Citigroup has launched a current account promotion offering a 5%
cash back bonus until the end of November for signature-based debit
card purchases.

The offer applies to customers opening a new
Citi personal or business checking account before 9 July.

During the six-month promotion, Citi will
automatically deposit a cash bonus – up to a maximum of either $250
for personal accounts or $500 for business and premier personal
accounts – directly back into the customer’s current account.

Participating customers will earn the 5% bonus
on qualifying signature purchases including:

  • In-store purchases where they choose ‘credit’ and sign;
  • Purchases made online, by phone or mail order, and
  • Low dollar-amount purchases that don’t require a

“With the rising popularity of debit card
usage, this promotion is our way of giving new checking customers
even more value for what they are already doing everyday – by
simply signing for debit card purchases” said Brad Dinsmore, head
of retail banking, North America consumer banking at Citi.

“This is a simple way for our new customers to
get real value from choosing to bank with Citibank, whether they
come to us for a personal or business account.”  

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While loyalty programmes have been standard
marketing fare for banks for many years, few have proved as big a
hit as Citi’s ThankYou programme, of which the latest initiative is
an extension.

Introduced in July 2004, initially for the
bank’s credit card clientele, the Thank-You rewards programme
highlighted the bank’s belief in loyalty as a central plank of its
marketing and branding strategy.

Citi’s decision in April 2005 to extend
ThankYou to the bank’s entire retail banking client base, with the
aim of rewarding customers for ‘everyday banking’, upped the ante
in terms of rewards-based loyalty programmes.

Six years after launch and ThankYou can claim
to be one of the world’s largest loyalty schemes, with membership
exceeding 13 million customers.

Citi’s latest rewards programme, aimed at new
customers, follows the trend of seeking to tie rewards to
signature-based debit and away from the less profitable PIN-based

The ThankYou programme for existing customers,
for example, offers one point for every $2 spent using signature
debit and one point for every $3 spent using a PIN for debit

Debit card fees in general in the US remain a
source of controversy amid a heated and contentious congressional

A bill currently before the Senate raises the
prospect of the Federal Reserve setting limits on the fees banks
and credit card networks charge merchants for debit card

In 2009, debit card charges generated almost
$20 billion for US banks in fees paid by merchants.