Forward 5X


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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[…] points at a rate of 5 points per dollar at restaurants, movie theaters, and bookstores (see “Forward 5X“).  The reason for getting the Premier card is that it allows this couple to book airfare at […]


Robert: Thanks, I’ll update the post


Just a correction on your post about transferring points. I recently did a transfer, and those transferred points (expiring within 90 days) were used first.

My experience related to flight redemptions is that most flights are easily bookable at the 1:1.33 ratio. However, I’ve had difficulty getting some routings to show up. For example, multi-city searches sometimes come up with just one or two options, and for some international bookings, ITA shows a one-stop flight but Spirit shows just two-stop flights on the same carrier. On the flip side, there have been some flights with obscure carriers that show on Spirit but not on the major booking sites.


“The Premier card is expensive ($125 per year after the first year)”

The most expensive Citi card in Australia is the Select and it has a $725 USD annual fee! I feel a bit ripped off


Quick question about B+N AMEX– what’s the max balance? The FAQ has strange wording. It states
“You can add money to your Card using bank account or cash until your balance equals $1,000, or using Direct Deposit until your balance equals $5,000. The maximum amount you may load to the Card in any month is $1,000 (bank account or cash); $5,000 (Direct Deposit).”
It says that you can go up to $5K using DD; does that mean that I can do a $10 DD (ACH push), then go up to $5K using in-store deposits $500 at a time?


Dave: Good question. Does anyone want to test whether a small direct deposit will lead to a bigger allowed balance?


Does 5x still apply to Amazon?

Also, I’ve read some stuff about Spirit (the Citi rewards system), but still don’t have a full grasp on it. If you have the Premier card, can you really get 1.33x TYP value on EVERY airline if booked through Spirit? For example, if you have 10K TYP, you can get $133 worth of airline fare for AA, UA, SWA, etc?


I remember as far back as 5-6 yrs ago when I was doing the Citi Elite Card that the lower redemption were 3,500 for 25 GC and 6000 for $50. AK is right it wasnt until u get to 10k pts that you get .01 redemption rate.


@harv – That has always been that way, if you want 1¢ per point with gift cards, you need to do a $100 gift card for 10K points.


the number of points necessary to get some gift cards was recently increased. Now the points are worth less than a penny each. E.g. 3,500 points needed to get a $25 gift card.


What’s currently the best signup offer for a Forward visa?
Anything better than the offer on the citi website?


@JX: All Citi checking account packages can be set up to pay TY points, with CitiGold earning the most. However, the points from various checking activities are not transferable, and expire in ~3 years.

Andy F.

How about AMZ? Does it still count for a bookstore?


What are the advantages this card has over Target? It’s got a lower basic max balance ($1K vs $5K) and a lower max balance with DD ($5K vs $10K). I guess the ONLY advantage it has is if you have the Citi Forward, then you get the 5x TYP. Breaking it down, you can get 5K TYP per month at the cost of $8. But what are the ways to unload this card besides ATM and using it for actual spend?


Anita, sounds like they have to be Visa cards


Just a note for cvs shoppers. Through 11/21, cvs is offering $5 extra care bucks with the purchase of 2 visa variable value cards. I have not verified that this includes vrn cards but would expect it would.

Limit 1 per extra care account.