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Getting the Most From the Citi ThankYou Preferred

Oct. 18, 2016
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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  • Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

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Not long ago, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card would have been a fabulous credit card for the dinners-and-dates crowd. It earns unlimited double rewards for dining out as well as for entertainment, a somewhat unusual bonus category among credit cards.

But today, credit card rewards are generally richer. As a result, this card is best used as a supplement to an everyday card that yields a better return for the bulk of your spending.

It’s not that the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card doesn’t deserve space in anyone’s wallet. Pull it out at restaurants and the ticket booth. And if you’re a new cardholder and have an upcoming purchase you can’t pay off right away, the card can help with an interest-free period.

Top tips

Making the most of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

  • Maximize use of unlimited rewards on dining and entertainment.
  • Redeem carefully. Aim for a penny per point.
  • Use the interest-free period on new purchases.
  • Complement the card with one better suited for everyday spending.

But in the end, the card probably doesn’t deserve your wallet’s primary card slot. In Citi’s lineup alone, you might find cards that are more lucrative or practical.

If you already carry the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, here’s how to make the most of it.

The basics of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

You need excellent credit to qualify for the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card. It has an annual fee of $0, which is a plus because many rewards cards charge one.

When it comes to earning rewards, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card is best described as a “night on the town” card. It earns an unlimited 2 Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on restaurants and entertainment and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Points never expire.

Wring value from bonus categories

The most competitive feature of this card is its uncapped bonus categories. Even if you’re a huge spender at the priciest restaurants, you’ll continue to earn twice the points no matter how much caviar you wash down with Dom Perignon. Capped dining rewards on other cards are less valuable for big spenders.

The “restaurants” category on the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card includes full-service and fast-food restaurants, as well as bars, lounges and cafes.

Citi defines its entertainment bonus category broadly. It includes spending on concerts, live sporting events, theaters, amusement parks, museums and zoos. It even counts on-demand internet streaming media such as Netflix and Spotify. But if your idea of entertainment includes active participation in sports, such as at golf courses or bowling alleys, that doesn’t qualify for accelerated rewards.

The card’s 1% reward on everything else is OK, but it’s no longer competitive with the best cards. Many cards offers flat rewards rates of 1.5% to 2%, no matter what you buy.

Redeem for maximum value

Rewards earn ThankYou points that can buy a variety of things, including travel, merchandise and Amazon purchases. When you redeem, aim to get a penny of value from each point.

By that measure, some redemption options are a lousy deal. For example, getting cash back is expensive, with points worth a measly half-cent each.

You’re better off spending ThankYou points on gift cards and cash equivalents. See our review of Citi ThankYou Points for details on redeeming points, including the highest- and lowest-value options.

Citi also offers ThankYou cardholders a concierge service to help you spend points. Citi Private Pass provides access to special events and opportunities.

how to redeem rewards on the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

  1. Log in to your Citi account online.
  2. Click the “ThankYou From Citi” banner. You’ll be taken to the redemption site.
  3. Choose a redemption option from the navigation bar across the top: Gift Cards, Merchandise, Travel, Use Points at Partners and More Ways to Redeem.

Use the interest-free period

Annual percentage rate terms on the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card are 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR. The card charges a balance transfer fee of 3%, with a $5 minimum. You must complete balance transfers within four months of opening the account.

If you’re a newish cardholder, note one detail in all those numbers. The interest-free period applies to new purchases as well as balance transfers. That means the card could be ideal for charging an unexpected purchase you can’t pay for right away, such as a car repair or root canal. Finance charges will begin when your introductory period ends.

Tag-team your card

Accelerated rewards on dining and entertainment make the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card great for social-life purchases. But for everyday buying, consider using a different card that offers more than 1% back.

For example, a second card might pay extra cash back for gas and grocery purchases. See our best rewards cards and best cash back cards.

Similarly, you’ll want to use a different card when traveling abroad. The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% on purchases. Many cards charge nothing.

So, to make the most of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, use it for dining out, concerts and your Netflix subscription. But if you want to optimize rewards across your financial life, relegate it to secondary-card status for purchases that don’t fit its bonus categories.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @spendingsmart.