|by Mr Credit Card|
The Citi Chairman Card is Citi’s elite and prestige credit card. It is by invitation only, or rather as Citi puts it, you have to be solicited! The reward program is based on Citi’s ThankYou Network. I spent quite bit of time with the folks at Citi Chairman Membership Unit and managed to get quite a bit of information like the premium travel service that is not available on their website. For this review, I’ll list out the card’s feature and then compare this with other cards.
How you earn points – The Citi Chairman Club allows you to earn one point for every dollar that you spend on the card. In addition you earn one point for every mile that you or your partner flies (as long as the ticket was booked using the card). The reward program (like I mentioned earlier) is based on Citi’s ThankYou Network Redemption Rewards. For airline tickets and travel items (which I think is what most elite card holders look for), the ThankYou Rewards require that you redeem them by using their travel site (which is actually powered by expedia.com). You can then use your points or a combination of points and cash (if you do not have enough points).
I judge elite cards by their travel rewards because that is what most people look out for. Below is a list of travel benefits and rewards.
Premium Airline Program – The Citi Chairman Card has a premium airline program that changes every year. The information here is valid only until the end of the this year (ie 2009)
Fees – There are two versions of this card, a MasterCard version and an American Express Card version. The MasterCard version has a $400 annual fee while the American Express version has an annual fee of $500. At this point, I’m not sure of the differences that warrant the fee difference, but will inform you once I find out. Additional card fees is $100, though you can issue a card with less benefits for no annual fee.
Comparison to other cards – Comparison with high end cards (like any rewards card) is difficult because the reward programs are different. In the case of the Citi Chairman Card, I think you have to look at how you can redeem your rewards. The ThankYou Network requires that you redeem travel rewards with their expedia.com powered travel site. The great thing about this card is that you can earn points also with the miles you fly on and not just with the dollars you spend.
Other cards like the Amex Platinum and Diners Club allows you also to transfer points to frequent flier miles. The Citi Chairman Club does not have this option.
Citi also has a premium airline travel package that is interesting. As you can see from the details above, you can get discounts with certain airlines on international routes. The American Express Platinum Card also has an international airline program where you can get a complimentary companion ticket if you a full fare business or first class ticket. The one thing to bear in mind is that programs like these change every year because credit card issuers have to negotiate with their partners again.
Otherwise, the Citi Chairman Card has got very good features which rivals the best high end cards. For example, you get Gold membership to Hilton HHonors. Amex Platinum gives you Gold membership to Starwood. They also give you annual membership to Priority Pass (which is very useful for the frequent traveler).
Verdict – I think the Citi Chairman Card is a pretty good card and will suit some folks more than others. To get the most bang for the buck on this card, you have to be a frequent traveler. If you travel abroad in business class and use the airlines that are part of their premium airline travel partner, then this would be of great value (though you still have to compare savings with discounted business class tickets). You also should not be the type that likes to earn miles for a particular airline or airlines and transfer them between airline alliance partners because that is simply not how the ThankYou Rewards program work.
If you also stay at the Hilton HHonors, the the automatic gold membership would be a bonus.
However, if you do not make use of their international airline partners, then Citi also offers an alternative in the their Citi® ThankYou Premier Card, which allows you to also earn points on the miles you fly as well as the dollars you spend on the card. You will not get the other elite type benefits, but the travel rewards (with the exception of the international premium partners) is the same.