Personal Finance

Citi Trifecta: Earn 2%-5% on Every Purchase

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If you’re looking to take your credit card rewards-earning to the next level, a strategic combination of cards can help you maximize every purchase you make. Citi, sometimes overlooked in favor of other issuers, offers rewards credit cards that can work together to boost your returns.

For a total annual fee of $95, you can carry three Citi cards, dubbed the “Citi trifecta,” that can earn at least 2% — and as much as 5% — on every single purchase you make with a card, no matter the category. And for travelers, combining these cards unlocks the ability to transfer rewards to travel partners for outsized returns.

Here’s everything you need to know about this rewarding combination of Citi cards.

While the is positioned as a cash-back credit card, its rewards actually come in the form of Citi ThankYou points.

ThankYou points are worth 1 cent per point when redeemed for travel booked through Citi, gift cards, bill payments, cash back and more.

ThankYou points can also be transferred to one of Citi’s partners, mostly international airlines, at a 1:1 ratio if you hold a . Through strategic redemptions, you can potentially get more value out of your points this way. If you don’t plan on traveling internationally — or don’t want to spend the effort to use alliances booking domestic travel on foreign airlines — this option is somewhat limited since JetBlue is the only domestic carrier.

The earns straightforward cash rewards, but you can opt to at an effective 1:1 ratio instead. And the rewards from the come as ThankYou points automatically.

If you hold multiple ThankYou points-earning cards, you can together into one bucket. You can even share your points with someone else who holds a ThankYou points account, though those shared points will expire within 90 days after they’re received. Make sure you’re transferring with a specific and immediate use in mind to avoid expiration.

Carrying a  like the is a solid choice for earning rewards on everyday purchases. It earns 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay off the purchase. But pairing with other cards in certain categories can supercharge your rewards.

The is a rewards powerhouse of four top everyday spending categories: supermarkets, restaurants, travel and gas stations. You could dedicate your monthly spending in these categories to the and earn 3x rewards with no cap.

The is versatile and on one of 10 eligible spending categories each billing cycle up to $500 (and 1% thereafter). Since the card is so — for lack of a better word — custom, the rewards you could earn from your spending in will vary.

For example, if you had a large purchase at a home improvement store one month, you could charge that on your and . Or, you could prepay several months of your fancy fitness club membership and earn 5% on the charge. If you fill several prescriptions a month, you could use the card on those purchases for 5%.

Does your family spend much of your monthly budget on groceries? You could charge the first $500 per month on the and use the for any extra grocery spend. Then, use your for all other purchases.

Using multiple cards to make purchases in different categories is not a “set it and forget it” strategy. In order to earn the maximum rewards, you’ll have to track what you’re spending on the to make sure you’re earning 5% on as many of your purchases as you can each month. You’ll have to remember which card to use for what transaction, and it could change monthly depending on your spending patterns.

Compared with other credit card issuers like Chase and American Express, Citi’s travel partner options are limited. If you’re looking to use your points for international travel, and are comfortable using rewards programs for foreign airlines, there are .

Though ThankYou points are generally worth 1 cent a piece, you can often find outsized value of 2, 3, 4 or even more cents per point when you take advantage of these transfers. Occasionally, Citi will offer limited-time transfer bonuses where you can transfer your points for even better than a 1:1 ratio.

But if you want to use your points with domestic airline partners, Citi is not your best bet. Chase, for example, partners with United, Southwest and JetBlue, but Citi offers only JetBlue. And unlike Chase — which partners with Marriott, Hyatt and IHG — Citi offers no hotel transfer options.

» LEARN: ?

If you already have a Citi card or two, building out your “trifecta” is an easier feat. But if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want to go slowly.

Numerous , especially in a short time span, could have a negative effect on your credit, although temporarily. Even with a good credit score, multiple requests for new credit cards can be a red flag that can cause denials from issuers.

In an attempt to guard against , many issuers have rules around how often you can be approved for new cards. Citi, for example, prohibits you from being eligible to receive a bonus on most ThankYou point-earning cards if you’ve received one in the past 24 months.

If you already have a different Citi card that you’re not getting much value from, you could explore to build out your “trifecta.”

Maximizing your rewards by using different cards for different purchases sounds great on paper, but it can prove to be difficult in reality. This strategy is a good move for you only if you pay your balances on time and in full every month. The interest you’ll pay on balances that go unpaid will outweigh the rewards you’ll earn.

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