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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.
Citi Thank You is quickly becoming one of the most valuable transferrable points currencies, and they’ve just added another transfer partner — Virgin America Elevate.
Why Citi ThankYou points are becoming so compelling
The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card is a mid-range card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year), intended to compete with the likes of the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It has a generous sign-up bonus of 50,000 Citi ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months.
Furthermore, it offers an extremely rewarding points earnings structure, as follows:
- 3x points on travel
- 3x points on gas
- 2x points on dining out and entertainment
- 1x point on all other purchases
Meanwhile the Citi Prestige Card is intended to compete with the likes of The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee), and also has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 within three months.
The Citi Prestige Card offers the following points earnings structure, which is among the most rewarding out there for a “premium” card:
- 3x points on air travel and hotels
- 2x points on dining at restaurants and entertainment
- 1x point for all other purchases
On top of that, the card offers the following perks, which in my opinion more than justify the annual fee:
- A $250 annual airline credit
- A fourth night free hotel benefit
- The most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card
- A $100 Global Entry fee credit
Citi ThankYou now partners with Virgin America
Many would say that Citi ThankYou points aren’t quite as valuable as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and I’d say as of now that’s true, marginally.
That being said, Citi is really working hard to make ThankYou a leading program, and they’ve added yet another great partner today.
Citi ThankYou is now transfer partners with Virgin America Elevate. For what it’s worth, Virgin America Elevate is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, though doesn’t partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest.
Much like with American Express, Citi ThankYou points transfer to Virgin America Elevate at a 2:1 ratio.
However, to celebrate the new partnership, Citi ThankYou is offering a 25% bonus on points transfers to Virgin America through October 21, 2015.
That means through October 21, 2015, points transfer at a 1,000:625 ratio. The transfer bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, meaning you can take advantage of the bonus as often as you’d like.
How valuable are Virgin America Elevate points?
Like many low cost carriers, Virgin America is revenue based on the redemption side, whereby you can redeem each point for ~2.1-2.3 cents towards the cost of a revenue ticket on Virgin America.
For example, here’s a comparison of revenue fares and award fares between Chicago and Los Angeles:
So at a transfer ratio of 2:1, that means you’re getting ~1.05-1.15 cents per Citi ThankYou point. With the 25% transfer bonus, you’re basically getting ~1.3-1.4 cents of value per Citi ThankYou point.
That’s not an amazing value, to be honest. That’s because each ThankYou point earned with a “premium” ThankYou card can be redeemed for towards the cost of a paid ticket on Virgin America. In both instances you’d earn points for the cost of those tickets, so that would typically be a better value.
Also keep in mind that you can combine points between cards, so if you have both of them you can redeem them all at the higher rate.
So why is Virgin America a useful new transfer partner? Because what makes Virgin America unique among low cost carriers is that they have award charts for redeeming points on their partner airlines.
Redeem Elevate points for travel in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
Here are some examples of the redemption costs:
- A roundtrip between New York and Milan in Emirates business class will run you 55,000 Elevate points, though there are $1,090 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on the ticket
- A roundtrip between New York and London in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class will run you 35,000 Elevate points, though there are $1,150 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on the ticket
- A roundtrip between Los Angeles and Sydney in Virgin Australia business class will run you 80,000 Elevate points, though there are $130 in taxes and fees on the ticket
The values aren’t bad in terms of the number of points required, but the fuel surcharges on Emirates and Virgin Atlantic sting. That being said, redemptions on Virgin Australia without fuel surcharges are sort of a sweet spot.
Redeem Elevate points for travel in Virgin Australia’s new business class
A one-way redemption from Los Angeles to Sydney on Virgin Australia would cost you 45,000 Elevate points plus ~$40. Under the normal transfer ratio from Citi ThankYou, that means you’d need 90,000 points for that redemption. Meanwhile with the current 25% transfer bonus, you’d only need 72,000 Citi ThankYou points for that business class seat. That’s a fantastic value, especially given how good Virgin Australia award space is between the US and Australia.
Am I rushing to transfer all my Citi ThankYou points to Virgin America Elevate? Nope. Do I see myself potentially transferring some points to Virgin America down the line? Probably, for travel on Virgin Australia.
The value in flexible points currencies comes from their flexibility (shocker, I know!). And having Virgin America Elevate as a Citi ThankYou transfer partner opens up some fantastic niche redemptions, like Virgin Australia business class.
Do you see any value in having Virgin America Elevate as a Citi ThankYou transfer partner?
Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the AmEx Everyday Preferred has been collected independently by One Mile At A Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.