Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points For Travel On American

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Last week I wrote about how to redeem Citi ThankYou points. Both the Citi Prestige Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card are offering great sign-up bonuses with a really compelling long term value proposition as well.

Details of the two Citi offers

The Citi Prestige Card is the “premium” card (intended to compete more with the links of The Platinum Card® from American Express), and has a $450 annual fee. That being said, it has tons of perks which help offset that, including:

Meanwhile the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), and is intended to compete more with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card. What makes the card compelling is that it offers a great return on everyday spend.

Redeeming Citi ThankYou points for travel on American

As I explained in the previous post, in addition to being able to convert ThankYou points into miles in any of roughly a dozen airline transfer partner programs, you can also redeem ThankYou points as cash towards a travel purchase.

For most points currencies that doesn’t represent a great value, though Citi ThankYou is an exception. If you have the Citi Prestige Card, each ThankYou point can be redeemed for:

  • 1.6 cents towards the cost of an American/US Airways ticket
  • 1.33 cents towards the cost of a flight on another airline

It’s pretty tough to beat redeeming each point for 1.6 cents towards the cost of a ticket on American. I received a lot of questions about the actual process of redeeming ThankYou points for travel on American, though. So let’s talk a bit about that process.

If you want to redeem ThankYou points for travel, you need to make the booking through the Citi ThankYou website. You just log-in with your credentials, and then click the “Flight” button. The great thing is that you can redeem Citi ThankYou points partially towards the cost of a ticket. So it’s not a problem if you don’t have enough points, as you can redeem for part of an American/US Airways flight at the cost of 1.6 cents per point as well.

From there you’ll be prompted to enter your origin, destination, dates of travel, preferred class of service, and preferred airline (optionally).

Citi-Prestige-1

So I decided to do some searches to see if the prices on Citi’s website actually match what’s available directly with American/US Airways. To test this out, I first searched some decent fares directly with the airlines, and then went to Citi’s site to try and price them out.

Domestic economy ticket on American

I started with a cheap Newark to Seattle fare, of ~$270 roundtrip.

EWRSEA-1

Upon doing the search on Citi’s website I received a matrix showing the different fares on different airlines. As you’d expect, American required the fewest number of points, given that each point gets you 1.6 cents rather than 1.33 cents towards the cost of a ticket.

EWRSEA-2

And the exact itinerary I had been looking at — among others — appeared.

EWRSEA-3

International codeshare flight on American

Then I found a decent enough fares on American between Los Angeles and London, for just under ~$1,000 roundtrip. What made this especially interesting is that it was for an American codeshare flight, operated by British Airways.

LAXLHR-1

The same fare showed up in the Citi ThankYou matrix when searching.

LAXLHR-2

And indeed the same codeshare flight was bookable using Citi ThankYou points. So you can redeem ThankYou points for 1.6 cents each towards the cost of American codeshare flights (operated by other airlines) as well.

LAXLHR-3

LAXLHR-4

Domestic first class ticket on American

One of the tougher “popular” awards can be finding first class award space between the east coast and Hawaii. If you find a cheap enough premium fare, it can be a pretty good value on ThankYou points.

For example, take the below ~$1,750 first class fare between Philadelphia and Honolulu.

PHLHNL-1

The fare also showed up in the Citi ThankYou matrix.

PHLHNL-2

And then the flights I was looking at also showed up in the search results.

PHLHNL-3

International economy ticket on American

As an American Executive Platinum member I receive eight systemwide upgrades per year, which can be used to upgrade any paid economy fare to business class. That’s why cheap economy fares to Asia are especially interesting to me, since it’s a great way to requalify for status while earning lots of miles.

Take the below $800+ ticket between Seattle and Beijing.

SEAPEK-1

That’s also bookable directly with Citi, and the same options show up online.

SEAPEK-2

As you can see, this would cost ~51,000 points. That’s significantly less than American would charge directly through their program for an economy award. And keep in mind this ticket would be eligible for mileage accrual.

SEAPEK-3

The above itinerary is about 17,000 “butt in seat” miles. As an Executive Platinum member I earn a 100% mileage bonus, meaning I’d earn roughly 34,000 redeemable AAdvantage miles.

So redeeming 51,000 ThankYou points for a ticket to China which would net me 34,000 AAdvantage miles and quite a few elite qualifying miles towards status. That’s pretty darn good, especially since I can still upgrade to business class.

But do tickets always price correctly with Citi?

As you can see above, in all cases the fare published directly by American matches what Citi shows. There was no trickery involved there. I randomly searched American fares that show a variety of booking types, and in all cases they priced correctly.

But are there instances where fares don’t price correctly through the Citi ThankYou website? Well, apparently yes. On my post about how to redeem Citi ThankYou points, reader Richard gave the example a flight between Los Angeles and St. Thomas where the fare didn’t match. As you can see below, American/US Airways have ~$1,400 business class fares between the markets:

Citi-Prestige-100

However, Citi’s website is pricing the fare out a couple of hundred dollars higher. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way to get it to price out correctly.

LAXSTT-2

Bottom line

For a vast majority of instances I’ve found that the fares published by American/US Airways and Citi ThankYou match exactly. I’ve actually been impressed by the simplicity of the Citi ThankYou website. And it’s also awesome that if you don’t have enough ThankYou points you can redeem only part points towards the cost of a ticket, which is great for those with smaller balances of points.

So I think Citi ThankYou points might be the only transferrable points currency where redeeming points towards the cost of an airline ticket is actually an “efficient” use. Keep in mind, however, that it’s only the Citi Prestige Card (and not the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card) which allows you to redeem ThankYou points for 1.6 cents towards the cost of an American/US Airways ticket.

That being said, it is possible to combine Citi ThankYou points, which means in practice points from both cards the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card can be redeemed at 1.6 cents each.

This is especially compelling if you’re an American flyer, since you can redeem miles at an efficient rate in order to accrue elite qualifying miles, and possibly earn almost as many redeemable miles as you spent.

Have you redeemed Citi ThankYou points for travel on American? If so, how was your experience?


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Comments

  1. Lucky, I noticed you didn’t mention the three free rounds of golf benefit. Some of your readers may find that beneficial and see it as a way of offsetting the annual fee.

  2. I think it is a fair assessment to say that prices correctly most of the time. However, as I mentioned in prior posts, there are times that it doesn’t and calling them doesn’t help either, they come with dumb excuses.

  3. If you do not have the Prestige, are redemptions through the Citi Travel Center only worth 1 cent?

  4. @ Presley — The buy miles prices do include fees. The redemption price estimates don’t include fees, though they shouldn’t be high at all (for example, only about ~$5 for US to Asia in Cathay Pacific first class).

  5. @ Deanne — Depends on the exact card you have. For example, points earned on the Citi Premier can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards hotels, car rentals, cruises, or a flight.

  6. Any chance you tried to price out an Etihad reservation using American miles? How did it compare to citi’s portal?

  7. @ Lucky

    thanks for looking in to my LAX > STT flight. I’ll let you know if I get any answers later in the week when I call to book.

  8. I tried to price GRU-DCA-GRU and couldn’t get the same price shown on AA.com. I was able to buy it at $520 from AA.com but Citi was pricing it at $920. I called their number 3 times, spoke to different agents and they couldn’t find the published fare I was getting on American’s website. Very frustrating!

  9. Lucky, does this work for redeeming AA miles on CX too, i.e. US to HKG? Also somewhat related, do you know if there should’ve been a difference or refund of taxes/fees due to me for changing my flight from?:
    indirect flight: CX 506 HKG-KIX, JAL 60 KIX-LAX
    to nonstop: CX HKG-LAX 880

    I initially paid ~$56 pp for taxes/fees. Does that still sound about right for a nonstop HKG-LAX? If it makes a difference it’s for J.

  10. I think it’s a bit disingenuous (or at least misleading) when bloggers describe the $250 credit:

    “…(with your first year’s annual fee you actually get two of those — that’s $500 of airline credits with your first year’s $450 annual fee)”

    Yes, you can get two credits over one year. But that really isn’t any ADDITIONAL benefit unless you cancel the card after one year. If you don’t, it’s still the standard one credit per year. Do you assume most people will cancel after a year?

    And, of course, you aren’t the only blogger who touts this feature. Don’t get me wrong I find the card compelling and I’m trying it out. But, technically, you don’t really get TWO credits unless you cancel, right?

    As for the redemptions, when I checked I didn’t get the discount on AA flights, but then realized you have to start a new log-in with the Prestige card — I jumped from my Premier account – guess they don’t they automatically link the two.

  11. Does Citi allow $250 annual credit towards Airline gift cards? Any suggestions on optimizing credit for those who do not fly more than a couple of times a yr?

  12. @Steve Block – “Any suggestions on optimizing credit for those who do not fly more than a couple of times a yr?”

    The credit specifically includes airfare, so I think you’re supposed to get $250 off any airline ticket you buy.

  13. @ Steve Block — Anecdotally many have reported being able to use the annual credit towards airline gift card purchases.

  14. @ d3dish — It’s definitely possible that there’s no difference in taxes despite eliminating a stop. And in theory as long as it’s a codeshare flight it could work on Cathay Pacific as well.

  15. @ Fahim — Sorry, you’re talking about redeem miles for an award as opposed to a paid ticket, or what?

  16. I am planning to use to pay for the taxes for the award travel. However, the taxes are only 190$ will it still cover this amount and I can use 60$ later? Or you have to spend it in bulk?

  17. Try filtering the takeoff and landing times. I believe that’ll match the ita price. The thank you flight site isn’t that advanced so you have to simplify it. Pretty easy way to requalify do AA Exp. Only problem is citi would let you get the same bonus within 18 months.

  18. I am looking for a card that will give me a free flight around Christmas time. Does the ThankYou reward center black out any dates or should I not have a problem booking around Christmas?

  19. I am pricing out various tickets and American is currently coming back at more than double the cost of all the other airlines. Roughly the refundable ticket prices. Anyone know what is going on with the Citi website?

  20. Tried to book a domestic one way ticket for next week and the citi thank you site was 3x what i can book on the American website.

  21. Once I book on Citi Banks portal can I go to American Airlines and upgrade my seats with AA miles I have.

  22. Well, my experience isn’t so great. Certainly the TY Points are worth exactly the stated amount, e.g. 1.6 cents per point as a Citi Prestige Card Holder. However, I generally am NOT finding the flights I want when I use the TY Travel web site. They’ll have just one or two of the MANY available flights from SFO to YUL (Montreal) say. So I ALWAYS have had to call to make the reservation. And the process is incredibly slow. The agents are very nice, but the whole thing just drags on and on. Takes 20-30 minutes to book a single one way ticket for a single person. Answer the same questions for the automated attendant, the first person to answer (not a travel specialist despite you picking travel from the menu) and then again for the travel person that will actually make the booking. Each time they want your TY number or credit card, each time they congratulate you for you point total, etc. Etc. Very nice and it works but seriously time consuming. I almost blew miles today rather than calling in to book with TY points despite the redemption being a crappy value just to avoid the wait…

  23. I have a question… Since these Thank You points are essentially “money” being used to buy the tickets, am I able to use an SWU on tickets that I buy using Thank You points (or even Ultimate Rewards for that matter?) My assumption is yes because it’s not an award based ticket, but wanted to check.

    Thanks!!

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