Transfer partners: Chase vs. Citi

Recently, Nick and I have published a number of posts about the Citi Prestige card’s new 5X earning power and our thoughts about whether or not to keep our Sapphire Reserve cards (which earn 3X in similar categories):

In response, a number of readers asserted that Citi’s transfer partners are awful (shitty, garbage, useless, etc.) compared to Chase’s partners.  If true, this is important because the best value use of Citi or Chase points is to transfer points to a loyalty program for high value awards.  If Citi’s transfer partners truly pale compared to Chase’s, then maybe 5X isn’t better than 3X after all.

Let’s put this to the test

Hotels: Chase wins by default

At the time of this writing, Citi doesn’t have any hotel transfer partners whereas Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Hyatt, Marriott / Ritz, or IHG.  Of these, only Hyatt consistently offers better than 1 cent per point value towards hotel stays, so that’s the only Chase hotel partner that I find useful.  But, it’s fantastically useful.  Hyatt has a very reasonable award chart and they do not charge resort fees on award stays.  Point transfers to Hyatt are how I’ve personally used most of my Chase Ultimate Rewards points… by far.

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Costa Rica Mixology Class

The Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Costa Rica is a Hyatt property that costs only 15000 points per night. When I last visited during peak season, the same resort was charging about $1,500 per night! In other words, you could say that I got about 10 cents per point value from this award. That’s phenomenal.

Flights

Aside from the occasional big hotel win, transferable points are usually best used to book high cost flights for relatively few miles.  And it’s important to understand that you don’t necessarily need miles with the airline you want to fly — you can often book the same flights with a partner’s airline miles and often at better prices.  Here’s an example: Suppose you want to fly United first class to Hawaii.  Cash prices for first class are usually sky high.  For example, round-trip flights from Denver to Honolulu in business/first usually cost $1700 or more.  Round-trip awards for the same flights can cost as few as 80,000 miles when booked with United Airlines miles.  That gives you a decent value of 2.1 cents per mile.  Even better, though, you can book the same United Airlines flights using Singapore Airlines miles and pay only 60,000 miles round-trip.  That gives you a value of 2.8 cents per mile.  And both Chase and Citi allow you to transfer points to Singapore Airlines.  Caution: This was just an illustrative example. In real life it can be extremely difficult to find first class saver level awards to Hawaii except when traveling during their rare off-seasons.  Make sure the awards are available before transferring points!

One of the best uses of transferable points is to book international business or first class flights for relatively few miles. Delta One Suites, as pictured here, tend to be far cheaper to book with Virgin Atlantic miles than with Delta SkyMiles. Both Chase and Citi offer point transfers to Virgin Atlantic.

Shared Airline Transfer Partners

Several of transfer partners are available as 1 to 1 transfers from both Chase and Citibank:

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
Air France KLM Flying BlueMonthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.
JetBlueJetBlue 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.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerUse 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.
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubVirgin 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.

Each of the above transfer partners are extremely useful under the right circumstances.  For example, I’ve recently found that Air France often prices Delta flights cheaper than Delta does.

Unique Airline Transfer Partners from Chase

In addition to the transfer partners listed above, Chase offers 1 to 1 transfers to the following airline loyalty programs:

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
AviosWhile flights on British Airways itself often incur outrageously high fuel surcharges, many BA partners charge low or no fuel surcharges. Great value can be had in redeeming BA points for short distance flights. Iberia offers very low award prices on their own flights. Round trip partner awards can offer good value under some circumstances as well. Fuel surcharges are often lower than when booking through British Airways. Aer Lingus shares the "Avios" currency with British Airways and Iberia. In most cases it is best to move points to one of those programs in order to book awards for less.
Southwest Rapid RewardsAward flights are fully refundable. Point values vary due to certain taxes not being charged on awards, but tend to average around 1.5 cents per point.
United MileagePlusEven though Singapore Airlines miles have a number of advantages over United miles for booking Star Alliance flights, United has advantages too. For one, it is possible to book most Star Alliance awards online at United.com. Additionally, United awards sometimes cost fewer miles with United than with Singapore (especially premium awards on United’s own flights). And, most importantly, United never charges fuel surcharges for awards. In some cases, United is far cheaper than Singapore Airlines for this reason alone.

Unique Airline Transfer Partners from Citi

In addition to the transfer partners listed above, Citibank offers 1 to 1 transfers to the following airline loyalty programs…

Unique Recommended Transfer Partners from Citi

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
Avianca LifeMilesAvianca 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.
Etihad GuestEtihad has a very competitive award chart for American Airlines flights, among others.  For example, they charge only 50,000 miles one-way for business class flights from North America to Europe. Partner awards must be booked over the phone.

Unique Worth a Look Transfer Partners from Citi

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesCathay Pacific has a fairly generous distance based award chart and allows multiple stopovers. Fuel surcharges can be very high on certain routes. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles can be a good option for booking American Airlines flights with a distance based award chart, especially if other OneWorld Alliance miles aren't available.
Qantas Frequent FlyerBest 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)
Turkish Airlines Miles & SmilesMiles & 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.

Unique Not-Recommended Transfer Partners from Citi

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
EVA Air Infinity MileageLandsWhile 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 FlyerDon’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 JetPrivilegeJetAirways 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.
Malaysia EnrichGiven Malaysia's award chart devaluation in June 2017, I'm not aware of any good uses for these miles.
Qatar Privilege ClubGiven 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.
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid PlusI'm not aware of any good uses for these miles

Transfer Bonuses

To my knowledge, Chase has never offered a bonus for transferring points to airline miles.  Citi does so regularly.  You can always view current and expired bonuses here: Current Point Transfer Bonuses.  But, to save you the trouble, here are the bonuses Citi has offered in the past few years:

Transfer FromTransfer Bonus DetailsStart DateEnd Date Sortable
CitiCiti: Get 30% Bonus Transferring ThankYou Points To Virgin Atlantic5/19/192019/06/22
Citi25% transfer bonus to Qantas from Citi ThankYou03/07/192019/04/13
CitiCiti ThankYou: 25% Transfer Bonus To Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles.1/27/192019/02/20
Citi25% transfer bonus from Citi to Avianca11/15/182018/12/12
Citi30% transfer bonus from Citi to Virgin
Transfer 1K points to 1.3K miles
9/01/182018/10/13
CitiCiti ThankYou Transfer Bonus: 30% To Flying Blue
With this bonus, get 1300 Flying Blue miles for 1000 ThankYou points.
7/06/182018/08/29
Citi15% transfer bonus to Asia Miles from Thank You points
Keep in mind that there is a devaluation coming on June 22nd.
6/9/182018/07/04
Citi30% transfer bonus from Citi to JetBlue
The usual transfer ratio is 1 to .8 for Premier and Prestige cardholders. This bonus brings the ratio up to an even 1 to 1.
3/22/182018/05/19
Citi25% transfer bonus to JetBlue
The usual transfer ratio is 1 to .8 for Premier and Prestige cardholders. This bonus brings the ratio up to an even 1 to 1.
9/7/172017/10/25
Citi33.3% transfer bonus from Citi to Hilton
The usual transfer rate is 1 ThankYou point to 1.5 Hilton points. With this bonus, the transfer is 1 to 2 (still not a good deal in most cases)
7/6/172017/09/20
Citi20% transfer bonus to Cathay Pacific8/7/172017/09/06

Important notes about past Citi transfer bonuses:

  • JetBlue used to transfer at less than 1 to 1 from Citi, so the bonuses at the time merely brought the ratio up to 1 to 1
  • Hilton used to be a transfer partner, but that relationship ended in late 2017

Analysis

Chase is obviously better for transfers to hotel programs since Chase offers them and Citi doesn’t.  In particular, Chase offers transfers to Hyatt which can be fantastically valuable under certain circumstances.

With airline transfer partners, though, there’s no clear winner.

  • If you want to fly Delta, both Chase and Citi offer point transfers to Air France and Virgin Atlantic.  Both great options for booking Delta awards.
  • If you want to fly American Airlines or other OneWorld partners, Chase has the edge with support for transfers to Avios (British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia).  British Airways and Iberia, in particular, have great sweet spot awards.  On the other hand, if you want to fly long distance on American Airlines business class, you’re much better off with Etihad miles and Etihad is unique to Citibank.
  • If you want to fly United Airlines or other Star Alliance partners, I’d say that the two programs are roughly equal.  Both support transfers to Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines.  And both offer point transfers to Star Alliance programs that never pass along fuel surcharges on awards: Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United MileagePlus; and Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer to Avianca LifeMiles.  However, each of these has its own advantages:
    • Advantages to United MileagePlus (a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner):
      • Book excursionist awards (see this post for details)
      • Very good online booking tool
      • Can book awards for flights with no saver award availability (but at higher prices)
      • When combined with a United MileagePlus credit card, you get access to additional economy saver awards
      • When combined with a United MileagePlus credit card, you get last seat availability of domestic economy awards at the standard price (i.e. much higher price than saver awards).  This can be a lifesaver when you need a flight at the last minute. See this post for a real life example.
      • No online booking fee (Avianca meanwhile charges $25 per ticket)
    • Advantages to Avianca LifeMiles (a Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer partner):
      • Mixed-cabin pricing can lead to fantastic first-class award prices. See this post for details.
      • Ability to book United Airlines domestic flights for as little as 7,500 miles one way (or 15,000 miles one way in first class).  See this post for details.
      • Unlike United, Avianca doesn’t charge close-in booking fees (United charges $75 to non-elites for booking awards within 21 days)
  • If you want to fly Southwest, Chase is the obvious winner since they support transfers to Southwest and Citi does not.  Southwest doesn’t have any partners with which you can book their flights.

Due to Chase exclusively offering point transfers to Southwest, they edge out Citi in this category, but only slightly.  However…

Considering that Citi often offers transfer bonuses, I’m calling it a draw.

Bottom Line: Citi’s transfer partners aren’t shitty at all

After comparing Chase and Citi’s airline transfer partners, I concluded that they have approximately equal value. Chase does have a couple of excellent partners that Citi doesn’t have, but the reverse is true as well.  And, considering Citi’s frequent transfer bonuses, I’d argue that Citi’s airline partnerships are comparable or even better than Chase’s (depending upon your needs).

Hotel partners are a whole different story.  Chase has them. Citi doesn’t.  Chase has Hyatt… drop mic

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

53
Leave a Reply

avatar
16 Comment threads
37 Thread replies
19 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
PamCaveDwellerHadley V. BaxendaleDarcietro Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
James
Guest
James

Should have added amex in this article.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I have chase & thank you points can I transfer any points to Olympic Airlines so I can book a Flt.
THANKs !!

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

There is a big flaw in this argument: it assume that you have equal amounts of TYP and UR points. but you don’t (at least I don’t). I have churned sign up bonus and done MS without intentionally collecting one over the over. But, over the years, I have earned abundant UR thanks to numerous card types (Freedom, Sapphire, Ink series) and good MS category bonus (Ink, Freedom). But I can’t say the same thing to Citi. Other than Thankyou series (don’t have AT&T More), I don’t have other path to get more TYP. Maybe I miss something, and please educate me if so. Otherwise, that’s my feeling based on my observation and my point numbers.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

@Greg, very nice analysis! Appreciate the breakdown! I have two questions, however, when you stated Hyatt “…and they do not charge resort fees on award stays.”, does it apply to Andaz Maui as they charge $45 per night (or is this property not considered a resort)? Second question is (though not directly related, but it may be applicable as it’s a very high incentive to pick one program over another) for people newer to this hobby, I find it much more difficult to earn/accrue Citi TY pts compared to Chase. Per my knowledge, Citi only offers sign up bonus on the Premier (now 50K) & the AT&T at 10K. The Prestige & Preferred don’t offer a sign up bonus, so unless one have a very highly monthly charge (not counting MS as not all of us do MS), isn’t it kinda pointless to go the route of Citi? Now on the other hand Chase offers a whole load of cards that have sign up bonuses: CSR (50K), CSP (50K), CIBP (80k), CIBC (50k), CIBU (50k), Freedom (15k), Freedom Unlimited (20k), that’s at potential 265K UR pts vs. 60K Citi TY pts! Wouldn’t you say?

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I think the flaw in this analysis for me is the assumption that the end user has the knowledge and resources to squeeze every last value out of each point.

I’m no beginner, but after 5+ years in this “hobby” I still struggle to follow all of the “this airline’s rewards also book that airline’s flights, but you only want to use them for partner flights if it’s direct and if you’re departing on a Tuesday that falls on an even-numbered day in an odd-numbered month. Oh, and these 6 Alliances don’t show each other’s flights online so you have to know to look for an award on the first airline and then call the second airline to book over the phone, etc etc etc”. It’s not that it’s so hard to execute, but KNOWING all these ins and outs is something I think you take for granted and far too easily sweep them under the rug for Citi.

So yes, for someone who falls out of bed in the morning knowing all 55 options, in order of value priority, for flying from Austin to Beijing before touching the ground I can see Chase/Citi feeling like a push as far as airline transfer partners. For me at least, the simplicity of Chase (United, Southwest, Jetblue, BA, etc) destroys Citi.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the article and LOVE the outline of how the Alliances will work – but I’m common sense enough to know that if I need to book an award today, slogging through all those rules and exceptions and what-if’s to piece something together with Citi would swallow entire days of research and learning vs. a few hours with my Chase transfer partners. With a young family, I just don’t have that kind of time. Citi demands a much higher game than I have right now, and I think that factor is missing from the analysis.

tro
Guest
tro

You nailed it for me. To add to your specific comment about arcane alliance search strategies, so far the only Citi transfer partner I’ve found that allows me to easily (term used somewhat generously) search for US domestic flights is Avianca. To be fair, I’m more limited than some because my city’s airport just has Delta, United, American.

That said, I also agree this is a great, comprehensive resource and I’ll be referring back to it for sure. Still, I don’t see myself improving on 1.25c via the travel portal for most of my Citi redemptions 🙁

Hadley V. Baxendale
Guest
Hadley V. Baxendale

I have to disagree with you…. Citi stinks.

First and foremost, for US centric flyers it is far easier to understand and use USA based miles currency than foreign miles currency because of the general familiarity and ways to extend mileage balances within the USA through various partners that foreign based carriers may not have.

Moreover, some of the above foreign carriers will expire your miles no matter what spend you may do in trying to extend those miles — it is a use it or lose it proposition — none of the USA based carriers do this and Jet Blue (and Delta with respect to AMEX have no expiration policy), unlike Singapore miles — so you had better to be able to use them for a specific identifiable and available award or you could come up quite short.

Third, US airline transfer partners place no fuel surcharges on their awards at all, whereas some of those you have noted above do so, and others mentioned above you are silent about but do so, as well — such as Singapore Airlines. So, foreign airlines are no great panacea for US centric travelers.

So, among some of the airlines you mention, such as KLM/AF or Singapore or Virgin Atlantic, there are fuel surcharges that US flyers just may not put up with.

You mention Avianca, but you don’t mention the fact that it has been reported that it is sometimes difficult to get those award tix when dealing with their awards back office.

Furthermore, their pricing may be better than United in some instances but what you only partially explain is that if one has status with United or hold their credit cards, United award availability is simply far superior to that of its Star Alliance partners, and although you may get a less expensive miles cost ticket through a partner, additional availability will not be shown via that partner’s award web site, whereas United’s will display that additional availability — therefore, you likely will find many more and better and more convenient opportunities to redeem those United miles than Avianca miles — especially if flying economy is not “offensive” to one’s sensibilities.

Sixth, you are simply incorrect concerning the transfer ratios of Citi and JetBlue — for Prestige and Preferred card members, it is again 1:1, and as such, I don’t expect to see any more bonuses for such transfers.

Consequently, for a US based individual, Chase’s roster of transfer partners are more easily understandable, less restrictive overall and are far more easily utilizable than Cit’s partners.

Cit has not hotel partners, Chase has many – Hyatt, Marriott/Starwood and IHG.

Chase has United, Southwest and British Airways/Iberia/Aer Club Aer Lingus for short haul flights on us based American Airlines AAdvantage– a great boon as this allows OneWorld redemptions — one of the other great Airline alliances.

Thus, Chase covers Star Alliance with United, allows for American/One World short haul redemption at better than those available on American, itself, and has the number 1 US based Low Cost Carrier — that still does not charge for checked baggage = Soithwest.

Against this Citi merely has Jet Blue — which does charge for checked bags and whose point to point network is far more limited that Southwest’s.

Sorry, Greg, but for the majority of US based travelers, Chase UR offers fat more availability and utility than does Citi.

Finally, Chase offers far more stability than does Citi.

How many iterations has the Citi Prestige card and Thank You program gone since it’s launch a couple of years ago??

The Prestige has lost AAdvantage lounge access, the Golf benefit and now the 4th night free benefit is being sharply curtailed and will soon be rendered into non-existence for those who wish to earn hotel awards points on their future reservations.

Further, Citi has lost its only hotel partner — Hilton — to AMEX, and now has none.

It will also only earn 1 cents per point on any and all redemption via their travel award mall.

Against all of the above, I should be happy that they increase spending on dining to 5 points and upped the points structure for travel related items???

Sorry, but if one just uses the Hyatt point as an example, Sapphire Reserve cardholders get 3x UR points for dining and travel expenses = 4.5 Hyatt points = 4.5 cents.

Citi points will return 5x for dining = 5 cents to be put to use at the Citi awards mall — and this negligible difference is supposed to persuade me that Citi has finally gotten it right for its award program and there will be no more negative changes — even though redemption diminishes by .25 cents per point?

Nope, the cosmetic changes for redemption are simply not there vis a vis a straight cash conversion, and as noted above, the transfer partners are truly lacking for US based travelers, except in certain specific instances….

I know that I am trying to run off my TY points balance as quickly as possible with airfare redemption while it is still at 1.25 cents per point. Failing rendering my account to zero, I will dump the rest of my points into Jet Blue and be done with the Prestige card and Thank You points.

For me, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will be my multi-purpose card, and AMEX has recently come out with high annual fee niche market cards such as the Hilton AMEX Aspire and the SPG Luxury Amex Card whose annual fees I would rather pay than that of the Citi Prestige — and whose program constantly changes with the season, and which has an unremarkable and inferior roster of transfer partners.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Good post HVD Sorry it doesn’t work for u but I need different cards for when they devalue or different travels . I need my Ink and Prestige card (till 7/15/2020) only out of 6 now . Both have been Goldmines for me better class of travel @ a lower price for the common traveler.
CHEERs

Hadley V. Baxendale
Guest
Hadley V. Baxendale

CD — Glad Prestige works for you – I do acknowledge that some instances, esp. non-economy flight travel, card and program can work in specific instances — that are the exception to the rule, rather than the norm.
I would rather have a rewards system that covers the bulk of my needs/wants without fuel surcharges on air carrier tix and allows me to earn hotel points — which Citi 4th night free extinguishes as of 9/1/19 — than 3rd party OTA bookers — in fact my travel pattern has precluded me from EVER using Citi 4th Night Free benefit — others, I know have made out like bandits — but it is mostly all going away as of 9/1/19.

Also, those invested with Citi banking, your relationship bonus with the Citi prestige ends on 9/1/19 — for many not a lot of points — but still a nice sweetener — soon that goes by the wayside, as well.

Would rather have 4.5 Hyatt points for Travel or Dining spend per $1 spent, than the marginally more “valuable” 5 Citi TY points per $1 Dining spent.

First, I don’t credit Citi points “worth” as worth a cent due to being captured by their inferior rewards mall, second I like to earn hotel program points so rewards mall, and soon 4th night free benefit will also not give you such points booking.

If I redeem by a rewards mall, Chase via the Reserve card will give 1.5 cents per UR point — 1/3 more than a Citi point for such redemption, and as noted above many more diverse and eminently utilizable rewards transfer partners, especially for US centric travelers.

The only large prestigious program neither card covers is Hilton family of hotels, and with new AMEX Aspire and Ascend cards, that is covered wholly by AMEX which is the better supplement to the Chase UR cards and points programs, as AMEX covers Hilton family — Wyndham and Choice are largely downmarket programs, and Fairmont has been absorbed by Accor, which I have read does not truly return a good return on your $$ stay investment when compared to the US programs.

So, in the end the Citi TY cards and program are merely eccentric supplements to the two powerhouses of rewards currencies — UR and AMEX MR (which I also think falls quite short). AMEX makes up for it with it new hotel card offerings, though, which can guarantee you Hilton top tier by just having the Aspire card and its initial outlay of its annual fee — which can be earned back and then some over the year.

If Citi were really serious at making a competitor of the TY rewards program they could do one very simple thing under their ready control — make American AAdvantage, a OneWorld founding member part of its program.

That it has declined to do so over the years, tells you all you need to know as to how they even view their sad multi-currency rewards program.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Good post again i wish like u Citi would allow transfer to AA not just get the Citi AA card which I have 2 and may have to keep the personal one . U can get 2 nites Free booked after 9/1 then 2 booked after 1/1 which works for me but not you .Hopefully their get their Shxt together and add airlines and or change the limit on the 4th nite Free .. For Me not others $250 max back unlimited would work BUT others are doing thousands of dollars per stay which no card can handle .
CHEERs

Pam
Guest
Pam

@ Cave Dweller – HVB has beautifully explained in interesting detail (thx HVB for great reasons I hadn’t even considered) the disparity between Chase & Citi, & your reply is you use Ink (Chase) & Prestige (Citi) exclusively. So it appears you like Chase just fine.

Other than keeping Prestige for FNF where are you finfibg comparable utility out of Citi while also spending comparable time with using?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Pam
U folks are in a different spending thing from me .I spend like $30k a year and can do $5k sign up in one min..But Chase can turn that into 60K+ points a year.. I use FNF and transfer points to Singapore + Ins+ P Restaurants (which Ink doesn’t have $$$) ..This stuff is always changing I don’t want to upset Citi nor Barclays then I will get nothing but Chase which is only HALF of my travel costs..
I”ll get the $500 air credit in 6 months then like $3K or $4K total on a $450 fee how much should I get a million ??
CHEERS

Pam
Guest
Pam

I also certainly think that addtl value s/b assigned to Chase by having more airline partners that can be easily booked “as is,” without having to go thru “other partner” gyrations to get to the good stuff, a la Citi.

I am certain some have figured out how to eek maximum value out of Garuda(?) airlines, for example, but most people want to book on UA, SWA, & BA by comparison. The convenience factor is worth something and a whole LOT to me.

As for hotels, their cost is often the most expensive part of a trip with one night often being more than a round-trip plane ticket. Lodging is a critical part of a travel budget and to just not even have any yes, imo, makes Citi Shi*#i (nice rhyme, thx for the tip) as a “travel” card.

WR2
Guest
WR2

I disagree about your bucketing of EVA in the “not recommeded” bucket. The primary use for EVA is US to Asia. Their J product is one of the world’s best, if not the best. With EVA it is 75k miles, while Singapore is 88k, and with the deval soon to go up further (95k?). Taxes/fees with EVA are very reasonable, about $150 for a one way from SE Asia to USA. Finally, availability is excellent when using EVA miles. It is pretty much wide open every time I look, while they are not so generous in opening up availability to partners. So good luck using Singapore miles on EVA, you’ll need it.

EVA is where the vast majority of my TYPs end up, while Hyatt gets pretty much all of my URs. I still don’t think that’s enough of a reason alone to keep the CSR. I downgraded mine last year after proactively transferring my URs to Hyatt. I will then soon upgrade back to CSR so I can double dip the travel credit, and repeat that process as long as they’ll let me.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

It seems to me that the smart frequent flyer almost always uses the highest multiple 5X rules and then banks all programs and redeems based on best return. If you stay ahead of the game then that has to be the best strategy as opposed to focusing on one trip and one redemption.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Well Said !! If it works for u Great !! But look @ the longer run ..It’s changing but since 2010 i can still get my Cheap Butt in a seat from ORD>CDG to So called Look around .in One new CC.. Annual Fee $95 +$88 fees..

CHEERs

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Lot of drama in the discussion. Greg this is the perfect opportunity for one of your PERT diagrams showing the different avenues for spend in different categories to get to a end redemption. I get great value from buying wine in the Citi 2X entertainment category and will until this summer. Also 5X to dine is a no brainer. Sports tickets 2X. It’s really a lifestyle question.

Hadley V. Baxendale
Guest
Hadley V. Baxendale

Thank you JS — I had forgotten about that. We have used the Prestige to great effect for our “high brow” entertainment purchases. Without explicitly revealing same, JS indicated that the 2 points/$1 spent for such purchases are ending, as well on 9/1/2019 — Yet another reason why the Citi TY Prestige and program have lost its lustre for us.

Our annual fee comes due in 10/19 and you can bet that it won’t be renewed — even though it’s effective cost to us is $100 OOP.

With the AMEX Aspire, AMEX Ascend and SPG Luxury card now out, their annual fees are to us much more worthy than Citi’s new effective cost, especially since for us the AMEX Aspire had no cost at all, the Ascend’s annual fee was more than surpassed by the retention offer we received, as well as this past year’s AMEX offers, and the fact that an effective $150.00 annual fee for the SPG Luxury Card is worthwhile to this lifetime Platinum member of Marriott Reward in exchange for a certificate good for example at the Ritz Carlton Vienna and I believe the hotel Bristol in that same city — just an example how the $150 effective fee is surpassed by that calibre/category’s hotels’ room night costs. (Otherwsie, it is truly a sock drawer card).

Of course, we have a great deal of non-bonus spend to make also holding an AMEX Ascend worthwhile, but if you don’t have same, that’s fine — choose what is best for yourself, as CD says.

However, all that I am saying is that the upping of 5x points on dining and 3x for certain travel expenses by Citi, is more than offset to this Chase Reserve holder who sees 3x travel expenses via Citi still a pale comparison to the Chase Reserve’s 3x travel expenses which are still more varied. Thus, all that the new Citi formulae offers to me is 5x dining — sorry, but I will still favor 3x Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Sapphire due to the better stable of transfer partners and the fact that I will earn 1.5 cents per UR point from airline redemption from the Chase Rewards mall — which under Citi’s new scheme is very similar to the effective value of UR points redemption earned from dining.

5 TY points from $1 spent on dining = 5 cents from the Citi travel mall for airline or other redemption.

3 UR points from $1 spent on dining = 3 X 1.5 cents for travel purchases from the Chase UR mall = 4.5 cents value from UR redemption.

1/2 cent more from simply dining expenses is a poor excuse in my book to continue to pay the effective cost to me of $100 for the Citi Prestige card, especially when the UR transfer partners are really so much better.

As noted above, AMEX’s new Hilton and SPG cards are a good value IMHO, and the $100 effective fee from the Prestige is better allocated to the annual fee from one of these products.

Thus, with Citi eliminating the 2x bonus on Entertainment purchases, yet another Citi benefit to me will be extinguished and the card’s utility becomes even more esoteric.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

HVB
That’s great for you the AMEX cards work you I had trouble spending on like the 5 I had . Where I shop they didn’t take them so the IRS payment was the key for the min. .,Post your next high end card u get I have room for only one . I have till 7/15/2019 to change my mind .
CHEERS

Hadley V. Baxendale
Guest
Hadley V. Baxendale

CD —

I am probably set for a good long time now, as I recently picked up the AMEX Ascend, AMEX Aspire and SPG Luxury card within the last couple of months, and before that the SPG Personal and SPG Biz cards, as well as the Hyatt cards.

Therefore, I have now 5 Marriott Free Night cards (Chase Personal and Biz and AMEX Personal, Biz and Luxury).

Inasmuch as I am now a Lifetime Paltinum MR member, the Luxury Card is a sock drawer keeper.
I likely will jettison some of the other cards down the road but I am waiting for Marriott to unveil their peak and off peak pricing of hotels before I do so.

MR members of longstanding know that the Chase Marriott Free night certs lost much of their value over the years but with the addition of SPG and the re-ordering of the awards charts, the new Cat 5 certificates that are to be issued with the refreshed Rewards cards again have hotel redemption in many downtown city cores –something that had been lost over the years. So, I will wait and see whether history repeats itself with Marriott and/or they make many desirable hotels off-limits during much of the year with their new peak pricing.

With the advent of the Aspire card, Hilton has again become interesting to me and therefore, so has the Ascend card. Even as some have indicated that earning Hilton points is often not a great proposition, because of the variability in the points/award structure = it is essentially a dynamic points currency, free weekend nights with Diamond status is a winning proposition – especially since it does not require much effort at all to earn that status!

Finally, Hyatt, although the smallest of the chains permits the best bang for the buck in award redemption, given the general quality of its hotels, and locations, the fact that you can transfer UR points into the program and the annual free night by just holding the credit card which can be used at many interesting destinations — any day of the week.

Moreover, although it is exceedingly difficult to earn top tier status with the credit card — even in conjunction with hotel stays — unless you are a big MSer — what has not been mentioned about the program is that you can indeed “buy” lounge access or a suite upgrade, or both by funneling more points per your nightly redemption. So, if you really want that suite in Hawaii, you can get that by anteing up more points — something that the UR program permits, and moreover the Hyatt credit card is none too shabby with, as well, given its new bonus categories for dining and local transportation.

As one might have guessed, I also have the $49 “old” IHG card that gives 1 uncapped Free night at any IHG hotel — but this will be the last year of that as IHG has decided to cap that card at 40,000 points per night — at $49 it will not kill the utility of the card to me, but increasing its price — might do so. We will see.

Good luck on your endeavors and Happy New Year!

Pam
Guest
Pam

Thanks again, HVB – I feel your excellent analysis best details/compares the differences important to most readers. I find it laughable that Citi actually INcreased their AF by 10% while downgrading card benefits to a far greater extent.

Clearly I understand where folks using the Fourth Night Free feature would have/might still make out ok. And I do frequently eat out, but even if I dined 3x day, every day of the year an extra 55k points (based on $75/day/expenses x 2 points difference) would just only barely outpace Citi’s ridiculous fee for the program’s value (at 1 cent/point).

Increasing AFs are becoming part & parcel of premium cards. Yet in every case besides Citi I am able to find value well over the fee with room upgrades from elevated status with the card or quality partners, etc.

To each their own, of course, but the mere fact of so much dialogue over desperately trying to defend a card signals an inherent problem to me with the Prestige relaunch. Chase didn’t/isn’t having issues with folks trying to decide if the recurring fee is worth it, because their program is easy with solid value that most can discern.

Hadley V. Baxendale
Guest
Hadley V. Baxendale

Pam,

Many thanks for the kind words. I know some of my views are considered heretical among the FF boys and gals here, but so what. Yes, it certainly is nice to fly Biz, especially on some routes, but I have hard enough time finding economy award seats when I want, therefore, finding those with higher redemption value are even more difficult — since I have never redeemed awards for other than standard or off-peak award values, never peak values.

In addition, since I spend more time in my hotel room than a flight, I would prefer to get my value in those surroundings. Further, although I don’t really go by certain hotel room nightly costs, as I believe that decent accommodations can be found at certainly a lower price point depending on the area, so too, do I neither go by the valuation an airline sets on its business class or first class seat for sale — as economy class is often is fine for me.

Therefore, if nightly rates at certain hotels are grossly inflated from what I would be willing to spend, that observation is even truer for First or Biz class seats as they are even more inflated in cost than their Economy counterparts.

Therefore, point valuations based on difficult to find and fill into one’s busy schedule for First and Biz class award seats are a poor indicator to me of a point’s overall value — hence my real issue with the TY points program and the AMEX MR program.

Although the latter has become more useful to the likes of me because of their addition of Marriott, there redemption value for that partner and Hilton still is somewhat unimpressive — although the Hilton 3:1 transfer bonus motivated me to more MR points toward that program because I believe that a MR point is roughly worth 1 cents and that transfer put it in my book at 1.2 cents.

Delta transfers are a sham, and the moniker SkyPesos is apt, therefore, MR points in my mind are not that worthwhile, hence my favoring UR again.

However, as noted above, AMEX has come out with some pretty fine SPG and Hilton rewards cards, and have upped their game on that front.

In fact, I think that with respect to Marriott points, AMEX ‘s SPG product line up now exceeds that offered by Chase and the Aspire and Ascend cards are a powerful 1-2 punch, especially for those who can’t earn status through biz travel.

Best of luck to all on your endeavors and travels in the New Year!

Pam
Guest
Pam

HNY HVB,

I also find the hotel portion of the AMEX MR program lacking – to the extent I don’t use for hotel bookings. I, too, have gravitated towards holding AMEX’s premium hotel cards instead. At first the total AFs of all cards were a bit of a sticker shock, but I’d rather have more skin in the game and receive corresponding value rather than a lower fee with nothing I’m too excited about using.

I was happy with earning Hyatt stays thru Chase and was ready to cancel my Hyatt card, for instance, when the WOH program was launched. Now THAT is a card (re)launch a company can be proud of and Citi should take notice of in terms of adding value for an increased fee.

Today I received $250 off $500 at Miraval this year, no registration required or strings attached. I will use this at the new property in Austin, and this ONE offer pays for almost 3 years of fees. I am excited about their push towards wellness/fitness with Exhale and even my own gym (with a bonus category). There are so many things actually to like about this card and some of it has nothing to do with actual hotel stays. Once again, Chase has got it right.

It’s called value added, Citi . . . not a loss in value.

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Thanks for your analysis After decades of playing this game, my general view is that travel loyalty programs are too complicated. A US airline frequent flyer program is now about as complicated as the US Tax Code. So when you’re dealing with the proprietary credit card programs that then enable transfer to various partners, it’s almost like have to be an expert in not only the US Tax Code, but also the tax codes of Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, France, the UAE, etc. In other words, it’s basically impossible, even for very experienced frequent flyers.

For this reason, I much prefer the Chase program to the Citi program. For 95%+ of travellers, the “best” thing they can do with their Citi points is redeem travel at 1.25 cents per point. Most everything else is too obscure or too complicated for cardholders to figure out — even very experienced cardholders! Chase, on the other hand, is much more comprehensible. You can still buy travel and get 1.25 cents, or you can use relatively-easy-to-understand transfer partners. Transfer partners that you likely have some existing familiarity with. As you note, the Hyatt transfer is terrific for good quality hotels in all categories, from an airport Hyatt Place to a fancy Hawaiian beach resort. WN and UA transfers will also be valuable to many American travellers, and the Avios program — which has a slight additional learning curve — is understandable and sometimes very valuable. When you combine these marquee transfer partners with the ease of actually earning Chase points, the Chase program is a clear winner over the Citi program.

JHG
Guest
JHG

I’ve had such a hard time using a total of maybe 100k TYP in the last few years, (whereas I have probably redeemed close to a million UR in that same time with little trouble.) I received 20k extra TYP after I had an increased signup bonus matched initially when I got my Prestige card. Subsequent to this, I used about 22k TYP for some flights (buying them with TYP, not as a transfer to the airlines.) Then when I went to transfer my remaining TYP to an airline they said that I couldn’t transfer all of them since I had 20k TYP that were “non-transferable.” I hadn’t even known that the extra 20k bonus points that they gave me were non-transferable, and besides that, I had used 22k TYP already in a non-transferable sense! So frustrating! So I transferred what TYPs I could to Etihad and it took FIFTEEN DAYS for the transfer to go through! (Whereas I had transferred some additional MR to Etihad and they transferred instantly.) I had called Citi a number of times during this delay and they finally said they would reverse the transfer and restore the points to my account after 2 weeks, but of course they didn’t, and then I was stuck with all of these Etihad miles and the multiple awards that were available at the time of the transfer were all gone! I do still have my Prestige card. The main reasons I have kept it are 1) the travel delay protection (which was really worth it when it was 3 hours) and 2) the Priority Pass membership covers my whole family of 4, and 3) the grandfathered $350 annual fee (for now.) I got my husband a Sapphire Reserve this year and I will cancel the Prestige when my annual fee increases. As much as I might like to make use of some of Citi’s unusual transfer partners, I don’t often transfer speculatively and I am really reluctant to try transfers after my Ethihad debacle. Besides transferring to airline partners, I use the Chase travel portal to book all kinds of additional travel, and I think our family gets way more value from the CSR than we do from the Prestige.

Miles Ahead
Guest
Miles Ahead

Really well thought through and we’ll written post, Greg. Thank God for competition between credit card companies. They develop currencies that under certain circumstances ‘can’ provide outsize value and u did a great job explaining why TYP is not garbage or shitty and why Chase is not the be all end all of great travel point redemptions. With a little work and research, one get great value from TYP, UR, MR and others and it’s articles like this that help point people to where they might find these opportunities. Thanks Greg and Nick.

Darcie
Guest
Darcie

Ahhhh. The complicated, time consuming efforts of citi points! Because I and most of my colleagues/ friends travel out of the country only once a year, if that, we have found UR points much more valuable. I simply can not sit in a seat more than 5ish hours! I would love to see a post /challenge on US travel based rewards with various cards. I feel many of us that are not out of the country frequent travelers have a difficult time finding valueable information these days when most posts are out of country related. Anyone else with me here?

Hadley V. Baxendale
Guest
Hadley V. Baxendale

Read my posts above and you will see why the UR cards are good choices for domestic travel — especially if you have a United hub near you. Failing that, SW is a ready and decent transfer partner that is likely a good fall back transferee.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

HVB
Good Posts I upgraded to the SW new $149 card with 53k left over for 48 state travel .. Sw from MDW does has sweet spots and that card makes it a better deal for me then the cheaper cards .
CHEERs

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

HaHa I just got the Hawaiian Airlines Card (60K) by ur link .Had it a few years ago and canceled I guess Barclays misses me .Sounds good Hnl> BNE like I did in Oct.

CHEERs

trackback

[…] I think this was pretty good too, grades are very fair: Transferable Points Programs: Amex vs Chase vs Citi vs Capital One. And another one by Frequent Miler: Transfer partners: Chase vs. Citi. […]