New Citi card revealed

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On Friday, I wrote “Rumor: Something great from Citi…”  In that post I replayed hints given by Gary Leff (View from the Wing) about a new Citi Hilton card on its way.  Today, Gary revealed the details of the new card in his post “Citibank Introduces Awesome New Hilton HHonors Reserve Card”.

Here are the primary features of the card:

  • Signup bonus: two weekend night certificates after $2500 in spend in four months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • It has a chip which I assume is “chip and pin” or “chip and signature” for security and easier use abroad.  However, the card’s advertising page doesn’t elaborate on it other than to say “TRAVEL WITH EASE and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit card” (I added the underline).  And, the application page says “Enjoy advanced chip-based technology which provides enhanced global acceptance and advanced security abroad.”
  • Anniversary bonus: one free weekend night, but only if you spend $10K per year on the card.
  • Complimentary Gold Status.  Diamond status if you spend $40K per year.
  • Earn 10X at Hilton properties, 5X on airline and car rental purchases, 3X elsewhere.
  • $95 annual fee is not waived the first year.

How does this stack up against my guesses?

Here are each of the guesses I posted on Friday and a discussion of how the actual offer stacks up:

Free nights?  Sure two free nights at any Hilton property would be a great signup bonus, but would it be enough for Gary to call it the best he’s seen?  I don’t think so.  I think we’d have to see 2 free nights per year to warrant that opinion.

Actual offer: 2 free nights, weekend only.  1 free night ongoing only if you spend $10K per year.  I was on the right track, but the actual offer isn’t as good as I expected.

Free points?  I think the signup bonus would have to be 100,000 points to be considered the best.  Will we see a new 100K offer?

Actual offer: No free points

Elite status?  The Amex cards already provide the means to earn high level elite status through big spend.  Can this card trump that with automatic Gold status? That would be a nice benefit!

Actual offer: Automatic Gold status, and the opportunity to earn Diamond status.  I was right on target here!

Points per dollar?  The Amex Hilton cards already offer 6 points per dollar in a number of popular categories.  Can this card offer a multiple that’s even more attractive?

Actual offer: This card does offer more points per dollar than the Amex cards for Hilton, airline, and car rental purchases.  10X at Hilton properties is really nice.  However, this card doesn’t match the other categories that many people are likely to put more spend on (e.g. grocery store, drug store, etc.)

Travel benefits?  Maybe this card goes beyond Hilton benefits to airline club access, companion passes, or other perks?

Actual offer: The only travel benefits I see are the chip and no foreign transaction fee.

Is this a killer offer?

In many ways this card is similar to the Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express.  Both cards offer top tier Diamond status after $40K per year of spend, and both offer high points per dollar for various categories.  The Citi card slightly trumps the Surpass at Hilton properties (10X vs. 9X), but doesn’t offer a special multiple for gas, drug stores, or grocery stores (where buying gift cards is especially easy by the way).

I’m on the fence as to whether the Citi card’s signup bonus trumps the Surpass.  The 60K point signup bonus with the Surpass will get you one free night at a top tier hotel (with 10K left over), whereas the Citi card offers two free nights.  On the surface that sounds much better, but the two nights are weekend-only (Fri, Sat, Sun night stays) and they expire after 12 months.  So, while many people will get more out of these two free nights than they would from 60K points, many others will likely never find the time and opportunity to redeem the nights properly before they expire.  I’d argue that the Citi card’s signup bonus is better only if you have a particular redemption in mind.

There are some areas, though, in which this card does beat out the Surpass:

  • The Citi card is much better for foreign spend.  If you plan to spend money at Hilton properties overseas, then this card is a no-brainer thanks to it’s combination of the 10X multiplier, security chip, and no foreign transaction fees.
  • The Citi card is also worth considering simply for its automatic Hilton Gold status.  Gold status gets you free internet and breakfast, extra points on paid stays, and often a nice room upgrade.  With the Surpass card, you get Gold status the first year for free, but you will keep Gold status only if you spend $20K per year.
  • The Citi card’s annual free weekend night (with $10K spend) is a nice extra that the Surpass does not match in any way.

Final thoughts

I don’t see a compelling reason to rush out and signup for the card today.  Personally, I’d rather wait until I have a specific weekend redemption in mind so as to ensure that I get full use of the two free nights.  The problem there, though, is that it may take quite a while after applying to meet the spend requirements and receive the free night certificates.  So, I need to have a specific weekend redemption in mind that is pretty far out in the future.  That might happen someday.

On the flip side, the Surpass is still very interesting to me.  I’ll take the 60K points and bank them for a rainy day.  More importantly, I’m sure I’ll find a grocery store, drug store, or gas station that allows credit card purchases of prepaid reload cards of some sort (see “One card to rule them all” for a similar scheme).  Since the Surpass gives 6X for grocery, drug store, and gas station transactions it should be possible to earn 240,000 Hilton HHonors points on the way to $40K of spend (which would give Diamond status).  That, to me, is worth pursuing…


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