Citi Adding Grocery Stores & Restaurants To 3x Category, 3x Travel Structure Changing

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Update April 14, 2020: In addition to the travel category including hotels, airlines and gas stations, Greg has noticed that it also includes travel agencies. That should mean that OTAs like Expedia, Travelocity, etc. also earn 3x.

That also opens back up other travel spending as potentially eligible for earning 3x. For example, while cruises booked directly with cruise lines won’t earn 3x any longer, cruises booked through an OTA might earn 3x.

~

Citi has announced some interesting changes to its Premier card today which will come into effect on August 23, 2020. On balance, these changes are positive, although there will be some cardholders that are negatively affected by these changes depending on their travel spending and how they redeem ThankYou Rewards.

Citi Premier credit card

There are a number of changes coming later this year – here’s what to expect.

New 3x Categories

The Citi Premier card will be adding grocery stores and restaurant spending from August 23, 2020. There doesn’t seem to be a limit on earnings in these categories which could make the card much more enticing for some.

Amended 3x Category

The Citi Premier card currently earns 3x ThankYou Rewards on travel spending. This travel category will become a little more restricted in August. Flights, hotels, travel agencies and gas stations will still earn 3x, but you’ll no longer earn a bonus on other types of travel like cruises, ride sharing, tolls, etc.

Removed 2x Category

The card currently earns 2x on entertainment spending, but that category will be removed. While that won’t be a huge loss for most people, it will be disappointing for people that spend a lot in that category. For example, this could be a good card for ticket resellers, although there’s not much of that activity going on right now anyway.

1.25cpp Redemptions Being Removed

This is likely the biggest downside for cardholders. Citi Premier cardholders can currently redeem ThankYou Rewards for 1.25cpp when booking travel in the ThankYou Travel Center, similar to how you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.25cpp in the Chase travel portal if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Those 1.25cpp redemptions will be eliminated from April 10, 2021, so you still have a year to take advantage of that increased redemption opportunity.

$100 Hotel Credit

If you spend $500+ on a hotel stay booked through the ThankYou Travel Center, you’ll receive a $100 statement credit. This credit can be earned once per calendar year.

April 10, 2020 Threshold

If you apply for the Citi Premier card before April 10, 2020, you’ll be grandfathered in on the current earning structure until April 10, 2021 which means you’ll get the best of both worlds. You’ll continue to earn 3x on all travel and 2x on entertainment until next April, but you’ll earn 3x at grocery stores and restaurants starting on August 23, 2020.

Quick Thoughts

My Citi Premier card is coming up for renewal in a couple of months and these changes are encouraging me to renew it. In particular, earning 3x at grocery stores – which appears to be uncapped – is a welcome addition, especially seeing as it’s only American Express cards (for the most part) that offer grocery stores as a bonus category year-round. While I definitely prefer earning 4x Membership Rewards at grocery stores with my Amex Gold card, that’s capped at $25,000 of spend per year and the card has a $250 annual fee. Uncapped earning at 3x with a $95 annual fee will be a more enticing prospect for some, although it can be a both/and situation rather than either/or.

The removal of parking, ride sharing, tolls and cruises from earning 3x isn’t a huge loss for me personally, although it obviously will be for some people that have high spending in those categories. The fact that flights, hotels and gas are staying at 3x is great news though, as that likely constitutes a much more likely source of travel spending for most people.

Losing the 2x entertainment category will hurt for some people, although it’s the 1.25cpp redemptions being eliminated which is the card’s biggest loss. I’ve never used that benefit personally, but if you spend a lot on flights then it can be a good option, especially seeing as those are revenue flights which can earn you miles, contribute towards elite status, etc.

My initial impression of the $100 hotel credit was “meh”, but it’s grown on my while writing this post. Even if it’s not a benefit you’ll use every year, it’s always good when benefits are added rather than removed, especially seeing as using it more than covers the card’s annual fee. The fact that you have to book the stay through the Citi portal means you won’t earn points, elite night credits, etc., nor will you be eligible for status benefits which is why I wasn’t enamored with the benefit at first glance. However, if you have a $500+ stay at a hotel where you don’t have status and don’t care about earning points, saving $100 on that stay is a great option.

If I ever found myself in that position in the past, I’d have booked the stay through Hotels.com to earn 10% back in Welcome Rewards while paying with a Hotels.com gift card I’d bought at 15-20% off. Seeing as I have a Citi Premier card though, I’ll definitely look at the Citi portal for this type of scenario in the future as I could then save the Hotels.com gift cards for stays costing less than $500.

It’s also positive that Citi is grandfathering in current cardholders to the current earning structure through April 10, 2021, while simultaneously adding grocery stores and dining as 3x categories for them on August 23, 2020. As mentioned earlier, that’s the best of both worlds. In a recent podcast, Greg and Nick discussed the Citi Premier card, suggesting that it could be worth applying for it ASAP in case its current 60,000 point welcome offer was suddenly pulled. That suggestion seems even more worthwhile now because applying for it in the next couple of days means you’ll lock in the increased earnings on all travel and entertainment for another year.

These changes set up the Citi Premier card as an interesting alternative to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, especially in the current environment. Both cards earn 3x on travel (albeit in more limited categories on the Premier card in the future), while both will also earn 3x on dining from August. With the Citi Premier card adding 3x at grocery stores too, its $95 annual fee looks much more reasonable than the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 fee seeing as many of that card’s benefits – travel credit, lounge access, primary car rental coverage, etc. – are harder to use right now. For Sapphire Reserve cardholders balking at the prospect of renewing with a $550 fee (or even a decreased $450 fee) but still wanting to retain travel and dining spend as 3x categories, the Citi Premier card could be a good alternative.

h/t TPG

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Rika

Does the 3x restaurants work internationally?

What about 3x supermarkets?

[…] Note that this feature is available only through April 10, 2021.  See this post for details. […]

[…] thought it would stay that way with such a large bonus multiplier. However, given the fact that the Citi Premier now offers 3x at grocery stores, the Freedom cards come with a limited-time first year bonus of 5x on up to $12K, and the Sapphire […]

Chris Phelan

I was getting close to the sign up bonus deadline and was having trouble reaching the 4k spend. I used the online chat to ask for more time. They granted me a 14 day extention.
I’m happy!

[…] Note that this feature is available only through April 10, 2021.  See this post for details. […]

[…] couple of months ago Citi announced that they’d be changing the earning structure on the Citi Premier […]

[…] upcoming changes to the Citi ThankYou Preferred card. This comes on the heels of (in my opinion) exciting changes to the Citi Premier card that came in just the other day (and caused me to finally dump my Prestige card and at least feel a […]

[…] kudos for spotting what I’m about to discuss has to go to Greg from Frequent Miler and I have to admit that I have no idea how he noticed what he did because it’s far from […]

Carl Pietrantonio

@Stephen Pepper Forgot to ask until now and do not see it mentioned anywhere here… but, WHAT ABOUT TRAINS? Is the method of travel for 3x ONLY Planes, or do Trains count as well? Wondering because when I go to Europe, I use trains like mad.

Carl Pietrantonio

Crap. Well, that sucks. I buy my tickets at the kiosks in the stations most of the time. I wonder if Rome 2 Rio or RailEurope would suffice as Travel Agencies? They do charge a small fee when I use them. What’s your thoughts on that? This card is really on the edge with me right now so am trying to decide before the AF comes around.

Carl Pietrantonio

Hmmm…Not sure how to find or read the merchant code, but I don’t keep statements so will have to try this online. It would be from late last year. Thanks for the tip!

Carl Pietrantonio

Well, guess I will try to look back on old statements and otherwise if I keep the card, test it out! Might buy a really cheap ticket online here as a throwaway to find out.

[…] are a big win.  Most of the changes will hit on August 23rd 2020.  We detailed the changes previously, but here’s a summary of the August 23rd […]

Al H

Greg, a longtime reader here. I love your blog and your podcast. Just a reminder: after the recent layout change, the blog looks like TPG’s (uh) especially on mobile. Please consider simplify it.

Mbh

This is a deal breaker for me. I’ve had this card for many years, but use it primarily for entertainment (I spend a lot on theater and concerts) and the occasional chartered cruise. I have Amex gold, Ink, and Sapphire so I guess I’ll find a 2x all spend card for entertainment. It’s been nice knowing you Citi. (I canceled my prestige card when they raised fee and limited 4th night free.)

George

Capital One Savor or SavorOne?

Rick

Just get a Citi Double Cash card and you will get 2% cash back or 2x TY points on every purchase, including entertainment.

[…] More Citi Premier card changes: Citi Adding Grocery Stores & Restaurants To 3x Category, 3x Travel Structure Changing. […]

Zac

If I applied today, I can redeem 1.25cpp at the Citi portal until April 10, 2021, right? Just want to confirm because the new Citi application page doesn’t mention 1.25cpp at all. Thanks.

Nick Reyes

I’m looking at the application page as of 10:46pm Eastern time on 4/9 and under the benefits section it says “Points are worth 25% more toward airfare”. 25% more = 1.25cpp.

Carl Pietrantonio

Just to slightly change subject from what you say, but I’ve not seen this mentioned. They state gas stations. I have ONE old fashioned gas station in town that does all my auto repairs. Just had $1500 worth of work done on my car last month and charged it on the Premier. lo, and behold…. 4500 TY points. So if you have or can find a gas station that does car work….and they are good, use them!

Carl Pietrantonio

Well, nice to know a brake shop might code that way! My place IS a gas station (Shell) but old school with a couple mechanic’s bays and they do a lot of car work. Like I said, old school. If you can find a place like that, it’s great!

Zac

I don’t see “Points are worth 25% more toward airfare”. Would you mind sharing the link? Thanks.

iahphx

The Citi Premier card has been a very good “simple to use” travel card. If you combined it with a supermarket card (like AMEX Honors Surpass), you were pretty much set for most types of spend. I’ve also found that, if you call, Citi would waive the annual fee for modest spend (I’d pick up a couple of 3x Visa gift cards at a gas station, and be done). Citi has now basically gutted this as an all-purpose travel/entertainment card that you could then use at 1.25 cents to, say, buy airline tickets. I think the Premier card is way less useful to most of your readers.

Tricia

When I go to the credit card application page, I’m not seeing any wording that says you’ll be grandfathered into the old bonus point categories if you apply today (before Apr. 10).

Tricia

My husband successfully applied for the card, and under the terms, yes, he is grandfathered into the benefits of the old bonus point categories!

For applications or conversion requests received on or before April 9, 2020
Between April 9, 2020 and August 22, 2020:
Unless you are participating in a limited-time offer, you will earn:

— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on travel including gas stations1
— 2 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent at restaurants2
— 2 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on entertainment3
— 1 ThankYou Point for each $1 spent on all other purchases7

Between August 23, 2020 and April 9, 2021:
Unless you are participating in a limited-time offer, you will earn:

— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on travel including gas stations1
— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent at restaurants2
— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent at supermarkets4
— 2 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on entertainment3
— 1 ThankYou Point for each $1 spent on all other purchases7

Cardmembers will also be eligible to receive the $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit8

Beginning April 10, 2021:
Unless you are participating in a limited-time offer, you will earn:

— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on air travel and hotels5
— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent at restaurants2
— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent at supermarkets4
— 3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent at gas stations6
— 1 ThankYou Point for each $1 spent on all other purchases7

Cardmembers will also be eligible to receive the $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit8

Jules

Is the 3x on grocery only for US-based stores, or does it also apply at stores internationally?

HChris

I can now confirm from personal experience that international grocery stores (Germany in my case) are also earning 3x. This is a huge winner for me and the reason why I ditched my Amex Gold as that was restricted to US based only.

[…] Citi announced today that they’ll be changing the earning categories on the Citi Premier card from August 23, 2020. I’ve covered it in more detail over on Frequent Miler, so you can check that out here. […]

Jim

What is the best “thankYou” transfer partner with one world, I want to use my points with AA ?

HChris

Etihad or Cathay are best for AA business long-haul. Cathay is also good for domestic economy and their system is distance based but quite generous still. For example, their second highest band goes from 751 to 2,750 miles for only 10k miles. The 2,750 would even inclue any Transcon, as the longest connection is MIA-SEA (obviously excl. Hawaii & Alaska) and business is also not the worst at 25k.

philco

Overall I’ll call this a plus for me. Never used the points at 1.25 for portal so for my purposes that is no loss. Entertainment was never a big category for me either so no loss to me. The broader travel categories are a moderate loss as they were often good for being use to purchase tours, guides and drivers. But the grocery is a pretty big win for me so I’ll call it a win.

Ed. C

Any data points on if WMT will be in the 3X grocery category? I’d imagine not since the Citi MileUp card doesn’t earn the category bonus at any WMT.

HChris

Currently, WMT is showing up as ““Merchandise – Grocery Store, Supermarket” on my Citi Premier like all the others domestic and international supermarkets. But like Stephen said, now Citi actually has a specific “Supermarket” category and this might change in August as how they code it.

Ed. C

Yes, that’s how it shows on my Citi MileUp which is supposed to earn 2X miles at grocery stores, but not at any WMT.

HChris

Interesting. Sounds like Citi already has an internal blocker installed for crediting WMT and other stores like that for the regular grocery/supermarket. That is certainly a bummer but not unexpected when we consider that Amex is doing the same.

Grant

Thanks for covering the changes, Stephen. Literally the only reason I keep the Citi Premier is for the ability to transfer TYPs to travel partners. I wish they would add this feature to other Citi CCs (besides the Citi Prestige) so I could get rid of the Citi Premier and its $95 AF.

FreeIsGood

So a small positive change on the groceries @3x. Not sure it’s enough to put it as one of three CCs I carry in my wallet.

Loss of 1.25x in the travel portal is big as I don’t find their transfer partners good (for me).

DoubleCash is a good downgrade option. I did that three years ago. After slightly more than 24 months, I got the Premier again for the 60k SUB.

Ron

Wow… I just applied for the card April 1st. Well this won’t be a keeper for me past year one unless they add another transfer partner. Losing the 1.25 cpp redemption through the Thank You portal is huge

George

The portal has been useless for me since they removed travel coverages.

I do wish they had a better OW partner than CX. AFAIK you still can’t get to the page that shows taxes, fees, and surcharges if you don’t already have the miles (so you either transfer before knowing them or spend hours on hold waiting to get through to someone).

VS/FB for ST, and SQ/AV/TK for *A, are A-OK for me. AV also transfers from MR, and VS/FB/SQ transfer from both UR and MR. So there’s plenty of choice for those alliances.

rjb

Citi travel portal sucks

HChris

That’s a very positive change for me personally. I can use the Ink Preferred for all the other travel categories as well as airfare because of the missing insurances with Citi. Also, and I realize this is quite niche, but I do have significant spending at supermarkets/grocery stores outside of the US. Amex Gold is only good for domestic purchases and after the change it looks like the 3X will work for anything coding as supermarket whether domestic or international.

ktc

You are sure 3X grocery/restaurant is worldwide also?

George

Restaurants, gas, and tolls have always coded properly (earned bonus points) internationally for me on the Premier. I can’t think of a reason groceries would be different; I see Amex as an outlier, not the status quo.

Quinn

I’m also in the same niche of making lots of international supermarket spend. We’re missing a card that earns strongly in that category. I hope the Premier is it!

rich

capped at $25K? My grocery store spending is in the $5K ball park, and I can’t imagine buying gift cards for another $20K. Not a level I would ever worry about.

Iks

Can I product change now to Premier from Dividend and be grandfathered in? I’m not eligible for TYP bonus until Dec 2020.