We’ve seen some great enhancements recently to Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program! Most recently, they introduced the Citi Custom Cash which earns 5x in whatever category you spend most each billing cycle. Other recent changes and additions include: Citi Double Cash’s ability to convert cash back into points; the new Rewards+ card offers a 10% rebate on awards; and the Premier card has expanded 3x categories, including grocery stores. With all of those changes, ThankYou Rewards may now be the most rewarding of all transferable points programs for credit card spend. Chase and Amex still have Citi beat by a mile, though, with respect to earning points via signup bonuses.
Citi ThankYou Rewards points can be transferred to airline partners, used to pay for travel or merchandise, redeemed to pay bills, or converted to cash back. Citi ThankYou Rewards competes directly with three other bank issued transferable points programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Capital One “Miles”..
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about ThankYou Rewards.
Earn Citi ThankYou Rewards Points
The easiest and quickest way to earn ThankYou points is through Citi credit card signup bonuses, credit card spend, and retention offers (call about once per year to ask if any offers are loaded to your cards). Below are the current Citibank cards that earn ThankYou rewards. Of particular note are cards that earn 3X to 5X rewards within certain categories of spend: Citi Premier (3X grocery, dining, gas stations, flights, hotels, and travel agencies), AT&T Access More (3X online retail), Custom Cash (5X in various categories), and Citi Prestige (5X airfare, dining, and travel agencies; 3X hotels and cruise lines).
Recent additions to the list include:
- Custom Cash: Earn 5X in whatever category you spend most each billing cycle, up to $500. Available categories are Restaurants, Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, Select Travel, Select Transit, Select Streaming Services, Drugstores, Home Improvement Stores, Fitness Clubs and Live Entertainment.
- Double Cash: Earn 2% back everywhere. The card isn’t new but the ability to convert your cash back to ThankYou points is new. This makes the Double Cash a 2X everywhere ThankYou card!
- Rewards+: This card rounds up rewards to the nearest 10 points (which means that it is great for low cost transactions) and, most interestingly, offers a 10% rebate on redeemed points, up to 10,000 back per year. When the card’s ThankYou account is combined with other ThankYou cards, you get 10% of your points back for any award redemption including transfers to airline miles! For more about this card, see: Citi Rewards+ is a great companion to Premier or Prestige.
Important: You cannot get a bonus on a new ThankYou Rewards card if you have received a bonus or cancelled the same card or another card in the same family within the past 24 months. This limitation does not apply to the Double Cash card since it is not considered a full-fledged ThankYou Rewards card. This limitation also does not apply to the Custom Cash card since it has its own restriction (can’t get a new bonus if you’ve received one for the same card in the past 48 months). The credit card offer terms for the rest of the ThankYou Rewards cards state the following:
Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+®, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi Premier® or Citi Prestige®, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.
|Card Offer and Details|
Some Citi banking products also earn ThankYou Rewards points. If you can find a good signup bonus (like this one), you can earn 40,000 to 60,000 points that way. Unfortunately, very few points can be earned after the signup bonus.
As you can see above, not counting any signup bonus, the most you can earn from a single banking account is 1600 points per month. If you have the Citi Premier card and plan to use these points for 1.25 cents each towards travel, 1600 points amounts to only $20 in travel. That’s better than nothing, but its a far cry from what is possible with credit card earnings.
Bank point limitations: Points earned through banking are taxable. Further, these points cannot be transferred to airline partners (not even if you move the points to a friend’s account or combine with a premium Citi card).
Redeem Citi ThankYou Rewards Points
In general, ThankYou Rewards points are worth up to 1 cent each. There are two ways in which it is possible to get more value, though: redeem points for travel or transfer points to airline partners. More below…
In general, if you book travel through the Citi ThankYou portal, you’ll get only 1 cent per point value (this doesn’t count the added value of having the Rewards+ 10% rebate). One exception is the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit…
Redeem points for a 4 night hotel stay: 25% point discount pre-tax (up to 1.33 cents per point value)
This option requires the Citi Prestige Card. Book a 4 Night hotel stay for the price of 3 nights (not counting taxes & fees, the 25% discount results in 1.33 cents per point value). If you would like to use points earned on other cards, either combine your cards together or share your points (move points) from the other card to your Citi Prestige. This benefit can be used twice per year.
Hotels booked through the ThankYou portal way do not earn hotel rewards. Worse, hotels booked through the portal often won’t offer you elite benefits even if you have status.
Details about the 4th Night Free benefit can be found here: Complete Guide to Citi Prestige 4th Night Free.
The best use of ThankYou points, in my opinion, is to transfer points to airline partners in order to book high value awards. Your best bet is usually to wait until you find a great flight award before transferring points. One exception: Citi often offers 25% or 30% transfer bonuses to certain programs. If you’re confident that you’ll use the points for good value, it may make sense to transfer points when those bonuses are in effect.
Point limitations: Points earned through banking, or as courtesy points from Citi, cannot be transferred to airline partners (not even if you move the points to a friend’s account or combine with a premium Citi card).
Current Transfer Bonuses
At the time that I’m writing this there are no active transfer bonuses, but when a transfer bonus appears, details will automatically appear here:
|Transfer Bonus Details||End Date Sortable|
|Rewards Program||Best Uses|
|AeroMexico ClubPremier||AeroMexico 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.|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||Monthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.|
|American AAdvantage||Best for AA's web special awards or for partner awards such as Cathay Pacific business class, Qatar business class, Etihad first class, etc. AA no longer charges change or cancellation fees on awards.|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Avianca 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 Miles||Cathay 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.|
|Emirates Skywards||The best use of Emirates miles is to fly Emirates itself. See: Emirates Sweet Spot Awards - First class from 30K miles round trip.|
|Etihad Guest||Etihad 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 MileageLands||If 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.
|Jet Airways Inter Miles||JetAirways 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.|
|JetBlue||JetBlue 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.|
|Malaysia Enrich||Given Malaysia's award chart devaluation in June 2017, I'm not aware of any good uses for these miles.|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||Best 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 Club||Qatar has reasonable award prices for flying Qatar itself, but abysmal prices for flying partners.|
|Shop Your Way Rewards||Don'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.|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Use 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).|
|Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus||I'm not aware of any good uses for these miles|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||Miles & 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 Club||Virgin 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).|
Citi Preferred, Premier, Prestige and Custom Cash cardholders can redeem points for 1 cent each either as statement credits or as cash back.
Through the ThankYou Rewards portal you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise, charity, bill payments, and more. At most, with this approach you’ll get 1 cent per point value. One exception is that Citi occasionally offers gift cards at a discount so you may be able to get better than 1 cent per point value during a gift card sale.
You can also use points to pay some merchants directly (Amazon.com, for example). Don’t do this. These options offer very poor value.
Sweet spot awards
Our post, Citi ThankYou points sweet spots for high value redemptions, details the best value uses of Citi ThankYou points. Either click here or click below to jump to a section of the post:
Manage Citi ThankYou Rewards Points
If you are the primary account holder with multiple 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 Prestige card, and have combined ThankYou accounts, then you’ll get 4th Night Free on hotels booked with points even if the points were earned on a card other than the Prestige card. Similarly, if you combine other cards with the Rewards+ card, you’ll get a 10% rebate on all award redemptions (up to 10,000 rebated points per year) even if the points originated from a different card. If you have both the Prestige and the Rewards+ card combined together, then you can get both 4th Night Free and 10% back on the same award.
There are some disadvantages to combining points:
- You lose the ability to pick and choose which points are used when you redeem awards.
- You lose visibility into how many points remain with each card.
The above disadvantages become important when you want to cancel a card: when you cancel a card, all points earned from that account are lost after 60 days. I recommend downgrading to a no-fee ThankYou card rather than cancelling outright. That way your points are safe.
Citi generously allows people to transfer ThankYou points to anyone else, for free. There are two “catches” to this:
- Shared points expire after 90 days. Make sure you have a specific near-term use in mind before transferring points.
- 100K limit: Each member may share up to 100,000 points per calendar year. Each member may receive up to 100,000 points per calendar year.
Why this is valuable:
- A friend or family member with a Premier card can book travel for you in order to get the 20% point discount.
- If a friend has airline elite status with one of Citi’s transfer partners with which you want to book an award, you may be better off transferring points to your friend who can then transfer the points to the airline partner and book the award for you (to get free award changes, for example).
There are several situations in which you may have Citi ThankYou Rewards points that will expire:
- Points earned by a credit card account expire 60 days after cancelling that account.
- Points transferred to your account expire after 90 days.
- Points earned from some older credit cards expire in a set amount of time after points were earned (e.g. 3 or 5 years after December 31 of the year in which the points were earned).
- Points earned from some credit cards expire if your credit card account has no purchase activity in 18 months.
- Points earned from Citibank banking products expire 3 years after December 31 of the year in which the points were earned.
Credit card points: how to keep points alive
With most credit card points (except with some older credit cards which are no longer available), points remain alive until you cancel the card from which they were earned. Once you cancel the card, points expire after 60 days.
Combining accounts does not solve the problem. When you combine multiple ThankYou accounts, it’s natural to assume that as long as you keep any ThankYou Rewards credit card open, your points will be safe. That’s simply not the case. Citi keeps track of where each ThankYou point came from. If you cancel a card, the points earned on that card expire after 60 days. Period.
The best way to preserve your ThankYou points is to keep your credit card account alive. If you don’t want an annual fee, then call to downgrade to a no-fee ThankYou card. There is a side benefit to this approach too: Your no fee card may be eligible for occasional lucrative retention offers. See: How one call led to a points bonanza and rethought plans.
Bank product points: how to keep points alive
Points earned from banking products (such as checking accounts) expire 3 years after December 31 of the year in which the points were earned.. Fortunately, when redeeming points combined across multiple accounts, Citi automatically uses first whichever points have the most recent expiration date. So, in general, your banking product points (which eventually expire) will be used first if you have combined accounts.