Citi Forward Card Review For 2013

Posted by CreditCardGuru

There are countless reward programs on the market, but the Forward credit card from Citibank was in a league of its own. Why? Because it gave 5x points on certain categories of spending. But now that has changed…

3-20-2014 update: more disappointing news…

In 2013 Citi pulled the plug on the regular Forward card, but continued to offer the application for college students until just recently — that too is no longer available. Last year they also discontinued the 5x point categories for all new accounts, so we stopped recommending the Citi Forward since the value proposition was no longer compelling. If you applied for the card prior to the reward program getting changed you should have been grandfathered in to the better terms.

Read about Citi’s new offer for college students here.

The content below is for reference purposes only.

Earning Rewards?

Previously it gave 5 points on the following qualifying merchants:

  • Restaurants
  • Fast Food Restaurants
  • Movie Theatres
  • Movie Rental Stores
  • Music/Record Stores
  • Book Stores

But as of 10-25-2013, you no longer get 5x points on those categories. Now it’s just a 1 point per dollar on eligible purchases. This was one of the absolute best credit cards on the market. They did cap the number of points you could earn per year at 75,000, but for most of us that was plenty… so the Citi Foward was basically earning you 5x points on a couple very popular categories – restaurants and bookstores (since they previously classified Amazon as a book store). Oh those were the days! Now that those categories are gone, the rewards program isn’t anything to write home about.

Spending Rewards?

The points you earn are called “ThankYou Points” (that’s what Citi calls their credit card points). As is the case with most banks, you have a variety of redemption options; gift cards, electronics, flights, hotels, music downloads, account statement credits, student loan payments, and charity donations. However the Achilles heel of ThankYou points is that they don’t always convert well. For example, if you redeem for cash back (statement credits) the value is around a 1/2 cent per point. With gift cards, the most value you can get is 1 cent per point (i.e. 10,000 points = 100 store or restaurant gift card). However with many – but not all – of the $25 and $50 gift cards, the point value is diluted (i.e. 3,000 points for a $25 gift card). There are around 75 stores/restaurants with gift cards offered in this rewards program. Redeeming points for merchandise isn’t a good deal, but that holds true with just about every credit card company. Citi Thank You points value for merchandise Conclusion? In order to get the most bang for your buck, you have to go for partner gift cards. But if you’re going to go that route, then you might as well go with Discover it because with that card you always get more than 1 cent value per point for gift cards.

Benefits?

While the rewards are no longer enticing, the Citi Forward card’s benefits are above-average:

  • No Annual Fee
  • Earn 100 Points Per Billing Cycle – You get this for making your payment on-time and not going over your credit limit.
  • Earn APR Reductions – If you have 3 billing cycles in a row where you make a purchase, stay under your credit limit and pay on-time, you get an automatic 0.25% reduction in your purchase APR. You can have that reduction up to a total of 8 times on your account.
  • Cell Phone Insurance – If you pay your monthly cell phone bill using your card, you get free cell phone insurance; up to a $250 reimbursement for eligible claims. That is helpful, but keep in mind the full price of an iPhone will be $500 or $600 since the $199 or $299 price you pay with AT&T, Verizon, etc. is subsidized over 24 months.
  • Extended Warranty – On eligible purchases that come with a manufacturers warranty of 1 year or less, the length will be doubled, giving you up to 1 additional year of coverage.
  • Retail Purchase Protection – Eligible purchases made with your Citi Forward come with coverage of up to $500 for theft, fire or accidental breakage that occurs within 90 days from date of purchase ($500 max).
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver – For qualifying rentals paid for with this card, you will receive collision coverage free of charge when you decline the rental company’s insurance. This is secondary to your normal auto insurance (but if you have none or it doesn’t cover you in rentals, then this will kick in first thing). As with all credit card rental coverage, some types of vehicles are excluded so make sure you read your benefits guide when your Forward from Citi arrives.
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions – If you’re ever the victim of identity theft, this free service can help you get things back on track.

Qualifications?

And what are the Citi Forward’s credit score requirements? Well the application doesn’t publicly disclose that, other than saying you need to be 18+ years old to be considered for approval. That’s not very helpful of course since the same holds true for all credit cards. Based on feedback and reviews I’ve heard from applicants, it’s not the easiest to get approved for. If you only have fair or limited credit I’d recommend you try for one of these instead.

Verdict?

Discover ItWith only 1 point per dollars, it’s no longer the compelling value that it once was. The best 5x points/5% program I would recommend right now is the new Discover It card. Recently launched, it is way better then their previous cards:


Written or last updated March 26, 2014

26 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Amazon Buyer March 26, 2014 at 12:29PM

    I have used the Citi Forward card for over a year and love the 5 points for Amazon purchases. Unfortunately, I just started seeing some transactions from Amazon come in categorized as “Services – COMPUTER NETWORK/INFO SRVS” instead of “Merchandise – BOOK STORES” and this is impacting the amount of bonus points I receive. Looks like it started happening in February of this year , and it’s hit or miss – no rhyme or reason why some come in as one vs. the other. For example, in March I had 2 orders of diapers – and they both had different categorizes assigned. Does anyone have any ideas? I called Citibank and they said I should contact Amazon as Amazon sets the code for each transaction. I emailed Amazon but I have a feeling they will be of no help.

    • Ian July 22, 2014 at 1:18PM

      Did they ever reply to you? This is bugging me too.

  2. Alicson December 18, 2013 at 1:01PM

    Just saw this and called Citibank to find out: we are grandfathered in; the changes do not affect my existing Forward account.

  3. Michael December 7, 2013 at 9:11AM

    I think you get grandfathered in. I just pulled up my last statement and I show a bunch of points that were earned through the bonus category. I suspect at some time they will retire this feature, but I won’t be switching dining cards just yet. Will just have to pay attention to my statements going forward.

  4. goinvest October 31, 2013 at 11:43AM

    Looking through the comments, I want to put it out again. If you currently have the Citi Forward card, will you still get to be grandfathered with the 5x rewards? Your article seems to say that new applicants won’t get the bonus, but I’d like to know if existing cardholders get the bonus taken away. Thank you!

    • JohnSmith November 29, 2013 at 1:29PM

      According to Citi, the 5x points for existing cardholders will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. I would take that with a grain of salt. My best guess is they will split this into 2 phases. The first phase is too spam you to death to attempt to get you off the forward card onto another card. If that doesn’t work, phase 2 will simply drop the card because there was not enough interest. Well duh, who wants this card with 1 lousy point. Once my 5X points is gone, so am I from Citi.

    • Curtis December 5, 2013 at 4:32PM

      Based on my review of my Dec and Nov statements the 5x rewards on restaurants and Amazon.com are still in effect … mostly. Where restaurants are consistently 5x, the Amazon purchases are split into 2 camps: 1) purchases from Amazon itself are 1 point; but 2) Amazon Marketplace (3rd party) purchases are 5 points. If you bundle Amazon.com and Amazon Marketplace into 1 purchase, it qualifies for 5 points. In my case it happened twice between 2 months. YMMV but I am keeping this card until Citi yanks 5x points

  5. lory September 26, 2013 at 3:08AM

    I applied for the card and at the end of the message she didnt tell me if i was approved or not.she just said when you get your card just sign the back. she didnt tell me my credit limit.now i am waiting.

  6. balover1996 May 1, 2013 at 6:50PM

    Howdy! I’ve just stumbled across your blog, and I’m loving it, you seem like a legit guru!

    I’m in my early twenties, and I’ve never had a credit card, so I’m brand new to all of this. I’m going back to school this summer/fall, but I’m not currently enrolled, nor was I last semester, can I still apply for a student card?

    I’m looking really for a card to help with college expenses (tuition, books, transportation, etc.), and from your posts I think I’ve narrowed it down to the Citi Forward and the Capital One Journey, assuming I count as a student. I noticed you’ve listed the interest rate for the Journey, do you have that information for the Forward as well? And which would you recommend as the number one, go-to, I’m-probably-gonna-be-broke-all-the-time, card?

    Thanks so much for all the help, I really feel like this whole getting life in some kind of order thing might be do-able after reading this!

  7. MIckey February 19, 2013 at 3:14PM

    So what if we already have the regular Forward card? What happens to our accounts? Also, in the Terms and Conditions of the Student Forward card, it says that the 5 pts for books, music, restaurants, etc is just a “promotional offer”… how long will it last for?

  8. graydog111 January 5, 2013 at 8:37PM

    I always pay my Citi Card bills (2 different cards) online. For the last two month, it was impossible to pay online. The site asked me over and over to enter my password again & again, even after I had logged in. I finally called and a guy in India answered and he didn’t understand the problem. I got him to transfer my call to USA where a girl helped.

    I have checked for blocked cookies and could find nothing wrong on my Mac. I am ready to pull my hair out. It took 2 hours to pay the 2 bills.

  9. Salley January 5, 2013 at 7:19AM

    Do you get any points or credits for balance transfers?

  10. Kelly December 23, 2012 at 2:23PM

    Does Netflix count as a movie rental store?

    • Michael January 2, 2013 at 4:08PM

      I know Hulu and Rhapsody count, not sure about Netflix. Anyone?

    • Michael September 3, 2013 at 10:16AM

      Netflix shows up on my Discover card as “DIRECT MRKTNG-ALL OTHER DIRECT MRKTRS”

  11. eddie December 11, 2012 at 3:22AM

    earn 5 points on redbox rentals as well?

  12. arnold November 19, 2012 at 9:29AM

    Is there an email or “inquiry form” to contact Citi regarding credit cards?

  13. An July 21, 2012 at 9:51AM

    Will it affect my approval if I don’t pay rent?

    • Michael Dolen July 24, 2012 at 9:33AM

      When you say don’t pay, do you mean you have a charge off on your credit report for not paying rent? Or that you live somewhere where you don’t have to pay (i.e. with parents, friends). If that latter, that shouldn’t affect your approval. On the application just put $0 for rent/mortgage due each month, if you don’t pay any.

  14. Amy April 18, 2012 at 11:04AM

    I know Amazon is considered a bookstore, but will I still earn points even if I buy things on Amazon that are NOT books? Thanks!

    • CreditCardGuru April 18, 2012 at 2:14PM

      To the best of my knowledge if Amazon is the merchant (the one who processes the credit card purchase) then it should count :)

      • Joel May 2, 2012 at 5:12PM

        To clarify, does that mean that purchases at amazon through paypal do not qualify for the %5?

      • CreditCardGuru May 6, 2012 at 2:51PM

        That I am not sure, though I would imagine it’s likely if Amazon is the party processing payments (and your credit card statement shows the charge as being Amazon.com).

  15. TOM April 11, 2012 at 2:36PM

    Hello,

    Good article – Thanks!

    I have a question – Can I exchange my Citi “Platinum Select” Card for this one?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • CreditCardGuru April 11, 2012 at 4:16PM

      Thanks, it’s definitely worth calling customer service to find out: sometimes Citi allows product changes, other times they do not. So give them a ring and see if they will allow you to convert your account over. If they don’t, then you can apply above for the Forward’s promotion.

      Good luck!

      • Vega August 31, 2012 at 10:01PM

        Hello, I am a college student and I’ve been looking for a Rewards card that’s great and I stumbled upon this. I have no credit at all. So I was wondering if this was a good way to start? Or if they will even accept me if I apply for this card.

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