Years ago you could get Citibank to buy you a ticket at any price if you met the conditions of the Thank You points program. People would manage to buy themselves $8000 coach tickets to Japan, cancel, and retain the airline credit.
Not surprising that they shut down that sort of gaming by implementing maximum ticket values into their award chart.
The sweet spot used to be redeeming for business class tickets inside the US and Canada at a value of 3 cents per point — 90,000 points bought a ticket of “up to” $2700. The trick people came up with was a ‘business class’ (rather than first class-marketed) flight to Canada for as close to $2700 as possible, plus taxes. As long as one segment was refundable, then cancel the ticket and retain a credit.
The preferred airline to do this with was Delta, because their credits were eminently divisible back them. After booking the first ticket in your own name from the credit, you could use the balance on tickets for anyone you wished.
At the beginning of 2009 they announced a devaluation — going forward Thank You points would be worth a penny apiece. No more valuation of up to three cents per point. The change was supposed to take place March 1, 2009 but was implemented in early February instead.
The golden days seemed over, but it remained possible to earn lots of Thank You points — no more 36% rebates on gas and groceries with the Drivers Edge card (6 points per dollar in those categories, matched by the miles you drove, redeemed at 3 cents per point). But you could get flight points matching spend points, and with the Citi Thank You Premier card those 2 points would redeem at 2.66 cents. With various bonuses, including category bonuses, it was still possible to do quite well by the program.
I had some hope for increasing value in the Thank You program when they introduced points transfers to Hilton in January… that it might be the beginning of a long speculated set of new points transfer options. But we’ve seen no new options in the past six months.
Of late though there have been several rumors that the program was due for another round of cuts. Frequent Miler posted about about a more rewarding experience coming July 28 but seemed to be just double points on dining. There was also a concomitant rumor about a change to double points on travel and triple points on dining.
Today, though, there’s an authoritative-sounding though as-yet unconfirmed list of changes coming for new applications starting July 28, and for existing cardholders starting October 28.
- Triple points on dining and double points on air and hotel spend
- An end to ‘flight points’ — no more earning for existing cardholders on tickets purchased after October 19, though banked flight points as-yet unmatched by spend won’t disappear.
- A reduction in value from 1.33 cents per point when redeeming for airfare down to 1.25 cents per point.
- An elimination of the 20% category bonus for supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, commuter transportation and parking merchants.
While the shave to 1.25 cents per point down from 1.33 is undesirable, if accurate it’s the elimination of flight points that kills the special leverage offered by this card and will make it wholly uninteresting going forward (without additional, positive changes).
Developing… but it may be time to match those accumulated flight points with spending and burn before your next annual fee comes due.