Citi has a number of changes to their rewards cards in the Citi Rewards program coming into effect from 15 June 2017.
The majority of their points-earning credit card offerings are affected in one way or another, and Citi are directly adjusting the way points are earned on each card, as well as reducing the transfer rate to most of their partner frequent flyer programs from Citi Rewards.
We think it’s likely that the changes are in response to the regulatory changes the RBA imposed on the banking market last year, which come into force in September.
Note that Citi don’t have a single page which consolidates all these changes in one for us to link to on their website but you will find them detailed in this PDF on the Citi website.
We were also originally under the impression that existing Citi Rewards points balances would not be affected, but that is not the case.
We have updated this article now to include the full details of the rewards program changes, along with the changes to each card.
Spend eligible to earn points from is redefined – government transactions that don’t earn points have been widened
Citi are going to be more specifically defining ‘eligible transactions’ for earning points.
All of the following transaction types will not be points-earning (some of which were already included):
- Cash advances
- Balance transfers
- BPAY payments
- Purchases for foreign currency / travellers cheques
- Business transactions
- Payments to other Citi accounts
- Bank fees and charges including interest
Those were already included. The Government related transaction category is now more specifically defined / broadened to include transactions with government or semi-government entities, with the following examples given:
- Australian Tax Office (this was already a non-points earning merchant)
- Australia Post
- Council rates
- Motor registries, tolls, parking stations and meters
- Public transport fares
- Fines and court related costs
In addition, it’s worth noting the definition of ‘Domestic Spend’ and ‘International Spend’ – it’s not too complex, but eligible Domestic Spend is spend with all other merchants that aren’t in the new categories where you earn more points or are excluded thanks to the government transactions above, while eligible International Spend are transactions that are processed in foreign currency.
Not much is changing with International Spend though outside of the earn rates on some of the cards.
Changes to earn rates and points caps – Citi are moving to category-specific bonuses for Signature and Prestige cardholders
Both the Qantas and Citi Rewards variants of the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige cards are having their current model of a single points earn rate changed to instead offer more points on some specific merchant and spend types, and fewer points on all other spend.
For Citi Premier Qantas cardholders
The changes to the Citi Premier Qantas include:
- Introduction of new bonus points earn categories – these earn at most the same as the current general Domestic Spend earn rate before points caps kick in
- Replacing a general earn rate on eligible Domestic Spend with bonus categories, with spend outside the bonus categories reduced to 0.5 Qantas Points per $1
- Increase the points cap from $10,000 to $20,000 per statement period on eligible spend outside the bonus categories
|Card type||Eligible Domestic Spend earn rate|
|Citi Qantas Signature Rewards Card||
For Citi Premier Mastercard cardholders
The changes to the Citi Premier Mastercard include:
- Introduction of new bonus points earn categories – the earn rate for these is at least the current points earn rate
- Replacing a general earn rate on eligible Domestic Spend with bonus categories, with Domestic Spend outside the bonus categories reduced from 1.5 to 1 Citi Rewards points per $1
- Removal of the $20,000 per statement period points cap and replaced with a tiered earn rate based on spend categories
- Increase in points earned from eligible international spend from 1 Citi Rewards point per $1 to 2 Citi Rewards points per $1
|Card Type||Eligible Domestic Spend earn rate||Eligible International Spend earn rate*|
|Citi Premier Mastercard||2 Points per $1 spent on eligible International Spend|
Citi Prestige Qantas
Changes to the Qantas-linked variant of the Citi Prestige include:
- Addition of new bonus points categories, with increase in earn rate for restaurants, hotels and airlines compared to the existing earn rates
- Replacing a general earn rate on eligible Domestic Spend with bonus categories, with spend outside the bonus categories reduced to 0.5 Qantas Points per $ from 1 Qantas Point per $
- Eligible international spend earn rate increased to 1.5 Qantas Points per $
|Card type||Eligible Domestic Spend earn rate||Eligible International Spend earn rate|
|Citi Qantas Prestige Rewards card||1.5 Points per $1spent on eligible International Spend|
Citi Prestige Rewards
Changes to the Citi Rewards Prestige include:
- Addition of new bonus points categories, with increase in earn rate for restaurants, hotels and airlines compared to existing earn rates
- Replacing a general earn rate on eligible Domestic Spend with bonus categories, with spend outside the bonus categories reduced from 2 Citi Rewards to 1 Citi Rewards point per $1
- Eligible international spend cut from 5 points per $1 to 3 points per $1
|Card Type||Eligible Domestic Spend earn rate||Eligible International Spend earn rate|
|Citi Prestige Rewards Card||3 Points per $1 spent on eligible International Spend|
Citi Rewards Platinum Visa
For the lower fee Citi Platinum card, the points earn rate will be cut from 1.25 Citi Rewards points per $1, down to 1 Citi Rewards point per $1 – no bonus categories are being applied.
|Current||From 15 June 2017 onwards|
|Points cap||Citi Rewards |
|Eligible Domestic Spend||1.25 point per $1||$10,000 per |
|1 points per $1||$10,000 per
|Eligible International Spend||1.25 point per $1||uncapped||1 points per $1||uncapped|
Citi Emirates World Mastercard
Surprisingly, there will be no changes to the earn rates of the Citi Emirates World Mastercard.
- Earn rate will remain at 1 Skyward Mile per $1 on eligible Domestic Spend up to $3,000, then 0.5 per miles per $1 up to $10,000 per statement period
- Eligible international spend remains at 1.25 Skyward miles per $1 spend, uncapped
Changes to Citi Rewards transfer rates
As mentioned earlier, there are also a number of transfer rates changes coming to Citi Rewards. What’s particularly annoying is that these points would have been earned under the old interchange rules, so the devaluation of existing points balances is unlikely, in our opinion, due to the new legislation, and is a business decision by Citi.
Focusing on Citi Premier and Citi Prestige:
- KrisFlyer moves to 2.5 Citi Rewards to 1 KrisFlyer Miles from 2:1
- Velocity transfer rates are unchanged
Then for Citi Prestige only partners:
- Asia Miles to 2.5 Citi Rewards to 1 Asia Miles from 2:1
- Etihad Guest, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Thai Royal Orchid, Air France Flying Blue, GarudaMiles and Qatar Airways Privilege Club all change from 2 Citi Rewards to 1 point/mile to 3:1
- Radisson Rewards and Hilton Honors will change from 1 Citi Rewards point = one partner point to 2:1 (Honors partnership ends 12 December 2017)
- IHG Rewards moves from 1.5 Citi Rewards to 1 IHG Rewards point to 2.5:1
And, finally, for Citi Rewards Platinum cardholders, the KrisFlyer transfer rate will change from 2.5 Citi Rewards points to 1 mile to 3:1.
In addition, other redemptions available via Citi Rewards may also be changing in price, not just transfers to loyalty program partners. Quoting from Citi’s terms variation document:
We will be making changes which will increase the number of Points required to redeem a range of gift cards, merchandise, prepaid cards and travel available in Citibank Rewards. The new number of Points required will be published on the rewards website at that time.
This is a major blow for the value of the program and holders of existing points balances with Citi, and you should seriously consider whether you are tempted to move your points from the program before June 15th.
Citi Prestige: Transfers to KrisFlyer also switch from a 2:1 to a 2.5:1 conversion rate, as do transfers to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Conversions to Air France Flying Blue, Etihad Guest, GarudaMiles, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Thai Airways Royal Orchid instead move from a 2:1 to a 3:1 conversion rate.
More about the categories added that now offer more points spend
Whether you earn the higher points earn rate category at a particular retailer will be defined by the merchant you are spending with and how they are categorised in the credit card / banking system, which is up to the merchant or the system they use to accept credit cards, not Citi.
If a retailer is included in one of the categories, then you should receive the higher earn rate automatically, and vice versa.
In addition, for the points especially on travel and restaurant spend, it’s worth noting that purchases made that are made through a travel agent (physical and online) or a delivery company (in the case of food) may not be categorised for bonus spend either.
Finally, there’s one ‘major retailers’ merchant category that hasn’t yet been made clear as which major retailers are included. Hopefully that will become clearner in or before June.
This is a massive overhaul of Citi’s card range. It’s hard to generalise how this will impact people given the addition of the bonus categories and raising of the points caps – both positive measures which help mitigate the points earn rate being cut on the general spend or ‘eligible Domestic Spend’.
In summary, how much this impacts you will depend on how much you spend in (or out) of the bonus categories.
Personally, I use the Citi Prestige Mastercard fairly extensively for spend everywhere at merchants that doesn’t take American Express, and few of those transactions make it into those bonus categories – most will have points earn rates cut.
My gut feel is that all but the biggest spenders in those categories would be worse off overall. However, if you think these changes work better for you, we’d love to hear so in the comments.
If you’re an existing cardholder, you should look closely at your own spending habits and see how serious the impact on the number of points earned will be to figure out how much of a hit (or not) you will take from these changes.