CitiBusiness ThankYou Card Review

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Because business cards have higher swipe fees than regular consumer cards, they’re more profitable for the issuing bank. So shouldn’t the rewards be better, too?

The CitiBusiness credit card offers high rewards, and, when you apply, you can choose whether you want your card to be a Visa or MasterCard. But there are a couple drawbacks to consider. Our review of the advantages/disadvantages will help in your decision.

Part One: The rewards

On normal spending, you get 1 ThankYou point per dollar. You will also earn 3 points per dollar in rotating categories, which change every quarter. For 2014, those categories are:

  • January-March: Office supply merchants, advertising services, professional services. What counts as “professional services?” The fine print lists the following: stand-alone tax preparation, bookkeeping, accounting and legal services.
  • April – June: Computer equipment and software, telecommunications
  • July-September: Airlines, hotels, car rentals
  • October-December: Restaurants and entertainment

When it comes to redeeming your rewards, you have a lot of options, as the card plugs you into Citi’s ThankYou rewards program. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, office supplies, travel, gift cards and cash back (although cash back isn’t generally the best way to redeem ThankYou Points).

Right now, the card is offering 15,000 bonus ThankYou points after you use it to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of cardmembership. That’s enough to redeem for $150 in gift cards.

You will also get an anniversary bonus that grows each year you have the card. During the first year, you get a 1 percent bonus on the points you earn — that grows to 2 percent in your second year and to 3 percent after that.

Part Two: The benefits

For a no-annual-fee business credit card, it gives you a lot of benefits:

  • Extended warranty: If you buy something that has a U.S. manufacturer’s warranty of one year or less, this card will extend it up to one additional year.
  • Retail purchase protection: This card covers eligible purchases up to $10,000 if they are damaged or stolen under covered circumstances during the first 90 days from purchase.
  • Auto rental insurance: The fine print states that this benefit will cover most rental vehicles with an MSRP of $50,000 or under. As is the case with most credit card policies, keep in mind this is secondary coverage and there are some countries and vehicle types excluded.
  • Travel accident insurance: Only applies during eligible common carrier travel. If you charge your travel to the card, you, your spouse and your children are covered.
  • Free employee cards w/ individual credit limits: Sharing an overall credit limit is a bad idea if you want to keep tight reigns on an employee. Citi allows you to set credit limits on a per-card basis, in case you want to give one person more spending power than another.
  • Free quarterly and annual summaries: Most business cards give annual summaries, but the CitiBusiness will give you the quarterly too, if desired. This can definitely be helpful when it comes to figuring out what your company owes for income taxes each quarter.
  • Personal business assistant: If you’re familiar with credit card concierge service, this is like that but it’s geared toward small businesses. You can call Citi 24/7 and get assistance with some business-specific things (like getting referrals for admin and marketing, gathering business information, etc.), as well as some of the more common concierge services, such as travel and restaurant reservations.
  • Travel & emergency assistance: This is a hotline you can call if you’re traveling, encounter an emergency and need advice on what to do. It can come in handy if you lose your passport, get your luggage stolen, or get in some legal trouble and need a referral to a local attorney ASAP.

Part Three: The verdict

An older version of this card offered a static 3 percent back on professional services. The newer version, with its rotating categories, adds a bit more variety and chances for bonus points. Those who travel often for business will probably appreciate Quarter 3.

However, there are other business reward credit cards that might suit your purposes better. For example, the American Express Simply Cash Business card lets you earn 5 percent cash back on wireless phone services and at office supply stores. You also get 3 percent cash back in a category of your choice. Options include airlines, hotel stays, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants and shipping costs. So, instead of waiting for a particular quarterly category to roll around, you can lock in the one that’s most profitable for you.

Another good no-annual-fee business card is the Chase Ink Cash, which gives you 5 percent cash back year-round on office supplies, phone service and TV service — as well as 2 percent back on gas stations and restaurants.

However, there’s a caveat with both those cards: They limit the amount of spending you can earn bonus points on in those special categories. The Citi ThankYou has no such limit in its quarterly categories.

Before you decide on the CitiBusiness ThankYou, take a careful look at how you want to redeem your points. If you can make the most out of ThankYou points (redeeming for gift cards and travel can help you milk the ThankYou rewards system), the card could get you a good return on your spending. However, since it’s not the best option for cash back, the AmEx Simply Cash or the Chase Ink Cash could be a better deal, if cash is what you prefer.

Also take a look at how you spend. Due to its rotating categories, the CitiBusiness ThankYou lets you cover a lot of rewards ground in a year that you won’t cover with cards that offer static bonus rewards or require you to lock in a single bonus category. The flip side, of course, is that you’ll only have a quarter to earn extra rewards in each category — and not all the categories might apply to you.

Updated April 7, 2014

 
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