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In that post I explained how the Citi ThankYou Premier has a more compelling earnings structure than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but Chase Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable than Citi ThankYou Rewards points, in my opinion.
As a reminder, here are the transfer partners of both programs:
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Citi ThankYou® Premier Card|
|British Airways Executive Club||Air France/KLM Flying Blue|
|Korean Air SkyPass||Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||EVA Air Infinity MileageLands|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||Etihad Guest|
|United MileagePlus||Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Malaysia Airlines Enrich|
|Hyatt Gold Passport||Qantas Frequent Flyer|
|IHG Rewards Club||Qatar Airways Privilege Club|
|Marriott Rewards||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|The Ritz-Carlton Rewards||Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
Not surprisingly, you’ll notice that the transfer partners sort of go down “bank” lines. For example, Chase issues co-branded credit cards for a majority of their transfer partners, and the same stands true for Citi.
There’s one glaring omission, though, for Citi. Why doesn’t American AAdvantage belong to the Citi ThankYou Rewards program? The Citi ThankYou Rewards program doesn’t have a single US based airline as a transfer partner.
So I figured I’d share some general thoughts, along with whether or not I think they’ll eventually be partners.
Co-brand partnerships are big business
I know I’m merely stating the obvious here, but credit cards are huge businesses for the airlines. When the airlines aren’t making operating profits, it almost seems at times like they’re operating exclusively to justify their co-brand business.
Arguably Citi even helped prevent American from liquidating when they were in bankruptcy. In 2009, Citi advanced American one billion dollars to pre-purchase AAdvantage miles. That’s how big this business is, and that’s how much of a risk Citi was willing to take to keep American alive.
For example, as of last year American Express Platinum cards no longer get you into American Admirals Clubs. I’d be willing to bet that relationship didn’t end because American wasn’t making money off of it, but rather because Citi wanted a bit more “monogamy” from American, if you will. After all, Citi’s relationship with American should be a unique selling point for them.
I’m sure adding American has been discussed
I’m sure American AAdvantage being added as a Citi ThankYou Rewards partner has been extensively discussed.
Citi and American have a strong relationship, so it’s not like this hasn’t been on the table. And that seems to suggest that up until now the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement.
Like all things in the industry I’m sure this is constantly being evaluated, especially as Citi is very clearly trying to line up the Citi ThankYou Premier Card with what’s being offered by Chase and American Express:
- American Express has Delta SkyMiles as part of their Membership Rewards program
- Chase has United MileagePlus as part of their Ultimate Rewards program.
So American AAdvantage is obviously the “odd man out” in not being part of the transferable points currency of their co-brand partner.
Can the value of miles be maintained with transfer partners?
There’s something to be said for not adding a bunch of transfer partners if you want to maintain the value of your miles.
Award availability is extremely limited nowadays, so it’s tough in good conscience to introduce a nearly unlimited supply of miles when award availability won’t improve. In a way, you’re doing your “loyal” members (whatever that means) a disservice.
So I’m not suggesting this is the reason, but there is something to be said for not adding more transfer partners if you want to maintain the value of your miles.
If I were a betting man (and I have no inside knowledge here), I would guess that American AAdvantage will be added as a Citi ThankYou Rewards partner within the next year or so:
- Citi has only gotten serious about adding ThankYou Rewards airline partners in the past seven months
- American has been in the middle of a big merger, using the slogan “integrate, don’t innovate,” basically putting off any changes until they’ve been able to successfully integrate
- I wouldn’t be surprised if AAdvantage were added as a transfer partner once the merger is complete and the award chart has possibly been devalued (which is inevitable sooner or later, given that the AAdvantage award chart has more or less remained the same for a long time now)
What do you think? Will AAdvantage eventually be added as a ThankYou Rewards partner? And do you want them to be?