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Are All Program Changes Negative? Maybe Not

by joeheg

Change is inevitable. There’s no avoiding it. In the points and miles universe, you have to know that programs will devalue redemptions, sweet spots are going to disappear and some companies will just cease to exist. You just look at what’s left and make the best of it. Maybe the changes will open up some possibilities that weren’t there before. Hopefully, there’s some silver lining to the storm clouds of program “enhancements.”

So when you see an email that says a program is going to announce some changes that their members have been asking for, do you duck and cover, expecting the worst possible scenario? I can understand why, after some programs have seemingly blown up their programs over the years but you need to have hope because it’s possible that not all changes are 100% negative. Before you get all riled up, hear me out.

Devaluations suck. There’s no denying that. Unannounced ones doubly suck and are downright hateful, going against everything you’d expect from a “loyalty” program.

However, there can be changes that while disappointing, offer a glimmer of hope.

Take, for example, the newly changed sign up rules for the Citibank American Airline co-brand credit cards. Previously, Citi only allows you to get a bonus if you’ve not opened OR CLOSED any card in the same product family for at least 24 months. In practice, this means that once you have a Citi card and have kept it for 2 years, you can apply for another one in the same line. However, if you were to cancel that card, the clock would reset for another 2 years. So if you have a Citi card, it would make sense to hold onto it for the 2 years, apply for another card that earns the same points and then, if you want, you can cancel the original one. Seems silly but it does keep people from signing up for the bonus and then canceling after the first year.

Those were the rules and if you wanted to get any card from Citi you learned how to work with (or around) those rules. Then Citi goes and changes the rules. When applying for the Platinum Select card, this is the new restriction:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have received a new account bonus for a Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® account in the past 48 months.

While it seems to be a change that will decrease sign-up bonuses for the Citi American Airlines cards, will it?

Here are the differences from the old restrictions:

  • You can not receive a new account bonus if you’ve received one for the same card in the last 48 months
  • The nonsense restriction about closing a card resetting the clock for the bonus has been removed
  • The restriction about receiving any new account bonus for any card in the same card family has been removed

So why is this not a negative change? Well, it now means you can sign up for each card in the Citi portfolio as long as you haven’t received the bonus on THAT CARD in the last 48 months. There are four different Citi American Airlines credit cards available at the present time.

Closing a card is no longer a factor in signing up for a new one. Did you sign up for the Platinum card last year? You can still get the Executive card this year and close the Platinum if you want.

Final Thoughts


So what I’m trying to say is that just because something changes, it doesn’t necessarily mean all the value is gone. People wrote off the IHG free night certificate when it was limited to hotels 40,000 points or less and there are still plenty of hotels to get a great value for a free night, even with the new restrictions.

These changes to the Citi American Airlines co-brand cards do increase the time between getting the sign-up bonus for the same card but it also opens up the possibility to get a sign-up bonus on a different card.

If you’re playing the game for the long run, four years isn’t a long time. Based on the new rules, Sharon and I are now both eligible for all of the Citi American Airlines co-brand cards. Will we personally be signing up for them? Nope.

Why not? Because we still have plenty of AA miles we haven’t been able to spend from those last sign up bonuses. As well as the fact that AA doesn’t open up any award space on the flights we’d need to fly with them. On top of the fact that we don’t really want to fly on AA metal right now, with the issues they’re having with flight delays and cancellations. However, our travels in the upcoming year might let us fly on some of the AA partner airlines and if I’m able to burn the miles I have, I’ll look to replenish those balances.

When it comes down to it, I don’t see a glass as half full or half empty. A glass is just a glass and I’m going to work with what I’m given to make the best of the situation.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary



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