The Best Rewards Credit Card Is The Citi ThankYou® Card

Citi ThankYou Rewards Credit CardThe main reason I opened a relationship with Citibank in 2001 was because they are an international bank with good customer service. I use to travel overseas twice a year for my job and wanted to access a Citibank branch wherever I went. Chase couldn’t do that at the time, neither could Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Bank of The West, and frankly most banks.

When my Citibank ATM card was stolen in Beijing back in 2003, I was able to get another card sent to my hotel room two days later with all erroneous charges expunged. I’ve got a whole story to tell about this incident, which I’ll save for another post. It was then that I knew I would be a Citibank customer for life.

My Citi ThankYou® Preferred credit card is my main personal credit card. I try and put everything on the card because of the rewards points and the clear monthly consolidated spending statement. The goal is to easily track my expenses and maximize my rewards points.

THE BEST REWARDS PROGRAM

Citibank owns the URL www.thankyou.com. That itself provides a hint to how comprehensive Citibank’s rewards program is for its customers. I’ve got 10 different accounts with Citibank which all acrue rewards points every month on top of whatever I spend on my Citi ThankYou® card. That’s like passive income, but for rewards points. Rewards points add up over time, especially if you can focus!

Main Rewards Categories

* Merchandise

* Travel & Experiences

* Gift Cards & Prepaid Cards

* Cash & Charity

Within each main category are sub categories for everything you can imagine. I mainly use my rewards points for hotel nights on vacation, flights to Honolulu, gasoline gift cards, and tennis racquet grips of all things!

USING MY CITI THANKYOU® POINTS FOR A NEW HOME THEATRE SYSTEM

I’ve had my 42″ projection LCD TV since 2004 when I first bought my house. Unfortunately, the picture is starting to get a cloudy green as the bulbs fade. I’ve wanted to get a new TV since 2010, however I just couldn’t get over the fact that just one year later, the TV would be cheaper and have better technology!

Furthermore, given the move away from component cables to HDMI cables, I needed to also get a new receiver, cable box, Blu-Ray DVD player and cables at a cost over over $1,000! At least I didn’t have to buy new Definitive Tech speakers.

I wasn’t planning on using my Citi ThankYou® points to buy an expensive home theatre system until my friend reminded me to take a look. With 123,000 points accumulated, I was hopeful I could get something!

Here’s what I found:

Philips 40PFL4907 40 1080p LED-LCD TV – 105,500 points, retail estimate $850-$950

Toshiba Wi-Fi Ready Blu-Ray DVD Player – 10,800 points, retail estimate $110

Pioneer – 400W 5.1-Ch. 3D Pass-Through A/V Home Theater Receiver – 41,500 points, retail estimate $350-$400

Three Belkin HDMI 6-inch Cables – 6,000 Points, retail estimate $100

Total Points Needed: 163,800

Short: 40,8000 points

As we learn in life, we can’t always get everything we want, especially if we don’t work for it. Hence, I decided to use my points to buy the LED TV, Blu-ray player, and HDMI cables, leaving me only with the receiver to purchase. There is a wide range of receivers out there for various prices.

My main goal for a home theatre system is to spend the least amount of money for a “good enough” modern technology system. I’m not interested in spending big bucks for the highest quality components because in three years there will be something even better. Hence, I decided to go to Best Buy and purchase a Denon 400W 5.1Ch. receiver for $250.

I ended up saving $1,275 thanks to my Citi ThankYou® Preferred credit card! $1,275 is money I really would have spent. It’s not the best bang for the buck using points vs. shelling out cash, but it’s even worse to unnecessarily spend money!

REWARDS CREDIT CARD RECOMMENDATIONS

Barclaycard World Master Card: If you are an avid traveler and looking for a travel rewards credit card, you can sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with no annual fee with double the points on travel and dining and 20,000 signup miles ($200 value). Barclaycard offers $200,000 in automatic travel accident insurance, reimbursement for expenses if your bag is lost or delayed, trip cancellation coverage, and $0 fraud liability.

Discover Credit Card: Are you looking for the best credit card for balance transfers, flexibility, and rewards? Check out the benefits of the Discover it® credit card and maximize your purchasing power. You can earn 5% cash back rewards without any annual fees, over limit fees, or foreign transaction fees. Discover provides 90 day price match guarantee, 90 days return guarantee & full refund if the product is stolen within 90 days. And did you know Discover has been ranked #1 for customer loyalty for 17 years in a row? Discover it cards are accepted at over 9 million merchants nationwide and their U.S. based customer service team is available 24/7. Just remember to spend within your means!

Check Your Credit Score: Take a moment to check your free TransUnion credit score through GoFreeCredit.com, a company I trust. 30% of credit reports have errors, which could put a serious hamper on your refinancing or new loan borrowing abilities. I had a $8 late payment I didn’t even know I owed crush my score by 100 points come up during my last refinance. The average credit score for rejected mortgage borrowers has risen to 729 due to more stringent lending requirements. Do you know what your score is?

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    Very nice, Sam.. I have never bought anything that awesome with rewards points, but that is excellent.. In the past, I usually ended up waiting for the ‘gift cards’ to go on sale, and purchasing those with rewards points. These days, we are only using credit cards for ‘cash back’ promotions..

  2. says

    I have chase freedom. It offers 1 perecent cabs back on everything and 5 percent cash back in rotating categories. I also have a navy federal card that give 1 percent cash back up to $10,000 spent a year then 1.5 percent cash back on any additional spending during the year.

    • Doug says

      I am a fan of the little advertised Chase Freedom ten and ten program. If you have a Chase checking account and a Chase Freedom card you can get an additional ten percent rewards points (bringing the base reward to 1.1% cash back) and ten cents for every time the card is run. This does not sound like much, but if you are making a ten dollar purchase on the card you are getting 2.1% cash back. A five dollar purchase is 3.1%. The smaller purchases can really add up over time. On top of the 5% rotating categories it can be quite good.

      • Thomas says

        Thanks for the Tip on the ten and ten program. I’m about to open a Chase checking account to get the $200 signup Bonus. Invest that in a CD.
        That should really help get the most out of my rewards.
        I usually only use my Discover and Chase because i can usually get 5% cashback one on of the cards for whatever i use. Now if they just stop offering the 5% cashback on gas and movie theaters at the same time, i’ll be glad.

  3. says

    You’re going to seriously love me for this. I am going to apply via your page.

    Greg and I just got Chase Sapphire Preferred a few months ago. We each got one and after putting vacations on them and all of our regular spending we each got the $400 extra bonus. So right now I have $800 in credit card bonuses to spend. Trip to Vegas? Anyway, I was thinking that I wanted to get a new card with a sign up bonus and stop using the Sapphire Preferred for a while. You sold me.

  4. greg says

    except for the hack-ability of their systems …

    theregister.co.uk/2011/06/14/citigroup_website_hack_simple/

    Seriously? Letting someone get at another’s account by *changing numbers in a URL*?!

  5. David M says

    “As we learn in life, we can’t everything we want,” you are missing a “get”!

    I like the citi thank you – however, I liked it a lot more in the past. I had a card for over 10 years that gave 5 points (5%) on food, gas and pharmacies. This was supposed to be for life – however, citi sent me a letter after about 10 years ending it.

    I also got the premier or prestige card with 50,000 points or $500 sign up bonus – with only a $1,000 spend – that was a few years ago. I got this card and my wife – $1,000 tax free.

    I really like the Chase Premier card – got 50,000 bonus points with only a $3,000 spend earlier this year. I love the Chase United credit cards – great sign up bonuses with no annual fee for the first year. Of course – I cancel after the first year and never pay a fee.

    2 years ago – I was able to use points mostly from credit cards sign up bonuses to fly First Class on Luftansa to Japan – vie Soul South Korea. The cost for each of these 2 tickets – over $14,000 each or $28,000!!!!!!

    Amex Blue with 6% cash back on foodstore purchases is rich if you like cash back! $75 fee but $150 back after $1,000 in spend!

  6. Jennifer says

    Sadly, cool things like this are often not available outside the US. I have yet to find a really worthy credit card for use of European citizens that does not come with monthly fees. If anyone has a suggestion, do let me know :)

  7. says

    I’m not a fan of buying stuff with points. Running the numbers, you got about 0.85 cents per point. With a Chase Freedom card (as Lance pointed out) you would’ve gotten a straight up penny per point, so this card effectively paid you 15% less. Not a huge sum in the long run, but definitely not what I would call the best available card. Just my $0.02. Take it for what it’s worth.

  8. says

    We have had the Citi ThankYou rewards card for probably close to 5 years and we love it. We have saved a ton of money on home repairs by using the rewards points on Lowes gift cards. Then whenever we have to do a repair or small home improvement we just go to Lowes. I also get a 10% military discount there so the savings is even higher.

  9. Mark says

    I have that card as well, but I greatly prefer the Citi Forward card. You get 5% back at bookstores (includes Amazon) and restaurants (almost all bars except clubs are categorized as restaurants). For a young guy living in NYC, this card earns me some serious reward points!

      • timmy says

        Limit for Citi Forward is 75k points a year. I recently read an article about a month ago that said Amazon also doesn’t qualify for the 5 points per dollar spent anymore. It’s not really 5% unless you get retail gift cards, pay off student loans, or use it as mortgage payments. converting to straight cash would give you something between 3-4% for the bonus categories.

        • Mark says

          I saw talks of them maybe getting re-classifying Amazon out of the bookstore category, but they still do give you 5% as of my latest statement.

          You’re also right that if you convert to cash it works out to only about 3% back, but the travel section for flights, hotels, and car rentals lets you get your full 5%. If you end up taking vacations, it’s very easy to use all these points.

    • David M says

      As mark stated above the forward card give 5% back on bookstores (which includes Amazon) and restaurants.

      Go to lunch/dinner with a group of people – collect cash from others and you have some nice $$$$ for putting the meal on the Citi Forward card!

  10. says

    US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards

    1 pt. per dollar
    25%-50% point bonus each month depending on your banking relationship (gold, platinum).
    Double points on category you spend the most on: airline, groceries, gas.

    Reward values usually range from 1-2% of gross points for travel and 1% of points for cash.
    So 20,000 points is up to $400 flight or $200 cash.

    Currently a 15k point sign on bonus.
    If you spend over $24k per year, ,you get a credit for the $50 annual fee.

  11. Russell says

    I’m confused about Citi’s anniversary bonus. It says that it is 1-3% bonus (depending on how long you’ve had the card) “calculated as a percentage of ThankYou Points earned from purchases during that membership year”. Does that mean you get an extra 1% of the money you spent, or an extra 1% of the points you earned? If it is the second, it seems like a worthless bonus.

    • David M says

      You figured it out!!!!!

      Yes an almost worthless bonus! They are working on the theory that American an not good at math!

      The way to make $$$$ in the credit card game is – “churn baby churn”. Get the signup bonus and cancel at the end of the year – get another card with a valuable sign up bonus – repeat, repeat, repeat.

  12. Michael says

    I use a UPromise branded Mastercard that gives me 1% back on everything (with a few other bonus categories reaching higher percentages). Savings are applied quarterly to my student loan. So not only am I getting rewarded for buying things that I would normally, the savings are paying down my student loan which will save me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan.

    If you don’t have a loan to pay off, you can take the savings as contributions to a 529 plan for a child/grandchild.

  13. says

    Oh sam I wish I would have known! Usually you can get the HDMI cables free from the tv company when they come out and install your cable box. I’ve kept them over the years, and they’ve left me new cables every time they hook up! Both times when I took the boxes back (once when I moved, the other when I dropped cable) I kept the HDMI cables that they left. They didnt seem to mind at all.
    As far as cards I use, I rotate to gain the maximum amount of airmiles, but right now i’m using chase saphirre preferred.

    • says

      Ah, but wait until you research all the different TYPES of HDMI cables! I was at Best Buy’s Magnolia section this week and they were selling cables for $500 EACH! The Audio Quest Chocolate cables or something. I wanted to get more than the basic HDMI cables. They do make a difference.

      • says

        As an A/V professional, I call hogwash on this. I’ve been to the Monster Cable training sessions, been pitched by all the crazy expensive companies out there, but still use my “crappy” $5 HDMI cables from newegg.com.

        Now, I know, scientifically, there is a difference, as far as conductors go, but your human eye will NOT discern it, I guarantee it! Digital is digital, 1’s and 0’s, so you either get perfect HD, or you don’t :)

        • says

          There HAS to be a difference, otherwise those companies that make HDMI cables from $70-$500 each would be out of business!

          I did get a demonstration, and I could actually tell a BIG difference w/ the regular component cables and the Monster cables. Maybe I have eagle eyes?

          It’s not like I got the $100+ cables each anyway. They were $33 each and free baby! All about the last mile.

  14. says

    I use the Bank Americard from Bank of America. The 3% on gas and 2% on groceries are the bulk of my spending. I have an AMEX as backup but the rewards didn’t accrue as quickly when I was using it as my primary.

  15. says

    Although I may disagree with you about the “best” card, it is the one that you will get most from it. In your case, the thank you card works for you. I like the airline rewards cards. I get my airfare paid for every time I travel (every other year) and I travel business or first class.

    • says

      Larry, the best is the best! You cannot disagree :)

      No, you’re right. People should get whatever card that suits them. But for goodness sakes, at least get a credit card that has rewards points and a good rewards network!

      • says

        A few years ago, My wife and I flew to Istanbul and returned from Athens. I flew first class for the cost of a few hundred dollars. The relative cost of first class travel is expensive and I got it for pennies on the dollar. This is typical of airline cards. For me, it makes sense.

  16. says

    I have to agree with some of the above postings. Amex Blue Cash Preferred is the card I trust. You do have to pay a yearly fee of $75 but I made that up in the first month of use as I use this card to pay all my expenditures (and pay at the end of the month). I haven’t been able to find a better card on the market. I have had a few reward cards and no one comes close to its payback rewards. I don’t really like cards that will only give you points to get things as I prefer cash, baby. But like you said, to each his own.

    • says

      I just can’t take the $75 yearly fee, but that’s just me. Is there a cap on reward points and do they have an expiration?

      The only time I will pay an annual fee if a service is being rendered. That’s a review for the next review!

  17. Eric says

    I personally use the Chase Marriott rewards card. When I was traveling for work the points I racked up was sizeable, but one I added the card they shot up exponentially (Think its 5 for 1 when you use it at a Marriott). End of the year I usually buy some high speed electronic gizmo through their point catalog and sell it on ebay. Generally pays my interest costs for the year or close. Free loan!

  18. says

    David has it right – churn and burn the cards to get the most from them. So long as you don’t need a good credit score for anything in the near future, you can collect a few hundred dollars per month by playing credit card rotation.

    Now that my university charges a convenience fee for credit cards it’s not nearly as lucrative. Used to be that I could sign up for a new card, score $100-250 in sign up bonuses, rake in rewards on the entirety of my tuition equal to a $50 restaurant gift card, then float my balances for 12-18 months at zero interest if I wanted to.

    Credit card marketing is starting to look a lot like Vegas promos.

  19. says

    Sam,
    I use Marriott Rewards cards to accumulate points when I travel for work. The best value on hotel stays are using them in overseas hotel. A 25000 point stay for a free night at a category 6 hotel is equal to $250 here, but due to currency rates that same hotel is 500 bucks in Hong Kong. I recommend using hotel points for overseas.

  20. Andre says

    This is actually a very average card with a very average sign up bonus. I question the that you wouldn’t even write this post if you were not getting commissions on signs ups.

    • Andre says

      On top of that, Citi’s Thank You network has been continuously devaluing the value of their points year after year! Why would you sign up for this when there are alternatives with $400+ sign up bonus or >2 free round trip flights?

    • says

      I’ve had this card for 8 years now and it has treated me well with all sorts of goodies. This year, it bought me a home theatre system and saved me $1,275. I don’t have any other personal card on me now, of course I’m going to recommend it! I love promoting things I use and believe is a good product.

      All points are slowing being devalued over time. For any program, it use to cost 25,000 miles for a RT ticket to Hawaii now it costs 35,000-50,000. That’s the way things are, like rent always going up, which is why I own rental properties.

      Feel free to suggest what you think is best that works for you. It might not work for me, but it might for you. That’s what I ask at the end of the post.

  21. says

    Rewards cards like Citi’s are great. I love being able to get things like gift or retail cards just for using my card for day to day things. They really came in handy back in 2008 when I was on a tight budget and needed to get a few new clothes for work. I was able to cover all my costs with rewards points, it was awesome.

    I try to check my rewards balance once a quarter or so and am always surprised at how fast the points can add up. I’ve never used rewards points to buy electronics, but that’s pretty sweet that you can!

  22. f bonesio says

    Interesting to read all this positive info on Citibank. My daughter was told she could convert her Citibank reward points to CitiBank Credit Card. Last week they wiped the points which had been showing from the bank acct. to the Crecdit Card and will not restore them. Just a word to the wise or does anyone know of a federal or state of CA commission who might offer assistance in reaching a positive solution. Thanks, fb

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