Citi has Been Very Good to Me

Editor’s Note: These offers have expired and are no longer available.

Prior to this past November, I had never done business with CitiBank. But since that time I’ve developed a rather profitable relationship with them. When it comes to credit card rewards, Citi is among the most generous companies in the industry, frequently offering cards that provide 5% off all purchases for a limited time (typically capped @ $300/year). I signed up for one such card (an AT&T Universal Card) last November and managed to rack up around $250 in rewards by the end of the year (this involved some creative budgeting, major medical expenses, and some rather large work-related expenses for which I was reimbursed). But I was only just getting started.

Once the limit reset for 2005, I was able to max out and cash in the new $300 reward. I have since tossed that card in my desk drawer and moved on. I am currently splitting my charges between a Citi Driver’s Edge which had an introductory offer of 5% rewards on everything (limit of $500/year), redeemable as cash off of automotive service or car purchases (just fax the receipt to Citi and they credit you — which reminds me: get yourself a fax machine) and a Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card, which offers 5% rewards from Citi on eligible purchases on quarterly rotating categories when you enroll, redeemable as cash (capped @ $300/year). I expect to max out these rewards by year’s end.

But it doesn’t stop there. Shortly after you get a new card from Citi, you get a $15 check from Credit Protector. This is a ripoff of a service that promises to make your minimum payments in case of disability or death. Cashing the check signs you up for a free 30 day trial, after which you are billed in proportion to you monthly balance — but you can cancel before it costs you a thing. I received and cashed two check early this year, and promptly canceled. A couple of months later, I got two more checks for the same cards. I cashed them both and canceled one. I agreed to keep the service on the other card (the AT&T Universal Card that I’ve stopped using) in return for a series of rebate coupons worth $50 (5 x $10 rebates). These can be redeemed on any purchase, whether you charge it to your card or not. Since I’m not using this card, there’s no chance they’ll be able to hit me up for fees. Thus, it’s truly free money.

When you total up the regular rewards with the Credit Protector checks and rebates, I’m picking up close to $1500 for just using my credit cards wisely. Note here that I was able to rapidly max things out by making some fairly sizable work-related charges, as well as paying for travel for which I was reimbursed. We also had a rather large orthodontia bill early this year that we charged, and then paid out of my Flexible Spending Account at work. On top of that, we have a fairly large family; thus, we we have fairly sizable bills for things like groceries. I also pre-purchased a sizable chunk of grocery gift cards to accelerate a bit of spending ahead of the end of the year and the AT&T reward expiration date. Obviously, your mileage will vary depending on typical spending levels. Just be sure not to increase your spending to earn a bit extra in rewards — talk about penny wise and pound foolish! I was able to do all of the above while more or less sticking to our regular budget (the only deviations were to accelerate a bit of spending, which was made up for by spending less later). And we never carry a balance, so we haven’t given back a penny in fees.

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2 Responses to “Citi has Been Very Good to Me”

  1. Anonymous

    The Credit Protector plan sounds good on the surface but I have found that dealing with their CLAIMS process is like jumping through hoops of fire. I became disabled with a terminal illness and filed a claim for my credit protector plan in Oct. 2006. In the 17 months since that time, I have had to complete, and have my physician complete, uncountable forms. If a comma was out of place (just a slight exageration) they would reject the form and a complete new form had to be obtained. I don’t know about you, but my doctor charges me for each form of this type. As it has turned out, my charges to get these forms HAVE COST MORE THAN THE BENEFIT I WAS RECEIVING. It would have been cheaper for me to send in the payments on my balance. I will be very happy to sever my relationship with this “benefit” at the end of my 24 months. I congratulate anyone who made money on this deal but pray you don’t get sick and have to file a claim.

  2. Anonymous

    I do the same as you. My wife and I get several credit protector and other sorts of $15 checks which we cash and then cancel in the free period. However, you’re missing the big bonzanza and that’s the reward points for opening new accounts.

    I have already opened and closed with Citi and other companies, credit cards for which after your first purchase you get reward points of up to 10,000. This is redeemable for $100 in gift cards. Because I don’t like to be tied in spending my money in one place, I will redeem the $100 for Mobil gas cards (2 at $50 each). Since I need gas anyway, I then take the $100 that I would have spent on gas and set that aside to go buy something anywhere I want. When I make my first purchase on these cards, I will only put in about $2 of purchase. After I get my points redeemed, I cancel the card. Usually, I’ll get another offer or I’ll even see them in the Sunday paper like I did last week where I just applied for the same card that I canceled which I’ll get $100 for using the card only 1 time. It’s the citi diamond rewards card.

    So, between my main citi card where I get 5% off lots of stuff and 1% off the remainder, the various $15 checks and the $50 to $100 offers, we make all kinds of money. Does opening and closing all these accounts hurt your credit score. Must not, my wife’s is about 780. I don’t know mine, but it’s at least that high if not higher. Keep ’em coming!!

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