Exploiting the Freshly Increased Value of Citibank’s Thank You Points

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Citibank Points Have Gotten Much More Valuable This Year Thanks to Airline Mileage Transfers

Citibank introduced airline miles as an option for redeeming Thank You points over the summer, instantly increasing the value of their Citi Thank You Cards points substantially.

And a month later they even added a transfer partner, signifying that they weren’t done building the program.

Thank You Premier and Prestige cardmembers can now transfer points to:

  • Air France-KLM
  • Asia Miles
  • Etihad Airways Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Garuda Indonesia GarudaMiles
  • Hilton HHonorsTM
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus

Of these, Singapore Airlines has the broadest and best uses in my opinion. You can now transfer points from Chase, Starwood, American Express, and Citi over to Singapore. And that’s a really great option.

Singapore Airlines Krisflyer is a surprisingly useful program.

If you book on the Singapore website you get a 15% discount of the prices on the award chart. So, for instance:

  • San Francisco – Hong Kong in ‘suites class’ is 70,125 miles one-way.
  • Houston – Moscow in first class is 57,375 miles one-way.
  • New York JFK – Frankfurt in suites class is 57,375 miles one-way.

You can have one enroute stopover on a roundtrip award.

Singapore adds fuel surcharges to awards (whatever the cost of a fuel surcharge would be on an equivalent paid ticket).

If you want to fly Singapore Airlines, which really has one of the world’s best first class products, the way to do it is with Singapore’s own miles.

    citi thank you cards

There are also strong values redeeming Singapore miles on partners. Singapore’s partner award chart is here. The chart lists roundtrip award prices, but one-way awards are half the cost of roundtrip. These awards have to be booked over the phone.

  • US – Hawaii costs 35,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 60,000 miles roundtrip up front (in ‘business class’ — United classifies their domestic first class as business class for award purposes, for experts out there that means United’s domestic first class awards book into “I class”.)

  • North America domestic first class awards cost just 40,000 miles roundtrip (again, because United books their domestic first class into “I” which is Star Alliance business).

  • North America – Europe is 130,000 miles roundtrip in business class; 160,000 miles roundtrip in first.

  • North America – Middle East is 115,000 miles roundtrip in business class, 150,000 miles roundtrip in first.

  • South Africa is 145,000 miles roundtrip in business class.

There are no fuel surcharges on US domestic awards (or awards between the US and South America).

Air France’s Flying Blue does come with some real benefits as a transfer partner as well (and they’re a Starwood and Amex partner also).

  • Air France award availability is really good, as long as you aren’t trying to book using Delta miles.
  • Air France regularly runs discounted promo awards.
  • They have most of their partner airlines online for award booking, though the website isn’t always perfectly functional.

On the other hand, they add fuel surcharges to awards. Their call centers are frustrating. And their award chart is no longer that cheap.

Citi has several truly unique partners, not duplicated by other programs. In general they aren’t going to be as valuable as some other mileage programs, but there are niche uses, such as redeeming Etihad Guest points for Philippine Airlines business class awards.

The Three Cit Thank You Cards, and What They Do For You

There are three different ‘levels’ of Thank You Points cards — Preferred, Premier, and Prestige. Only Premier and Prestige let you transfer points to airline miles. Although you can combine points, and even gift points to anyone you wish (something that American Express and Chase have both cracked down on).

Citi Thank You Preferred has no annual fee and a signup bonus of 30,000 Thank You points after $2000 spend within 4 months. But without having one of the premium Thank You cards like Prestige and Premier you can’t transfer points to miles, you only get to use them at a penny apiece. Having one of the premium cards increases the value of points earned from this card.

Citi Thank You Premier is a $125 annual fee card but $0 the first year and offers up to 50,000 points as a signup bonus — 20,000 points after $2000 spend within 3 months and 30,000 more after $3000 spend in the first 3 months of your second year with the card.

Points can be transferred to miles, or used at 1.25 cents apiece in value towards airfare, and the card has no foreign transaction fees.

Citi Prestige The card has a $450 annual fee although Citigold customers (who have significant financial relationships with Citi) pay $350. The card earns triple points with airlines, hotels and on spend with travel agencies and double points on dining and entertainment.

The card comes with an annul $250 air travel credit which can be used for airline tickets. This to me is a huge offset of the card’s fee. The card has no foreign transaction fees.

They provide American Admirals Club access, something the American Express Platinum card lost at the end of April, and also a Priority Pass Select card just like the American Express Platinum does — except the Citi Prestige offers Priority Pass Select with a free guest whereas Amex Platinum’s charges for guests.

It also offers a credit for the $100 Global Entry application fee. This expedites immigration (skip the lines, use a kiosk) and gets you TSA PreCheck as well.

Instead of 1.25 cents per point towards airfare, Citi Prestige gives you 1.33 cents a point — or 1.6 cents if you spend the points on American Airlines travel.

How Citi Prestige Compares to American Express Platinum

If you value Citi’s points transfer partners (some of which – Air France and Singapore – overlap American Express’) then Citi Prestige is probably the better points earning card because of the category bonuses.

I’ve long viewed American Express Platinum as a card you get and keep for the benefits but don’t put spending on.

  • It gets you access to American Express Centurion lounges and Delta lounges, which Citi Prestige does not.
  • But Citi Prestige gets you American Airlines lounges, and free guests with the Priority Pass Select (Alaska lounges and many international lounges)
  • Platinum has more benefits — like Starwood Gold status and National Car Rental Executive status.
  • Both cards get you a Global Entry fee credit, but Amex offers TSA PreCheck fee credit as an alternative (useful for people ineligible for Global Entry)
  • Platinum has unlimited Boingo internet and the Business Platinum is getting 10 gogo inflight internet passes a year.
  • The Citi Prestige airline fee credit is more flexible, eligible for airline tickets directly.

Which card makes sense to carry depends on how you’ll use it. If you value American Express and Delta lounges, Platinum is the obvious choice whereas if you value American Airlines lounges Prestige is the better card (personally I carry the Citi Executive card only because I can spend $40,000 to earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles, which can top off towards my Executive Platinum — so American lounge access is entirely duplicative for me).

Of course I’m also a Starwood Platinum and National Car Rental Executive Elite, so those benefits from American Express Platinum don’t help me.

Nonetheless, I found it worthwhile to get another American Express Platinum card.

The Missing Elephant in the Room: American Airlines Transfers

Citi issues the co-brand American Airlines credit cards, and issues the only personal cards that provide American lounge access.

So it’s strange that American AAdvantage isn’t a transfer partner. Surely they must have tried to work this, but haven’t been able to make it work with American.

That means for American miles you’ll want Citi’s personal card and their small business card, both of which are offering 50,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months of account opening.

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.



About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary, do you think Citi will add any new transfer partners in the near future? And do you think there’s a chance that AA will eventually become a transfer partner, or is that not going to happen?

  2. Air travel credit: is it like the Amex/Ritz (calendar year) or is cardmember year?

    Calendar year, and the Prestige literally pays for itself, benefits aside.

  3. Re:San Francisco – Hong Kong in ‘suites class’
    I flew SQ 002 in November 2014, it was just the regular ‘First Class’.

  4. @Brian L – Citi certainly WANTS AA as a transfer partner, but hasn’t been able to make it work with AA. No idea if they will solve that. They’ve already added Air France since program launch, so they could certainly do more..

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