Citi ThankYou Rewards. Deep Dive.

Now that Citibank’s upcoming Prestige card changes have made ThankYou points relevant again, I decided that it was time to write up a complete overview of their ThankYou Rewards program…

Citibank’s ThankYou Rewards points can be earned via credit card and bank account bonuses. Those points can then be transferred to airline partners, used to pay for travel or merchandise, redeemed to pay bills, or converted to cash back.  Citi ThankYou Rewards competes directly with two other bank issued transferable points programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards.

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about ThankYou Rewards.

Contents

Earn Points

Credit Cards

The easiest and quickest way to earn ThankYou points is through Citi credit card signup bonuses, category bonuses, and retention offers (call about once per year to ask if any offers are loaded to your cards).  Below are the current Citibank cards that earn ThankYou rewards.  Of particular note are cards that earn 3X to 5X rewards within certain categories of spend: Citi Premier (3X travel & gas, 2X dining & entertainment), AT&T Access More (3X online retail), and Citi Prestige (starting Jan 2019: 5X airfare, travel agencies, and dining).

Citi Premier Card
50K points
50K ThankYou Rewards points after $4K spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $95

Recent better offer: None

FM Mini Review: One of the best all-around travel rewards cards: Very strong earnings for spend. Excellent bonus categories. Points transferable to select airlines.


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X travel and gas ⚬ 2X dining and entertainment

Noteworthy perks: With this card, ThankYou points become worth 1.25 cents each towards travel; or transfer points to airline partners

AT&T Access More Card

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for those who shop often online (thanks to 3X earnings)


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Earning rate: ⚬ 3 points per $1 on products and services that are purchased directly from AT&T ⚬ 3 points per $1 on all purchases at online retail and travel sites ⚬ 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

Big spend bonus: 10,000 anniversary bonus points after $10,000 in annual spending

Citi Business ThankYou Card
20K miles
20K after $2K spend in 3 months

$0 Annual Fee


Card Type: Mastercard World

Earning rate: 3X rotating quarterly categories

Noteworthy perks: Anniversary bonus on base earnings each membership year. (1% in year 1, 2% in year 2 and 3% in year 3 and beyond.)

Note: This card is available in-branch only and is not available online. The bonus may vary by region and can be as high as 40K.

AT&T Access Card
10K points
10K ThankYou Points after $1K Spend in 3 Months

$0 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Good choice for those who shop often online (thanks to 2X earnings). Or, better yet, start with this card and then product change to the AT&T Access More card.


Card Type: Mastercard World

Earning rate: ⚬ 2 points per $1 on products and services that are purchased directly from AT&T ⚬ 2 points per $1 on all purchases at online retail and travel sites ⚬ 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card

No offer at this time

$0 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Downgrade from Prestige or Premier to this card in order to keep points alive


Card Type: Mastercard World

Earning rate: 2X dining and entertainment

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card
This card is no longer available for new applications
One option is to sign up for the Citi Premier card instead and later product change to the Prestige card.

$450 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 75K after $7.5K spend in 3 months

FM Mini Review: This card is best for those who can take advantage of the 4th Night Free benefit


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Earning rate: Starting Jan 2019: 5X airfare, dining, and most travel agencies ⚬
3X hotels and cruise lines. Before Jan 2019: 3X airfare, hotels, and travel agencies ⚬ 2X dining and entertainment

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $250 air travel credit (including airfare) per calendar year ⚬ Free lounge access: Citi Properietary Lounges;, and Priority Pass Select with free guests ⚬ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ⚬ Use points for 1.25 cents value for any flight or transfer to airline partners ⚬ 4th night free hotel benefit ⚬ Reduce annual fee to $350 by signing up in-branch or by opening CitiGold Checking

See also: Coming Jan 2019: Prestige to increase annual fee; add 5X dining & airfare; limit 4th Night Free

Bank Products

Some Citi banking products also earn ThankYou Rewards points.  If you can find a good signup bonus (like this one), you can earn 40,000 to 60,000 points that way.  Unfortunately, very few points can be earned after the signup bonus.

As you can see above, not counting any signup bonus, the most you can earn from a single banking account is 1600 points per month.  If you have the Citi Premier card and plan to use these points for 1.25 cents each towards travel, 1600 points amounts to only $20 in travel.  That’s better than nothing, but its a far cry from what is possible with credit card earnings.

Bank point limitations: Points earned through banking are taxable.  Further, these points cannot be transferred to airline partners (not even if you move the points to a friend’s account or combine with a premium Citi card).

Redeem Points

In general, ThankYou Rewards points are worth up to 1 cent each.  There are two ways in which it is possible to get more value, though: redeem points for travel or transfer points to airline partners.  More below…

Travel

There are a few ways to get better than 1 cent per point value when redeeming points for travel: Redeem for 1.25 cents value with the Citi Premier Card; Or book a 4th Night Free award with the Citi Prestige Card; Or combine both of these for up to 1.67 cents per point value.

Redeem points for travel: 20% point discount (1.25 cents per point value)

This option requires the Citi Premier Card.  Book travel through the ThankYou Rewards portal for 20% fewer points than with other cards (this results in 1.25 cents per point value).  For example, a $500 flight would usually cost 50,000 points, but with the Citi Premier Card it would cost only 40,000 points.

You can book airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals in this way. Airfare purchased this way still earns airline miles and elite qualifying miles.  Hotels booked this way do not earn hotel rewards.  Worse, hotels booked this way often won’t offer you elite benefits even if you have status.

If you would like to use points earned on other cards, either combine your cards together or share your points (move points) from the other card to your Citi Premier.

Fortunately, when you pay with points for travel, Citi’s automatic travel protections do apply.  So, you will be covered for things like trip delays, trip cancellation & interruption, lost luggage, etc.  If you have multiple ThankYou Rewards cards, you can file your claim with the card that offers the best protection benefits (i.e. if you have the Prestige card, go with that).

Note: You can also get the 20% discount with the Prestige card, but only for airfare (not other travel), and only for those who became cardholders prior to 2019, and only until September 2019 for them.

Redeem points for a 4 night hotel stay: 25% point discount pre-tax (up to 1.33 cents per point value)

This option requires the Citi Prestige Card.  Book a 4 Night hotel stay for the price of 3 nights (not counting taxes & fees, the 25% discount results in 1.33 cents per point value).  If you would like to use points earned on other cards, either combine your cards together or share your points (move points) from the other card to your Citi Prestige.

Hotels booked through the ThankYou portal way do not earn hotel rewards.  Worse, hotels booked through the portal often won’t offer you elite benefits even if you have status.

A better way to take advantage of the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit is to book through the Citi Concierge (either by phone or by email).  When booked this way, you will earn hotel points and elite credits.  If you book this way, you can still optionally use points after the fact to erase the credit card charge.  More here: Complete Guide to Citi Prestige 4th Night Free.

Combine Prestige & Premier and redeem points for a 4 night hotel stays: 40% point discount (1.67 cents per point value)

This option requires both the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige.  Combine the cards together within the ThankYou Rewards program.  Then, book a 4 Night hotel stay through the ThankYou Rewards portal for the price of 3 nights (25% discount due to the Prestige 4th Night Free benefit).  With your Premier card combined with your Prestige card, you’ll also get a 20% point discount.  Together, the two discounts combine to 40% off.  This gives you an effective value of 1.67 cents per point!

For example, suppose you want to book a $300 per night hotel for four nights.  Without either benefit, the total cost would be $1,200 or 120,000 ThankYou Rewards points.  With the Prestige benefit, the price drops to 90,000 points.  And with the Premier benefit, the price drops to 72,000 points.  Note though that taxes and fees are not discounted with the 4th Night Free benefit, so your actual results will not be quite as good.  Here’s an example:

In the example above I searched for a four night stay.  I have both the Prestige and Premier card combined into one ThankYou account, so I’m eligible for discounts associated with both.  The Prestige 4th Night Free benefit reduces the pre-tax price by the cost of one night: $345.44.  This gives me a four night pre-tax price of 3 x $345.44 = $1036.32.  With $136.98 in taxes, the total price is $1,173.30.  Without the Premier card, the point price would then be 117,330 points.  But the Premier offers a 20% discount on travel purchased with points, so the total comes to 93,864 points.  Due to taxes and fees, our combined point value is slightly less than the theoretical maximum 1.67 cents per point: $1,518.74 / 93,864 = 1.62 cents per point.

If you would like to use points earned on other cards, either combine your ThankYou accounts or share your points (move points) from the other card to your Citi Prestige or Premier.

Hotels booked this way do not earn hotel rewards.  Worse, hotels booked this way often won’t offer you elite benefits even if you have status.  You cannot take advantage of the Premier card’s travel discount if you book through the Citi Concierge.

Transfer points

The best use of ThankYou points, in my opinion, is to transfer points to airline partners in order to book high value awards.  Your best bet is usually to wait until you find a great flight award before transferring points.  One exception: Citi often offers 25% or 30% transfer bonuses to certain programs (Virgin Atlantic and Air France are two recent examples).  If you’re confident that you’ll use the points for good value, it may make sense to transfer points when those bonuses are in effect.

Current Transfer Bonuses

At the time that I’m writing this there are no active transfer bonuses, but when a transfer bonus appears, details will automatically appear here:

Transfer Bonus DetailsEnd Date Sortable

Transfer Partners

Rewards ProgramCiti Transfer RatioBest Uses
Air France KLM Flying Blue1 to 1
(instant)
Monthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 1
(instant)
Avianca LifeMiles can be great for Star Alliance awards. They offer reasonable award prices and no fuel surcharges on awards. They also offer shorthaul awards within the US (for flying United, for example) for as few as 7,500 miles one-way. Best of all, their mixed-cabin pricing can lead to fantastic first-class award prices. See this post for details.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1 to 1
(instant)
Cathay Pacific has a fairly generous distance based award chart and allows multiple stopovers. Fuel surcharges can be very high on certain routes. See: Best Use of Asia Miles (Cathay).
Etihad Guest1 to 1
(~1 week)
Etihad has a very competitive award chart for American Airlines flights, among others. Beware that booking awards can be very difficult.
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands1 to 1
(~2 days)
While there are some niche sweet spots with EVA's program, you'll usually do better transferring points to Singapore Airlines to book Star Alliance awards.
Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer1 to 1
(~2 days)
Don’t bother. Garuda's award pricing isn't particularly good. Worse, you’re supposed to go in-person to a Garuda sales office to ticket your award.
Jet Airways JetPrivilege1 to 1
(instant)
JetAirways JetPrivilege miles are useful only for a few very specific cases such as certain flights to Hawaii for as low as 15K (30K business) one-way, or to the Caribbean or Central America for as low as 10K (20K business) one-way. Details can be found here.
JetBlue1 to 1
(instant)
JetBlue points offer the most value when cheap ticket prices are available and when award taxes are high relative to the overall cost of the ticket (more details can be found here). The JetBlue Plus Card and the JetBlue Business Card offer a 10% rebate on awards, so you can get more value by holding one or both cards.
Malaysia Enrich1 to 1
(~2 days)
Given Malaysia's award chart devaluation in June 2017, I'm not aware of any good uses for these miles.
Qantas Frequent Flyer1 to 1
(~2 days)
Best use is probably for flights on El Al with no fuel surcharges. Qantas offers distance based award charts similar to Cathay Pacific. Both are OneWorld Alliance members. I recommend comparing award prices across both programs before transferring to either. Qantas offers round the world business class awards for only 280,000 points (but with many restrictions)
Qatar Privilege Club1 to 1
(~2 days)
Given Qatar's award chart devaluation plus the addition of award booking fees in May 2018, I'm not aware of any particularly good uses for these miles.
Shop Your Way Rewards1 to 12Don't do it.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 to 1
(~2 days)
Use to book Singapore Airlines First Class awards (generally reserved for their own members) or for Star Alliance awards. Low change fees and no close-in booking fees make this a very good program for booking United Airlines flights.
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus1 to 1
(~1 week)
I'm not aware of any good uses for these miles
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles1 to 1
(~2 days)
Miles & Smiles offers a number of fantastic sweet spot awards. The main catch: if you want to fly any airline other than Turkish itself, you have to go in-person to a Turkish Airlines sales office to ticket the award.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 1
(instant)
Virgin Atlantic miles can be usefully thought of as a way to get a discount off Virgin Atlantic flights (high fuel surcharges make the flights far from free), but there are some better uses. Use miles to upgrade paid flights or to fly partner airlines. A fantastic use is to fly ANA in business or first class thanks to Virgin’s generous ANA partner award chart. Or, if you can find saver level Delta awards for nonstop international travel, you can often book through Virgin Atlantic far cheaper than with Delta directly.

Cash back

Citi Prestige cardholders can redeem points for 1 cent each either as statement credits or as cash back.  If you don’t have a Prestige card, don’t do this because you’ll only get half a cent per point.

Other ways to redeem points

Through the ThankYou Rewards portal you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise, charity, bill payments, and more.  At most, with this approach you’ll get 1 cent per point value.  One exception is that Citi occasionally offers gift cards at a discount so you may be able to get better than 1 cent per point value during a gift card sale.

You can also use points to pay some merchants directly (Amazon.com, for example).  Don’t do this.  These options offer very poor value.

Manage Points

Combine Points Across Cards

If you are the primary account holder with multiple cards, you can combine ThankYou Rewards accounts.  When your points are combined, they can then automatically be redeemed at the same value as your best card.  For example, if one of your cards is the Premier card, and have combined ThankYou accounts, then you’ll get a 20% point discount on travel booked with points even if the points were earned on a card other than the Premier card.

There are disadvantages to combining points:

  • You lose the ability to pick and choose which points are used when you redeem awards.
  • You lose visibility into how many points remain with each card.

The above disadvantages become important when you want to cancel a card: when you cancel a card, all points earned from that account are lost after 60 days.  I recommend downgrading to a no-fee ThankYou card rather than cancelling outright.  That way your points are safe.

Share Points Across Cardholders

Citi very generously allows people to transfer ThankYou points to anyone else, for free.  There are two “catches” to this:

  1. Shared points expire after 90 days. Make sure you have a specific near-term use in mind before transferring points.
  2. 100K limit: Each member may share up to 100,000 points per calendar year.  Each member may receive up to 100,000 points per calendar year.  It is unclear whether this limit is actually enforced.  A reader reports that the 100K limit was enforced for her.

Why this is valuable:

  • A friend or family member with a Premier card can book travel for you in order to get the 20% point discount.
  • If a friend has airline elite status with one of Citi’s transfer partners with which you want to book an award, you may be better off transferring points to your friend who can then transfer the points to the airline partner and book the award for you (to get free award changes, for example).

How to Keep Points Alive

There are several situations in which you may have Citi ThankYou Rewards points that will expire:

  • Points earned by a credit card account expire 60 days after cancelling that account.
  • Points transferred to your account expire after 90 days.
  • Points earned from some older credit cards expire in a set amount of time after points were earned (e.g. 3 or 5 years after December 31 of the year in which the points were earned).
  • Points earned from  some credit cards expire if your credit card account has no purchase activity in 18 months.
  • Points earned from Citibank banking products expire 3 years after December 31 of the year in which the points were earned.

Credit card points: how to keep points alive

With most credit card points (except with some older credit cards which are no longer available), points remain alive until you cancel the card from which they were earned.  Once you cancel the card, points expire after 60 days.

Combining accounts does not solve the problem.  When you combine multiple ThankYou accounts, it’s natural to assume that as long as you keep any ThankYou Rewards credit card open, your points will be safe.  That’s simply not the case.  Citi keeps track of where each ThankYou point came from.  If you cancel a card, the points earned on that card expire after 60 days.  Period.

The best way to preserve your ThankYou points is to keep your credit card account alive.  If you don’t want an annual fee, then call to downgrade to a no-fee ThankYou card.  There is a side benefit to this approach too: Your no fee card may be eligible for occasional lucrative retention offers.  See: How one call led to a points bonanza and rethought plans.

Bank product points: how to keep points alive

Points earned from banking products (such as checking accounts) expire 3 years after December 31 of the year in which the points were earned..  Fortunately, when redeeming points combined across multiple accounts, Citi automatically uses first whichever points have the most recent expiration date.  So, in general, your banking product points (which eventually expire) will be used first if you have combined accounts.

More information

Citibank’s official ThankYou Rewards FAQ can be found here.

Last updated on November 14th, 2018

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Chaz
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Chaz

Thanks for this post. Interesting to note that you believe only five good partners exist: Air France, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic. Four of five are part of other programs, and Avianca is the lone wolf that’s unique. I picked up the Avianca credit card and bought miles earlier this year, but still am unable to book flights with blocked award availability compared to United or Aeroplan on Star Alliance.

This post basically confirms the Thank You Program isn’t great compared to Amex. Yes it might make sense to pick up the Prestige in January with a sign up bonus, but it will be hard to recoup the investment in annual fee after year one for only one point more in dining, considering I probably won’t use the fourth night free benefit. Despite dining being my biggest spend category, Amex Gold+BBP is too strong for everyday spend in the long term on an ROI basis.

I still don’t see the excitement in this program, especially considering Citi devalues earning / benefits on cards so quickly compared to Amex / Chase.

Jules
Guest
Jules

The AMEX Gold+BP combo is a good option but only if most or all of your spending is in USD. For those of us that travel a lot internationally, the AMEX Gold’s 4x on dining and supermarkets doesn’t apply and the BBP’s foreign transaction fee makes it pretty much useless. The Citi Prestige offers 5x on dining internationally which is lucrative. Pair this with the Ink Preferred and that would be the ideal combo imh.

tom
Guest
tom

Another high quality post — thanks

Marc
Guest
Marc

There just seem to be too many gotchas throughout the program…so many things to keep track of to use your miles correctly. And there is still no way to combine 1.25 cpp with 4th night free without giving up any status benefits one might be able to get otherwise. For now, I like the earning potential but not the redemption qualities. Going to stay away and focus on the other options.

Chaser123
Guest
Chaser123

I know over the phone with 4th night free you can still keep and earn status benefits. They will happily book on the hotels website for you. You are right, you can not combine the point redemption. All they are doing is inputting your credit card on the hotels site.

Tamas Karpati
Guest
Tamas Karpati

Greg,

Great article! Thanks you!
There is one more way to get TY points via the Sears no fee Master Card. I know Sears is likely to disappear, but on the CC front this card has been on a tear lately offering 10% back on grocery/gas/dining for 3 months and other great bonuses. Even if Sears disappears the TY points should be available since they belong to Citi.

Neil
Guest
Neil

Good overview. I currently have the Prestige – I believe I am still getting 1.25 cents per point on travel redemption. I recall reading that will drop to 1 cent per point, but do you know the effective date for that change (your article makes it sound like it has already happened).

tro
Guest
tro

If you pay for airfare or hotel with points and need to use Trip Interruption, what happens? Do you get then get the points back?

I mostly do 1.25c redemptions through the travel portal, and I’ve noticed that the prepaid rates are often competetive with other OTAs, but the refundable rate will sometimes be much higher than what’s widely available elsewhere. I would feel better about taking the prepaid rate if I knew I could get the points backs for a covered reason.

Joel
Guest
Joel

Yes they refund the points used. They are refunded to the account you used to make the travel booking. Citi is great in handling cancellations – they make refunds quickly. BUT make sure the card you used to purchase the trip is still active – otherwise your refunded miles may disappear.

tro
Guest
tro

Thx that helps. Relevant because I am actually considering downgrading the Premier. Since I don’t have the Prestige, I was expecting that if I do that I would lose the trip interruption protection for outstanding reservations. Although, I might have the Prestige by the time I would make the claim if I end up applying for it in January 🙂

Andy
Guest
Andy

Why do you still say “up to 1.67 cpp” when in your old post about it, you said thought it was wrong to say it that way (which I agree with)?

“I now think it is much better to say that it is possible to stack the Prestige 4th Night Free discount with the Premier 20% pay with points discount.” — Yes, it is!

I know it’s not your intent, but saying “up to 1.67 cpp” is very misleading.

WR2
Guest
WR2

I would only disagree on one point: I think you are undervaluing EVA. Solid redemption rates for USA to Asia (75k one way from west coast to SE Asia in one of the best business class products in the world). Great availability, low fees. That is more than a niche redemption, and better than transferring to Singapore. This is where all my TYP go, except when there is a good transfer bonus to Asia Miles.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hey Greg, thanks for the comprehensive and helpful post!

One thing I’d like to be double-sure of, though: if I downgrade my Premier to a no-fee ThankYou Preferred card, are you SURE that I won’t lose those earned TY points? A customer rep (obviously incented to have me NOT downgrade) suggested otherwise earlier this year :(.

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

There is at least some enforcement on the 100k/year sharing. I had transferred X number of points from hubby’s account to mine earlier this year. Recently I went to transfer more and it only allowed 100k – X.

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[…] Miler does a deep dive into the Citi ThankYou Rewards […]

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[…] Greg published an excellent resource on Citi ThankYou points (See: Citi Thank You Points. Deep Dive.) Many readers found that resource useful, so I decided to steal borrow Greg’s useful format […]

mangoMan
Guest
mangoMan

I have the Prestige and a CitiGold account, and have a mix of credit card and bank points. If redeeming points for travel, how do I ensure that I’m using the bank points first before the credit card points? Does Citi do this automatically?

trackback

[…] Deep Dive Into Thank You Points:  Most are familiar with UR and MR points, however you may overlook Thank You points.  Some would argue that they are not very valuable, however this article shares a lot of facts that could be useful for you. […]

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[…] This post rounds out our guides to the big three transferable points programs: Amex Membership Rewards (this post), Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards. […]