Citi Downgrade Cards for $300 Cashback a Year

When annual fee time hits, Citi cards often attract retention offers of varying appeal. An alternate option is to downgrade or convert the card to another Citi product. This will not earn sign-up bonuses however will keep the credit line active and provide access to potentially lucrative card benefits, an occasionally earn a small bonus offer. Compared to other banks, Citi allows conversion to a fairly wide variety of cards.

The process is:

  1. Call Citi to cancel the card.
  2. Consider any retention offers.
  3. Inquire about downgrade options. Encourage the agent to hunt around.
  4. If you accept the offer, the conversion will take 51 days in which you can later call to stop the conversion.
  5. Make sure the agent puts in the annual fee credit, if applicable, since the original card will be active for two more months.

Over the past year I have converted AA Platinum Visa (2), Hilton Reserve (2) and Hilton Visa Signature, the most recent being today.

The current options agents have found and tested in their system on my calls:

  1. Dividend
  2. ThankYou Preferred
  3. CashReturns
  4. Diamond Preferred
  5. Simplicity
  6. AA Gold ($50 annual fee, may only work with AA cards)
  7. Hilton Visa Signature (works with non-Hilton cards)
  8. Expedia (this card is no longer publicly available, and though listed in the agent’s system, she could not get this to process today)

Most of these cards can optionally be issued as MasterCard or Visa, regardless of original card.

Dividend cards are attractive for quarterly 5% cashback categories. Annual cashback is capped at $300 BUT that can all be earned in one quarter. A conversion today could earn the $300 cashback from Q3/Q4 and reset again next year. I currently have two Dividend cards and both earned the $300 this past Q1 for drug stores. Cashback is in the form of a paper check that you request online. Dividend cards rarely have attractive sign-up bonuses so this can be a good way to obtain them.

ThankYou points are now more attractive with the addition of several airline transfer partners. I have 3 of these cards from prior sign-up bonuses and conversions and there are constant targeted 5x-10x cashback offers in popular categories. A typical offer is quarterly 5x at grocery stores (capped at 2,500 bonus points which excludes base 1x earning, so it really is a 4x bonus capped at $625 spend). These are targeted by account so there is no way to guarantee you will be targeted or that these offers will continue.

For those who push the envelope, presumably you can get a retention offer ahead of annual fee, meet it and collect the bonus, then convert. And with that 51-day conversion window and the annual fee already credited, it may be possible to cancel the downgrade and keep the original card, though I like my Dividends so haven’t tested it.

Readers, what are your Citi conversion experiences?

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