Forward 5X

imageI just received my first statement from my new Citi Forward card and found that I had scored a perfect 5!  Let me explain…

The Forward card offers 5 ThankYou points per dollar within the following categories: restaurants (including fast food), bookstores, music stores, video rental stores and movie theaters.  In the past month I’ve used this card at quite a few restaurants, a movie theater, and my local campus bookstore.  When I checked my rewards I found that I had earned 5 points per dollar for every one of my purchases.  There’s nothing really surprising about this, but it was a nice sight to see!

The value of ThankYou points

ThankYou points can be terribly frustrating.  Unlike Ultimate Rewards points, ThankYou points cannot be transferred to airline or hotel programs.  Worse, if you trade in ThankYou points for statement credits, each point is only worth a half a cent.  There are, however, ways to do better….

1 cent per point value

Instead of trading in your points for merchandise or statement credit, you can trade in points for gift cards and get 1 cent value per point.  Fortunately, they do have some very useful gift cards available at that rate including Sunoco, Marriott, Hyatt, Avis, etc.

Another option is to use points to pay your mortgage or student loan.  In either case, you’ll get the full 1 cent per point value.  In fact, people have found ways to use this feature to get cash back at that same rate.  Search SlickDeals or FatWallet to learn how.

Better than 1 cent per point value

The ThankYou program regularly runs specials in which certain items or gift cards are discounted.  Sometimes these can give you more than 1 cent per point value.

A more reliable approach is to get a Citi ThankYou Premier card and use ThankYou points to book flights for 1.33 cents per point value.  The Premier card is expensive ($125 per year after the first year), but if you use all of your ThankYou points for flight redemptions, then the Forward card’s 5X categories become 6.65% rebates towards airfare!

Transferring points

Unlike most other points programs, Citi allows you to transfer points to friends or family for free.  This is great because if you want to take advantage of the extra savings for booking airfare available to Premier cardholders, not everyone in your circle needs to have one.  Just transfer points to a friend with the Premier card and have them book the travel for you.  However, there is a big catch…  Points transferred to another person expire within 90 days.  So, don’t transfer points to anyone unless they are ready to use all of those points within 90 days. 

5X Everywhere

As part of a Frequent Miler Laboratory experiment, I made a purchase at my local campus bookstore for $503.95.  Fortunately, the purchase was correctly categorized as a bookstore purchase and I earned 5X points.  This leads us to a nice easy new way to earn 5X everywhere.  To see what I’m talking about, please read this post.  You will to have a Barnes & Noble campus bookstore nearby, though.  If not, this trick is probably not for you.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »



  1. I love the Forward. I think I volunteered to try this experiment but didn’t get that particular Amex prepaid until this past week and haven’t been able to make it to Camus to try it out. Glad to know it works.

  2. Greg
    Rather than linking to that post, I would leave the reader with a little bit of thinking to do to get the full benefit of the 5x laboratory experiments
    The 5x is not dead, just sleeping

  3. FM, I have read elsewhere that the points used first are those closest to expiration, not furthest. however i have not yet had a chance to test this. perhaps someone with personal experience can confirm?

  4. Great point! Thanks FM.
    1. If I can find the 503.95 at my nearby B&N, I will definitely get this one and the Premier.
    2. Just got 2 Citi AA cards. Do I have to wait for at least 60 days to get another Citi card?
    3. US Bank Cash+ : Do you think we can get multiple Cash+ per person?
    4. Do you have a CitiGold? I heard you get more TY points with that.

  5. I have mixed feelings about the Citi Forward card. The points are easy to earn and have no annual fee. But you need the TYP card to actually get good value. But if you are only interested in cash back, this card would be the best to get.
    I also use my thank you points for activities thru the travel redemption section. Normally get .99 cents per point. It books the same activities as

  6. I have a Sallie Mae card (Barclays) which gives 5% cash back on book purchases up to $750 per month. I wonder if it works in this situation.

  7. Thankyou points are my useful when mileage running because you are paying the going rate and getting a 25% discount on the ticket AND earning miles. I don’t mileage run so TY points not as useful for me. I did get targeted for TY premier 100K last year and I used it on some revenue based flights and got some Hyatt gift cards to use for my Diamond Challenge.

  8. Greg,
    FYI- If I am not mistaken I think the Forward card has a max of 75,000 points per year. You may want to get one for the wife as well =)

  9. I have some TY Points and I feel that they have great redemption value for rental cars during last minute bookings during holiday times. I am not a huge fan of Citi TY points but car rentals seem to be a good redemption as well as Airline tickets.

  10. @Alex
    I’ve been using the Barclay’s Sallie Mae card at my campus Barnes and Noble and getting 5% cashback. Since the 5% is limited to only $750 a month, I just load once per month with $500 to minimize the load fee.

  11. Just a note for cvs shoppers. Through 11/21, cvs is offering $5 extra care bucks with the purchase of 2 visa variable value cards. I have not verified that this includes vrn cards but would expect it would.

    Limit 1 per extra care account.

  12. What are the advantages this card has over Target? It’s got a lower basic max balance ($1K vs $5K) and a lower max balance with DD ($5K vs $10K). I guess the ONLY advantage it has is if you have the Citi Forward, then you get the 5x TYP. Breaking it down, you can get 5K TYP per month at the cost of $8. But what are the ways to unload this card besides ATM and using it for actual spend?

  13. @JX: All Citi checking account packages can be set up to pay TY points, with CitiGold earning the most. However, the points from various checking activities are not transferable, and expire in ~3 years.

  14. the number of points necessary to get some gift cards was recently increased. Now the points are worth less than a penny each. E.g. 3,500 points needed to get a $25 gift card.

  15. I remember as far back as 5-6 yrs ago when I was doing the Citi Elite Card that the lower redemption were 3,500 for 25 GC and 6000 for $50. AK is right it wasnt until u get to 10k pts that you get .01 redemption rate.

  16. Does 5x still apply to Amazon?

    Also, I’ve read some stuff about Spirit (the Citi rewards system), but still don’t have a full grasp on it. If you have the Premier card, can you really get 1.33x TYP value on EVERY airline if booked through Spirit? For example, if you have 10K TYP, you can get $133 worth of airline fare for AA, UA, SWA, etc?

  17. Quick question about B+N AMEX– what’s the max balance? The FAQ has strange wording. It states
    “You can add money to your Card using bank account or cash until your balance equals $1,000, or using Direct Deposit until your balance equals $5,000. The maximum amount you may load to the Card in any month is $1,000 (bank account or cash); $5,000 (Direct Deposit).”
    It says that you can go up to $5K using DD; does that mean that I can do a $10 DD (ACH push), then go up to $5K using in-store deposits $500 at a time?

  18. “The Premier card is expensive ($125 per year after the first year)”

    The most expensive Citi card in Australia is the Select and it has a $725 USD annual fee! I feel a bit ripped off

  19. @FrequentMiler
    Just a correction on your post about transferring points. I recently did a transfer, and those transferred points (expiring within 90 days) were used first.

    My experience related to flight redemptions is that most flights are easily bookable at the 1:1.33 ratio. However, I’ve had difficulty getting some routings to show up. For example, multi-city searches sometimes come up with just one or two options, and for some international bookings, ITA shows a one-stop flight but Spirit shows just two-stop flights on the same carrier. On the flip side, there have been some flights with obscure carriers that show on Spirit but not on the major booking sites.

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