Clarified: Qualifying spend for Citi card welcome offers & benefits

What does and doesn't count towards qualifying spend for Citi card welcome offers and benefits? Here's the official answer.

If you’re a Citi cardholder, you might be confused as to what exactly counts towards the minimum qualifying spend for welcome offers or card benefits.

The 30,000 bonus miles welcome offer for the Citi PremierMiles Card requires an S$800 qualifying spend. But what counts?

That’s because Citi has two sets of T&Cs: one which governs the welcome offers/card benefits, and another which governs overall rewards exclusions. And they don’t sing the same tune!

Thankfully, I’ve managed to get some official clarification from Citi, so we can lay this matter to rest once and for all.

How does Citi define qualifying spend?

Inside the T&Cs for any Citi welcome offer (e.g. Citi Rewards Card 16,000 bonus miles, Citi PremierMiles Card 30,000 bonus miles, Citi Prestige Card 50,000 bonus miles) or card benefit (e.g. Citi Prestige limo rides), you’ll find the following clause:

 

“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 and other instalment loans
(iv) Citi PayLite / Citi Flexibill / cash advance / quasi-cash transactions / balance transfers / annual card membership fees / interest / goods and services taxes
(v) bill payments made using the Eligible Card as a source of funds
(vi) late payment fees 
(vii) any other form of service/ miscellaneous fees
(viii) Citi PayAll transactions where the customer is not charged the Citi PayAll service fee.

❓ Bill Payments?
Since this gets asked a lot, I should state for the record that “bill payments made using the Eligible Card as a source of funds” does not refer to Citi PayAll, nor CardUp.

However, Citi has a separate rewards exclusion list that mentions the usual suspects like education, insurance premiums, charitable donations and GrabPay top-ups.

❌ Citibank Rewards Exclusion List
(exclusion by MCC)
MCCDescription
MCC 6529Quasi Cash Remote Stored Value Load Financial Institute
MCC 6530Quasi Cash Remote Stored Value Load Merchant
MCC 6534Quasi Cash Money Transfer Member Financial Institution
MCC 6540Non-Financial Institutions Stored Value Card Purchase/Load
MCC 7349Cleaning and Maintenance, Janitorial Services
MCC 7511Quasi Cash Truck Stop Transactions
MCC 7523Parking Lots, Parking Meters and Garages
MCC 7800Government-Owned Lotteries (US Region only)
MCC 7995Betting, including Lottery Tickets, Casino Gaming Chips,  Off Track Betting, and Wagers at Race Tracks
MCC 4829Wire Transfer Money Orders (WTMOs)
MCC 4900Utilities Electric, Gas, Water, and Sanitary
MCC 5199Nondurable Goods (Not Elsewhere Classified)
MCC 5960Direct Marketing Insurance Services
MCC 6012Financial Institutions Merchandise, Services, and Debt
Repayment
MCC 6050Quasi Cash Financial institutions, Merchandise,  Services
MCC 6051Non-Financial Institutions Foreign Currency, Money Orders (Not Wire Transfer), Stored Value Card/Load, Travelers Cheques, and Debt Repayment
MCC 6211Securities Brokers and Dealers
MCC 6300Insurance Sales, Underwriting and Premiums
MCC 6513Real Estate Agents and Managers Rentals
MCC 8211Elementary and Secondary Schools
MCC 8220Colleges, Junior Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
MCC 8241Correspondence Schools
MCC 8244Business and Secretarial Schools
MCC 8249Vocational and Trade Schools
MCC 8299Schools and Educational Services (Not Elsewhere Classified)
MCC 8398Charitable and Social Service Organizations
MCC 8062
(except Citi ULTIMA)
Hospitals
MCC 8651Political Organizations
MCC 8661Religious Organizations
MCC 9211Court Costs Including Alimony and Child Support
MCC 9222Fines
MCC 9223Bail and Bond Payments
MCC 9311Tax Payments
MCC 9399Government Services (Not Elsewhere Classified)
MCC 9402Postal Services Government Only
MCC 9405U.S. Federal Government Agencies or Departments
MCC 9754Quasi Cash Gambling Horse Racing, Dog Racing, State Lotteries
MCC 5993Cigar Stores and Stands
❌ Citibank Rewards Exclusion List
(exclusion by transaction description)
  1. AXS
  2. AMAZE* AXS
  3. BANC DE BINARY
  4. BUS/MRT^
  5. AMAZE* BUS/MRT
  6. EZ-link
  7. AMAZE* EZ-link
  8. OANDA ASIA PAC
  9. SAM
  10. Saxo Cap Mkts Pte Ltd
  11. SKYFX.COM
  12. TL-ABT
  13. TRANSIT
  14. AMAZE* TRANSIT
  15. Transit Link
  16. Youtrip Singapore SG

This leads people to assume, quite reasonably I should add, that these transactions will also not count towards qualifying spend.

After all, the general rule is that if transaction X earns points, it should also count towards welcome offer spending. So if transaction X doesn’t earn points, it also shouldn’t count towards welcome offer spending.

That’s the case for other banks, but not Citi. I reached out to a Citi spokesperson, who confirmed that each list stands alone. In other words: transactions on the rewards exclusion list — to the extent they’re not also mentioned in the exclusions for qualifying spend — will not earn rewards, but will count towards qualifying spend.

For example, I could charge a S$800 insurance premium to my Citi PremierMiles Card and qualify for the current 30,000 miles welcome bonus, though I would not earn any base miles for my spending. Likewise, I could charge a S$12,000 hospital bill to my Citi Prestige Card and qualify for two complimentary airport limo transfers, with zero miles earned. 

Is it worth doing so?

Citi Prestige Cardholders can use transactions ineligible for

This brings us to the next question: is it worth doing so?

Well, to the extent you can’t earn rewards on a given transaction with your other cards, then you might as well charge it to a Citi card and get something out of it. There’s no opportunity cost in that scenario. 

However, I also want to point out that not all commonly-excluded transactions are lost causes. It’s still possible to earn rewards for:

The bigger problem is that there’s very few cards left that do, and it may not make sense to get one of them just for a one-off transaction. 

Moreover, you could choose to pay most of these transactions via Citi PayAll for a 2.2% fee, earn rewards in the process, and have it count towards your qualifying spend. That’s probably a more enticing proposition during one of the periodic offers, however. The most recent one just ended on 29 February 2024, and it may be a while before we see another one.

Conclusion

Citi has confirmed that transactions on the rewards exclusion list will count towards qualifying spend for welcome offers and card benefits, to the extent they’re not also mentioned on the qualifying spend exclusions.

While you won’t earn any base miles or points, it could still be worth it to secure a welcome offer, or want to unlock limo rides on the Citi Prestige Card. And if you don’t have any alternative card that would earn rewards on that particular transaction, you might as well.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Quasi Lawyer

To the extent that The Milelion shall remain a blog focused on miles and points, the use of such legalese is a fresh editorial direction!

Hridaya

I feel better to park all the general spends like simply go, insurance and education spend on the no rewards citi as the opportunity cost of 1.2-1.6 is still lower than specialised card rates

Cky

For Citi Prestige card holders, has anybody successfully signed up for the GHA Discovery Titanium tier membership? I tried registering for it and keep getting a card verification error. Called the Prestige hotline and they said they have no idea as well.

Teo

Does paying insurance online count as min spend when using Citi Credit Card still earn rewards?

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