Citi and AAdvantage

Citi and American Airlines seem to get along very well.  There’s a selection of Citi/AAdvantage co-branded cards, and Citi often offers miles for new bank accounts.  I got lucky with two special AAdvantage bonuses this past Fall.  I decided to take full advantage of both of them.

Citi AAdvantage Executive MasterCard 75,000 Miles Bonus

Pretty straightforward.  Open account.  Spend $7,500 within 90 days of account opening.  Receive 75,000 AAdvantage Miles.

Citi Gold Checking 50,000 AAdvantage Miles Bonus

This one was a bit trickier.  All requirements had to be met within 60 days.  Basically, open the account with the offer code 42ERCWNQU6.  This code was only good through the end of the year, but this kind of promotion runs frequently, so keep an eye out.  Then there were a few different tiers, all of which required that you have at least one qualifying bill payment using the Citi online bill pay for two consecutive months.  Then the next requirement depended on the kind of account opened:

Citi Gold Chart

Obviously, I went for the highest amount…

The Master Plan

  1. Accept that you’re a miles-aholic.  Ahhh, that felt good, didn’t it?  Acceptance is the first step.
  2. Now for the real fun.  Open a Citi card (the Citi AAdvantage Executive Master Card for me). Extra credit if you can time this right for a big sign up bonus on the card.  Typically, the offer is 50,000 miles, but it can go up to 75,000 or even 100,000 occasionally.  (Check out Doctor of Credit’s list of other cards you could use to fund a Citibank account.)
  3. Wait for new credit card to come in the mail, make a purchase or two.
  4. Call and ask your card issuer to reduce your cash advance limit to $0, or as close as you can get it.*  This is VERY important safety step.  If your CA limit is $0, and for some reason the charge posts as a CA, it won’t go through.  If the transaction posts as a CA, you’ll owe some hefty Cash Advance fees.  So setting your CA to $0 is just an extra step for protection.
  5. Call fraud protection for the Citi AAdvantage Executive card, and inform them of a large purchase going through (funding the checking account).
  6. Fund Citi Gold Checking with Citi AAdvantage Executive Master Card.  Make sure you fund it with enough to hit the bonus on the credit card.  (I funded mine with $8,000, that way I hit the $7,500 spend no problem.)  Feel free to max out your credit line for extra miles though, if you’re sure you can pay it off immediately and are comfortable with a possible temporary drop in your credit score.
  7. Transfer funds from Citi Gold to my other checking account (added step for paranoia security).  Leave at least $1,500 – to cover the $1,000 debit card spend and the two consecutive monthly bill payments.
  8. Pay off Citi AAdvantage Executive with my other checking account.
  9. Get Citi Gold debit card.  Spend $1,000 with it.  (I used RadPad.)
  10. Pay 1 or more bills for two consecutive months using the Citi online bill pay.

There are two reasons I opened a checking account with my Citi card.  First and foremost, it was the only way I’d be able to meet the $7,500 spend for 75,000 AAdvantage miles on the Citi AAdvantage Executive card.  I’m not a big spender, and would have a tough time meeting that spend unless I was doing some hardcore manufactured spending, which I’m not quite ready for.  So, if I fund the Citi Gold Checking account with my card, I meet the spend requirement and I can pay it right back off.

The second was obviously to take advantage of the sign up bonus for the Citi Gold Checking account.  50,000 AAdvantage miles is nothing to ignore, especially when it’ll only end up costing me $30 or so after only one monthly fee from Citi (first two months of the Citi Gold are free).

Now, if all this works as planned, I’ll meet the Citi AAdvantage Executive card spending bonus (75,000 AAdvantage miles for a $7,500 in 90 days), AND be well on my way to earning the Citi Gold Bonus (50,000 AAdvantage miles).  I’ll explain this further now.

So, how did the plan work out?

Step 1 – Acceptance:  Hi I’m Financial Hippie…and I’m a miles-aholic.

Step 2 – Credit Card:  Easy.  Came in the mail 2 days later.  Fun fact:  I got the card before I actually physically got the acceptance letter.

Step 3 – Wait:  I actually skipped part of this step, didn’t make any purchases.

Step 4 – Cash Advance:  This part was really easy!  The customer service representative was great, contrary to what you might hear on the web about Citi customer service.  The gentleman I spoke to was very very helpful, and he easily dropped my cash advance limit to $0.  Confirm this is complete by calling the automated line.

Step 5 – Fraud Protection:  This is where it got tricky.  I called Citibank the first time, and tried to let them know about a large purchase going through.  If you want to avoid any issues, use a card that’s been open a while to fund the checking account, don’t try to use a brand new card.

Step 6 – Funding:  So, on some advice I found here (thanks Lumpylump76 and Shoggdogg!), I decided to call in and fund the card.  Note, this was 1 day AFTER I was cleared from the fraud warning stuff.  Funding over the phone was actually quite easy.  I gave the representative all the card information, she recommended I call my credit card company and notify them of a large purchase (which I didn’t do).  The next morning, the charge was pending on my card, coding as “Mortgage Companies – Financial Institution.”  It took a few days to actually post to the AAdvantage Executive card, even though the money showed up in my Citi Gold Checking account the next day.

Step 7 – Transfer:  Citi Cards and Citi Bank are separate entities, however, my own mild paranoia thought it would be a good idea to transfer the funds in the Citi Gold to my main checking account first, rather than paying the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card off directly from the Citi Gold Checking Account.  You have to first add the external account, and I opted for the “test deposit.”  Citi deposits two small amounts into the account, then withdraws them, and you have to answer what the amounts were, just for a little extra security before you transfer the money into oblivion.  Transferring the money online is easy, and the Citi website is navigable and straightforward, so no issues there.  Note, I recommend skipping this step, just pay off the card directly from the new checking account.

Step 8 – Pay off Card:  Once I moved the money to my external checking account, paying off the card was simple.

Step 9 – Debit Card:  My debit card came in the mail 2 weeks after opening the account.  This 2 weeks does take 14 days out of your 60 day window to meet the spending requirements.  I decided to use RadPad to hit the  debit card spend requirement.  I’ll be posting about it soon.

Step 10 – Pay Bills:  The Citi website makes this easy.  Most banks now offer an online bill pay, and Citi is no exception.  The site is designed well, and although I’m not a fan of online bill pay personally, I found the whole process fairly simple.  The first month (October) I paid two credit card bills and my electric bill from the Citi Gold Checking account.  The two credit card bills were online bill pays, where Citi actually transferred the money directly to the account (as far as I can tell).  Both credit card payments posted to my Citi Gold checking account the next day, and credited my credit card accounts the day after that, taking 2 days in total.  The electric bill took longer, and I believe Citi withdrew the money from my account, cut a physical check, and then sent it to the utility company.  The money came out of my account the day after I submitted the payment, and was credited to my account at the utility company a few days later.  In November, I paid a few credit cards and the utility company again.

So to sum this all up, the money followed this little path:

  1. Charge to Citi AAdvantage Executive card
  2. Fund Citi Gold Checking
  3. Transfer to external checking account
  4. Use external account to pay off Citi AAdvantage card
  5. Net cost:  Only a monthly fee or two on the Citi Gold account, and any credit card fees your card may incur, if you want to count those.

Pro Tips

  • After you set your cash advance to $0, call the customer service line to confirm.  The automated menus will give you the option to hear your account balance, in robot voice:  “Blah, blah, blah; to hear your account details press…you have an available balance of … of which, zero dollars is available for a cash advance.”  Check.
  • Call in to fund the Citi Gold checking account.  Call 1 (800) 745-1534, in the US, and follow the prompts for New Accounts Status, I believe you just have to hit “1” a few times.  If you get a rep that doesn’t know how to do it for whatever reason, just try calling back with a new one.  It really is a simple process.  You’ll need the account number and all your credit card information.
  • It might be best to wait a few weeks after you’ve gotten your new Citi card to fund the account.  Fraud was on my case since I applied online, opened the account, and called to notify them of a large purchase all in the same few days.  It also didn’t help that I have two phones in my name, but that’s another story..
  • Keep records of everything, just in case.  I saved PDFs of the offer details, my communications with Citi Bank, and my receipts from the online bill pay.

Bottom Line

As of now, I do have the AAdvantage miles from funding the checking account.  My balance is at 83,000 AA miles:  75,000 from the sign up bonus/minimum spend requirement, and 8,000 AA miles from the $8,000 “spend” (funding the checking account).  I spoke with a Citi rep online,  and they confirmed my 50,000 AA miles from the checking account sign up bonus should hit by March, but also reminded me that it was a targeted offer.  So we’ll see if I get those miles in March.

I would definitely consider this an ‘advanced’ strategy for hitting bonuses.  Not only are the fraud/account funding parts a bit tricky, but you have to remember to drop your cash advance limit to zero.  It’s much easier to hit spend requirements through normal spending.  Besides, this is manufactured spending, which I always explain is harder than just meeting normal bonuses.

*Example:  I recently called Barclaycard and requested that my cash advance be reduced to $0, just to try out the process.  Barclay said the lowest they could go was $1, which is fine by me!  Also, Barclaycard said this was irreversible, so make sure you’re prepared for that if your card issuer says the same.

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