Credit Cards News

Citi tweaks credit card terms from October – winners and losers

Some you win, some you lose. Citi's upcoming credit card terms and conditions changes might just delight and enrage customers in equal measure.

Citi Office London

Citi has been on a little shake-up crusade since the end of the ‘up to 8 miles per dollar on Apple Pay’ offer with many of their credit cards. Aside from a slightly botched move to DragonPass for their PremierMiles Visa customers, apparently reversed (at least temporarily) the next day, several general terms and conditions relating to their miles earning cards issued in Singapore have been amended, which will take effect from 4th October 2018.

‘ThankYou Points’

Citi have finally settled on a name for their award points in Singapore, previously a mishmash of terms were used to effectively describe the same ‘currency’:

  • Citi Dollars
  • ULTIMA Dollars
  • ULTIMA $
  • Citi Rewards Points

These will now follow the branding used by Citi in the USA for some time – with ThankYou Points having equal value to those described above, transferring into most frequent flyer program miles at a 2.5:1 ratio.

Whether ThankYou Points will now pool into a single rewards account, for those holding more than one Citi card that accrues them, remains to be seen.

Citi PremierMiles cards will continue to earn ‘Citi Miles’, these transfer 1:1 into most frequent flyer miles programs such as KrisFlyer.

Some overseas transaction earn rates are improving

For a 3-month period between 1st October 2018 and 31st December 2018 overseas retail transactions will get an improved earning rate as shown below:

Card Current Rate Bonus Rate
CitiCardPMTransCiti PremierMiles 2.0
Citi Miles
2.4
Citi Miles
Citi Prestige TransCiti Prestige 5.0
Citi Dollars
6.0
ThankYou Points
Citi Ultima Trans.pngCiti Ultima 5.0
ULTIMA $
6.0
ThankYou Points

In all three cases this is the equivalent of 2.4 frequent flyer miles per S$1 spent overseas with these cards (previously 2.0 miles). That’s a 20% increase.

CitiCardPMTrans

CLICK HERE for our full review

Note that the Citi PremierMiles Amex card is not included in the promotion and will continue to earn 2.0 miles per S$1 on overseas transactions.

Full details of the change to ThankYou points and the bonus overseas earn rate from 1st October 2018 to 31st December 2018 can be found here.

The Forex fee is increasing

There’s some bad news, Citi will increase their administrative fee for foreign currency transactions using their Visa and Mastercard credit cards from 2.8% to 3.0%, an effective 7% increase in the fee payable.

This is more than offset however by the 20% increased miles rate for these transactions during the 3-month promotional period from 1st October 2018 to the end of the year, reducing the cost per mile when using these cards overseas to a much more competitive rate than before.

The following table shows how the cost per mile for using your miles earning credit card overseas (over and above using cash exchanged at money changer rates) looks until 30th September this year.

Cost per mile on overseas credit card transactions by card
(Best to worst, until 30th September 2018)

Card Fee Miles per $ Cost per mile
BOC Elite Miles
(bonus rate)
2.5% 5.0 0.54¢
Maybank Horizon Visa
(bonus rate)
2.5% 3.0 0.91¢
BOC Elite Miles
(standard rate)
2.5% 3.0 0.91¢
Standard Chartered Visa Infinite 3.5% 3.0 1.22¢
OCBC Voyage Visa 2.8% 2.3 1.31¢
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend 2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
HSBC Visa Infinite 2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
Maybank Horizon Visa
(standard rate)
2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
UOB PRVI Miles 3.25% 2.4 1.43¢
Citi PremierMiles / Prestige 2.8% 2.0 1.50¢
DBS Altitude Visa 2.8% 2.0 1.50¢
DBS Altitude Amex 3.0% 2.0 1.60¢

Notice how the Citi PremierMiles / Prestige cards were never very competitive here, at a cost of 1.5 Singapore cents per mile.

Once the 3-month promotional earning rate kicks in from 1st October however, the cost per mile rate for using these cards overseas suddenly improves, despite the forex rate hike to 3.0%.

Cost per mile on overseas credit card transactions by card
(Best to worst, 1st October 2018 – 31st December 2018)

Card Fee Miles per $ Cost per mile
BOC Elite Miles
(bonus rate)
2.5% 5.0 0.54¢
BOC Elite Miles
(standard rate)
2.5% 3.0 0.91¢
Standard Chartered Visa Infinite 3.5% 3.0 1.22¢
OCBC Voyage Visa 2.8% 2.3 1.31¢
Citi PremierMiles / Prestige 3.0% 2.4 1.32¢
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend 2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
HSBC Visa Infinite 2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
Maybank Horizon Visa
2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
UOB PRVI Miles 3.25% 2.4 1.43¢
DBS Altitude Visa 2.8% 2.0 1.50¢
DBS Altitude Amex 3.0% 2.0 1.60¢

The Citi products jump ahead of several cards you may currently be using for foreign currency transactions, including the UOB PRVI Miles and HSBC Visa Infinite, in terms of cost per mile earned during this promotional period.

If you’re currently taking advantage of the bonus overseas earn rate on the Maybank Horizon Visa card note that the offer ends on 30th September and that card becomes a more expensive way to accrue miles on overseas spend than the Citi products during this promotion, despite the lower 2.5% forex fee.

The eagle-eyed among you may notice in the terms and conditions that the forex fee actually increases on 4th October 2018, while the improved earning rate kicks in on 1st October 2018. That gives you a small 3-day window to earn at the higher rate but pay the original fee.

For those 3 days only the cost per mile is 1.23 Singapore cents, almost on a par with the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite card (historically the lowest cost per mile general spending card for overseas transactions until the BOC EM came along, assuming your total spend per month is >S$2,000).

Sadly once the promotion is over from 1st January 2019 the Citi PremierMiles and Prestige cards are relegated to the level of the DBS Altitude Amex for overseas spend – a high cost per mile of 1.60 cents.

That’s still less than a mile is theoretically worth, however as you can see there are much better ways to earn more miles at better rates.

The Citi Rewards annual cap becomes a monthly cap

The 4 miles per dollar (10x Citi Dollars, now Citi ThankYou Points) rate for spending in bonus categories on the Citi Rewards cards within specific Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) is currently capped at 120,000 Citi Dollars per year (48,000 miles or S$12,000 of annual spending in these categories).

Citi Rewards Trans.png

CLICK HERE for our full review

This is being amended to 10,000 ThankYou Points per monthly statement cycle. That’s S$1,000 of spending per statement, severely impacting your ability to take advantage of the higher earning rate for a large one-off purchase.

It also effectively reduces the realistic annual bonus points cap for this card. While before it was relatively easy to hit the annual 120,000 Citi Dollars cap then stop spending on the card, you would now have to transact exactly S$1,000 in the bonus categories in each monthly statement cycle 12 times in a row, something you are highly unlikely to be able to achieve even with careful planning.

Effectively this guarantees Citi will have to shell out fewer points overall to Citi Rewards customers each year.

To view the full cardmember’s agreements for all Citi cards in Singapore in force both before and after 4th October 2018 – click here to download the relevant terms for your specific card product.

Some payment categories will no longer earn points

Citi has updated the list of Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) that are excluded from earning ThankYou Points / Citi Miles from 4th October 2018.

Though on the whole these remain the usual and understandable exclusions such as betting organisations and foreign currency money orders, there are some additional categories you may currently be enjoying points earning with which will no longer be possible from 4th October 2018:

  • MCC 7349 Cleaning and Maintenance, Janitorial Services
  • MCC 7523 Parking Lots, Parking Meters and Garages
  • MCC 8211-8299 Education Institutions (including Schools, Colleges and Universities)
  • MCC 4900 Utilities – Electric, Gas, Water, etc…
  • MCC 6300 Insurance Sales, Underwriting and Premiums
  • MCC 6513 Real Estate Agents and Managers – Rentals

These exclusions may mean being more careful about using your Citi card for certain transactions as it applies across the board to all Citi issued cards in Singapore.

Full details of all the new points exclusion categories can be found here.

Our thoughts

In our view at least the Citi PremierMiles and Citi Prestige cards are now largely eclipsed on the earning rate side by the new BOC Elite Miles card, assuming you can get your hands on it (time from application to issuance seems woefully long).

That doesn’t necessarily mean ditching those two cards – they do have other perks of course. Frankly I will probably always keep my Citi PremierMiles for the 10,000 miles at annual renewal (cost per mile 1.93 cents), plus the ability to access occasional cheap miles promotions like 31,200 bonus miles for an administrative fee of $238 which ran last year (provided you had S$9,000 to spend over 2 months).

No guarantee of course that they’ll repeat such an offer but I’d hate to cancel the card just before they did.

For the Citi Prestige I will keep the card for the 4th night free offer, which saves me thousands per year easily justifying the annual fee, and also the unlimited Priority Pass, which is very handy when flying economy.

Citi Prestige Trans

CLICK HERE for our full review

Depending which other credit cards you hold the 2.4 miles per S$1 on overseas spend for the last three months of 2018 isn’t a bad deal, with the cost per mile actually going down despite the forex fee increasing as we’ve shown.

For Citi Rewards I will probably ditch this one now. The unlimited 8mpd Apple Pay promotion, which wasn’t subject to the 120,000 annual cap and included overseas transactions on the Rewards card, clearly hurt Citi a little and I can’t see them rushing into a situation like that again any time soon.

Depending on your spending pattern the new monthly bonus cap may well affect you. The OCBC Titanium Rewards card may suit you better as there is no monthly cap, with a similar MCC list for the 4mpd bonus categories. That card also has an indirect 10,500 KrisFlyer miles sign-up bonus running until the end of October if you’re also a StarHub customer – see our article here for how it’s done.

(Cover Photo: mattbuck007 via Flickr)

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13 comments

  1. Citi Rewards still has its place for some online spending, such as buying points from points.com. There is really nothing for Citi PM card if got BoC Elite Miles besides buying 10,000 miles every year.

    Like

    1. True, everyone has different spending patterns and there are certainly pros and cons for each card. One point on Citi PM I didn’t mention is I always find at least one good value Kaligo booking per year (10mpd), the last one being $1,130 earning me 11,300 miles. Price was exactly the same as other OTAs or direct with the hotel (independent property). Granted I could have earned the same miles through Citi Prestige Kaligo offer, but not everyone has that option.

      Will you ditch the Citi PM?

      Like

      1. I have not found a good Kaligo booking yet.

        I will keep the card for the 10k mike per year.

        Currently my spending on Citi PM is mostly to-be-excluded spendings.

        Like

  2. I personally call the Citi PM The Best Credit Card You Will Never Use… or.. at least not much…

    The points-earn-rate is dismal at best, we all know this, but the card does come with several perks and benefits that would, at least to me, justify its annual fee.. Unlimited Priority Pass +1 guest (+2 if your spouse is a principal card holder too), 8x p.a. to-and-fro Airport Limos (16x if you spouse is a principal card holder too), unlimited wifi on board with Boingo, 4th night free at ANY hotel.. are the main ones for me.. plus the AF isn’t just AF, you get 25k miles too, even if not at a great rate..

    But.. as Andrew has pointed out.. whether or not a particular card is good for you or not, would very much be dependent on one’s spend patterns and lifestyle..

    Like

  3. Hi! ‘This is being amended to 12,000 ThankYou Points per monthly statement cycle’ should read ‘This is being amended to 10,000 ThankYou Points per monthly statement cycle’ right? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Tan.. I could be wrong and would love to be proven so, in this case.. but I’m not aware of any specific insurance company offering bonus credit card points for paying insurance premiums.. but you do have to take note that there ‘a few’ banks who have already or are going to exclude insurance premiums for rewards points earning.. aside from that, then you’re on ‘basic local earn rates’.. and until end Dec, BOC Elite is prolly highest (if you have or can ever get the card) at 2mpd..

      Like

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