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The Citi Forward: Perfect for Urbanites

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If you’re a social butterfly whose typical night consists of dinner and a movie followed by drinks followed by dancing in those brand new shoes you got on Amazon, then the Citi Forward® Card is your card. Earning an estimated 4% rewards on dining out, entertainment and even Amazon.com, the Citi Forward® Card is ideal for urbanites who love the nightlife. Other cards may favor groceries, gas or travel, but whether you’re downing Big Macs after a night of bar-hopping or getting takeout for one and doing some online therapy shopping, the Forward is the card for you.

Bars? Books? Yep, those count too

The biggest draw of the Citi Forward® Card is the broad definition of its rewards categories. The card earns 5 ThankYou Points to the dollar on restaurants, books, music and movies. But that means a lot more than you think it would. Restaurants means fast food and most bars; bookstores includes campus bookstores (grad students, this means textbooks) and even Amazon.com With 5 points per $1 spent at the online retailer, the Citi Forward® Card beats even the branded Amazon credit card.

As we nerds can attest, the Citi Forward® Card is a great card for Citi (get it?) life. With a $0* annual fee, it out-earns almost any other card in its given bonus categories.

The downsides (yes, there are always downsides)

Of course, the Citi Forward® Card isn’t perfect. Here are some considerations:

  1. Rewards are capped at 75,000 ThankYou Points a year. That’s $15,000 annually in bonus spending, so it’s not terribly restrictive for most people.
  2. ThankYou Points suck. We value Citi ThankYou Points at 0.8 cents each, because to get the full one-cent-per-point value, you have to accumulate 10,000 points and redeem for a $100 gift card. That’s a tall order, particularly when points typically expire after 3 years.
  3. Not ideal for travelers or everyday spenders. If you’re a traveler, you should find a card that gives you bonus rewards on travel spending. If you go abroad, make sure the card has no foreign transaction fee. If you tend to spend on groceries, gas or other typical categories, you can optimize for that spending with cards like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which gives 6% on groceries, 3% on gas and department stores and 1% elsewhere – and, as a cash back card, has no silly redemption devaluations.
  4. Also, you can get 6% on Amazon and others by using the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to purchase gift cards to those places at the supermarket. The prepaid gift cards get you the grocery rewards rate, and you can spend as you will. Keep in mind, though, that the supermarket rewards on the Blue Cash are capped at $6,000 spent annually.
  5. The signup bonus is nothing to write home about. When compared to bonus offers of $250 or more, the Citi Forward® Card’s sign-up bonus rings hollow: 10,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $650 in purchases & paperless statement sign-up in the first 3 months.
  6. 4% is good. 5% is better. You can find a suite of cards that give 5% cash back – again, no rewards program hassles there – on categories that change quarterly. The leaders are the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, which lets you pick two categories on which to earn 5% and one more on which to earn 2%; and the Chase Freedom®, which doesn’t let you choose your categories.

All that said, though, if you like eating out, if you like fast food, if you like music and movies and Amazon.com, you really can’t beat the Citi Forward® Card.