Up to 1.67 cents per point value from ThankYou points

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The Citi ThankYou Rewards program is weird, but in a good way — sort-of.  If you have multiple ThankYou cards, you can keep your points separate by card or you can pool your points together.  Chase, on the other hand, keeps all Ultimate Rewards points separate by card, but they let you freely move points from one card to another.  Amex works the opposite way: all Membership Rewards points are automatically pooled together.

With both Citi and Amex, the advantage of pooling points together is that you automatically get the best redemption value that is available across cards you own.  For example, the Premier card offers 1.25 cents per point value towards travel awards (flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals, etc.) whereas the Prestige card offers that value only for flights (and the ThankYou Preferred card offers at most 1 cent per point value anywhere).  When your points are pooled together, though, you automatically get the 1.25 cents per point value for travel even if points were earned on your Preferred or Prestige card.

With the Prestige card, you can now book 4th Night Free hotels online (but you may not always want to).  And, you can now pay with ThankYou points.  If you also happen to have a Premier card, and you have the Prestige and Premier cards pooled together, you’ll get better value by paying with points.  In this rare situation, you get the best value from both cards: 4th Night Free + 1.25 cents per point hotel award redemptions.  These combine into a theoretical top per point value of 1.67 cents per point.

1.67 cents per point value
The above image shows the results of combining a Prestige 4th Night Free reservation with a Premier card that offers 1.25 cents per point value towards travel. Price after 4th Night Free is $697.27. Points required without Premier card would be 69,727. With Premier card, points required = 55,781.

I’ve previously argued against pooling points with Citibank (see: Should you avoid pooling ThankYou accounts?).  If you have this combo, though, it may be worth accepting the downsides of pooling points.

Scenario 1: $300 per night hotel. No taxes or fees

In this theoretical scenario, Citi’s online hotel search offers the best price you can find anywhere and this hotel somehow has no taxes or up-front fees.  Let’s look at the value of ThankYou points when used to book a 4th Night Free reservation with and without the Premier card:

Without Premier Card

  • 4 night stay would cost $1200
  • Cost after 4th Night Free: $900
  • Points required: 90,000
  • Per point value: $1200 / 90,000 = 1.33 cents per point

With Pooled Premier Card

  • 4 night stay would cost $1200
  • Cost after 4th Night Free: $900
  • Points required w/ Premier card: 90,000 / 1.25 = 72,000
  • Per point value: $1200 / 72,000 = 1.67 cents per point

For the same reservation, cards that offer 1.5 cents per point value towards travel (e.g. US Bank Altitude Reserve, Chase Sapphire Reserve) would charge 80,000 points.  The Prestige + Premier combo charges 72,000, which amounts to 10% fewer points.   That said, the US Bank and Sapphire Reserve cards have no restrictions on number of nights booked in order to get 1.5 cents per point value.  The Prestige + Premier combo requires booking exactly 4 nights to get this ideal 1.67 cents per point value.

Scenario 2: $300 per night after 15% taxes

In this more realistic scenario, Citi’s online hotel search offers the best price you can find anywhere and the hotel charges 15% in taxes.  That means that this hotel’s rate, before taxes, is $261.

Without Premier Card

  • 4 night stay would cost $1200
  • Cost after 4th Night Free: $1200 – $261 = $939
  • Points required: 93,900
  • Per point value: $1200 / 93,900 = 1.28 cents per point

With Pooled Premier Card

  • 4 night stay would cost $1200
  • Cost after 4th Night Free: $939
  • Points required w/ Premier card: 93,900 / 1.25 = 75,120
  • Per point value: $1200 / 75,120 = 1.6 cents per point

1.6 cents per point value is still pretty darn good.  That equals the best value we used to get with the Prestige card when using points to book American Airlines airfare (now all fight awards get only 1.25 cents per point value).

Wait, isn’t the value really just 1.25 cents per point?

If you compare the points paid to the amount that would be charged to your Prestige card, you get 1.25 cents per point value with a pooled Premier card and just 1 cent per point value without it.  But if you compare the points paid to the amount you would have paid without the 4th Night Free benefit, you get the inflated point values show above.  Which is correct?

Ultimately it depends on whether you compare the point price to the original hotel price or to the price after the 4th Night Free.  If you compare to the former, then your pooled points are worth up to 1.67 cents each.  If you compare to the latter, then they are worth exactly 1.25 cents each with the Premier card.

In other words, if you take it as a given that you are using the 4th Night Free benefit and you’re simply trying to decide whether to use points or pay with your Prestige card, then your points are worth 1.25 cents each with a pooled Premier card.

On the other hand, if you are trying to decide which points to use for a hotel stay, and if all paid price options are equal, the 1.6 to 1.67 per point value is accurate since you can’t use other point currencies to book 4th Night Free stays.

Is it worth having both cards?

The Prestige card costs $350 to $450 per year and offers $250 in annual airline credits.  The Premier card costs $95 per year.  And their benefits overlap: both cards offer 3X for airfare, hotels, and travel agencies and 2X for dining and entertainment.  And both cards offer 1.25 cents per point value towards airfare, but the Premier card also offers 1.25 cents per point for all travel bookable through the ThankYou portal (Prestige offers only 1 cents per point for travel other than airfare).  The Prestige card, though, additionally offers Priority Pass lounge membership, global entry fee reimbursement, and best in class trip delay insurance.  And the Premier card offers 3X rewards for all travel (not just airfare, hotels & travel agencies) and 3X rewards for gas.

My guess is that for most people it doesn’t make sense to pay both annual fees.  That said, some would clearly do very well.  Those who spend a lot on gas, for example, can may justify the Premier card’s annual fee from it’s 3X gas station earnings alone.  And, anyone who regularly uses the Prestige card’s 4th Night Free benefit (regardless of whether they pay with points or not) can easily justify the annual fee on that card.

If you’re thinking about getting either card, keep in mind Citi’s 24 month rule:

Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

If you’re starting from scratch and would like both cards you won’t be able to get the signup bonus for both.  If, on the other hand, you already have one of the cards and you are within 24 months of opening or closing a ThankYou card, keep in mind that getting a new one will reset your 24 month clock even if you’re OK going without the signup bonus.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that many hotels offer discounts that are not available through the ThankYou Rewards online reservation system.  You can usually get these discounts by calling or emailing the Prestige Concierge to book your 4th Night Free reservation, but then you wouldn’t be able to redeem ThankYou points for that stay.  In situations like this, having a pooled Premier card doesn’t help at all.

Also, a couple of people have reported that they are not seeing 1.25 cents per point value online when booking 4th Night Free reservations even though they have pooled their Premier card with their Prestige card.  My assumption is that they’ve either encountered a software bug or maybe there’s something weird about the way their accounts are pooled.

Related Info

Here are a number of related posts that you may find useful:

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