Citi reinvents the 5x card. How will competitors respond?


Citi has flipped the script and turned the traditional 5x card on its head, eliminating the need to track rotating categories in favor of a cardholder’s freedom to choose their own 5x category through spend. Will other issuers feel pressure to follow suit? We discuss that concept on this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air show (video and podcast formats below).

Other key topics on the blog this week and summarized below include Amex’s latest offers to bypass their lifetime rule, the best Hyatt Category 1-4 hotels, and a couple of new bottom line reviews that may be of particular interest for those looking for great value near national parks. All that and more in this week in review.

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This week at Frequent Miler

Credit cards

Citi shakes things up with new 5x choose-your-own-adventure card

I mentioned on the show this week that until last year, there has never been a Chase Freedom card in my household because I just couldn’t be bothered to have to constantly track rotating 5x categories. Apparently, someone at Citi felt the same way because this week they’ve launched a card that automatically earns 5x on up to $500 spend per billing cycle in the eligible category in which you spend the most — a much more user-friendly form of the same type of card. I love this concept of a set-it-and-forget-it 5x card that could be dedicated for a single category all year long and I wish it would make competitors re-think their rotating category cards. However, as I said on the show this week, I think other issuers are unlikely to do much and I’m concerned that Citi’s customers might not give this card the love that it deserves for it to stick around long-term. We can hope!

Awesome credit card combos

In response to Citi’s new Custom Cash, Greg updated this post on awesome credit card combinations to make for a powerful wallet. The right combination of cards from Amex, Chase, Citi, or Capital One can make for excellent return on spend from a single issuer. As I highlighted during this week’s post roast, I had a small bone to pick with Greg’s Capital One picks: now that we know that you can convert cash back to miles, I’d rather have the Spark Cash card combined with a VentureOne card to preserve both the ability to transfer to partners and the option for “cashing out” with cold, hard cash. But see Greg’s rebuttal on the show as to what card might make even more sense than the Spark Cash.

Bypass Amex’s lifetime rule when you “expand your membership”

Can you get the bonus again on an Amex card that you currently have? Contrary to conventional wisdom and defying logic, Amex is offering some cardholders the opportunity to “expand their membership” by adding a duplicate of a card they already have — in some cases for a large bonus. Why would they let someone get a second Business Platinum card and offer a bonus of 150K points to do so? It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but if you’re targeted, who cares? Enjoy the opportunity for a nice windfall from Amex and make sure to properly max out the benefits on that second card.

Do America’s poor really foot the bill for credit card rewards?

Greg’s response to a viral article about the poor footing the bill for credit card rewards was spot-on in my opinion. The line that hit the nail on the head in my opinion was this one: “Do merchants really increase prices due to swipe fees? Would that $9.95 item really have cost $9.66 if swipe fees didn’t exist?”. It obviously wouldn’t. While there are many situations where the poor get a poor deal, I think that merchants eat these fees as part of the cost of doing business (and it’s good business since it makes transactions more convenient and it enables customers to spend more). See the post for Greg’s much more developed argument, but my opinion about the Vox article is that it missed the mark by a wide margin.

The Schwab Platinum Invest with Rewards Rumor: 1.5 cash out?

Baby Yoda Charles Schwab Amex American Express Platinum

Rumors are swirling about the Schwab Platinum card and whether it might lose its ability to cash out membership rewards points at a value of 1.25c each — possibly in favor of a 1c or 1.5c rate. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing: card issuers constantly change things up in terms of which features they highlight in marketing materials. I think this is a non-event and just a switch-up of marketing strategy. My bet is that nothing changes on the Schwab Platinum.

Hotel programs

Best Hyatt Category 1-4 Hotels & Resorts

Greg continues to update this post with gems suggested by readers that could be great uses of either points or Category 1-4 free night certificates earned through credit card spend or Hyatt milestone rewards. This latest update even includes a Category 4 hotel in Hawaii. See the post for the latest and comments from readers about the included properties.

How I saved my Wyndham points from expiry

Do you know both options for extending the life of expiring Wyndham Rewards points? If you’ve been reading our posts about Vacasa and wishing that you could keep your points alive just a little bit longer, you’ll want to see this post for details on an easy strategy for smaller quantities of expiring points.

Bottom line Reviews

The Greenbrier Pigeon Forge Vacasa rental via Wyndham Rewards. Bottom line review.

This sure beat a hotel room for 15,000 points per night.

Speaking of Vacasa rentals, this week I completed my first Vacasa vacation rental booked through Wyndham Rewards. While the rental unit wasn’t quite perfect, I had a fantastic stay in an entire cabin with a breathtaking view for a very reasonable number of points. I would absolutely stay again and I can’t wait to make my next Vacasa booking. If this partnership keeps up, I could see Vacasa becoming a staple of our domestic travels for the next few years.

Zion National Park: Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton. Bottom Line Guest Review.

I have long wanted to visit Zion National Park but haven’t yet made it there. If and when I do, I hope that I can make use of some Hilton free weekend night certificates to stay at this gem highlighted by a reader named Dr. Jay. There just aren’t many domestic Hilton properties that excite me, but after reading Dr. Jay’s review and seeing his pictures, this looks to be one to put on the docket for a future vacation.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Don’t forget to check out this week’s upcoming last chance deals.

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