Citi Introduces New Rule To Limit Sign-Up Bonuses

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UPDATED 13 August 2016: Doctor of Credit is reporting that although the new rule appear in the T&Cs already, Citi will not be implementing the rule until 29 August.

Travelers who enjoy churning credit cards for their sign-up bonuses have taken a series of hits in the past 18 months and things have just taken another turn for the worse.

The first to put a spanner in the churners’ works was American Express when it announced that customers could only earn one sign-up bonus per credit card. Period. Then Citi introduced an 18 month and then 24 month limit on sign-up bonuses for the same credit card. Chase went one further than Citi with its rule that, for the most part, meant it would reject applications from individuals who had applied for more than 5 credit cards, from any bank, in the preceding 24 months.

But now Citi has upped the stakes again with another change to its sign-up bonus rules.


Citi’s New Sign-Up Bonus Rule

Doctor of Credit has noted that Citi has updated the terms and conditions of its various credit cards to limit customers to one sign-up bonus per co-brand partner per 24 months.

So what does this mean?

In the past Citi’s rules said that customers could only earn one sign-up bonus per credit card in a 24 month period.

This meant that, while customers couldn’t shut down a given credit card and then reopen it within 24 months to earn the sign-up bonus again, they could simply open up a different version of the credit card without any issues.

For example:

It was possible to apply for an American Airlines/Citi credit card, get the sign-up bonus, shut it down and then reapply for a new (but different) American Airlines/Citi credit card before the 24 months had elapsed.

Not any more. The new rule that Citi has introduced has been designed to put a stop to that.

Citi has changed the rules across all its credit cards to make sure that customers only get one sign-up bonus per credit card type in a 24 month period.

That means just one sign-up bonus across all the personal co-branded American Airlines cards…..


… sign-up bonus across all Hilton co-branded cards…


and one sign-up bonus across all Expedia co-branded cards…


Citi ThankYou Cards Also Included


It’s not just Citi’s co-branded credit cards that have had the new rule applied – the Citi ThankYou cards have been given the same treatment (OFFER EXPIRED):


That means that customers will only be able to earn one sign up bonus across all of these cards in a 24 month period:

  • Citi Prestige Card
  • Citi ThankYou Premier Card
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred Card (Discontinued for new applicants)
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred Card For College Students (Discontinued for new applicants)
  • Any Citi ThankYou Business Cards (no longer being issued)

One Exception To Citi’s New Sign-Up Bonus Rule


It looks as if the one credit card to escape this rule is the co-branded American Airlines Business credit card where the terms and conditions of the sign-up bonus don’t appear to have changed (OFFER EXPIRED):


Customers still can’t have more than one of these cards and they still can’t get the sign-up bonus if they’ve had this or any other Citi/AAdvantage business account in the past 24 months but there’s nothing stopping them getting the sign-up bonus if they already have (or have had) a personal Citi/AAdvantage co-branded card in the past 24 months.


Bottom Line

After American Express and Chase cracked down on how many sign-up bonuses customers could earn it was only time before Citi followed suit….and I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to get this strict.

This will definitely change how people approach their credit card churning strategy and will probably also affect how long customers are prepared to hold on to various Citi credit cards.

I suspect that this move will see some customers holding on to their Citi cards a bit longer as, if they’re enjoying the points/miles that they’re earning, there’s not much point in cancelling a card just to get a different variety if there’s no sign-up bonus to be had.

All in all, while this is clearly anything but good news, I still think that Citi has the more relaxed rules (for earning sign-up bonuses) out of the three major credit card issuers…it’s just that they’re a little less relaxed than they used to be and people will have to be a little bit more choosy when it comes to deciding what cards to apply for and when to apply.


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