Citi Forward Credit Card Review

Last Updated: 1/11/2013

Note: Citi recently discontinued offering this card, which is unfortunate since it was an excellent offer.

The Citi Forward Credit Card is a rare beast indeed, like a Kirin. It’s one of the few credit cards in existence that rewards you 5 points per dollar spent in the ever-so-difficult-to-get-good-bonuses category of restaurants-making this card a must-have niche card for your plastic menagerie. Forward’s rewards structure is quite similar to the Citi mtvU student credit card’s rewards plan, but enables you to maintain your well-crafted illusion of financial success and avoid having to explain why you still sport MTV logos.

Summary of the Citi Forward Credit Card Rewards and Fees
Basic Rewards 1 ThankYou Points per $1 of spend, except as noted below for certain spend categories.
Category-specific Rewards 5 ThankYou Points per dollar spent at restaurants (including fast food and take-out), book stores, music stores, movie theaters, and video rental stores.
Rewards Caps 75,000 ThankYou Points per calendar year.
Bonus Points
  • 9,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $650 in purchases within 3 months of card activation.
  • 1,000 bonus ThankYou Points when you sign up for paperless statements within 3 months of card activation.
  • 100 bonus ThankYou Points per month when you pay on time and stay under your credit limit.
Annual Fee None
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%

Earning Citi ThankYou Points from the Citi Forward Credit Card

The Citi Forward credit card is the very definition of niche. Within the spend categories of restaurants, movie theaters, and video and music store spend, you’re just not going to do any better than 5 points per dollar spent. Here are some additional tactics which can be applied to get the most out of the Forward Card:

  • Triple Threat: The Forward Card is begging to be combined with complementary credit cards, so it can achieve its maximum potential. I’ve included links to GetDebit’s reviews of a dynamic duo to accompany Forward: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (get 6% cash back at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, 3% cash back on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and select major department stores; 1% cash back on other purchases.), and, for all the other “non-special” purchases, the Capital One Venture Rewards Card.
  • Retail Profiling: Amazon already has cut-throat pricing in many cases, but why not push the envelope a bit more by using your Citi Forward. Ditto on Netflix-it won’t be huge savings, probably only $7 to $10 or so per year in the case of Netflix, but hey it’s also minimal effort.
  • Go Back to School: You may have noticed the 75,000 point limit per calendar year. That’s additional incentive to only use this credit card for the specially designated 5 point categories. If you still find yourself going over the limit (ie more than $15K in spend in the special categories per year), then you could always try adding the Citi mtvU card to your collection as well-that would double your 5-point-flower-power.

Redeeming Your ThankYou Points with the Citi Forward Credit Card

In order to get the maximum value for your hard-earned ThankYou Points, you have to know which redemption methods are traps, and which lead to salvation. To really get the detailed scoop, you can check out our post, “What is the Value of Citi’s ThankYou Points Rewards Program?”.

Basically, the long and short of it is that Citi ThankYou Points at best achieve a value of $0.01 per point (either via travel purchases on Expedia or through a secret loophole related to student loans). If, on the other hand, you are asleep at the wheel, you may find yourself redeeming your ThankYou points for a statement credit ($0.0070 per point) or, worse still, cash back ($0.0063 per point). Really, Citi should be thanking you if you fall into those redemption traps-and you will have to seek redemption at the foot of the GetDebit Bishop. So avoid sins of the plastic.

Citi Forward Fees

There’s no annual fee for the Citi Forward Credit Card. The international transaction fee is 3%, nothing to write home about. If you are an international globe-trotter, you should take a closer look at some of the Capital One cards, as they have no international fees.

Callout: Citi Forward’s 0.25% Interest Reduction Game

Let no one accuse Citi Forward of being a boring piece of plastic. In addition to its extraordinarily generous rewards in a specific set of spend categories, it has this unique concept of providing you with benefits over time for good behavior (much like our modern day prison system-perhaps the Forward Product Manager was a former warden.)

Specifically, for every 3 month period where you pay at least your minimum balance on time and don’t exceed your credit limit, Citi will drop your purchase APR by 0.25%. This is a cumulative effect, and the most you can drop your rate by is 2.0% (which would be 8 quarters of excellent behavior). By now you should know what GetDebit thinks of this benefit: not much. The problem is, if you are regularly carrying any balances, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that interest expense will far outweigh any rewards you earn. You should always pay your balance in full every month. Otherwise, you need to seek out low APR cards instead.

GetDebit’s Final Word on the Citi Forward Credit Card

Well, thanks for sticking with us through this post (or for just skimming right to the bottom). The scrooge is knocking on my door this fine Christmas Eve. Maybe he’s coming to offer me a high APR credit card. So by now I think you get it:  Forward is a fantastic niche card, a must-have in fact to cover the vital restaurant category. But it can’t carry the day by itself. It needs to belong to a team of elite plastic.

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