Shrink Ray Now Hitting Rewards Programs

We’ve seen food items, airline mile programs, and credit card limits all shrink as the economy worsens. Now it’s time for other rewards programs to become just a little less rewarding—and somewhat sneakily, too, in these two stories recently sent in by readers.

Thank You Network


Citibank put a lot of marketing money into convincing customers that its “Thank You Network” was all hugs and sunshine, but it turns out it’s the same as any other program backed by a credit card company. Their fixed-point flight redemption offer is going away on March 1st, and earlier this month Adam discovered that they’ve already lowered the cap from $4200 to $2800, although there was no mention of this change on their website when he logged in to redeem his points. The fine print says they can change terms at any time without notice, and apparently they have, too bad for you if you’ve been saving up points for the past couple of years.

Citibank’s “ThankYou” network ( has offered a fixed-point flight redemption offer for a while. 140,000 points, for instance, has netted a roundtrip business class flight valued up to $4200 between the continental U.S. and Hawaii.

Apparently, on March 1st, the ThankYou network will no longer offer fixed flight redemptions. I learned of this only second-hand, from a forum on the web (FlyerTalk). I never received ANY notice from Citibank, and in fact, when I called to confirm the rumor by calling Citibank (the # listed on my credit card), I was told that it was untrue and that nothing was changing.

But here’s the more frustrating clincher. When I called to book a flight yesterday, I was on hold for over an hour (!) and the agent refused to book the flight, saying the cap had been changed from $4200 to $2800. I explained that I had not heard of this, and that the site still showed $4200. No dice. Talked to two managers, but they refused to honor the listed price cap.

I was told that:

– Citibank deemed that it no longer wished to honor the earlier offer as of this past Monday.
– Citibank maintained the right to change its redemption levels at any time, for any reason, and without notification.

Home Depot Rewards


Home Depot has also decided to reduce the value of your points, only they’re taking a more Target-style approach. Jason noticed that not only will he need to redeem more points for gift cards than he used to, but that the value of his points drops if he opts for larger card values. Translation: it’s “cheaper” to order two $25 gift cards than one $50 gift card.

I recently logged into my Home Depot rewards card to find that I have 12,000 + “reward” points to spend. In the past I would trade 10,000 points for a $100 Home Depot gift card. Recently, they decided to revamp the rewards system— now the $100 gift card “costs” 12,000 points. But that’s not the point- check out the rest of the choices:

3,500 points for a $25 gift card (140 points/$)
8,000 points for a $50 gift card (160 points/$)

HUH? Is that $50 gift card somehow “special”? Perhaps it’s a “convenience charge” ala Ticketmaster. “Only one card to keep track of!” That’s worth at least 1000 points!

Even better,

55,000 points for a $600 gift card (91 points/$)
125,000 points for a $1250 gift card (100 points/$)

Are they just betting on the idiocy of their customers? I guess so…