Citi Quadfecta: An effortless way to rack up AA miles (if you hurry)
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You’ve heard of the Chase Trifecta and the Amex Trifecta, haven’t you? They’re specific three-card combinations that can make you a points-earning monster. With these strategies, you’ll get the most possible points from every swipe of your credit card.
With a newly released credit card, Citi has now entered the ring with its own power-earning collection of cards. We’re calling it the Citi Quadfecta — and it’s extremely relevant right now. Through Nov. 13, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.
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Here’s the magic combination:
One of the best things about this combo is that it involves just one annual fee ($95 for the Citi Premier). Let’s quickly look at the key virtues of each card that make it possible to rapidly earn Citi ThankYou points (and therefore American Airlines miles) from your plain ol’ everyday spending.
The Citi Premier is the center of the Citi Quadfecta’s magic. That’s because this card allows you to transfer Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines (and other valuable Citi transfer partners, too). Without it, you relegate the rewards you earn with the other cards on this list to cash back.
Annual fee: $95.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This is an all-time-high bonus. Per TPG valuations, this bonus is worth $1,360 in travel.
Rewards rate: You’ll earn 3 points per dollar in the following categories
You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on everything else.
This is an above-average return on an above-average number of bonus categories. Citi ThankYou points are worth 1.7 cents each, according to TPG valuations. Earning 3x points means you’re getting a return of 5.1 cents per dollar!
APPLY HERE: Citi Premier
Annual fee: $0.
Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in cash back (20,000 Citi ThankYou points) after spending $750 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. TPG valuations peg the value of 20,000 ThankYou points at $340 in travel.
Rewards rate: You’ll earn 5% cash back (5x points) on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent). Here are the eligible categories:
- Gas stations.
- Grocery stores.
- Select travel (airlines, hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies).
- Select transit (car rentals, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, bus lines and motor home and recreational vehicle rentals).
- Select streaming services (cable, satellite and streaming providers such as Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Apple Music, CBS All Access, Disney+, AT&T TV Now, ESPN+, fuboTV, HBO Max, NBA League Pass, Netflix, Pandora, Showtime, Sling TV, Spotify, Starz, SiriusXM, Vudu, YouTube Red, YouTube TV and Tidal).
- Home improvement stores.
- Fitness clubs.
- Live entertainment.
You’re capped at 2,500 bonus points per billing cycle. You’ll earn 1% (1x points) on everything else. In other words, this card is good only for 2,500 bonus points per month, and then you should throw it in the sock drawer.
APPLY HERE: Citi Custom Cash
Annual fee: $0.
Sign-up bonus: None.
Rewards rate: You’ll earn 1% back when you make a purchase, and 1% back when you pay your bill. That’s an effective 2% back (2x points) on all purchases. As TPG values Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, you’ll get an effective 3.4% back on all purchases with this card. That’s pretty great. Any purchases that don’t fall into a bonus category of the above cards should go on your Citi Double Cash.
APPLY HERE: Citi Double Cash
Annual fee: $0.
Sign-up bonus: For a limited time, earn 20,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within three months of account opening. That’s worth $340 in travel, according to TPG valuations.
Rewards rate: You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on the following purchases (for the first $6,000 in category spending per year, then 1x):
- Gas stations.
All other spending earns 1 point per dollar.
This isn’t a remarkable return, but the Citi Rewards+ has a couple of extremely valuable secrets.
- The card rounds up your points-earning to the nearest 10 points. For example, if you buy a quart of ice cream for $6, you’ll earn 10 points instead of 6 points.
- You’ll receive a 10% rebate on all Citi ThankYou points you redeem, up to 100,000 points per year.
That second point is hugely important to getting the most from your ThankYou points.
APPLY HERE: Citi Rewards+
How these cards work together
Below is a chart of possible returns with the Citi Quadfecta. Here’s how you could use these cards to maximize every dollar you spend.
A couple of notes:
- I’ve accounted for the fact that the Citi Custom Cash only earns 5x on up to $500 in spending each month. For the below example, I spread the $500 over multiple categories — although you could probably max out the $500 in spending at the supermarket with ease.
- You should never put spending on the Citi Rewards+ (except perhaps once every six months to ensure Citi doesn’t close it for inactivity). The card only exists in your strategy for the 10% bonus.
|Category||Max earning rate||Citi Rewards+ 10% bonus (up to 100K points annually)||Effective return (per TPG valuations)||Fictitious annual spending/earning figures|
|Supermarkets||3x (Citi Premier)||3.3x||5.61%||$6,000 ($336 in travel)|
|Restaurants||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||$4,200 ($392 in travel)|
|Gas stations||3x (Citi Premier)||3.3x||5.61%||$1,800 ($101 in travel)|
|Fitness clubs||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||$180 ($17 in travel)|
|Drugstores||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||$720 ($67 in travel)|
|Select streaming||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||$480 ($45 in travel)|
|Home improvement stores||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||$420 ($39 in travel)|
|Live entertainment||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||N/A|
|Select transit||5x (Citi Custom Cash)||5.5x||9.35%||N/A|
|Everything else||2x (Citi Double Cash)||2.2x||3.74%||$6,000 ($224 in travel)|
Obviously, your strategy will shift with your unique monthly expenses. For example, if you had a large purchase in “live entertainment” one month, you’d use your Citi Custom Cash to pay for it and get your Citi Premier to cover your restaurant spending.
With this theoretical budget, you could earn around 72,000 Citi ThankYou points per year. That’s more than $1,200 in travel each year — or significantly more if you know how to maximize Citi ThankYou points. For example:
- Reserve a one-way business-class flight to Europe for 57,500 points (transfer to American Airlines). This easily retails for over $2,000.
- Reserve a one-way transcontinental business-class flight on United Airlines for as little as 12,500 points (transfer to Turkish Airlines). This retails for over $600.
- Reserve a one-way first-class flight to Asia for 90,000 points (transfer to Avianca). This retails for over $8,000.
The Citi ThankYou program is batting with the big leagues for the next few months. Through Nov. 13, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.
If Citi is able to acquire American Airlines as a permanent transfer partner, it will be a huge win for the miles and points community. With the Citi Quadfecta, you may find yourself earning 70,000-plus American Airlines miles per year just by making everyday purchases.
Let me know how you use the Citi Quadfecta to achieve your travel goals!
Featured photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy.
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