Forward 5X

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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.

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