Ultimate Guide to Downgrading Your Citi Premier Card: Save Fees, Keep Points

Discover how to downgrade Citi Premier, avoid fees, and maximize points. Essential guide for smart card management and savings.

Ultimate Guide to Downgrading Your Citi Premier Card: Save Fees, Keep Points
Citi Premier downgrade options to avoid annual fee

Introduction: The Annual Fee vs. Point Transferability Conundrum

When faced with the $95 annual fee of the Citi Premier card, many cardholders wonder if there’s a way to retain the valuable point transferability feature without the fee. This guide delves into the heart of this dilemma, exploring options to keep your ThankYou Points (TYP) versatile, and your expenses minimal.

The Core Issue: Transferring Points to Hotels and Airlines

My Citi Premier was up for renewal recently. Not wanting to pay the $95 annual fee, I wanted to see if it was possible to retain my ThankYou Points without closing the card, or liquidating the points.

Understanding the Limitation: Citi only has two cards that allow you to transfer points to hotel and airline partners – Citi Premier and Prestiege. However, these cards come with annual fees of $95 and $495, respectively. If you're looking to avoid these fees, what are your options?

Retaining Transferability Without the Fee

If you want to retain the option to transfer points to travel partners without paying the fee, you have two methods:

  • Transferring Points to a Friend: You can transfer up to 100K TYP to a friend annually. This is particularly beneficial if they hold a Premier card and can book hotels or flights for you.
  • Downgrade and Upgrade When Necessary: Downgrade to a no-fee card like the ThankYou Preferred, Custom Cash, or Rewards+. When you need to transfer points to travel partners, you can upgrade back to the Premier card.

Choosing the Right Downgrade Option

If you’re downgrading, choosing the right card can make a big difference in the form of cashback or points accruals.

Comparing No-Fee Cards:

  • ThankYou Preferred: Best for general spenders seeking simple rewards.
  • Custom Cash: Ideal for maximizing returns in your top spending category.
  • Rewards+: A great option for small, frequent purchases due to its round-up feature.

Mechanics of Downgrading: Timing and Financial Implications

Downgrade Process and Timeline:

  • Begin a product change (PC) within 37 days of your annual fee posting date to ensure a full refund of the fee.
  • If the PC is initiated after 37 days, a pro-rated refund of the annual fee will apply. The process for the product change can take up to 51 days. For instance, if you request a product change 40 days after the annual fee is posted, approximately 75% of your $95 annual fee will be refunded. This calculation is based on the total year (365 days) minus the 40 days already passed, and an additional 51 days needed to complete the PC. Conversely, if the PC request is submitted within the first 37 days, the entire annual fee will be refunded even though the process may take up to 51 days.

For Account Closures:

  • Closing your account after 37 days from the fee post date means you won’t get any annual fee refund.

My Personal Decision: Weighing the Options

I was way past the 37-day window this time round, which meant that I wasn't entitled to a full refund of the $95 annual fee. The pro-rated refund of $66 didn’t justify the hassle of downgrading, especially since I had no immediate need to use the points.

Looking Ahead: Planning for Next Year

Next year, I plan to downgrade to the Citi Custom Cash. Its 5% cash back in the highest spending category (up to $500) with no annual fee aligns with my spending habits, offering a balanced mix of benefits and savings.

Side note: If you've recently applied for a Citi card and want to get the card sooner than their standard 2-week delivery timeframe, check out this guide.

Conclusion: Navigating Your Citi Premier Journey

Downgrading your Citi Premier card doesn't mean losing the flexibility of your ThankYou Points. By understanding the nuances of point transferability and the mechanics of downgrading, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your financial and travel goals. Just remember do submit the product change request within 37 days of the annual fee posting date to be eligible for a full refund!

person using laptop computer holding card
Photo by rupixen.com / Unsplash

And here's a little "smirk-worthy" tip to keep in your back pocket: Remember, you can potentially get another sign-up bonus for the same card 48 months after receiving the bonus points for your current card. This opens up the exciting possibility of reaping the benefits of the Citi Premier card's sign-up bonus multiple times every four years. So, keep an eye on that calendar and plan your credit card strategy accordingly.