Stricter Credit Card Rules – How You Can Still Earn Free Travel

As we spread the news of free travel to new people everyday, naturally the credit card companies are going to wise-up and tighten-up. It isn’t fun when we learn about stricter rules, but do not fear, we can still travel for free! (or really close to it)

Today, Citi announced that they are going to limit certain credit card bonuses if you opened or closed a card in the last 24 months. They are limiting the sign up bonus for cards of the same family within a 24 month period. The 24 month clock starts when you open the card or close the card, which ever is the most recent. Hilton, American Airlines, and ThankYou Points cards are all apart of their own families so the rules won’t apply outside the family of cards. If you only have an American Airlines card you can sign up for a Citi Hilton card at any time.


Here is a scenario–
You signed up for the American Airlines Gold Card in March of 2015. You would not be eligible to receive the sign-up bonus for any other Citi American Airlines card (such as the AA Platinum), until March 2017. If you close your Citi AA Gold card in September of 2016, the 24 month clock would reset and you would then have to wait until September 2018 to qualify for another Citi AA card sign up bonus.

If cancelling a card exempts you from opening another card in that family for 24 months, it may make sense to keep your card a second year and pay the annual fee. The good news is that Citi has a retention department that usually offers pretty strong retention offers. I called into Citi last month asking them waive the annual fee on my Thank You Premier card. They didn’t waive annual fee but they offered me $70 in ThankYou points after spending $1,000. The annual fee was $95 but I earned $70 which brought the annual fee down to $25. This is worth it because I will be able to sign up for the Citi Prestige card next June (I have 11 more months to go).


— In case you missed it, you can pay your rent from the RadPad app on your android phone with no credit card fees. This makes spend requirements very easy.


Make sure your Citi credit card applications are well though out


There is some saving grace, according to DoC, Citi is not going to apply these new rules until August 28th. The current Citi rules are the same “24 month clock” however it does not apply across the family of cards, it only applies to that specific card. That means from today until August 28th you can sign up for the Citi American Airlines Gold Card if you already have the American Airlines Platinum card. Come August 28th, you won’t be able to sign up for the AA Gold card unless it has been 24 months since you opened or closed your AA Platinum card.


Here are some other Citi Credit Card application rules to be aware of:
-No more than one Citi credit card application in an eight-day period
-No more than two Citi credit card applications in a 65 day period


If you already have the Citi American Airlines Platinum card, consider signing up for the Citi AA Gold card before 8/28. This card only offers 25,000 miles but requires just $750 minimum spend to receive the miles. Also, the annual fee is waived the first year and is only $50 the second year. Keep in mind, American Airlines has some great reduced mileage awards where you can get a round-trip for only 17,500 miles.  Just make sure to book more than 21 days in advance to avoid the $75 close booking fee. 

Citi business credit cards are treated differently than personal cards so it may make sense to apply for a business card to keep yourself eligible for personal card sign up bonuses. You can only apply for one Cities business credit card in a rolling 95 day period, FYI. This Citi American Airlines Business Platinum card is a great option for 50,000 miles.


— Here are some options for earning points that DO NOT involve signing up for new credit cards —

1. Make sure to maximize refer-a-friend bonuses. Depending on the card, you can earn 5,000-10,000 points per friend that you refer. They must click on your link and they must be approved (in some cases they must use the card at least once). Check to see if your Chase or American Express cards have referral offers.

2. Keep an eye on your email for targeted spend offers. Last month I pointed out two spend offers from American Express. I received 5,000 Delta points after meeting the minimum spend requirement. Additionally, Starwood targeted some people for 10,000 points which are worth over $200 in value.  Hotels also send out bonus offers for staying ‘X’ amount of nights in a set time-frame, which can be great if you have a planned trip in the near future.

3. Start reselling gift cards or goods. Last month I made over $1,000 and well over 10,000 points (I know, I stopped keeping track after 10k) by purchasing items to resell on eBay. You earn points by buying the goods and then earn cash by reselling them for a profit. Start slow at first, but you can definitely begin earning some free travel and cash! The other huge bonus is that it makes minimum spend requirements very easy since you are purchasing a lot of items to resell.

4. Take advantage of your quarterly category bonuses on cards like the Chase Freedom. This quarter you can earn up to 7,500 points if you spend $1,500 at restaurants and wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club. You can buy gift cards at Sam’s Club and use those gift card to buy your goods to resell. If you transfer your 7,500 points from Chase Freedom to your Sapphire or Ink card, those become Ultimate Reward points which are worth twice as much! That means your 7,500 points per quarter are worth roughly $150 towards travel partners like Hyatt and Southwest Airlines . If leveraged correctly, you can earn $600 a year in travel without signing up for a new card.



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