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Here's why getting a card with just a 20,000-point bonus was a no-brainer for us

May 18, 2022
6 min read
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If you had told me a year ago that I'd successfully convince my wife to apply for a credit card offering just 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus, I would have laughed. I'd have thought the hard inquiry on her credit report wasn't worth it, and I likely would have said something about the "opportunity cost" of putting spending on a card offering such a low bonus. Wouldn't she be better off putting that spending on a card offering more points?

This week, I'm admitting my own error. I recently talked my wife into applying for the Citi Rewards+® Card. The welcome offer hasn't gotten any bigger, so what changed?

Here's my take on why applying for this card became a no-brainer for us.

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Citi Rewards+ perks, benefits and bonus

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Rewards+ card has no annual fee and earns Citi ThankYou Rewards points, which you can transfer to 16 airline and hotel loyalty programs at present.

The Rewards+ card has a welcome offer with three components right now. First, you can earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,500 on the card in the first three months of card membership. Second, the card has a 0% introductory annual percentage rate on purchases and balance transfers during the first 15 months (after that, the standard variable APR of 15.74% to 25.74% takes effect). Third, you can earn 5 points per dollar on air travel and hotels paid for with your card in the first 12 months of account membership — on up to $6,000 of these purchases.

The standard earning structure is as follows:

  • 2 points per dollar at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year in these categories, then 1 point per dollar.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Points you earn on every purchase are automatically rounded up to the nearest 10. A $1 purchase earns 10 points, while a purchase of $10.99 will earn 20 points.

Luckily, the terms state that earning 5 points per dollar applies to "air travel, hotels and travel agency purchases" — so it's a relatively broad category.

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Related: Citi Rewards+ credit card: Boost earning rates on all your Citi ThankYou points-earning cards

Since the Rewards+ card is a no-annual-fee card, it doesn't have many other perks. You get access to Citi Concierge and Citi Entertainment, both of which can provide useful assistance. However, the card isn't good for spending while traveling outside the U.S., since it levies a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Why applying for this card was a no-brainer

The Rewards+ welcome offer of 20,000 bonus points is nowhere near the top of the list for most points available right now. In fact, there are a dozen credit cards offering welcome bonuses of 100,000 points or more.

So why did we apply for this card?

If you look at the list of best credit cards for travel spending, you will see that The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5 points per dollar on flights purchased directly from airlines and with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 in these purchases per calendar year). In addition, you'll earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel.

Also on this list is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, which earns bonus miles on bookings with Capital One Travel: 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars plus 5 miles per dollar on flights booked in the portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has these same earning rates on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, but it also offers 3 points per dollar on all other travel purchases.

Meanwhile, the Citi Premier® Card earns 3 points per dollar on flights and hotels.

Those look nice when you can book through those channels, but what if the best price I see on a flight comes from an online travel agency? What if I'm booking a hotel directly with the hotel itself and not in a travel portal? The cards above don't offer a lot of great options for bonus points here. They also all have annual fees — some of them in the hundreds of dollars.

Related: 9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly

Since the Rewards+ card offers the ability to earn 5 points per dollar on flights and hotels during the first year (limited to $6,000 of spending, though), we can pair this with my Platinum Card to ensure we earn 5 points per dollar on all of our flight and hotel spending for the next year, as follows:

  • We'll pay for flights booked directly with airlines using my Platinum Card.
  • We'll pay for hotels booked directly with a chain or for any travel booked through an OTA using the Rewards+ card.

In either case, we'll earn 5 points per dollar, and — thanks to the feature of rounding up to the nearest 10 points on the Rewards+ card — we'll take home some additional Citi points as well.

Bottom line

I tend to overlook smaller sign-up bonuses, and this may be a blind spot for my rewards strategy. I honestly hadn't realized that the welcome offer of 20,000 bonus points also comes with the bonus earning rate — something we will definitely utilize over the next 12 months.

The fact this all comes with a low spending requirement and no annual fee made applying for the Citi Rewards+ Card a no-brainer for us this week. And since my wife was instantly approved for the card online, we can start utilizing it very soon.

Featured image by Getty Images/Hero Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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