The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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2020's Best Citi® Credit Cards

Below are our ratings of 2020's best credit cards offered by Citi®. The popular issuer offers a variety of cards designed for small businesses, students, and general consumers alike.

Average APR
17.49%
Average Annual Fee
$0.00
Rate Trend
No Change
since last month
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The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.

17 FAQs About Citi Credit Cards

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated:
17 FAQs About Citi Credit Cards
CardsRates.com Guide: Citi®

The best Citi credit cards we’ve listed above prove you can sometimes come late to the party and still be the talk of the crowd.

Citibank made several attempts from the 1960s through the 1980s to jump into the credit card business. Although the cards it issued made history, they weren’t very profitable for the bank. It wasn’t until the late 1980s to the present that the institution changed course and quickly became one of the largest credit card issuers in the world.

That sort of overnight dominance has allowed Citi to establish one of the more lucrative Citi reward programs — and the lowest APR structures — in the financial marketplace. But the story of Citi isn’t just fascinating — it can be pretty darn profitable if you choose your card wisely.

1. What is Citibank?

The City Bank of New York was founded on June 16, 1812. City Bank was the site of one of America’s first bank heists in 1831 when two thieves made off with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of banknotes and 398 gold doubloons.

As a founding member of the financial clearinghouse in New York in 1853, the bank was the underwriter for $50 million in Union war bonds.

By 1893, the bank was the largest institution in New York. The following year, it became the largest bank in the U.S. In 1899, the bank received a $5 million deposit to be given to Spain for the acquisition of the Philippines.

After a series of mergers and acquisitions, the institution was renamed Citicorp in 1974. Despite its long and storied history, it took Citibank many years, and several attempts, to break into the credit card industry.

The Everything CardShortly after Bank of America introduced the first consumer credit card, The BankAmericard, to the West Coast in 1958, Citi attempted its own version of the product on the East Coast when it purchased Carte Blanche (later known as Diners Club) from Hilton Hotels. By 1967, the bank launched The Everything Card to compete with Bank of America.

The Everything Card became too costly to promote as an independent brand and joined Master Charge (now Mastercard) in the 1970s. This is ironic because the BankAmericard eventually became Mastercard’s biggest rival — Visa.

The bank launched several other credit card options through the 1990s and into the new millennium before striking gold with a series of store card acquisitions.

In 2005, Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s, Inc.), sold its consumer credit portfolio to Citigroup, which reissued its cards under the name Department Stores National Bank (DSNB). In 2013, Citibank purchased the credit card portfolio of Best Buy from Capital One. On April 1, 2016, Citigroup became the exclusive issuer of Costco’s branded credit cards.

Along the way, the institution strategically curated its own solo-branded credit cards that have generous rewards and a novel approach to redeeming and earning those rewards. The Citi Double Cash card, for instance, allows cardholders to earn cash back when they make a purchase and when the cardholder pays the transaction off.

Citi isn’t shy about innovation. The bank was one of the first U.S. banks to introduce automatic teller machines (ATMs). As early as 1982 — long before the U.S. internet boom — the institution allowed online account access using 300-baud dial-up connections.

After the founding of the World Wide Web, Citi was one of the first banks to allow browser-based account access.

After years of growth, Citi now serves more than 2 million customers around the world, with locations in over 140 countries. The bank continues to adapt and change to fulfill the needs of its customers, and today offers a robust lineup of products and services to suit a range of financial needs.

2. How Does a Citi Credit Card Work?

Citi credit cards work like any other bank-issued credit card. You can apply for each card through Citi’s website — by visiting the links above — and use the card at any merchant or service that accepts your card’s processing network (either Visa or Mastercard).

Citi also allows would-be applicants to pre-qualify for any of the cards in its portfolio. To pre-qualify, you need to submit a brief form with some key identifying information. This includes your Social Security Number, name, address, and email address.

Citi will then perform a soft credit check to access some basic details from your credit report. This information will help the bank determine whether you qualify for a card before you apply.

Keep in mind that prequalification does not guarantee you will receive the card if you apply. Historically, this is a good indicator of success, though. And with a soft credit check, you will not place a hard inquiry on your credit report that can potentially damage your credit score.

If you decide to apply for a card, though, you will incur a hard inquiry. This is not as risky as a blind application without prequalification. The application process takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and you will likely receive a near-instant credit decision from Citi.

If you are approved, Citi will send your new card to you in the mail. This typically takes seven to 10 business days. Once you receive your card, you can activate it online or over the phone and begin using it immediately.

If your card includes an annual fee, the charge will appear on your first credit card statement and will be deducted from your available credit as soon as you activate your card.

3. What are the Different Types of Citi Credit Cards?

Although Citi offers dozens of credit card options through its portfolio of consumer and store-branded credit cards, you can boil all of the options into five main categories:

  • Cash Back: A cash back credit card offers a refund of a set percentage of every qualifying purchase you make. A qualifying purchase is usually defined as any new purchase to your card. Balance transfers and cash advances rarely qualify for cash back rewards. You can redeem your cash back for a paper check or a direct funds transfer to your Citibank account or other linked checking or savings account.
  • Points Rewards: Like cash back, you earn a certain number of Citi ThankYou® Rewards points for every dollar you charge to your card. Unlike cash back, you have several options to choose from when it comes time to redeem your ThankYou rewards. You can use your points to purchase any of the many gift card options the bank offers. You can also redeem your points for travel rewards or use them to shop directly with partnered online retailers, including Amazon.com. Your points can also qualify for a statement credit to cover previous purchases or as a payment method for enrolled Citibank checking account clients to pay bills through their online account portal. You can also share your points with other ThankYou rewards members, redeem them for cash back (only in $50 and $100 denominations), or transfer them to popular loyalty programs. You can also use them toward a Citi mortgage payment or student loan, or transfer them as a tax-deductible charity donation to the cause of your choice.
  • Travel Rewards: If you’re a frequent traveler — whether for business or pleasure — Citi can help get you going faster and more affordably. You can redeem the miles or points that you earn through a Citi travel rewards credit card for flights, hotel stays, rental cars, or other travel accommodations or upgrades. You can maximize your points even further when you book your travel through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center.
  • Low-Cost Credit Cards: If you tend to carry a balance from month to month, your interest charges can quickly outweigh the earnings you would accrue through a rewards credit card. In that case, you would be better served with a low-APR credit card that does not offer rewards but instead provides value with a lower interest rate and no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. While these cards may not seem exciting on the surface, they can lower your cost of credit and reduce your finance charges and other fees that typically exist to offset the money that banks lose when they pay out rewards.
  • Business Credit Cards: As you would expect from their name, a Citi business credit card acts as a line of credit for an approved business. These cards typically provide rewards, such as cash back, points, or travel miles, that business owners can use to bolster their bottom line. Depending on the card you choose to apply for, you may need to have an established business credit history to qualify. Other cards may review your personal credit score when considering your business credit card application.

You can find multiple options through Citi that make applying for, activating, and using whichever card fits your financial situation and goals as easy as possible.

4. Which Citi Cards Offer Cash Back?

Citi stamped its name atop the 2% cash back card category when it introduced the Citi Double Cash Card. This card provides 1% cash back when you make your purchase and another 1% when you pay it off — with no annual fee or foreign transaction fee.

Citi Double Cash CardThe card also typically provides a generous sign up bonus that can provide an extended period with 0% APR on new purchases and/or balance transfers for new cardholders. Note that you will still have to pay a balance transfer fee during this promotion.

This novel idea toward earning cash back promotes early payments and makes it lucrative to keep your balance low.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi provides cash back reward rates of as high as 4% for business owners who shop in specific categories. As you would expect from the name, the card provides bonus rewards for Costco purchases, but you can still use this card at any worldwide location that accepts Visa cards.

5. Which Citi Cards Offer Points?

Citi ThankYou® Points is one of the most popular rewards programs in the credit card space. These flexible and lucrative rewards make it easy to purchase travel, pay bills, make charitable donations, or shop online.

Citi Premier® CardAmong the most popular reward points credit cards in the Citi portfolio are the Citi Premier Card, Citi Prestige® Credit Card, and Citi Rewards+℠ Card. These cards offer a varying number of rewards points based on the category your purchase falls in.

Citi also typically provides popular welcome bonus programs for new cardholders of the Citi Prestige and other popular cards in its portfolio. These programs will offer a large number of bonus points when you reach certain spending thresholds within your first 90 days with the card.

Promotions change regularly, based on current popular offers and promotions from the bank’s competition. But it is not uncommon to see offers that can boost your points account by as many as 50,000 or 60,000 bonus points.

Points have varying values based on how you redeem them and what you redeem them for. For example, your points won’t earn as much cash back as they would travel deals through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center.

If travel is your goal, a 60,000-point bonus could be worth as much as $750 in credit toward your next airfare, hotel stay, or other travel-related expense.

6. Which Citi Cards Offer Miles?

Miles rewards work a lot like points. The main difference is that you can typically only redeem miles for travel rewards. If you’re a frequent traveler, though, you can often find much better value through a miles card rather than a points card.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Eliteâ„¢ Mastercard®Citi’s main miles credit cards work through a partnership with American Airlines. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® offer consumer and business options that earn you American Airlines Advantage miles for every purchase you make.

As is typically the case with branded credit cards, you will earn more miles when you make eligible American Airlines purchases. You can still earn miles for your everyday purchases that you can redeem for future American Airlines flights and upgrades.

Regular rotating signup bonus offers can make these cards even more lucrative if you meet certain spending thresholds. Still, these cards really only work if you are a loyal American Airlines customer, as the rewards only work through the airline and provide very little value beyond your future flights and upgrades.

7. What Can I Redeem My Rewards For?

This depends on which Citi credit card you have. As we have learned above, Citi rewards credit cards offer cash back, points, and miles. Your redemption options will vary depending on which program your card belongs to.

For example, you can earn cash back in the form of a percentage rebate for every purchase you make using your card. You can claim your cash via a paper check or direct deposit into a Citibank checking account or other linked bank account.

Your miles work to earn you American Airlines Advantage miles through the two co-branded airline cards that Citi offers. Those miles you earn free or reduced-cost flights and upgrades through American Airlines and its subsidiaries. You can also earn bonus miles with eligible American Airlines Purchases.

Points provide the most flexible redemption options. You can redeem your points for cash back or transfer them to one of several popular airline loyalty programs (including American Airlines Advantage). You can also use them to shop online, pay bills, purchase gift cards, receive statement credits, or make a charitable contribution.

While points rewards offer the broadest and most flexible redemption options, you may find a better deal with one of the miles rewards cards if you are a loyal American Airlines customer. These company-specific cards provide added perks, such as your first checked bag being free on all domestic American Airlines flights. The sign up bonus makes them an overall great deal if you are a niche traveler.

8. Which Citi Credit Card is the Best?

It is hard to gauge the “best” in any financial category because no two applicants’ needs or goals are the same. Instead, you should decide which type of card is best for you by determining which card offers the most lucrative rewards, savings, or benefits.

That said, here are our top recommendations in each card category:

  • Best Cash Back — Citi® Double Cash Card: If you want to keep it simple and not have to worry about different redemption values or categories, the Double Cash card makes it easy to earn. You earn an unlimited, flat 1% cash back with every purchase you make with this card and another 1% back on every payment you make.
  • Best Points Rewards — Citi Premier® Card: This card charges a low annual fee, but you can easily make it up with the annual credit of $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, when you book with Citi ThankYou points through thankyou.com. Aside from that, you can earn up to 3X points per purchase and take advantage of Citi’s current signup bonus that changes regularly, but always offers a large cache of points for meeting specified spending thresholds during your first three months with the card.
  • Best Miles Rewards — Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Not only does this card pay out generous amounts of American Airlines Advantage miles for every purchase, but you can also qualify for a free checked back on every American flight, as well as discounts on in-flight purchases when you use your card.
  • Best Low-Cost Card — Citi Simplicity® Card: Rewards are great, but if you carry a balance from month to month, you will see that those rewards pale in comparison to your interest charges. Instead of paying higher rates and fees for a rewards card, the Simplicity card lives up to its name by offering no rewards, but a very low standard variable APR and no annual fees. Simple is sometimes better.

The category that fits your wallet will depend on your current financial situation and goals. Don’t overspend just to reach a signup bonus or stretch your budget just to chase extra rewards. That strategy has never worked for anyone.

9. Is it Hard to Get a Citi Credit Card?

For the most part, Citi’s portfolio of credit cards caters to consumers who have good or excellent credit. By FICO standards, that means a score of 670 or higher.

FICO Score® Ranges

But even something as concrete as a credit score can sometimes be a little vague when you’re applying for a credit card.

Nothing is guaranteed in the financial world — especially credit card account approval. While your credit score is a general overview of your credit health and trustworthiness, a high score does not guarantee approval.

When determining your application’s credit eligibility, Citi will consider several factors, including recent late payments, defaults, or current high balances to decide if you are a good fit for the bank.

If Citi sees you as a low risk, you will likely receive the credit card. If you do not receive approval, the bank will send you an Adverse Action letter in the mail that explains why it could not approve your application.

10. Which Citi Card is the Easiest to Get?

If your credit score keeps you from acquiring a traditional Citibank credit card, you should consider the Citi® Secured Mastercard®.

A secured credit card is designed for consumers who have bad or no credit at all. It rarely requires a credit check for approval, because it requires a refundable security deposit for approval.

The amount of your deposit will typically match your card’s credit limit. For example, a $500 deposit will yield a $500 credit limit. The Citi Secured Card requires a minimum deposit of $200 for approval.

You can use this card as you would any other credit card — to pay bills, shop online, rent a car or hotel, or make any other credit transaction.

And since Citi reports your payment history to the three credit reporting bureaus, you can improve your credit score with responsible usage. If that happens, you could eventually qualify for an upgrade to one of Citi’s unsecured credit cards. If that is the case, the bank will upgrade you automatically and refund your security deposit.

11. Which FICO Score Does Citi Use?

A credit card issuer will often use different credit scoring models to make application decisions. Which score Citi will use for your application could depend on the region you live in or which card you apply for.

One forum user reported that Citi listed his FICO 8 score when it sent an adverse action letter following a rejected application.

Another user reported that their Citibank card uses the FICO Bankcard 08 scoring model for decisions. This would make sense, as it is the same scoring model that the bank offers to many cardholders for free each month on their statement.

Still, there is no way to know for sure which FICO score — or which credit bureau — Citi will pull from when considering your application. Banks often keep that proprietary information under wraps, along with its standards for approval and minimum credit score requirements.

12. Which Citi Card is Best for Business Owners?

If you want to turn to Citi as your business credit card company, you should consider one of two options. Deciding which card works best for you will depend on the type of business you run.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi gives you bonus cash rewards benefits if you shop at Costco and maintain a Costco membership. This can come in handy when stocking up on supplies or merchandise. You can still earn cash back on all other purchases at a very generous rate.

And as long as you have an active Costco membership, you will not have to pay an annual fee for this card.

If your business has you traveling often, you may want to consider the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®. This card makes it very easy to rack up American Airlines Advantage miles on every purchase you make.

Your card also nets you a free checked bag for you and up to four companions on every American Airlines flight, as well as 25% savings on American Airlines inflight WiFi, food, and beverage purchases when you use your card.

If you charge at least $30,000 to your card each membership year, you can earn an American Airlines Companion Certificate for domestic travel. This card charges a small annual fee, but that fee is waived for the first year of membership.

13. Does Citi Allow Balance Transfers?

Citi absolutely allows balance transfers. In fact, it promotes them regularly.

Along with the bank’s regular 0% APR promotions for new purchases, you can often find similar offers for balance transfers.

These promotions allow you to enjoy a set amount of time (typically between six and 18 months) with no interest charges on new purchases or balance transfers. These offers make it easy to pay off a large balance on a high-interest credit card or make a large purchase with no finance charges.

Citi’s promotions change regularly based on the current market and competition, so be sure to check the credit card disclosure document attached to the card you’re considering to see its current promotion.

But keep in mind that, while you may not pay interest on your balance transfer during the promotional period, you will have to pay a balance transfer fee to initiate the move. This fee is equal to a percentage of the total amount you transfer — typically between 3% and 5%. But that fee may be small compared to the interest you’re paying on your current credit card.

Chart of Potential Balance Transfer Savings

Let’s say, for example, the balance transfer fee is going to be $75 for transferring a $1,500 balance with a 5% fee. At a 17% standard variable APR, you’d pay over $1,100 in interest over the life of the card if you just paid the minimum each month.

While it is smart to avoid fees as much as possible, sometimes one fee may be the lesser of two evils when compared to another fee.

14. How Can I Increase My Citi Credit Limit?

A higher credit limit can improve your credit utilization and credit score, while also providing you with more spending power. That higher limit can also increase your temptation to spend and take on more debt.

Before you request a credit limit increase, make sure you are ready for that responsibility and that you meet the bank’s criteria to qualify for an increase.

That means you have an account that is at least six months old (or you have not received a credit limit increase in the last six months). You can also have no recent late payments or a very high current balance.

If that sounds like you, Citi offers two ways to request a higher credit limit:

  • In your Online account dashboard, click “Services” and find “Credit Card Services.” Under the Card Management menu, select “request a credit limit increase.” If you have more than one Citi account, you can choose which account you would like to request the increase on. Citi may ask for some general income information before processing your request. Once you’ve provided that information, click “Continue” and you will likely receive an automatic response.
  • You can also call the number on the back of your credit card or you can try calling 1-888-248-4226. Once you reach a representative, you will be prompted to provide some identifying information and update your income to process your request.

Credit pulls are done at Citi’s discretion. The bank generally does not perform a hard credit pull when considering a credit limit increase but may if you request a much larger amount than the bank typically grants.

15. Do Citi Cards Charge Foreign Transaction Fees?

Some Citi credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. These are fees that a bank charges to convert your currency when you make a purchase in a currency other than U.S. dollars.

The fee is typically charged as a percentage of the transaction total. For Citi, this fee is generally 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each purchase.

Remember that credit card offers regularly change. This can mean the addition or subtraction of foreign transaction fees from a card. At the time of publishing, the cards on our list that charge a foreign transaction fee include:

  • The Citi® Double Cash Card (3% of each purchase transaction in U.S. dollars.)
  • The Citi Simplicity® Card (3% of each purchase transaction after it’s converted into U.S. dollars.)
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card (3% of each purchase transaction after it’s converted into U.S. dollars.)
  • The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card (3% of each purchase transaction after it’s converted into U.S. dollars.)
  • The Citi® Secured Mastercard® (3% of each purchase transaction after it’s converted into U.S. dollars.)

Keep this in mind if you plan to travel overseas with your card. These fees can add up very quickly and make it quite costly to use your card for everyday purchases while abroad.

16. Does Citibank Have a 5/24 Rule?

Sort of. The best-known 5/24 rule is Chase’s unpublicized rule that states that if you have five or more new bank card accounts (credit or charge cards) opened within the last 24 months, you’ll most likely be rejected for a new Chase credit card even if you otherwise qualify.

The Citi rule is not quite as harsh.

The Citi rule makes it a tad more difficult to open new card accounts and receive a signup bonus during a short window. Through Citi, you must wait at least 24 months after opening or closing a card to get a bonus on any other card issued by Citi.

This includes co-branded credit cards, such as those offered in partnership with American Airlines. So, this is more of a 24 rule than a 5/24 rule.

17. Does Citibank Give Instant Approval?

Online applications for the best Citi credit cards can offer near-instant credit decisions on the same browser window you apply on.

Once you complete your application — which typically takes between five and 10 minutes — Citi will begin the ultra-fast process of automated underwriting. This typically takes between 10 and 30 seconds.

During that time, you will see a spinning wheel on your screen that denotes a processing application. Do not refresh your screen during this process, as it could result in a lost application.

After the process completes, the screen will update with your credit decision. If you are approved, Citi will process the rest of your account information and you will receive your new card in the mail within seven to 10 business days.

If you are not approved, you will receive an Adverse Action letter in the mail in that same time frame. The letter will detail the reasons why you were not approved and provide tips on how to prepare your credit score for future approval.

In some cases, the bank may require more information to fully process your application. If that applies to you, you will see a list of documents or data that the bank needs — as well as the steps you need to take to submit the data.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .

About the Author

Adam West Adam West

As Managing Editor for CardRates, Adam oversees content and regularly interviews some of the payments industry's biggest influencers and decision-makers so our site can bring high-quality and engaging stories to our audience and keep readers informed on the latest trends and technology in the space.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. See the credit card issuer's website for specific terms and conditions of each card.