Saturday, April 28, 2012

Citi Credit Card Review

I have a couple credit cards from Citi and I feel like I may have been a bit unfair in my previous posts recommending credit cards.  Currently, I have the Citi Forward credit card for students and the Citi Dividend Visa.  Citi has been one of those companies who didn't seem very stellar but their cards grew on me as I looked more closely at the facts about them.

For a few years, I only had Citi's Forward credit card for college students.  I didn't like the card very much mainly because it gave points and the points did not directly translate 1 point for 1 cent, making it difficult to actually estimate how much you are getting back.  It also depends on what type of gift card you redeem and if you redeem cash, you get a much worse exchange rate between points and value.  However, looking more closely at the program, you actually get a decent return.  I mainly get CVS gift cards since there is one two blocks away from where I live and I mainly get milk, eggs, and bread from there.  The rate is roughly 120 points for $1 if I get the $50 card (if you need to redeem earlier for a $25 card, its 140 points per $1).  For normal purchases where you get 1 point per dollar spent, the card yields 0.83% (you need $6000 to get the 6000 points necessary for the $50 gift card and $50/$6000 = 0.83%).  However, the main benefit for the Forward which I neglected to take into consideration was that it gives 5 points per $1 spent on restaurants and entertainment.  I was so focused on the horrible redemption value per point, I didn't notice that the card effectively yields 4.17% (you only need $1200 of spending to get the 6000 points needed for the $50 gift card and $50/$1200 = 4.17%) all year round for restaurants and entertainment.  There is also an added bonus of 100 points per month for paying the bill on time, supposedly to reward college students and young adults for building good credit.  I've started using my Citi Forward much more frequently since then.

I also recently got Citi's Dividend Visa card which gives 1% cash back on normal purchases and 5% cash back on rotating categories.  It came with $200 cash back if I spent $500 within the first three months.  I bought my plane tickets for the summer with the card and boom, 40% off my flights (or at least for $500 of it).  I must say that so far, however, the reward categories have been very disappointing.  The first three months of the year had health care, fitness, and utilities as the 5% categories and currently it is for Home Depot, Home Furnishing, and Home & Garden purchases.  Not exactly the easiest to use, especially for a college student like me.  I much prefer groceries and restaurants (although with my newly calculated rate on my Forward card, 5% back on restaurants isn't much extra).  The worst part is that Citi doesn't publish a 5% cash back calendar for the year like Chase or Discover meaning you can't really plan to push some expenses forward a few months to take advantage of the 5%.

However, I would still strongly recommend Citi because of their great service.  After getting my new Dividend card, I charged a nominal $2 and something cents to start using it and because the statement date didn't match my other cards (and some other distracting events that happened during the month) I forgot to pay my card off.  I realized it about 4 days after the due date but before the next statement came out.  I called in to let them know and they said that I would be charged a late fee and some interest on the card, but it wouldn't be a problem to get it all removed after I posted the payment.  Also, I made sure that my credit score wouldn't be affected and they said it should be fine.  I made the transfer immediately so it arrived about 10 days late or so, but customer service quickly helped me remove all the charges soon afterwards.  They mentioned that the reason was because I had such a good relationship with them over the past few years with my Forward card, despite not having used it.

Thus, I would definitely recommend Citi as a credit card.  If you are a student, the Forward is a must have, especially if you like to eat out often.  The Citi Dividend card is a good addition to Chase and Discover since it doesn't seem like they have much overlap and hopefully some better categories are going to be in the 5% rotation later in the year.  Their customer service is great from what I've experienced so you can't go wrong with getting their cards.

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