How To Get $800+ In Airfare With The Citi Prestige Card

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Update: This offer for the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card is expired. Learn more about the current offer here.

Update: This offer for the Citi Prestige is expired. You can find the current offer details here.

Yesterday I wrote about the increased sign-up bonus being offered on the Citi Prestige Card. The card is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Rewards points after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months, which is substantially higher than the usual sign-up bonus of 30,000 points upon completing minimum spend.

As I explained yesterday, the Citi Prestige Card comes with some awesome perks, including the following:

  • A $250 annual airline credit
  • Access to American Admirals Clubs
  • The most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card
  • A $100 Global Entry fee credit
  • A great points earnings structure
  • No foreign transaction fees

With the annual airline credit (which can outright be applied towards the cost of an airline ticket) you already come out ahead after the first year, given that you’ll get two $250 airline fee credits with your first year’s annual fee (one for the 2015 calendar year, and one for the 2016 calendar year).

But what I didn’t cover in great detail yesterday was what the points earned with the Citi Prestige Card can be redeemed towards.

There are two best uses for Citi ThankYou Rewards points:

Convert Citi ThankYou Rewards points into airline miles

Much like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards has both airline and hotel transfer partners.

Citi TY

Altogether they have a dozen transfer partners, including one hotel chain and 11 airline partners, as follows:

Air France/KLM | Flying BlueGaruda Indonesia | Frequent FlyerQantas | Frequent FlyerTurkish Airways | Miles & Smiles
Cathay Pacific | Asia MilesJet Airways | JetPrivilegeQatar Airways | Privilege ClubVirgin Atlantic | Flying Club
EVA Air | Infinity MileageLandsJetBlue | TrueBlueSingapore Airlines | KrisFlyerHilton | HHonors
Etihad | Etihad GuestMalaysia Airlines | EnrichThai Airways | Royal Orchid Plus

But I’d argue that converting ThankYou Rewards points into airline miles potentially isn’t the best use of Citi ThankYou Rewards points.

Redeem Citi ThankYou Rewards points towards airfare

Much like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards points can be redeemed towards the cost of a paid airline ticket. The difference is that this is actually an efficient use of points earned with the Citi Prestige Card.

Ordinarily ThankYou Rewards points can be redeemed for once cent each towards the cost of airfare. That’s definitely not a rate at which I’d recommend redeeming those points.

That being said, the Citi Prestige Card is the “premium” ThankYou Rewards product, and comes with improved redemption rates. Rather than only being able to redeem each point for one cent towards the cost of a ticket, those with the Citi Prestige Card can redeem each ThankYou Rewards point for:

  • 1.6 cents towards the cost of a ticket on American or US Airways (60% more value)
  • 1.33 cents towards the cost of a ticket on another airline (33% more value)

Via the Citi Prestige Card website:

Your points are worth more when redeemed for American Airlines or US Airways® flights than when redeemed for non-air travel booked through the Citi ThankYou® Travel Center.

For example, 50,000 ThankYou Points can be redeemed for a $500 hotel stay, an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways® (60% more value), or a $665 flight on any other airline (33% more value).

To learn more about all the ways you can use ThankYou® Points, visit the Citi ThankYou Rewards website.

For what it’s worth, travel booked using points needs to be booked through Citi’s website, and you don’t need enough points for the entire redemption. In other words, if an American ticket costs $1,000, you could redeem 50,000 points and then pay $200 in cash for the remainder of the ticket.

Also keep in mind that this card offers the following rewards structure for everyday spend:

  • 3x points on air travel and hotels
  • 2x points on dining at restaurants and entertainment
  • 1x point for all other purchases

That means:

  • For air travel and hotel spend you’re earning a return of 4.8% towards the cost of American/US Airways airfare
  • For dining and entertainment you’re earning a return of 3.2% towards the cost of American/US Airways airfare

Combining with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card

The mid-range card which accrues Citi ThankYou Rewards points is the Citi ThankYou Premier Card. Points earned on that card can also be redeemed towards the cost of airfare, though not with the 33-60% bonus.

That being said, if you have both the Citi ThankYou Premier Card and Citi Prestige Card you can transfer points from one card to the other, and then redeem those points for travel on American/US Airways at a rate of 1.6 cents per point.

Combine-Citi-ThankYou-Rewards

The bonus categories on the Citi ThankYou Premier Card will be changing as of April 19, 2015, as follows:

Citi-ThankYou-Premier-10

This is potentially a way to maximize the value of ThankYou Rewards points earned through both cards towards the cost of American/US Airways airfare.

Bottom line

Being able to redeem Citi ThankYou Rewards points for 1.6 cents towards the cost of an American or US Airways ticket is a great value.

Breaking it down, if you apply for the Citi Prestige Card and pay the $450 annual fee you receive:

  • $500 worth of airline credits (one $250 airline credit per calendar year)
  • 50,000 points, which can be converted into $800 towards the cost of an American/US Airways ticket
  • $100 Global Entry fee waiver
  • Admirals Club access, plus the most comprehensive Priority Pass Select membership offered by any credit card

That’s quite a compelling sign-up bonus, especially if you’re an American/US Airways flyer.

Would you redeem ThankYou Rewards points earned through the Citi Prestige Card towards the cost of airfare or convert them into airline miles?

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Comments

  1. Let’s say an AA ticket costs $500, can I use the $250 airline credit to cover half, and TY pts to cover the other half?

  2. If I have the grandfathered citi forward (5 points per dollar at restaurants) can I transfer those TY points to the citi prestige just like with Chase UR points (freedom to CSP)

  3. @Al: I think the $250 airline credit shows up in the statement after you spend the amount on eligible transaction(s). So my guess is NO.

  4. @ Al — Yep just redeem points for $500 and charge the other $250 to the card, and that will be reimbursed.

  5. you mean redeem points for $250 worth and charge the rest as a purchase, correct? (you previously said redeem for the entire $500)

  6. I am still confused about how to use the Citi’s TY points to redeem for airfare. I tried looking at the site but it wants me to log on and I don’t currently have TY points.

    Isn’t there some specific website you have to use to redeem TY points to get the airline credit? Or can I just go to AA.com and book as normal? If so, how does the redemption work?

  7. @ Betty — For the airline credit you can just book directly on the airline’s website and will be reimbursed on your statement. If redeeming points towards airfare then you have to book through Citi’s travel portal.

  8. So, if I’m redeeming points, plus I want the $250 air credit, I go through Cit’s travel portal, right? Thanks!

  9. Lucky, do you think the paid AA redemption is superior to SQ transfer? Suites class is pretty nice… Thanks.

  10. I think the three “best” redemption possibilities are cash AA tickets at 1.6x (so, for example, a domestic $400 or $480 ticket is 25,000 or 30,000 points) and transfers to Singapore and Air France/KLM, right?

    Note that Thank You Points from the “banking” side — e.g., a Citi Gold account — are not transferable, those are basically fixed value at 1.6 cents.

  11. @lucky –

    Another great perk to the card is the complimentary fourth night hotel stay with no black-out dates

  12. @Tom

    so if the “banking” TY points are not trnsferable can you atleat apply them to trip you’r booking at the same tim as point on say your prestige card? If you can’t, the it’s retarded how their system is.

  13. @Samuel001 – A return would decrease your points by the amount of the return so that’s kind of pointless i think. unless I’m understanding you incorrectly

  14. Does the Prestige card have a EMV chip? It doesn’t look like it on the card picture. Also I’m assuming even if it does have a chip its chip & signature, not chip & pin?

    Are there any cards besides the Barclays Arrival in the US that have Chip & Pin technology?

  15. To book at 1.6 c per point you have to go through Citi’s TYP site: http://www.thankyou.com

    As Lucky said you can use a mix of cash and points but the airfare credit does not apply. I just called and asked and flights booked through there register as a travel agency so they are not eligible. Still a great redemption because since these show up as revenue tickets you can earn elite credit and redeemable miles.

    I’m looking at some mileage run options for a Platinum challenge and it is pretty easy to make itineraries where ~40% of the TYP you spend get returned as AA miles. If you have Gold status that goes up to ~50% and Platinum or above could take you to 80%.

  16. @Joe: I haven’t done it yet myself but, yes, you can buy AA tickets at 1.6x points through the Citi travel portal, and you can use both credit card points and banking-side points. The Prestige Card, in other words, does indeed make your non-transferable banking-side points worth 60% extra.

  17. I just got rejected although my credit score is about 830, my income – although almost all investment – is in mid six figures. I got a CitiBusiness platinum select in mid March but I assume that’s not a problem. Any thoughts?

  18. @Richard. I also got rejected initially. Same score/income as you. Expect a call from Citi in a couple of days. Area code 605. Good luck.

  19. Citibank’s travel portal marks up tickets above their actual cost (servcie fee? system error? scam?) so redemption value is LESS than 1.6 cents. I wish Citibank would explain this. I just get the run-around from them on this.

  20. The terms and conditions are as clear as mud… They don’t actually say the purchases have to be made on American Airlines (which is confusing), and from the comments above, I’m unclear whether you have to book directly with American … or through Citibank’s travel portal.

    Is this a no-brainer, if you plan to fly American this year? What if you have no such plans?

    Here are the T&C’s in legible print!

    $250 Air Travel Credit
    Purchases made by the Primary cardmember and Authorized Users on the Card Account are eligible for this statement credit. Please allow 1-2 billing cycles after the qualifying incidental air travel fee is charged to your Card Account for statement credit(s) to be posted to the account. This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit. Airline Fees are defined as purchases made with airlines including Air fares, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases. Please allow 1-2 billing cycles after the qualifying air travel expense is charged to your Card Account for statement credit(s) to be posted to the account.
    We do not determine whether merchants appropriately identify all transactions you make on your Card Account, but we do reserve the right to determine which purchases are eligible for the statement credit. Cardmembers are responsible for payment of all charges on the Card Account regardless of eligibility for statement credit. To be eligible for this benefit, the enrolled Card Account must be open and current at the time of statement credit fulfillment.
    Cardmembers can call the number on the back of their card if statement credits have not posted to their Card Account after 2 billing cycles. Cardmembers are responsible for payment of all charges on the Card Account regardless of eligibility for statement credit.
    To be eligible for this benefit, the enrolled Card Account must be open and current at the time of statement credit fulfillment.

  21. @ Richard — You got outright rejected after calling, or just pending approval? Did they give a reason for the rejection? Very odd…

  22. @ Andrew — Chip & Signature, not Chip & PIN, unfortunately. Barclaycard Arrival Plus is the only good card I know of that’s Chip & PIN.

  23. @ LEK — They’re supposed to be roughly the same, though in some cases the online portal is apparently pretty tedious to use and doesn’t always show the best options.

  24. @ Daniel — All depends what you value most and whether you’re more cash or points “rich.” If you can redeem for Suites Class I’d say that’s a great value, though also keep in mind that Singapore KrisFlyer is transfer partners with all four major transferable points currencies, so there are plenty of ways to book those tickets.

  25. @ Lynn — It seems like unfortunately you can’t actually combine the two. That’s because if you book through the Citi portal it shows as a travel agent and not airfare, and therefore won’t be reimbursable. So you’d need to make separate purchases for utilizing the airline credit and for being reimbursed.

  26. @ David — Sorry for the confusion. To clarify, the airline fee credit is valid on any airline, not just American. So you’d book a ticket directly with the airline, and then you’d be reimbursed $250.

    As far as redeeming points for travel on American goes, that needs to be done directly through Citi’s website.

    I think there’s value in the card even if you don’t want to redeem for travel on American. Those points can be transferred to some great programs like Singapore KrisFlyer and Air France FlyingBlue, so given the earnings rate I’d say this is still a pretty compelling card.

  27. @ Lucky — seems like a no-brainer then! I just applied for the card (using your link, of course) and have been approved. Perhaps I’ll even keep it past the one year anniversary, we’ll see…

  28. Just to follow up, I spoke with someone at Citi who expressed surprise that I’d been declined, since I’d been approved (what?)

    Thanks, @canuck_in_ca for your reassurance.

  29. Signed up for the Prestige using your link Lucky. Had to call in to talk about moving credit but ended up just sticking with the initial amount they offered. Keep up the good work!

  30. Any option to keep the miles in my thankyou account, if I don’t use them all the 1st year, and not pay the fee the 2nd year? Thanks!

  31. @ Lynn — You could get a lower annual fee card, though that would mean you can’t redeem those points for travel on American/US Airways at 1.6 cents each. But downgrading isn’t a bad option otherwise.

  32. I haven’t seen this discussed, if you have an authorized user, do they get access to AA lounge (assuming they are flying AA) without the primary card user or is it similar to the citi exec where the primary holder has to be present to access the lounge?

    Thanks!

  33. For anyone looking for chip and pin, be aware that while Arrival does have that, and will let you set a PIN, it will not WORK as a chip and PIN in Europe on any system that has a signature option. viz every single time I tried to use it, much to the dismay of the vendor, it came up asking for a signature. When I called Barclays to complain and ask to have the default set to PIN, they said they couldn’t do that–the card only defaults to PIN when you use it in something like a French metro that only permits PIN cards. : (

  34. For the $250 airline credit, can you buy a flight on say Kayak or Expedia and get the statement credit? Or does it have to be direct with a carrier? To that end, could you buy a Southwest gift card and get the $250 back? Thank you!

  35. @ Scott — I believe the purchase has to be directly through an airline. An airline gift card purchase will probably qualify in practice.

  36. Im sure this has been covered already, but I am interested in using the credit for AA Gift cards as it seems thats the best bet. I just paid for a few AA trips and I don’t know if I will have any others coming up in the next 6 months or so. Here is my question:

    – AA Gift cards, bought on AA.com – Confirmed that they are eligible for the airline credit?

    – Any other alternatives to gift cards you would recommend (other than for actual flights, taxes on award flights, etc.)?

    – Any specifics on terms for the AA gift cards that I should be aware of? (e.g. no using on award taxes, etc.)

  37. @ Dominick — American award tickets can only be used towards the cost of a revenue ticket, and not to cover the taxes on an award. That being said, I’m not sure whether the airline credit with Citi would cover these.

  38. For both the 1.6 cents redemption and $250 airline credit, is it restricted to flights originating in the U.S.? Asking since ex-Europe is that much cheaper and found out the hard way AA GC’s only work on ex-USA.

  39. @ E — It doesn’t matter where the ticket originates, as long as it’s charged to the card.

  40. I realize this was published a while ago, but I was curious when the $250 airline credits are issued. If I were to sign up for the card on Feb 1, 2016, would I get a credit for 2016 and 2017 before Feb 1, 2017 (when the second AF is due)? Thanks!

  41. Thanks Lucky! Great break down of the benefits…I think I’ll pick up both cards over the next few weeks. Appreciate the help!

  42. Is Global Entry credit part of airline credit? I want to get Hlobal entry for me and my husband.
    What is the fee for the card?

  43. @ Ellen — Nope, you have a separate $100 Global Entry credit, which covers one $100 fee. The airline credit can be applied to any purchase directly from an airline, and that’s worth $250. The annual fee on the card is $450. In my opinion it’s the best card out there. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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