Tag Archives: credit cards

Earn 10X on all your payments with Citi Pay

If you’re looking for a way to max out your Citibank Rewards 10X cap in 2017 in the wake of the sad demise of AXS payments, you might be interested in getting Citi Pay.

Citi Pay is an Android app that lets you use your Citibank cards and NFC enabled phone to pay at merchants. It’s conceptually similar to Android Pay (and indeed one of the big complaints about is why Citibank doesn’t just go with Android and save everyone the need for another app).

The great news is that you earn 10X rewards points  (4 mpd) when you use your Citibank Rewards card (Visa or Mastercard) with Citi Pay.

Citi Pay can be used at any merchant with a tap and pay/contactless/ NFC terminal. It can be used overseas as well, so long as you have mobile data.

Surprisingly, the app has rather crappy reviews on the Google Play store.

It seems that most of the criticisms are that the app doesn’t work on a lot of people’s devices.

It worked absolutely fine on my Blackberry Priv running Android 6.0.1 though.

This promotion is available until 6 April 2017 and the T&C can be found here.  It’s a great opportunity to earn 10X at merchants that normally would not qualify for it.

Remember that your Citibank Rewards card allows you to earn 10X points on a maximum of $12,000 spending per year, after which you earn 1X (0.4 mpd).

A potential MS opportunity for new Citibank cardholders?

Citibank is running a promotion for first time Citibank credit cardholders where you can earn S$20 cashback a month for 6 months after the date of approval, with a minimum spend of S$200 a month.

There is some discrepancy between what’s on the website and what’s stated in the T&C. The T&C say that the sign up period is until 30 June 2017, but the website says 31 March 2017.

Either way, if you’re a first-time Citibank credit cardholder this might be of interest to you because something just dawned on me. I think I might have thought up a way to get some free money/points.

Suppose you apply for a Citibank card and buy a USD Amazon gift card with S$200 equivalent value (I recommend the Rewards card, given the 8mpd promotion that just got extended to 31 March 2017).

You then go to liquidate the gift card on a site like Carousell/Gift Card Granny/Raise/Gift Card Bin/Gift Card Spread or one of the many other gift card liquidation sites.

Because you can buy virtually anything on Amazon, Amazon gift cards liquidate on secondary exchanges at values very close to face. This screenshot from Gift Card Granny shows that it’s possible to liquidate Amazon gift cards at about 98%+ of their face value.

Of course, you need to factor in platform fees. Raise, for example, charges 12% commission on the selling price of the gift card (!). You might be better off trying eBay or another platform. Shop around and see which site lets you keep the most value.

Assuming you manage to sell you Amazon gift card at 98% face value, you will now have

  • S$20 cashback
  • 1,600 miles

Basically, you could take anything up to a 10% haircut on value (through forex fees charged by Citibank and selling fees when liquidating the gift card) and still end up on top, thanks to the 1,600 miles you’ll generate by buying the gift card.

Now repeat this each month for 6 months. Remember that buying gift cards on Amazon codes as any other Amazon purchase. Furthermore, I see nothing on Citibank’s T&C that excludes buying gift cards

5 “Qualifying Spend” refers to any retail transactions (including internet purchases) which do not arise from (i) any Equal Payment Plan (EPP) purchases, (ii) refunded/ disputed/ unauthorised/ fraudulent retail purchases, (iii) Quick Cash transactions and monthly instalments, (iv) Paywise/cash advance/quasi-cash transactions/balance transfers/annual card membership fees/interest/goods and services taxes, (v) bill payments made via Citibank Online/CitiMobile, (vi) late payment fees and (vii) any other form of service/ miscellaneous fees.

You can sign up for pretty much any Citibank card but obviously the Rewards card makes the most sense given the promotion with Amazon

“Eligible Card” refers to Citi PremierMiles Visa, Citi PremierMiles American Express Card, Citi Cash Back Visa Signature (previously known as Citi DIVIDEND Visa Signature), Citi Cash Back World MasterCard (previously known as Citi DIVIDEND World MasterCard), Citi Rewards Visa, Citi Rewards World MasterCard, Citi SMRT Platinum Visa Card and Citi M1 Platinum Visa Card only.

This promotion actually started back in August 2016, apparently, but I’ve only thought of this now. I’m sure I can’t have been the only one. I think the potential monkey wrench in the works is liquidating the Amazon gift card, but worse come to worse you can always use it for yourself. You can even use your Amazon gift card to buy an AirBnB gift card, or some Playstation credit or otherwise convert it into a currency that you’ll find useful.

What you should and shouldn’t be doing with your Citibank ThankYou points

Citibank recently relaunched their rewards points program in Singapore to bring it in line with the rest of the world.

The revised rewards program is called ThankYou and features one of the largest rewards catalogs of any Singapore bank.

My biggest gripe with Citibank is that their system doesn’t pool your card rewards points by default. This means that if you have a Citibank Rewards Visa, a Citibank Rewards Mastercard and a Citibank Premiermiles card, you’ll end up having 3 separate points balances, as I do.

3 separate points balances means 3 separate conversion fees when you want to transfer your points to miles. I know some people say you can call in and ask the CSO to pool your points before transferring, thereby paying only one conversion fee. However

  • You can only pool together Thank You points. Premiermiles cannot be grouped together with Thank You points when making a redemption. In other words, you can pool Citibank Rewards Visa and Citibank Prestige, for example, but you couldn’t pool Citibank Prestige and Citibank Premiermiles
  • I’ve heard mixed reports of success in getting the CSO to agree to the pooling, so YMMV

I don’t think it’s technically very difficult to get the system to pool points into one balance (or, in the case of the Citibank Premiermiles card, changing the earning structure so the Premiermiles earns Thank You points, in the same way that all DBS cards (Altitude included) earn DBS points). Therefore the fact that the system is designed this way suggest a deliberate choice, which is very customer-unfriendly.

If you can live with that, Citibank offers you many, many options to spend your ThankYou points. You could redeem your points for

  • Merchandise (like electronics, bags, home appliances)
  • Vouchers and cash
  • Travel (flights, hotels, car rentals)
  • Airline and hotel points
  • Instant rewards

Of course, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It all boils down to what value you’re getting per point. The topic came to mind because a Citibank advert popped up in my Facebook feed advertising a special promotion for redeeming Citi ThankYou Rewards points. From now till 31 March 2017, you can use your Citibank points to redeem hotels or airline stays for 8% less.

I realise this has the potential to confuse people. It doesn’t mean you get a bonus when you transfer your Citibank points to Krisflyer, Asiamiles et al. It means you get 8% off when you use your Thank You points as currency for buying revenue tickets

Still confused? Read on.

What baseline value should you expect for your points?

A good starting point when we analyze the various redemption options that Citibank has on its ThankYou portal is to think about what value we’d get if we ignored all that noise and just redeemed our points for miles.

Citibank has the longest list of airline transfer partners of any bank in Singapore. Your points transfer at the rate of 5 points= 2 miles for

  • Singapore Airlines
  • Qatar
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Qantas
  • Cathay
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Etihad
  • Air France/KLM
  • Garuda (hahahahahahahahaah)

Obviously, 1 Krisflyer mile <> 1 Delta Mile <> 1 Etihad Mile. So our valuation here will depend on what we convert our Citibank points to.  Here I’m going to defer to Lucky’s valuation of miles and points. He doesn’t list all of the airlines that Citibank transfers to, but based on his chart Krisflyer miles are the highest value transfer option at 1.5 US cents (2.16 Singapore cents) per mile.

My thought process on how to value miles has evolved a lot over the past year- I definitely don’t think that Krisflyer miles are worth 4-5 cents anymore (and there’s a good slide on the presentation I made in December on why theoretical value <> actual value). My current valuation hovers between 2 and 3 cents.  But anyway, if we take 2.16 cents as the “right” value, then 1 TY point= 0.4 miles = 0.86 cents

This is the value we should mentally anchor ourselves to when analysing the different options

[Note: for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be referring to Citibank’s pricing in terms of Thank You points. If you have a Premiermiles card, you will still see exactly the same portal and redemption options, but your pricing will appear in terms of Premermiles points instead of Thank You points. My calculations tells me that Citibank reliably uses the valuation of 1 Premiermile= 2.7 Thank You points]

Travel (0.42 cents per point)

This category confuses a lot of newbies because they confuse it with points transfer. It doesn’t help that Citibank puts Points Transfer as an option under travel either.

But redeeming your points for travel is not the same as redeeming your points for points transfers. What is going on is that Citibank partners with a 3rd party agency called Connexion Loyalty, which works pretty much like any other OTA (online travel agent- think Hotels.com, Expedia etc). Connexion Loyalty has a search engine that lets you look for flights, hotels or car rentals, in the same way you would using any traditional online booking engine.

The difference is that Connexion Loyalty takes those revenue prices and converts them into the bank’s proprietary currency (in this case Thank You points) based on some internal valuation metric. I’ve found that metric to be 0.42 cents per point.

You can use the booking engine to book air tickets, for example. I’ve checked the prices that the Connexion portal pulls and they’re at least on par with those I find on Kayak. That’s good, because it’d be a double whammy if they gave you a lower value on your points + charged you higher prices (ahem Krisshop’s pay with miles option ahem). But the valuation of 0.42 cents is only half of what you’d get if you converted your miles to a frequent flyer program. You could argue that when you redeem your miles with Citibank, you’re at least guaranteeing availability (because your points are used to buy revenue tickets), whereas if you transferred your points to an airline FFP you might not be able to find award space. That’s fair enough, but in my mind it certainly doesn’t warrant taking a 50% haircut on value.

You can book hotel rooms through the ThankYou portal as well, getting the same value as you would for flights. I didn’t check these values against what you’d find on 3rd party OTAs, so if you’re even considering this you owe it to yourself to find out if the same rooms are available elsewhere cheaper (or if any OTAs are running special credit card tip up promotions)

Remember that 8% discount I was talking about at the start of the article? Citibank is offering 8% off the number of miles needed to book hotels or flights through its ThankYou portal for the first 1,800 customers who enter the code SGAIR8 or HOTELS at checkout. That boosts your value per point to a whopping 0.45 cents. You’ll excuse me for not jumping on this.

You aren’t limited to just flights and hotels, of course. You could even buy tickets to activities to do at your destination. If spending 2,540 points on a 7D motion ride at Suntec City mall floats your boat, more power to you. Excuse me for finding this just a little bit cynical as I imagine Connexion earns some sort of commission on these sales while still charging you the regular walk up rates you’d pay at these attractions anyway. You’d be much better off buying the tickets yourself.

Vouchers and Cash (0.28-0.34 cents)

Your Citibank points can be used to redeem a cash rebate on your credit card statement in denominations of

  • S$10 rebate-  3,600 points
  • S$20 rebate- 7,200 points
  • S$50 rebate- 18,000 points

There’s no scaling effect here. Your points are valued at 0.28 cents each no matter which denomination you choose. Why is this value even lower than travel? It’s probably due to the fact that Citibank wants to incentivize people to book travel through its portal. After all, when you book through them they earn some commission from the hotels and airlines. Getting a cash rebate, on the other hand, is a straight out of pocket cost for Citibank. So of course they’ll give you less value per point.

You can also redeem your points for a range of gift vouchers at 26 different merchants from Yoshinoya to entire malls like Wisma and United Square. The average value you get is 0.34 cents per point.

If you’re in a charitable mood you can make a S$10 donation to selected charities for 2,890 points, or 0.35 cents per point. Maybe the value’s a bit higher here because Citibank gets to write off your donation as a tax benefit on its own books? Either way, if you want to give to charity, there are much better ways of doing so.

Merchandise (0.2-0.4 cents per point)

This is one of the trickiest categories to cover because the retail price of goods can differ dramatically depending on where you buy them from. In the example below, it’s easy to value the $50 North Face and $50 Ping Golf voucher, but what about the A360 Fitness Tracker?

If you buy the fitness tracker in Singapore, it will cost you S$299.

But you could get it on Amazon for US$145/S$208 (assuming you can get someone to mule it home for you…try Airfrov?)

I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s very hard for me to compute an exact value for how much you get when you redeem ThankYou points for merchandise (protip: don’t do it), because it depends what sort of retail options are open to you. Based on a completely unscientific sample of 10 data points I’ve got a value that ranges between 0.2 and 0.4 cents per point.

Keep in mind that not all merchandise options come with free shipping- several of them ship from overseas and Citibank expects you to cover the postage too, adding to the total cost. But hey, at lesat Citibank lets you pay for international shipping with your points too!

Instant Rewards (0.28 cents)

Citibank has the option of instant rewards at selected merchants, which are conceptually similar to cash rebates, with valuations to match. I don’t really understand why Citibank needs to offer these options given that it’s the same thing as using your Thank You points for a statement cash rebate at the end of the month.

  • S$10 voucher- 3,600 points
  • S$20 voucher- 7,200 points
  • S$50 voucher- 18,000 points

Seems like a repetition if you ask me. You basically go to the customer service counter and redeem an award with your points the same way you’d apply for a cash rebate on the Citibank ThankYou portal. I don’t get it.

Conclusion- so much choice, so little value

The ThankYou portal has so many different reward choices, but taking any option other than transferring your points to miles will yield inferior value. I supposed you could have saved a lot of time reading this article if you just remember the mantra that

Credit card rewards points should always be redeemed for airline miles

None of the alternate options even comes close to yielding 0.86 cents per point.

So do yourself a favor. If you want to buy a toaster, go to an appliance store. If you want to donate to charity, do so directly. If you want to buy attraction tickets, check the attraction’s own website and see if they offer direct purchase discounts. If you want to book a car, fiddle around with discount codes and get yourself the best rate. There’s no reason why you should be spending your hard earned points on any of Citibank’s inferior redemption options.