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Update: The Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou® Premier now offer 1.25¢ per point towards travel on any airline, versus the previous enhanced redemption rate on American Airlines. The Citi Prestige no longer offers lounge access to American Admiral’s Clubs. Learn more about the current offers here.
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:
- A sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Rewards points after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months — those points can be transferred to one of their airline transfer partners, or be redeemed for $800+ worth of flights on American/US Airways
- A $250 annual airline 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)
- A fourth night free hotel benefit
- The most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card
- A $100 Global Entry fee credit
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).
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.
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.
And the exact itinerary I had been looking at — among others — appeared.
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.
The same fare showed up in the Citi ThankYou matrix when searching.
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.
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.
The fare also showed up in the Citi ThankYou matrix.
And then the flights I was looking at also showed up in the search results.
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.
That’s also bookable directly with Citi, and the same options show up online.
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.
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:
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.
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 other ThankYou cards can be merged with the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and redeemed at 1.25 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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