Citi India Exit: Who will buy Citi’s lucrative Credit Card Business?

By | April 16, 2021
Citi India’s most popular Citi Indian Oil Credit Card

Disclaimer: Everything expressed below is of my personal opinion and it may or may not reflect the reality.

On 15th April 2021 Citi Group announced their plan to exit retail banking operations from India and in 12 other countries across the globe (Australia, Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam).

They have scalability issues in these countries and so they intend to cut down the costs and strengthen their business in more wealthy countries as it gives them better returns and so is the decision. Here’s everything you need to know:

What it means?

They are exiting their retail banking business in India which includes: retail banking (bank accounts, deposits), Credit cards and loans (home loans).

This news is more of a call for potential buyers to show interest in one or more of their retail products.

The most sought after business among them is their credit card business as that comes with about ~6% market share in spends and Citi has one of the highest ticket value per transaction.

These metrics are very strong as Citi deals with Affluent customers and with that let’s see who could be the best contender/buyer for Citi.

Potential Buyers

DBS

The Development Bank of Singapore recently merged with LVB and is all set to launch their own credit cards in India, likely sometime by late 2021.

Citi’s exit is perhaps a GOLDEN opportunity for DBS to buy all of Citi’s business’es and form an empire out of nowhere. 

Buying Citi would make DBS unstoppable because with LVB they have good set of entry level customers and with Citi it will give access to top tier customers overnight – a perfect mix of both segments.

Also, a foreign bank taking over another foreign bank would be good to see as well.

If happens this will make DBS the best ever bank in the country and with proper management it could easily become one of the top 5 banks in the country, in a decade or so.

Its a perfect match in my opinion. If not all business’es I wish at-least they buy the credit cards business as they know how to treat the premium customers, just like how Citi does.

SBICard

Its a very good opportunity for SBICards as well, as they could get access to the premium credit card customers.

With the launch of AURUM, we know that SBICard is very much interested in tapping the affluent segment. So buying Citi CC Portfolio would be a great advantage, giving them access to premium customers which will strengthen their position.

This will help SBICard to compete with HDFC very STRONGLY.

But when this happens SBICard had to develop a new ecosystem with premium products, support and services. Else, the purchase would become “useless” in every sense.

Axis Bank

For Axis, I don’t think bank Accounts would make much sense, but for credit cards: definitely.

Axis Bank credit cards is almost like rising from ashes since past 2 years and now they have some of the most rewarding products in the credit card industry.

Axis is currently the 4th largest credit card issuer and I’m expecting them to overtake ICICI and become the 3rd largest player soon.

So acquiring Citi cards Portfolio would give them nitro boost to raise the position by one step and could give a tough competition for SBICards and HDFC.

Others

ICICI and other banks may attempt to buy, but it wouldn’t be a right fit in my opinion, looking at how they manage business at the moment.

Kotak is good one, but they did nothing useful with their existing card portfolio, so I’m not interested to see them buy the business and break it. So no! But if they are open for massive changes, it would be amazing too.

HDFC may-not go for the purchase as most of Citi’s top tier customers (all segments) are anyway already banking with HDFC, at-least most of them. 

So it doesn’t make much sense in my opinion, but HDFC may have the power to buy and may even buy – not because they need those customers, but because they want to hold the position tight #1 😉

FAQ’s (Credit Cards)

1. What will happen to my existing Citi card?

Nothing for now, but post the sale most likely the new buyer may re-design the products or if the buyer has existing credit card portfolio, you may be matched to a card in similar fee range.

2. What will happen to my Credit Card limit?

Many Citi cardholders have sky high limit. So for those cardholders with >10L limit may see a correction. May affect further if you already hold a credit card ac with the new buyer.

3. What will happen to my rewards?

Its safer to redeem them whenever possible. Make use of the rare transfer partners.

4. When will this sale happen?

Nothing has been said so far. But 1 Year is minimum to think about: 6 months for finding the buyer and another 6 months for migration. In extreme situation it shouldn’t take more than 2 yrs for the whole process to complete.

5. Should I close my Citi Card?

No, you may get into a sweet spot based on who buy the business. So it’s better to hold them until they finally migrate you to the new buyer.

Remember, Citi is not selling the business because of loss or any sort. So there is nothing to panic about if you hold a Citi account or a Citi card. Its business as usual both for them and you, until they find the buyer.

Final Thoughts

I’m quite surprised to see Citi Group exit India – one of the most developing countries in the world with huge opportunity where many are fighting to have a share. But yes, they don’t have the type of customers (HNI) they look for, in scale – even for credit cards. 

It’s the very reason why even American Express that used to sell expensive cards now started to sell credit cards in entry level segment with MRCC and Smart Earn. It looks like the top tier segment is sort of saturated or having a very slow growth.

That all aside, its a significant loss for credit card connoisseurs (as someone said so) like us, as without Citi, we lose many good international points & miles transfer partners – and especially the ability to earn them, as Citi Prestige is too good for that.

What’s your thoughts on the Citi India Exit? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Siddharth

Helping Indians to choose right credit cards, pick right offers and enjoy luxury vacations for less. Day & night wondering where is the creator of this beautiful planet Earth.

62 thoughts on “Citi India Exit: Who will buy Citi’s lucrative Credit Card Business?

  1. Santosh Kumar

    Anyone thinks it’s a good idea to take CITI credit card now?

    Reply
    1. Pratyush

      Yes, they are offering Rs 3000 for every new card with minimum spends of Rs 5000 in 60 days. I got my CITI Rewards card last month due to this offer. Today I got an offer of 20% off on airbnb which is valid from 10 Apil to 9 July. They are trying to add more customers before selling the business. As Sid said a minimum of 6 months. So take the advantage now

      Reply
      1. Krishna L

        How to get “Rs 3000 for every new card with minimum spends of Rs 5000 in 60 days” offer? Is it still running?

        Reply
        1. Santosh Kumar

          Go to citibank home page. You should be able to get the offer.

          Citi has a fast approval process. Not sure it’s because of Covid. Filled form on Saturday. Sat-Sunday no update(non working days. )
          Monday-SMS with Application Number
          Tuesday-In principle approval SMS with Video KYC link (completed Same day itself). Later at night on Tuesday, received an SMS statingapplication approved.
          Wed-mid night SMS from blue dart intimating dispatch
          Thursday (today)- card delivered

          Depending on the company overtaking Citi CC portfolio, they can overtake onbaording infrastructure

          Reply
  2. NMS

    I guess it’s time to finally start redeeming all my Citi Prestige points.

    Reply
  3. Ambareesh

    Would it make sense to apply for one like say premier miles now?

    Reply
  4. S Pannu

    I highly doubt that some other bank will be able to let me in with the current ₹46Lakh limit that I have on my Prestige card (obviously, not built in a year but took close to about 16 years with 2 years on the CITI Ultima and then a downgrade back to the Prestige, a few years of having been a Gold Private Client and currently Gold). Anyways, only CITI had the “scale” to do that, probably no other bank here can put you through to a revolving credit limit of this size. Not saying that no one else has it, sure there must be those with higher limits far exceeding what I have, but what matters is the bank that can afford to have customers with these big limits lent on personal credit cards. Only CITI could do this. Only CITI had & has the “scale” to do this.

    Even more worrying is the sheer number of points I accumulated on the card over these years. Now was not really the time to redeem the points on transfer partners. Don’t know what and how I will be using them in the current state-of-affairs.

    Reply
    1. JAX JOSPEH

      I have a Limit of 36 Lakhs on my hdfc infinia , i have been a customer if of the bank only for 6 years now and i have an ICIC Emeralde with 17.5 Lakhs . So its not just citi there are others who can give these kinda limits

      Reply
    2. Ankit B

      Buy Amazon vouchers, add them to your Amazon Pay. You can always use them for Insurance payments, monthly groceries, all your electronics purchases etc.
      PS: Disclosure, I work in Amazon but that has nothing to do with this statement. I love buying on Amazon even when I hadn’t joined them 2 years back. And Diners offers so many points which I redeem time to time at half value on Amazon Pay and pay my 50K insurance using the accumulated points.

      Reply
    3. WallStreetBets

      Question to you and other Citibank HNIs here: If you are a Citigold member (and beyond), that status is transferable across the world. So will there really be a difference? You get to retain that status anywhere on the globe.

      So can you choose to opt to transfer the account to another country with Citi presence and continue banking?

      Reply
      1. RAHUL

        Every country has its own rules regulations KYC requirements to open bank accounts. You just can’t go to a country with passport, adhar and pan card and get account opened. Some allow only for residents with valid visas , some need their own national id cards. All this is to prevent money laundering. You can transfer status to other country only if you are legally able to open account.

        Reply
  5. SK

    Agree with most of the observations except:
    1) DBS may find it lucrative to buy CITI India business, but coz of LVB think the deal may not work. To my understanding most LVB customers are not in the premium segment unlike DBS. Adding premium customers of CITI to the mix would only make it more complex. Even Tatas had to exit Nano after JLR acquisition.

    2) HDFC would be dying to have CITI India. CITIs systems are way more robust than HDFC ever had (recent blackouts not withstanding). Personally I never had to visit CITI branches in the last 16yrs of my bank/CC relationship with them, except for locker operation.
    Agreed there will be duplication of premium customers. But I think with one shot HDFC could limit the competition in that segment in many respects (CC, Wealth mgmt, Corp salary acs etc.)
    But I really doubt HDFC shall ever get RBIs blessings for this!

    Reply
  6. Anirban Sen

    Citi was my first credit card when I barely turned 21. Issued without a PAN and based on my JetPrivilege membership. I’ve found their customer service for even Suvidha better than Weath Management, Burgundy, Firsts, or whatever premium segment other banks are in. I would rather the acquisition is done by a foreign bank with equally good customer service.
    I also have over 250k premier miles pending. Accumulated over the years since they never expired and planned for international trips. Let’s hope they at least allow for redemption in Amazon vouchers as the same value as their miles.

    Reply
    1. Ankit B

      I redeemed all for Amazon vouchers yesterday (30% value) v/s flights are typically 45% value. Didn’t have so many points, only around 30K. So I was okay losing this partial value.

      Reply
      1. Anirban

        I’ll probbaly wait till the last day if I have to. Understand the new deal. If it had not been for the pandemic, I would have taken a few internationals flights I was actually saving for.

        Reply
  7. Varun

    I wonder how much appetite DBS has for a takeover, considering they were forced into the LVB acquisition in the first place. They didn’t come into India with their new-gen strategy to acquire frikkin’ Lakshmi Vilas Bank.

    Also, since Citi is planning to sell everything lock, stock and barrel, I don’t think the likes of SBICard will be allowed to take only the card business, etc.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      Yeah, LVB is a misfit for DBS range. So Citi would look very attractive for them.

      Reply
  8. Amit G

    Sid
    In my opinion, It will be a Global deal to another Global Bank for all countries, they are existing. May be to HSBC / Stanchart Or may be Card Business to Amex rest of retail business to Others. Country wise sale will take time and cost would be higher (Merchant Banker, Valuation etc.). They would want to monetise their assets faster through Global sale.

    Reply
    1. Abhi

      Doubt it will be a foreign bank. Retail and consumer banking is lot more capital intensive for them, due to which RBS made an exit after suffering from its ABN Amro acquisition, StanC itself is scaling back, Deutsche Bank sold cards business to Indusind, Hsbc not investing into India at retail level, and infact even cutting down in US. Citi cards may be acquired by someone local, that’s my guess.

      Reply
    2. Sandeep Kumar

      Amex won’t buy card businesses. Visa/MC and Amex as network are poles apart and it won’t suit Amex ecosystem. Most of citi customers won’t move to Amex network and Amex won’t run cards with Visa/MC partnership.

      Reply
  9. Shivi

    My guess would be IndusInd Bank, RBL Bank and/or IDFC First Bank.

    Reply
  10. Pramtesh

    I have heard somewhere. Kotak is topping the list to buy citi India.
    I don’t have Amex. Card
    I hope amex buys

    Reply
      1. Gautam

        As per my opinion, if any bank/entity takes over Citi credit card business then the new bank will map the existing Citi cards with cards on their current portfolios.
        Since AMEX and SC are best contenders for Citi, then the Premier Miles would be mapped to Plat Travel (AMEX) or Ultimate (SC) as a LTF/ discounted fees basis most similar benefits and annual fees.
        The Citi Rewards, Cashback and Indian Oil cards are basic/ entry level cards and most probably will be swapped to already LTF/low fees cards of these banks (Amex MRCC/SmartEarn/Gold; SC Platinum Rewards/Manhattan/SuperValue.

        If you upgrade to Premier Miles then you would be charged pro rata basis your current card membership year.
        Again these are my personal views.

        Reply
  11. Fahd

    Any chance other issuers try to lure Citi credit card holders with lucrative offers such as LTF on premium cards?

    Reply
  12. SAMEERTEZ

    My opinion is it would be best as amex being a global brand has very much similar assets to that of Citibank in every aspect and product. Both brands have same range of credit cards and service. While amex don’t have retail banking in India, this takeover would help them to expand and reach to tier2 cities, positive for both customer and bank.

    Reply
  13. Xyz

    My guess Citi prestige might stay (as they plan to keep wealth management business).

    Reply
    1. Neo

      Really hope someone revamps the Prestige card. Citi has lost interest in the credit card business it seems & their retention team is non existent.
      Really had a very insipid experience while renewing the Prestige. I renewed the card simply because i couldnt find any good alternatives to transfer the Prestige points.

      Reply
    2. SK

      I thought CITI was keeping Wealth mgmt only for London, Dubai, Singapore etc. not for India.

      Reply
    3. Sandeep Kumar

      And why should it stay when they are selling full retail business?

      Reply
  14. ANURUP GUDIVADA

    Great opportunity for Reliance or Adani to enter into banking business..

    Reply
    1. Rajaram

      Hahah..spot on. with the recent trends going on they would not be a surprise 🙂

      Reply
    2. Shilpa

      As far as I know, Industrialists cannot open a bank (the caveat that 60% off their revenue should be from financial sector). This is very important as it can take down a bank and people’s money with it.

      So unless Ambani, Adani or any other industrialists have bribed their way around regulations again (Like Jio surpassing spectrum bid), they cannot directly open a bank. However, they can have someone they know open a bank (again how Jio was made).

      I don’t think they’d want to be anywhere near opening a bank (atleast appear to) because that will create a huge ruckus. Let us see what happens.

      Reply
    3. Sandeep Kumar

      No non-banking entity can buy citi business as per RBI norms.

      Reply
    4. SK

      I highly doubt RBI would allow that (any corporate house to buy any bank) in the first place, especially after Yes episode of last year. Further with digital first, I really doubt if RIL would even be interested.

      Reply
  15. AM

    DBS support is not good being a business customer for 2 years they never replies of support emails and RM is good for nothing my Hdfc RM is better than DBS, DBS is a Sarkari bank of Singapore 😂
    Though I’m still with them because they give best USD to INR conversion and remittances are really fast and great app hopefully they will have better support in future.

    Reply
  16. Vikash Singh

    As per my sources it’s Standard Chartered who is preety much interest in Citi Bank exit.

    Reply
  17. Aman Bindra

    Good change for both IDFC first and DBS. DBS is close to launching their credit cards and it can be a amazing kickstart to acquire Citi’s generally secure business having top notch customers, however DBS is currently already under a merger so acquiring may be tricky.

    Reply
  18. CenturionLover

    Citi Ultima will not be renewed in India. All ultima renewals are paused and no fresh cards will be issued. Rumour is that they will be downgraded to LTF prestige equivalent with acquirer.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      ~2% reward rate. But redemption is tricky as vouchers are limited to select brands. I see Amazon is there, but bit risky as it may go out of stock.

      There are lot better cards in that reward rate!

      Reply
  19. Sree

    So i decided i’ll close my citi premier miles card as it was just renewed last month and i dont use it much anyway. Redemption was scarce too and i used up most of the points and the news of Citi shutting down soon in India made me wish i can atleast get a part of my fee back on pro rata basis.

    Called up customer care, asked for card closure and the agent connects me to the closure team(or retention team?!) and the lady offers me an offer wherein i spend 6k in next 30 days i will get the cashback of the entire amount!! Sounds good to be true so i asked her if i will get a mail or something with that info and she says she’ll ask the concerned team to do it. Not bad i can live with it and see where the card goes

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      Waivers are bit rare with Citi PM and 6K spend target is very impressive to see.

      Reply
  20. AT

    Well I feel it’s going to be another foreign bank with enough of snob value if the Citi customer is to continue with the new buyer.
    SBI has its own network with enough potential customers to bother spending like this.
    I stopped using my DB card once it became Indusind.
    If the Citi cards goes to say BoB then its gonna suffer the same fate.

    Reply
  21. Rasigan

    After HDFC, now Amex and Diners club barred from added new card customers… How long the bar to be effective??? How its going to affect the existing customers…. (Though as per RBI no effect for existing customers) like additional offers for retention !!!

    Reply
  22. Vishal

    At a global level atleast 2 banks come to mind who have the money and may want to buy citi portfolio and enter multiple developing markets in one go.
    Chase & BoA
    Chase is more likely as they are the aggressive credit card player in the premium segment with a big (biggest?) market share in US. They also have solid customer service to retain citi customers.
    BoA hasn’t seen a lot of success with their credit card business, but may want to expand and will never find an opportunity biggest than this to do so.
    Finally, I hope it doesn’t get sold to any Chinese govt owned bank (I hope RBI won’t allow that)

    Reply
    1. Kumar

      Sorry but this will never happen. Chase just entered UK retail banking with digital only offering after lot of wait and watch. BoA does not have its bets here. It’s going to be a existing player in the market, be it international or domestic.

      Reply
  23. Santosh Kumar

    News reports suggest Citi is asking 4000 crores for its credit card business. can anyone suggest how the valuation of a credit card company is done? Appreciate any insights.

    I think its a mix of fee paying cardmembers, revenue from EMI, MDR fee for transactions etc.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  24. Santosh Kumar

    I have a question for existing Citi cardholders. Customer care numbers are chargeable calls. Starting with 1860 what is your opinion on this SID? The first step for a customer centric company should be being acccesible. I feel that is not the case here.

    Reply
    1. Nick

      Citibank credit card customer care number is free. Try +91 22-49552484 when you call them next time.

      Reply
  25. Abhishek Reddy

    Hi,

    Since upg adding to HDFC Infinia and Standard Chartered Ultimate cards, my citi premier miles was lying idle.

    So when I wanted to cancel and also read that citi is trying to retain as per previous comments, called Cc and asked for cancellation.

    They gave a flat 3000 Rs cashback without any spend lmit criteria to card. I felt a decent one as my next renewal is only on Sept and when I got the card it annual fee was 1k for previous Jet citi card holders.

    Citi was my most used card till last month when I got above 2 cards..

    Will wait and see who buys citi cards business before taking next call

    Reply
  26. Sajid

    Is Taj Hotels no longer available to transfer premier miles? I remember it being there. Now, its just IHG & a bunch of airlines.
    Any thoughts on whether I should transfer the miles to IHG or Singapore Airlines?

    Reply
  27. Mugunthan

    I am holding Citi rewards card for years. Though Citi offered Primier miles card declined it several times.

    Now, all of sudden Citi Bank is sending emails with numerous discount offers on various sites.

    Also I received Amazon voucher offer for small spends. First time got Amazon voucher offer for Citi rewards card.

    Some change is happening with Citi cards now.

    Reply
  28. Shivi

    Yes Bank and DBS banks are the frontrunners to buy Citibank’s business.

    Reply

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