|by Jason Steele|
Citibank is making some major changes to their “Thank You” points reward program. The Consumerist has gotten ahold of a letter sent to one of their customers explaining the changes:
As of March 1, 2009, we are changing some of the terms and conditions that will affect your ability to earn and redeem ThankYou Points. The following is a list of some of these changes:
1. ThankYou Network may be revised in a manner that may affect your ability to use the ThankYou Points you have already accumulated;
2. If you make a late payment on your participating Sponsor Account, any ThankYou Points you earned through that Sponsor may not be available for redemption until you pay the reinstatement fee disclosed on www.thankyou.com/help.jspx
3. If your ThankYou Member Account is closed for any reason, you will lose any ThankYou Points in that ThankYou Member Account. If your participating Sponsor Account is closed, you will no longer be able to accumulate ThankYou Points and may lose the ThankYou Points that you earned through that Sponsor and through ThankYou Network. If all your Sponsor Accounts are closed, we may close your ThankYou Member Account;
4. If you combine your ThankYou Member Accounts, any action taken concerning points from one Sponsor Account may affect all the Points in your ThankYou Member Account;
5. If your ThankYou Member Account is frozen, you may be charged the processing fee disclosed on www.thankyou.com/help.jspx to unfreeze your ThankYou Member Account;
6. ThankYou Points will not expire as long as you have qualifying purchase activity at least once every 18 months unless ThankYou Network is terminated;
7. ThankYou Points may not be redeemed and may be lost if your Card Account is not open or current;
8. If your Card Account is closed you will not be able to earn ThankYou Points and you will lose any accumulated ThankYou Points that have not been transferred to your ThankYou Member Account including Flight Points that have not appeared on your billing statement;
9. The fixed flight option for Travel Rewards is no longer available. Please use the online booking tool at www.thankyou.com for variably priced Travel Rewards.
What Is Important Here
As you can see, the program is undergoing some pretty serious changes. As credit card holders, frankly, we are used to receiving notices of changing terms. The vast majority of these changes are always to our detriment, yet they usually try to phrase it like it is helpful. It is often difficult to tell the important changes from the fine print.
The most important one, they save for last, is the changing of the “fixed flight option” for travel rewards. This has been providing more value to members than the fixed flight option. In response, most observers are recommending that you spend any points that you intend to use for air travel between now and March 1st.
What Else Are They Saying
To me, what sticks out is not so much what they are saying, but how they are saying it. They frequently use the word “May” to describe everything. That is a very vague word. What I interpret it to mean is that they will do these things, however, there is a slight chance that customer service could waive it if you are nice to them.
Either way, they are positioning Thank You points as being directly tied to the good standing of your account. It is interesting to note that not all reward programs work that way. I can open and close my American Express Starwood accounts, without affecting my points with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, an entirely separate entity. Making a late payment on my USBank Northwest Airlines WorldPerks Visa in no way affects my ability to redeem WorldPerks points for flights.
What Should You Do
Obviously, try to take advantage of the Fixed Flight Option now. Then, you might wish to reconsider your membership in this program. I am not a holder of a “Thank You” points earning card, and I don’t really know anyone who is. Therefore, I am not in the best position to say if this card still returns much value. My advice for this card and others is always to look at how much value this card is returning per dollar spent. If you are getting less than what you can for a cash card, it is time to cancel. If you have other reward cards that are returning greater value per dollar, it also may be time to cancel. Finally, if you do chose too say “No Thank You” to your Thank You points card, use all those points before you do.