Citibank Free Movie Tickets: A Lesson In Reading the Fine Print

Where Is Your Road Taking You?

Where Is Your Road Taking You?

Citibank Ad: For a minimum single receipt purchase of Php1500, you can get a free movie ticket of your choice in some designated cinemas.

Aside from being very inaccurate, free is too strong a word.  Okay, okay, the movie tickets have a potential to be free if you can find  Php130 movies at your favorite movie haunt.  But since the advent of THX and reserved seating and glamorized movie houses (great audio! superb video!), this is no longer the case.  Movies typically range from Php170 to as high as Php400 nowadays.

So, Citibank, the right, er, more accurate, word is subsidize.

Let’s begin at the beginning.  When I saw this ad one fine day, which took up more than half the size of a newspaper, and no fine print, my savings!savings! antennae went up and I began, consciously, to put more heart (and thought) into my purchases.  I had a target, and that is to use my Citibank card for purchases Php1,500 and above.   There were times when I would try to sweet talk the salesladies into cutting up my purchases (I remembered seeing in the ad, “a minimum of Php1,500 single receipt”, so I thought there had to be something there) so I would get different transaction receipts for every Php1,500.  But, as I experienced at Charles and Keith Trinoma, I was not always successful.

And then the fine print came out. I suspect this was an effort on the part of Citibank to prevent a backfire of their good intentions (well) and deflect a boycott of their cards from irate moviegoers who found out they have to shell some moolah for this freebie (indeed).  This fine print (in big bold letters) greeted me one fine morning:

Mechanics for Citibank Free Movie Tickets

•    A minimum of Php1,500 single-receipt (straight purchase) – 1 free movie ticket worth Php130

•    A minimum of Php7,000 single-receipt (straight purchase) – 2 free movie tickets worth Php130 each and free popcorn and softdrinks for 2

•    A minimum of Php20,000 single-receipt (PayLite) – 3 free movie tickets worth Php130 each and free popcorn and softdrinks for 3

•    Every new approved Citi One Bill enrollment – 2 free movie tickets worth Php130 each and free popcorn and softdrinks for 2

Citibank Fine Print: Deconstructed

Note that the word used is “minimum” and not “every”.  So, if your purchase is at least Php3,000, that will still give you one (yes, one), and not two, tickets (hence my effort to, ah, cut up my purchases to Php1,500s).

Note the differentiation between “straight purchase” and “PayLite”.  Imagine my feigned surprise (I already read the fine print but tried to see if I can get away with it) when I presented a Php20,000 receipt and got only 2 and not (not!) 3 free tickets.  Citibank certainly gives a premium to those who use their PayLite facility (read: those who fall deeper and deeper into debt).

Also, the magic number is Php130.  Yes, it is just Php130, hence the word subsidized.  If you wanted to watch UP, the Disney/Pixar movie, like we did, the 3-D version is Php300/Php400.  So, the Php130 subsidized not even half the price of this ticket.  So it was a little painful for me to still get Php510 from my wallet.  Okay, I did want to watch the Time Traveller’s Wife and the lady at the ticket counter said it was only Php170.  This means I need only to shell out Php40 for a ticket.  Not bad.

A reminder: this promotion is only applicable to participating cinemas too – that is, Ayala Malls Cinemas, Eastwood, Robinson’s Movieworld, Shang Cineplex and SM Cinemas.  So watch where you are watching.

Also, the free popcorn is also not flavored.  If you want it flavored, you need to add Php26.  Bummer.

Last Word: Time is Money

If, for you, time is money, then you seriously, seriously have to rethink this strategy.  On one Sunday afternoon, the blast of the aircon barely penetrated the skins of those who are waiting at the long line leading to the Citibank counter, which snaked to forever.  Furrowed brow, sweat drenched skin, tension levels to up to very alarming rates, I stood there.  And waited.  As hubby and I observed, this was because the lady at the counter had to explain the mechanics to everyone all the time.  For the one hour and 18 minutes it took me to get to that counter, I saved approximately Php500 (I got 3 subsidized tickets and free popcorn and softdrinks for 2).  I am not sure that it was worth it.

So, if your hour is worth at least Php500 (and you are getting at least 3 tickets), then go for it.  Otherwise, do it the regular way – and pay.  You will still have to pay with this scheme anyway.  Or come to the cinemas early (a painful lesson in time management).

A Word of Caution

Credit card companies come up with promotions to get you spending.  With the zillions of dollars they spend on their advertising and their “freebies” and “subsidies” comes the hope (theirs) that you will throw caution to the winds, buy (buy! buy!) and not fully pay your debt, or worse, pay only the minimum.  To fully maximize all these benefits they are throwing our way, you have got to pay your credit card balance in full.  Please pay your credit card balance in full.

Use your cards and use your cards well.  Make an effort to read the fine print – for everything, all the time – even those that are not written and those that you are not supposed to see. 

Be rich,


Article by Issa. Art by D. Copyright 2009.
Email: [email protected]

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  2. patman says:

    Good analysis. Their ongoing promo is even more limiting as you need to claim within 30 days from the date of purchase. I believe DTI requires merchants to accept redemptions up to 60 days so it is surprising that Citibank was able to run this with this limitation.

    Why not try HSBC’s Free Starbucks promo? For every P2,000 single receipt charge slip paid using your HSBC credit card, you can get your choice of any tall Starbucks beverage plus an add-on (java chips, etc.).

  3. Itsaso Oroitz says:

    Matinee shows (Screening Before 5PM) at Greenhills is only at PhP 120


  4. Maan says:

    What we usually do is to combine receipts. Me and my siblings would need around 7-8 receipts to watch movies yet not spend a peso. However, sodas and popcorn are inevitable expenses.

  5. Issa says:

    @Maan That’s what we do too. But everytime I have a lot of credit card receipts in my wallet, I cringe because it means I have been spending so much. But then again, it is better to get something because, well, we are going to spend anyway. But it’s crazy when I tried to spend P3,000 to get Crispy Pata at Max’s for free (from BDO Credit Cards and I thought it was a Citibank promo). I ended up paying for the Crispy Pata because I could not find anything worthwhile to spend P3,000 on. My lesson: next time, read the fine print. 🙂

  6. Free movie forever says:

    you must be thankful that citibank was the first credit card to give awesome rebates like this which is roughly 7% off your total credit card purchase. 100 / 1500 = 6.67% then if your credit card has points, points systems usually give you .5% – 1%. what do other banks (especially the local ones) give to their customers before citibank was aggresively promoting their credit card? NOTHING! But now, every credit card company is following citibank’s strategy and are also giving away a lot of rebates or promo but are still lower in terms of percentage money back.

    Filipinos should learn how to compute these things before complaining..

  7. Issa says:

    @Free Movie I agree that the promo is awesome and that the rebates it spawned (from other credit card companies) are awesome for the consumer. But my point at the time I wrote the article (2009) was that there was false advertising on the part of Citibank (movie was discounted but not free as they claimed). And that people have got to realize that these promos are a way to get people to spend, spend, spend. Which will be really bad, bad, bad for them if they do not know how to manage their spending. But thank you for your comment.

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