Cancelling your Prestige or Premier card? Here’s how to keep ThankYou points alive.

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I’m a huge fan of transferable points programs, (like Citi ThankYou points).  These are programs that allow you to transfer points to multiple loyalty programs at a fair exchange rate.  By collecting points in these programs, you have the ability to book travel opportunistically.  When you’re ready to book an award flight, you can search for award availability on almost any airline, then find the best program for booking that award (the best program is often a partner to the airline you plan to fly).  Then, hopefully you have transferable points that transfer to that program so that you can book the trip.  For reference, here are our guides to each of the most popular transferable points programs:

I also like signing up for credit cards in order to earn big signup bonuses.  Often, cards are worth getting for their signup bonus, but aren’t worth keeping for a second year due to their annual fee.  When points are earned in airline or hotel programs, there is no risk of losing your points when you cancel your card.  With bank programs, though, there’s a big risk.  Each of the above guides includes a section titled “How to keep points alive”, but I believe that Citi’s ThankYou program requires a bit more info…

Citi ThankYou Premier Card and Citi ThankYou Prestige

What’s new

I’ve updated this post to include information about a weird quirk that happens when you product change from one Citi ThankYou card to another.  When you do so, the ThankYou program incorrectly shows that your points will expire within 60 days.  The solution is simply to wait it out until the system correctly shows that the points won’t expire.

Citi ThankYou Rewards background

With Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program, you can earn points from multiple different credit cards or from Citi bank accounts (but bank account points are not eligible for transfers to airline programs).  Once earned from multiple sources, you can pool points together in one ThankYou account.  This is handy, but it doesn’t change the fact that Citi continues to track the origin of each point.  If you cancel a card, all points earned from that card will expire 60 days after cancellation.

Citi offers two premium cards that allow ThankYou point transfers to loyalty programs:

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
Citi ThankYou Prestige Card

FM Mini Review: The Prestige card's best in class 5X rewards for dining, airfare, and travel agencies is hard to beat. Sadly, this travel card doesn't provide any travel protections.


Annual Fee: $495

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Dine

Earning rate: 5X airfare, dining, and travel agencies ⚬ 3X hotels and cruise line ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: $250 travel rebate per calendar year ⚬ Free lounge access: Citi Properietary Lounges; and Priority Pass Select with free guests ⚬ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ⚬ 4th night free hotel benefit

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Citi Premier Card

FM Mini Review: Very strong earnings for spend. Excellent bonus categories. Points transferable to select airlines. Recommend pairing this card with Citi Double Cash and Citi Rewards+. Sadly, this travel card doesn't provide any travel protections.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Grocery

Earning rate: 3X grocery ⚬ 3X dining ⚬ 3X gas stations ⚬ 3X flights, hotels, travel agencies

Noteworthy perks: Transfer points to airline partners ⚬ $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Citi also offers multiple fee-free ThankYou Rewards cards that do not allow loyalty point transfers (with a couple of not very good exceptions).

It’s important to note that points earned from fee-free ThankYou cards are fully transferable if pooled together with premium cards (Premier or Prestige).

For an up to date list of all Citi transfer partners, including any current transfer bonuses, please see: Citi Transfer Partners.

The cancelled card problem

Unlike Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, there is no way to keep points alive in the form of ThankYou points when you cancel the card from which you earned those points.  Points from a closed credit card expire 60 days after cancellation.

Moving points to another account is not the solution

Citi allows ThankYou points to be moved freely from one person’s account to another, but they then impose a 90 day expiration window on those points.  If you cancel the card that generated those points, your points will still expire 60 days after cancellation or 90 days after transfer, whichever comes first.

Pooling (combining) points is not the solution

If you are the primary account holder with multiple Citi ThankYou cards, you can combine ThankYou Rewards accounts.  When your points are combined, they can then automatically be redeemed at the same value as your best card.  For example, if one of your cards is the Premier card, and have combined ThankYou accounts, then you’ll get a 20% point discount (1.25 cents per point value) on travel booked with points even if the points were earned on a card other than the Premier card.

Unfortunately, even after you combine your points into one ThankYou account, points are still tracked per card.  So, if you then cancel one of your cards, you’ll still lose all of the points that were earned on that particular account.

Ideal solution: call for valuable retention offer

Call Citi to say that you’re considering cancelling your card (don’t say that to the automated system: some people have had their cards cancelled automatically this way!). Once you confirm (to a human) that you want to cancel, they should transfer you to a retention specialist.  This person can check the computer to see if any good retention offers have been loaded to your account.

Don’t accept the first offer they read to you.  There are often several offers to choose from, but you may have to keep asking.  If you get a retention offer that is more valuable than the annual fee, then consider keeping the card for another year.  This is the easiest way to preserve your points and keep them valuable.

Next best solution: downgrade to a no-fee card

An easy way to keep your points alive and to avoid an annual fee is to simply downgrade to a no-fee ThankYou card.  At the time of this writing, the options that will preserve your points are the ThankYou Preferred Card, Rewards+ Card, and the AT&T Access Card.  For most people, the Rewards+ card is the best option.  See: Citi Rewards+ is a great companion to Premier or Prestige.

Important re Double Cash: Downgrading to the no-fee Citi Double Cash card will not preserve your points.  Even though the Double Cash card does let you convert cash back to ThankYou points, it is not considered a full fledged ThankYou card.  See also: Citi Double Cash Complete Guide.

Important re Points Expiry: Citi product changes result in a weird transition period quirk. Soon after product changing from one ThankYou card to another, you can log into your account and you’ll see that your points will expire within 60 days.  Don’t panicYour points won’t really expire.  Wait a few more weeks and you’ll see that the points no longer have an expiration date.

The downside to downgrading to a no-fee card, of course, is that this makes your points far less valuable.  Unless you still have another premium card, you won’t be able to transfer points to loyalty programs.

There are a few ways to make those ThankYou points valuable again:

  1. Sign up for another premium card.  Once you get a new premium card, you can pool together the associated ThankYou accounts and once again transfer your points to loyalty programs.  In order to get a new signup bonus for a card you’ve had before, you must wait 24 months from when you last received a welcome bonus for a ThankYou Rewards card or last closed a ThankYou Rewards card account.  Product changes sometimes reset the clock because you may be issued a new card number.  When that happens, Citi treats the event as if you closed the previous card.
  2. Move points to a relative or friend who has a premium card, so that they can book for you.  If you want to transfer points to a loyalty program to redeem for awards, they can transfer your points (that you sent to them) to their own loyalty account and book the award for you from there.  Keep in mind that once you move your points to another person’s account, those points will expire in 90 days if not used.  Also keep in mind that there is a 100,000 point per year limit to point sharing.
  3. Upgrade to the Premier or Prestige.  A third option is to upgrade your no-fee card to the Premier or Prestige card. Whether or not Citi will offer you this option depends upon your unique situation.

Third best solution: Transfer points to a valuable program

If there’s an airline program with which you are confident you can get great value from your points, consider transferring your points to that program before cancelling your premium card.  I don’t like this option because it locks you in to just one airline program instead of giving you the full flexibility that transferable points offer.  Still, if you’d rather go this way, here are the options available to you:

Best Citi Transfer Partners

The following transfer partners represent the best potential value in my opinion.

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
Air France KLM Flying BlueMonthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.
Avianca LifeMilesAvianca LifeMiles can be great for Star Alliance awards. They offer reasonable award prices and no fuel surcharges on awards. They also offer shorthaul awards within the US (for flying United, for example) for as few as 7,500 miles one-way. Best of all, their mixed-cabin pricing can lead to fantastic first-class award prices. See this post for details.
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesCathay Pacific has a decent distance based award chart, but they no longer allow stopovers longer than 24 hours. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles can be a good option for booking American Airlines flights with a distance based award chart, especially if other OneWorld Alliance miles aren't available. For long distance flights, it is possible to reduce the cost of first class by adding on a business class flight. See this post for details.

Useful Citi Transfer Partners

The following transfer partners can offer great value under certain circumstances:

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
ChoiceChoice Privileges points seem to be randomly valuable within the US, but dependably valuable internationally in expensive locations such as Scandinavia and Japan
Emirates SkywardsThe best use of Emirates miles is to fly Emirates itself. See: Emirates Sweet Spot Awards - First class from 30K miles round trip.
Etihad GuestEtihad has a very competitive award chart for American Airlines flights, among others.  For example, they charge only 50,000 miles one-way for business class flights from North America to Europe. Partner awards must be booked over the phone.
EVA Air Infinity MileageLandsIf you want to fly one of the best business class products in the sky, the best way to snag EVA flights is with their own miles since they release more award space to their own members. One-way business class flights from the US to Taipei cost 75K to 80K miles. Fuel surcharges are very low on these routes.
JetBlueJetBlue points offer the most value when cheap ticket prices are available and when award taxes are high relative to the overall cost of the ticket (more details can be found here). The JetBlue Plus Card and the JetBlue Business Card offer a 10% rebate on awards, so you can get more value by holding one of these cards.
Qantas Frequent FlyerBest use is probably for flights on El Al with no fuel surcharges. Also useful for short AA flights. Qantas offers distance based award charts similar to Cathay Pacific. Both are OneWorld Alliance members. I recommend comparing award prices across both programs before transferring to either. Qantas offers round the world business class awards for only 280,000 points (but with many restrictions)
Qatar Privilege ClubQatar has reasonable award prices for flying Qatar itself, but abysmal prices for flying partners.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerUse to book Singapore Airlines First Class awards (generally reserved for their own members), Alaska Airlines economy awards, or for Star Alliance awards (including United Airlines).
Turkish Airlines Miles & SmilesMiles & Smiles offers a number of awesome sweet-spot awards including 7.5K one-way anywhere within the US, even to Hawaii. Many awards cannot be booked online but can be booked via email. See: Turkish Miles & Smiles Complete Guide and Turkish business class sweet spots from the US.
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubVirgin Atlantic offers quite a few sweet spot awards including ANA first class between the US and Japan for as low as 110K points round-trip; and US to Europe on Delta One business class for only 50K points one-way. See: Best uses for Virgin Atlantic points (Sweet Spot Spotlight).
WyndhamWyndham often allows booking multi-room suites for the same price as a standard room. It's sometimes possible to get great value from points in that way. Additionally, you can book vacation rentals for only 15K points per room per night.

The Other Transfer Partners

Here are the transfer partners that didn’t make my “best of” list, above. Note that some of these are still worth considering under certain circumstances.

Rewards ProgramBest Uses
AeroMexico ClubPremierAeroMexico is a SkyTeam partner. Club Premier points can be used to book flights on AeroMexico, SkyTeam alliance members (such as Delta or Korean Air), or on select partner airlines. Unfortunately many have reported that awards are extremely difficult to book through AeroMexico so we do not recommend transferring points to this program. If you want to fly AeroMexico, look to transfer points to another SkyTeam partner (such as Air France) and then book AeroMexico with that program.
Jet Airways Inter MilesJetAirways JetPrivilege miles are useful only for a few very specific cases such as certain flights to Hawaii for as low as 15K (30K business) one-way, or to the Caribbean or Central America for as low as 10K (20K business) one-way. Details can be found here.
Malaysia EnrichGiven Malaysia's award chart devaluation in June 2017, I'm not aware of any good uses for these miles.
Shop Your Way RewardsDon't do it. Shop Your Way points can be redeemed for a variety of gift cards. That said, unless Shop Your Way starts offering discounted gift cards, there's no point in converting transferrable points to Shop Your Way.
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid PlusI'm not aware of any good uses for these miles

Please also see: Pick a single transfer partner for each program’s points.

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Frank

If you downgrade to the no-fee card, make sure to make a transaction every few months to keep it active! Citi closes inactive accounts without advance warning and then you only have 60 days to redeem the points.

MatCyr

Hi Greg – have loved your site for a long time but commenting for the first time. If I want to cancel the Premier card, it’s best to apply for Reward+ card (to get the 10k points) and after getting the 10k points – call Citi to cancel the Premier card and transfer the points to Reward+ card – Am I thinking about this correctly?

Thank you!

Kim

Anyone done the conversion to Citi Premier to Rewards+ lately? We’re you able to keep the same CC # and did it preserve your TYPs? Did you experience the hiccup where the TYP website still shows the points as expiring within 60 days? TIA!

Kim

I was my own data point. Yes, the Service Rep was able to confirm immediately after the conversion that my card # remained the same and asserted that even if it did change, the product change could be reversed (immediately I imagine). Yes, I have kept my TY points, and yes, the TYP website shows the points as expiring within 60 days, which hopefully is just a hickup and won’t occur.

Brian

Is there any way to extend the expiration date of TYP earned from a checking account?

Aaron

currently in a middle of working on the min spend towards the signup bonus on my Premier card. just today i downgraded my Prestige to Rewards+ and received a new number. Am i now ineligible to receive the signup bonus on my Premier?

[…] transfers if I pooled them with the Premier. So I turned to these Frequent Miler’s guides (1 and 2). Highly recommended reads if you’re facing a similar […]

[…] Cancelling your Prestige or Premier card? Here’s how to keep your points alive. […]

ktc

due to lack of planning, I first downgraded Prestige to DC (new acct #) 3 yrs after SUB, then converted Premier to Prestige (same acct #) a yr after SUB, did either or both reset my 24-month clock on SUB?

Buzz

This is a very timely article for me. I’ve had the Prestige since its heyday as the best card out there. Not so much anymore. In December, I applied for the Premier and got the 60k bonus. My Prestige annual fee comes due in August. I just don’t see the value in the card anymore. I can still break even by booking two 4th night free stays but I have the Chase Reserve and Hilton Aspire which are more valuable to me.

So, I’m going to hit them for retention and/or product change to Rewards +.

CaveDweller

Buzz
Yes, Prestige offered me Nutting for a reup . Was my best card for the 2 years I had it as Lounge passes which are a thing of the past.
Good Luck , I try again in 48 months,
CHEERs

Matt

I’m fairly certain Asiamiles eliminated stopovers >24 hours on one-way awards

Barry

My wife and I each have a Premier card that are each less than a year old. Can I only downgrade the card after it’s open for one year? Does Citi refund annual fees if they already post before downgrading? Thanks.

Barry

Thank-you for your quick reply.

Robin M

Greg, I have 24,000 on a Delta sky miles AmEx with an annual fee of $195, free partner round trip yearly. I don’t want to continue to pay this fee, but don’t want to lost the miles. Renews in September. Can I transfer these miles to another airline(American) or should I just take a flight?

Helen S

Thanks for the excellent article.
On Friday I called Citi to downgrade my Prestige to a ThankYou Preferred. The agent confirmed my TY points would transfer to the Preferred and would not expire. Called Citi on Saturday to confirm that $495 fee would be reversed (it was due that day); the agent said yes to $495 reversal but said my TY points would expire after 60 days because I had canceled my Prestige. I objected but agent insisted. I figured calling again on the weekend was pointless. Called again today, Monday; the agent said points would not expire; I explained conflicting info on this matter; the agent connected me to a ThankYou specialist who confirmed my Prestige TY points will not expire on the Preferred. Fingers crossed that all goes well.
Suggestion: call on a weekday, and if you have any doubts, ask to be connected to a ThankYou agent.

Bob

This is an informative post. There is one risk of losing all your Thank You points that is not mentioned here – the risk of Citibank closing your account(s) for any reason and losing all of your points. This recently happened to me. I have the American Airlines (AA) card, the no-fee card that earns thank you points and the Citi Prestige card. All were closed and I lost about 415,000 thank you points. The AA card transfer miles directly to your AAdvantage monthly so the risk of losing the points is low. I have earned about 800,000 AA miles over the life of my membership. If Citibank closes your account for any reason other than inactivity you will lose all your thank you points. If they close it due to inactivity you have 60 days to use or transfer the points. I don’t know why they closed my accounts. For my Prestige card I added three other authorize users at the cost of $75 each on top of the $450 annual fee. According to Citibank my account redeem about $1,300 in lounge access in 2019. So I am getting my money’s worth there. I pay off my accounts each month avoiding interest. I have wrote them to obtain the specific reason why they closed my accounts. My oldest card with them was from 2006 (14 years), the Prestige card was since 2016. Anyways… Be aware of this risk. Don’t hold your points in your thank you account too long.

Alexander

Did you ever get an answer?

Neil

Since you “revived” this article I’ve been going over the comments and a few quick questions:
1) I downgraded Premier obtained in Feb 2018 to Rewards+ last year. I earned the Premier bonus in April 2018. Card number stayed the same when I downgraded. Am I correct that I can open up a new Premier in May 2020 and earn a signup bonus.
2) I have a Prestige card I’ll eventually need to downgrade. Can I have more than 1 Rewards+ card?

Thank you!

Neil

Thanks Greg