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Citi benefit changes merit cardholders’ attention

Citi is removing many of its secondary benefits – and they may not be the only ones

Summary

While many of the benefits Citi has chosen to remove aren’t necessarily enough for someone to ditch their favorite Citi card, these changes may not be the last we see. Other issuers might start gutting their travel protections, too – so cardholders need to pay extra attention to their travel card benefits.

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Dear Cashing In,

I read that Citibank is making some changes to its credit cards, like removing most of their travel and purchase benefits. They are also raising the APRs on their cards, which makes them more expensive to use.

I have a couple Citi cards I use pretty regularly. Should I hang onto them? Are they still worth it? – Jonathan

Dear Jonathan,

Most credit cards are chosen based on the primary benefits offered – things like sign-up bonuses and reward programs that provide miles or points.

It’s also good to consider the cost, such as the annual fees. People’s preferences are different, so a card that you might consider perfect for you might not be so great for someone else.

But in addition to a rewards card’s primary benefits, most cards also have secondary benefits – features that probably aren’t considered too much when selecting a card. But these additional benefits can come in handy under the right circumstances.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Tony a question.

See related: Best credit card sign-up bonuses

What to expect

That’s where some of these Citi changes come in. The company said in June 2019 that starting in September, most of its cards would no longer offer a range of insurance protections such as trip cancellation, interruption protection and its Price Rewind feature – a low-price-guarantee program.

Other reports indicated that Citi is also eliminating card perks including rental car insurance, lost or delayed baggage protection, medical evacuation and roadside assistance service.

Surveys consistently show that when you ask credit card customers about their favorite card perks, these types of card features are toward the bottom of the list.

Also, many people don’t even know they exist. Citi basically did a cost-benefit analysis and decided to eliminate card features that are costing the company money and providing little benefit in return.

Be more aware

The trouble for Citi customers, of course, is that these are nice features to have. They can save you a lot of money if, say, you get in a wreck in a rental car, your bag fails to show up on your vacation or you buy something only for the price to drop soon after.

It’s unfortunate, but these changes might not be the last we see. As consumers, we’re going to have to be more aware of what card benefits are actually available.

Previously, you didn’t have to pay too much attention to what card to use because features such as rental car insurance came standard with most rewards cards. That’s changing, which means you now have to look at the fine print, as it were.

Other issuers could follow suit

The issue becomes especially acute for travel cards, as most of the protections Citi is eliminating center on travel.

If you have multiple rewards cards, you will now have to think about how to pay for plane tickets and rental cars. You’ll want to use the card that offers the most protection if something goes wrong.

Taking all this into account, Citi’s changes might not be enough to justify ditching a card you like. For instance, dedicated Costco shoppers probably aren’t going to abandon the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi – which gives extra cash back for shopping at Costco – just because the card lacks emergency roadside assistance (or other services they have probably never used).

But Costco cardholders would probably want to substitute a card from Chase or American Express on their next trip, as cards from those issuers still tend to have travel protections.

As far as higher interest rates on Citi cards, that should not be a factor.

You shouldn’t be using rewards cards if you carry a balance, because your interest payments will far exceed any meager rewards you might earn.

If you carry a balance, try to do it on a low interest-rate card. When you can pay your bill on time and in full consistently, then you can consider reward cards – which tend to have higher APRs.

The other worry about Citi’s move is that changes to card benefits often don’t happen in a vacuum. Other issuers might start gutting their travel protections, too.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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