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I Made A Huge Mistake When Doing A Citi Product Change

by joeheg

When it comes to product changes, Citi is the most lenient bank with what they allow. While other banks will only let you change cards within a product family, for example changing from an AMEX Platinum to AMEX Green, Citi lets you switch from your current card to almost any other card in its portfolio.

Changes are only allowed for personal cards, not CitiBusiness cards and there are some personal cards you can not change. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in writing from Citi about which changes are allowed and how they are processed. You need to call customer service to see if you’re eligible for a product change.

You’d want to know how Citi processes an account change in advance because several Citi cards have restrictive sign-up rules. In addition, making some changes can put your ThankYou points at risk.

Here’s a story about how I messed up making a Citi product change even when I knew all of these rules.

Changing to Citi Custom Cash

I have a Citi AT&T Access card sitting in my drawer. Since we don’t use AT&T and 2 ThankYou points for online purchases aren’t better than we get with other cards, it goes unused.

The Citi Custom Cash offers 5% back in one of the several categories you spend the most in each month and 1% on all other charges.

5% eligible categories: Restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, live entertainment.

I want the 5% live entertainment category back to pay for theater tickets and concerts. I didn’t want to waste a new application, so I changed the AT&T Access card into a Custom Cash account.

Since the ability to change accounts by chat no longer exists, I called customer service. It only took a few minutes for the rep to change my account. As she read the terms, I realized that I might be making a few mistakes. She mentioned that I would be getting a new account number and my old account would be closed.

If you know, then you know what this means and how I screwed up. I could have stopped the process but went ahead to see how Citi handled the situation.

What did I do wrong?

Changing from the AT&T Access to the Custom Cash is considered a change outside of a product line, which often causes Citi to generate a new account number setting processes into motion.

First, by closing the original account I’ve reset the 24-month clock for getting a new sign-up bonus. To make matters worse, I need to use the ThankYou points in my account from the old card within 60 days or they’ll expire. Transferring them to a different account won’t extend the lifespan of those points.

What could I have done differently?

If you’re planning on signing up for a new Citi card, you should apply for the card first since the Citi clock is reset when you open OR close an account.

When it comes to the 60-day expiration of ThankYou points when you change or close accounts, there’s no way around the rule. Even if you transfer points first, they’ll still expire in the account you transfer them to, even if the account isn’t yours. The only thing you can do is have a plan for how you’ll use them before making changes. (See below why you should transfer points before changing your account.)

Why I’m not worried.

I mentioned above that I suspected there would be issues before I finished the product change but still went ahead with the process. I did it because I knew my situation and was willing to take a small risk to see what would happen.

I had a small balance in the ThankYou account linked to the AT&T Access card. While the points were automatically transferred to my new account for the Custom Cash, they were also set to expire way sooner than 60 days.

I could apply them for a $4.63 statement credit or combine them with points from my Citi Premier and transfer them to one of Citi’s travel partners. If I didn’t catch they were expiring, I’d only be out $5.

For the Citi clock, I unknowingly dodged a bullet because Citi doesn’t count the AT&T Access card as part of the ThankYou card family. The only bonus I’m prohibited from getting within 24 months is for the same card.

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had an AT&T Access card or AT&T Access More card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Final Thoughts

While Citi offers flexible rules when doing product transfers, you need to pay attention to all of the rules before making changes. The restrictions on new account bonuses and your current ThankYou point balance make it essential to know how Citi will treat the account change. Before making changes, ask the account specialist if you’re going to get a new account number and what will happen to the points you have in your account. If you’re unsure, politely stop the process and do some additional research online. Search for the exact product you have and the one you want to get; otherwise, you’ll get generic articles about Citi product changes.

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