Thanks to a tip from CTravlr, I learned yesterday about a new devaluation of sorts…
The Citi Forward card has long been one of the best cards available for use at restaurants, bookstores (including Amazon.com), and entertainment venues (such as movie theaters). In all of those places, the Citi Forward card used to automatically offer 5 ThankYou points per dollar. ThankYou points can be redeemed for gift cards and merchandise at a value of 1 cent per point or, when paired with a premium card, the points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents per point towards airfare. So, earning 5 ThankYou points per dollar is the equivalent of at least a 5% rebate, and up to 6.25% (towards airfare).
Now, it seems, that Citi has discontinued the 5X benefit for new applicants. The current application for the Citi Forward card has this to say about point earnings (bolding is mine):
Unless you are participating in a promotional offer, you will earn one ThankYou Point for every dollar you spend on purchases (no other transactions qualify to earn ThankYou Points). Promotional offers may allow you to earn more than one ThankYou Point for every dollar you spend on purchases at (1) bookstores, (2) record stores, (3) restaurants, including fast food restaurants, (4) motion picture theaters and (5) video entertainment retail stores (“qualifying merchants”).
It looks like most new applicants will simply earn 1 point per dollar across the board, but Citi has left the door open for promotional offers for bonus points within the original categories. While I used to recommend the Forward card to just about anyone who could get one, I now don’t see any point in the card at all.
What about existing cardholders?
When Citi made changes recently to other cards, they sent letters to existing cardholders well in advance. For example, see “Citibank Stork delivers news,” and “Citibank Stork delivers again.” I have yet to receive such a letter regarding the Forward card so I’m hoping to keep the 5X categories for a while longer, but I’m sure they’ll go away eventually. If you’re an existing cardholder, have you received any letters about changes to the Forward card?
3X and 2X are the new 5X
When Citi announced that their $125 ThankYou Premier card would earn 3X on dining and entertainment and 2X on airfare and hotels, it occurred to me that the Forward card’s days might be numbered. It just wasn’t right for the no fee Forward card to have way better earning potential than their near top of line card. I’m surprised, though, that Citi decided to completely gut this card’s earning potential. Citi’s no-fee ThankYou Preferred card offers 2X for dining and entertainment. Why didn’t they at least match that with the Forward card? And then there’s the CitiBusiness ThankYou card with rotating 3X categories. It’s not much, but at least its better than 1X everywhere!
No longer a recommended starter card
I used to argue that the Forward card was one of the best no-fee starter cards available. Obviously I won’t say that again! The Chase Freedom card now beats it by a mile. The Freedom card offers rotating 5X categories, an annual 10% point bonus when paired with a Chase checking account, and the ability to transfer points to premium cards like the Sapphire Preferred which then lets you convert points to airline miles, hotel points, and even Amtrak. The Discover It card is also much better than the new Forward card (but not quite as good as the Freedom card, in my opinion). Like the Freedom card, the Discover card offers rotating 5% cash back categories. It also offers the ShopDiscover portal which often offers better bonus cash back rates than any other portal out there.
I’ve removed the Forward card from my Best Signup Offers page, and from my Preparing for Miles page. And, once I lose the ability to earn 5X at restaurants and bookstores, I’ll remove the card from my wallet as well.