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Citi’s Credit Cards Want You. Should You Want Them Back?

Citibank mailed 346 million credit card offers in the third quarter / iStockphoto

Citibank mailed 346 million offers to North American customers in the third quarter, The Wall Street Journal reports Tuesday. “That is more than one for every man, woman and child in the U.S.,” the paper reports. Experts say this is a good time for some attractive credit card deals.

But quantity is one thing. Quality is another. In that aggressive mailing campaign, Citi is pushing the Simplicity Card, Thank You Card and Executive AAdvantage – and many more that are big on rewards. Experts say they are often times not appropriate for “revolvers” – those who don’t pay off their credit card balance every month.

We asked five experts for their evaluation: Odysseas Papadimitriou, the chief executive of Cardhub.com; Beverly Harzog, a credit expert for Credit.com; Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research at CreditCards.com; Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups; and Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com.

Our experts take on Citibank’s latest offers:

Simplicity Card

The Simplicity Card has 0% APR for the first 21 months, but Mierzwinski notes that it has a variable APR of 16.99% thereafter; he cautions against being tempted if you are a revolver.  Emily Collins, spokeswoman for Citibank, says it helps the card holder manage their finances responsibly, and says all the bank’s offers target a broad demographic.

Thank You Card

During the first 12 months you earn five points per $1 spent at gas stations, supermarkets, and drug stores as well as one point per $1 on all other purchases.  “However,” Arnold says, “you are downgraded to one point per dollar on all purchases after that— not that competitive to say the least.”

Executive AAdvantage

You get 30,000 American Airlines points after $750 in purchases if made within the first four months of membership. Arnold says, “If you don’t travel frequently you would be better off with a card with a much smaller or no annual fee.” Papadimitriou says this is nothing new: “All credit card companies have their own points/miles rewards program.”

Other Citibank cards our experts recommend:

Citi Dividend World MasterCard

It offers $200 cash back after $500 purchases within three months of opening an account. However, quarterly enrollment is required to earn more than 1% cash back on specific spending categories that keep changing, Papadimitriou says. Harzog adds, “This is not a good choice if you need to carry a balance.”

Citi Gold AAdvantage World Mastercard

Earn 30,000 American Airlines bonus miles after spending $750 within the first four months of membership. Papadimitriou notes a $50 annual fee after the first year and, as with many rewards cards, he says the 15.24% APR makes it “prohibitively expensive to revolve a balance.”

Citi Platinum Select MasterCard

It gives 0% APR for 21 months. But after that the variable APR is 11.99% to 20.99%. Harzog says that there are no rewards earning potential and notes the wide APR range is dependent on your credit rating. “Most consumers with excellent credit can get an APR better than that,” she says.

For more read: “The New Best Credit Cards” on SmartMoney.com.

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    • Just close my acoount today, as they were charging interest even though I pay in full i every billing cycle…. they substracted the additional charge… but 2 months in a row on the same mistake is just unacceptable…. wonder how many times, have they done it before, and I have not noticed it..

    • Unlike every other bank in the world, Citibank will only allow a cardholder to make an online payment for charges after the statement containing those charges has “printed”. So, if you are like many of us who want to go online and pay for charges the day we buy something with the card, you can’t. And, they limit the cardholder to 4 online payments per statement cycle. My bank, and every other major bank, allows me to go online and pay for the charges the moment the charges post to the account. I’ve had a Citibank credit card for 25 years, so I will not cancel it, but I sure as heck will not use it very often. One good thing is that Citibank reports your account standing every single month to the credit bureaus, even if you don’t touch the card, and they report your credit limit every month which helps to reduce your ratio of credit used to credit available. All of that helps to boost your credit score, another reason not to cancel my 25 year old account, but again, I will rarely use this card due to the punitive way that Citibank treats online payment rules.

    • Only revolvers are tempted by the so called Simplicity card – it has no rewards, so what’s the point if you are not a revolver??

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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