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 since it was apparently too good to be true (for long, anyway)…
Q1 2016 update: more disappointing news…
Two years ago Citi pulled the plug on the regular Forward card, but continued to offer the application for college students March of 2014 — 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.
The content below is for reference purposes only.
Previously it gave 5 points on the following qualifying merchants:
- Fast Food Restaurants
- Movie Theatres
- Movie Rental Stores
- Music/Record Stores
- Book Stores
But as of a few years ago you no longer got 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.
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. 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
With only 1 point per dollar in rewards, 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:
- 5% cash back on categories
- Full 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Tons of new insurance and travel benefits
- Go here for more info about it.
- If you are in college, check out the student version of it.
Written or last updated February 2016