Citi Rewards+ Card: Is It the Best New Cash Rewards Credit Card?
The Citi Rewards+ is a rewards credit card from Citi that utilizes an unprecedented round-up method to help card users earn 10 points at a time, as well as a sign-up bonus worth $150 in gift cards.
The round-up method is what makes this card unique among mainstream credit cards, as other rewards cards provide a fixed rate for certain type of purchases.
The card is one of several in the Citi cash rewards lineup and was the newest one when it debuted in January 2019. This card provides you with the chance to earn more ThankYou rewards points (the name Citi gives to their points) than any other card without an annual fee.
In this review, we’ll talk about how you can earn rewards the first year and subsequent years, how valuable those points are when you redeem them, what the card’s interest rates and fees are and how the Rewards+ compares to other rewards cards.
How to Earn Rewards With the Citi Rewards+ Card
Earning rewards with this card and any rewards card is simple: use it. Whenever you make purchases online or in-person, Citi knows how much you spend and will automatically calculate how many points you’ve earned, then add those points to your rewards balance.
You can check your rewards balance when you log into your account. Also, you can redeem those rewards whenever you’d like, which is what we’ll talk about in a few minutes.
Purchases you make at gas stations and grocery stores will earn you two ThankYou points per dollar. All other purchases will earn 1 ThankYou point per dollar.
Now, this is the point at which most rewards cards stop. You have a limited number of ways to earn extra points and those points are always tied to the dollar amount you spend. Sometimes its 10 points per dollar, sometimes it’s five depending on what you’re buying.
Where the Rewards+ departs from the norm is that Citi will round up your points to the next 10. So, if you spend $3 on a burger, you’ll get 10 points instead of three. If you spend $12 on gas, then you’ll earn 20 points.
What makes the grocery and gas 2x bonus good is that you’ll get to the next 10-point bonus faster. A $6 purchase at the 1x bonus rate will earn you 10 points, but a $6 gas or grocery purchases will earn you 12 points, which Citi will round up to 20.
The key here is that only gas and grocery purchases at non-superstore and non-warehouse stores will count. For example, you won’t get the grocery bonus if you do your grocery shopping at a Walmart, Super Target or Costco.
Keep in mind that your 2x bonuses for gas and groceries are capped at $6,000 combined spending in the two categories. Once you’ve spent that much, the rewards rate drops to 1x.
Based on our analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s data regarding average household spending, we believe this card could earn you at least 32,000 points per year.
There are also two other ways to earn points with this card.
First, if you can spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, you’ll earn an additional 15,000 points.
Also, you’ll get a 10% bonus on any points you redeem your first year. If you redeem 20,000 points, Citi will give you 2,000 points. Remember, this bonus doesn’t apply to points you don’t redeem.
So, in all, we believe that you can earn at least 45,000 points your first year. Any points bonuses you get for redeeming points would be added to that total.
As far as points rewards go, that total is one of the best, which is something we’ll talk about later.
How to Redeem Citi ThankYou Rewards Points
Even though this card has the potential to earn you a ton of points the first year, those points are only as good as the ways that Citi lets you redeem them.
You have three main choices: cash, gift cardsб and points transfer to JetBlue’s frequent flier program.
Citi’s cash redemption rate is less than $0.01 per dollar, so we don’t recommend doing that. Most rewards cards give you a $0.01-per-point rewards ratio, which means 1,000 points are worth $100.
The real value of the card’s points lies in gift cards, as you get a 1:1 ratio for cents-to-points. A $25 gift card will cost you 2,500 points. To put that in perspective, you could buy 45 $100 gift cards with the points your household earns the first year.
The final main way you can use your points is to transfer them to JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program. One ThankYou point is worth one JetBlue mile. This ends up being a pretty beneficial transfer if you like to travel and you’re near an airport from which JetBlue flies.
If you transfer points to JetBlue, then you’ll search flights you want and check them out not according to price, but according to how many points they cost.
For example, a Monday to Friday round-trip from New York to Chicago cost 10,900 frequent flyer miles. The same flight paid for with cash would cost $192.
Not every flight is going to get you such good value but, in general, using your points for miles tends to produce the best value.
The Citi Rewards+ Card’s Rates and Fees
It’s really easy to get caught up in the rewards that a card provides and, in a certain sense, that’s what credit card companies want you to do.
If you’re going to be realistic and wise about your credit card choice, then you’ll need to know two things: What are the cards rates and fees and how does it compare to other cards?
As far as rates and fees go, the Citi Rewards+’s APR’s are as follows:
- 15.74% - 25.74% for purchases and balance transfers
- 27.49% for cash advances
- Penalty APR is 29.99%
These rates are average for rewards cards whose miles you can transfer to an airline partner. The main thing you have keep in mind is that Citi will give you the penalty APR if you make a late payment or your payment is returned.
This card’s fees are as follows:
- Late/returned payment fee: Up to $39
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3% of the balance transferred, whichever is greater
- Cash advance fee: $10 or 5% of the advanced amount, whichever is greater
- Foreign transaction fee: 3%
Introductory APR Offer
One of the perks of owning this card is that you get 0% on all balance transfers and purchases you make in the first 12 months of owning the card.
Balance transfers will still cost you the transfer fee we noted above. However, you won’t have to pay any interest on the balance for the first 12 months you own the card. If you transfer a balance in month three, then you have nine months of 0% interest.
Using this 0% offer to transfer a balance from a card with a high interest rate can save you hundreds of dollars in interest payments. For example, if you have a balance of $4,000 on a card with a 20%, then you’ll pay around $700 in interest if you pay the minimum payments for a year. When you transfer that balance to the Citi Rewards+, then you’ll pay a $120 transfer fee the first year and that’s it.
How the Citi Rewards+ Card Compares to Other Rewards Credit Cards
The Citi Rewards+ card is a bit of a hybrid card in the sense that it earns rewards and has an APR like a cash-back card but its most valuable redemptions are for JetBlue flights and gift cards, which makes it a little more like a travel card.
So, in the following table we decided to compare the card to a cash-back card and two travel cards:
|Citi Rewards+||Discover it Cash||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Barclaycard Arrival Plus|
|Sign-Up Bonus||15,000 points||$375||50,000 points||70,000 points|
|First-Year Rewards||64,500 points||$750||79,000 points||126,000 points|
|APR||15.74% - 25.74%||14.24% - 15.24%||17.99% - 24.99%||18.24% - 25.24%|
|Annual Fee||$0||$0||$0 first year, $95 after||$0 first year, $89 after|
Right off the bat, we can see that the Citi Rewards+ has the smallest sign-up bonus at 15,000 points. Its first-year rewards lag behind because of its paltry sign-up bonus. However, its 10% bonus on redeemed points as well as the 45,000 points you can earn from spending make it a strong choice for a long-term card.
For example, in the second year you own the card, you can rack up around 49,500 points. The Discover it Cash card will get you about 37,500 points, which is good for $375 in cash. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has around 29,000 points a year and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus produces 52,250 points a year.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to a pay an annual fee the second year you own the Sapphire Preferred and the Arrival Plus. This fee cuts into the value of the rewards.
As far as redeeming your points goes, Citi’s card is actually a great choice if you like to fly JetBlue, although the Sapphire Preferred has more travel partners (Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Southwest, United, JetBlue). Both the Discover card and the Arrival Plus card don’t allow points transfer to travel partners.
In general, we think that the Rewards+ loses out a bit because its rewards don’t commit to being a travel-specific or cash-specific. If the card did devote itself solely to cash, it would be one of the better cash rewards cards on the market.
But even with that non-committal environment, it can be a strong choice for someone who wants to use the card over the course of three or four years instead of one. Just keep in mind that the points you earn are best redeemed via gift cards or JetBlue flights.
How You Can Use the Citi Rewards+ Card to Your Advantage
Owning this card is going to be both a joy and a bit of a frustration for you, based on our research of this card and dozens of others cash and travel cards.
As we mentioned in the previous section, it’s a great card if you want to transfer your points to JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program because your exchange rate is 1:1.
On the other hand, it’s not a great card if you want a simple solution for earning rewards. The cash-back exchange rate is lower than traditional cash back cards. The other advantage that cash back cards have is that it’s easy to redeem your rewards points for cash. Some cards even do it automatically.
So, as you think about whether this card is right for you, consider what we’ve talked about in this review. The card’s points-earning potential is really great because of the round-ups Citi provides. However, you’re a bit limited in how you can redeem those points because cash redemptions are lower than average, which leaves you with gift card redemptions and points transfers to JetBlue.
If you want to learn more about cash rewards cards or travel rewards cards, take a minute to read the following comprehensives rankings of credit cards in those two genres: