numbers and determine if paying a fee makes sense, just like the rent/mortgage strategy mentioned above. If you have no other feasible way to hit the minimum spend threshold, paying a small fee on these tuition payments may be worth it. However, if you can use any of the other fee-free tips mentioned above, that will keep money in your pocket.
Of course, it isn’t just the sign-up bonus that makes the Citi Prestige Card such a valuable addition to your wallet. It also carries a host of other benefits to make your travel life even more rewarding:
- A fourth night free on paid hotel stays
- Priority Pass Select membership, including access for your immediate family or two guests
- A $250 annual air travel credit, which is automatically granted for just about any airline purchase (including airfare) and is awarded each calendar year
- 3x points on airfare and hotel purchases and 2x points on dining and entertainment
- $100 Global Entry credit every five years
This doesn’t even include the valuable protections on the card, including baggage and trip delay coverage that kick in after just 3 hours and unlimited roadside assistance. It does carry a $450 annual fee, but with smart use of the sign-up bonus and perks mentioned above, you can easily cover that fee and then some.
For a full comparison of this card and others with similar annual fees, be sure to check out my Battle of the Premium Travel Rewards Credit Cards.
The Citi Prestige Card offers a compelling value proposition for a wide variety of travelers, especially given the current 75,000-point sign-up bonus. Unfortunately, this does require a relatively high amount of spending ($7,500 in three months) to earn. If you’re intrigued by the card but nervous about reaching that threshold, I hope this post has given you some suggestions for how to do just that!
For more information on the Citi Prestige, be sure to check out the following posts:
- Credit Card Review: Is the Citi Prestige Worth It?
- Citi Prestige FAQs and Live Link for 75,000 Bonus Points
- Citi Prestige to Offer 75,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus and New Features
How are you planning on hitting the $7,500 spending threshold to earn the sign-up bonus on the Citi Prestige?
Know before you go.
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