2/12/2019

Citi: Thank You Card Offer Conflicts

One of my responsibilities when I worked at Citi’s Credit Card division was profitable balance growth on their Citi AAdvantage Credit Card. A common way to grow balances then (and still now) was to mail to customers balance transfer checks they could use like regular checks to pay off higher-interest credit cards or use to make significant purchases.

These checks were directly tied to the credit card number and existing account. The functional implication was that, if a customer changed his or her credit card number, the check would bounce. This occurred when a customer’s credit card was replaced due to theft or fraud, or if the customer switched to a different Citi credit card. Poor customer experience!  

Occasionally, the business priority would be to solicit customers to upgrade their existing Citi AAdvantage Card to a more premium product—say, from a basic card with a $50 annual fee to a Gold-level card with an $85 annual fee. The upgrade solicitation list would be prepared in advance and deduped from the balance transfer check solicitation list. This not only prevented checks from bouncing, it also allowed our customer communications to focus on only one aspect of the credit card product during a time period.

Outside of Upgrade Mailer
That policy from years ago comes to mind when I reviewed these two offers, which the same person received related to his Citi Thank You Preferred Card around the same time. In late January, he received an offer to switch his existing Citi Thank You Preferred Card to the new Citi Rewards+ Card. This new card offered a different points accrual method. It’s a shiny self-mailer complete with details, comparison of the customer’s current Citi Thank You Preferred Card to the new Citi Reward+ Card, and more disclosures than you can shake a stick at. Creatively, this is a pretty persuasive mailer.







Upgrade Self-Mailer Inside Panels

A week later, in early February, the same person received a self-mailer with an offer to add an authorized user to his Citi Thank You Preferred Card. Specifically, the offer was an opportunity to accrue 2,500 Thank You Rewards points—worth $25 in gift cards—if the customer adds an authorized user to the card and spends $2,000 by 2/28/19.

Outside of Citi Thank You Add A User Mailer

The first Fail here is for a combination of Offer and Timing. Setting aside the upgrade offer, this offer has a response window of under 30 days. Normally, 30 days is an ideal response window to allow a customer enough time to read the mailer, consider the offer, and take action. But this offer requires the customer to take two separate actions. First, the customer has to request the card for the authorized user. Subsequently, the customer and/or the authorized user have to spend, together, at least $2,000. If there is an expectation that the authorized user would do the spending, the customer would have to wait for the card to arrive in the mail, activate it, give it to the authorized user, and hope that authorized user already had plans to make a pretty significant purchase or two. That’s a lot of activity to expect of a customer during the cold month of February.

Citi Thank You Rewards Mailer

Citi Thank You Rewards Mailer
Inside of Citi Thank You Add A User Mailer

Most credit card bonus points offers for new customers have a window of 90 days to meet a spending threshold. Perhaps Citi could have structured this offer such that the customer would have 30 days to add an authorized user and another 60-90 days to meet the spending requirement.

The second Fail is a combination of Offer and Targeting. The fine print on the offer to add an authorized user includes the line, “If your account is closed for any reason, including if you convert to another card product, you may no longer be eligible for this offer.” In other words, if the Citi customer accepted the offer he had received one week prior to this one, then this offer is void. Poor customer experience!

When I worked at Citi, we took measures to avoid overlapping offers. That does not appear to be the case today. It does not appear to me that one of these mailers was delayed in the mail for a long time, so let’s rule out bad postal delivery. Maybe the Citi Rewards+ Card Product Manager wasn’t aware of what the Thank You Preferred Card Product Manager had planned, or maybe they had conflicting business objectives so neither of them cared. I can only speculate.

Lessons:
  1. When planning the timing of your mailing and determining the offer response window, consider customer actions required to fulfill the offer.
  2. When you mail an offer to your own customers, be sure your offer doesn't conflict with other offers or create a negative customer experience.


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