"CreditShout is a community of personal finance experts dedicated to helping you save money and make smart financial decisions. Learn how to master your credit card rewards, improve your credit score and start eliminating your debt."
The Citi ThankYou Rewards program has undergone many changes in the last few years. We think these changes are for the better. And that your ThankYou rewards points are worth more than ever.
If you have not looked at Citi's ThankYou Rewards program in a while, the first thing you will notice is that they did away with its Citi ThankYou shopping portal. The second thing you will notice is that you now can transfer points to travel partner loyalty programs.
So is the ThankYou Rewards program as good as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards? Let's find out.
Earning ThankYou Points
There are currently 3 Citi cards that earn ThankYou points:
Side-by-Side Comparison of ThankYou Cards
No annual fee
2x points on restaurants and entertainment
1x points on everything else
0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
$95 annual fee (waived the first year)
3x points on travel (including gas)
2x points on dining and entertainment
1x points on everything else
Citi Prestige® Card
$450 annual fee
3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
1x points on everything else
$250 Air Travel Credit each year
4th night hotel benefit for any stay booked through Concierge.
40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in in the first 3 months
As you can see, the perks of the Prestige Card run longer, and really help justify that annual fee.
But, as you will see, the benefits of the Prestige Card do not end there. It comes with additional perks when redeeming ThankYou points - making those points even more valuable than those earned with the Preferred or Premier cards.
While using a card is certainly the most obvious way to earn points, you can also earn ThankYou points with qualifying Citi products and services linked to an eligible checking account.
The returns from checking account activity are fairly low, though, and these points do expire and cannot be transferred to partners.
ThankYou points you earn on credit card spending do not expire, are easily transferred to Citi partners, and there is no cap on the points you can earn.
Unfortunately, the most ThankYou points you can currently earn is 3 points per $1.
It would be nice to see Citi offer a card with bonus categories to earn up to 5x points.
Redeeming ThankYou Points
There are several ways to redeem ThankYou points. Be aware, though, that they are definitely not all equal.
Most redemption options give you a sub-par point value of less than 1 cent for each point. Thankfully, there are a few ThankYou redemption options that can give you a great return.
ThankYou Travel Center
Like the Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards programs, the ThankYou Rewards program has a travel center to redeem points for rental cars, hotel stays, flights, and cruises.
How much your points are worth through the travel center depends on which card you have.
With the standard Preferred card, points are worth a standard 1 cent each. With the Premier card, you get a 25% redemption bonus so your points can be redeemed at 1.25 cents each for travel. The Citi Prestige card gives you 1.33 cents per point on travel.
The Prestige card (obviously) gives you the best value through the Travel Center. And it should with its $450 annual fee.
With the Prestige card, you can either get 33% more value when you book flights (1.33 cents/point) or 60% more value (1.66 cents/point) when you redeem for American Airlines or US Airways flights.
This is a great perk you can enjoy without getting the American Airlines Citi co-branded airlines card.
Along with the boosted value, airfare purchased through Citi's Travel Center are treated as paid tickets. This means they are eligible to earn elite-qualifying miles and miles with airline partners.
Another way to maximize the value of your ThankYou points is transferring them to a partner airline or hotel loyalty program.
This is only an option with the Premier and Prestige cards. It is not offered offered to cardholders with the no annual fee Preferred card.
Points are typically transferred at a 1:1 ratio except in the case of Virgin America, which has a 1:0.5 transfer ratio.
Citi ThankYou Rewards airline partners currently include:
Cathay Pacific Airways (AsiaMiles includes 20 programs like Air China and Mexicana)
Etihad Airways (Etihad includes almost 40 airline programs like Air France, American Airlines, JetBlue, and SAS)
Air France / KLM's Flying Blue (Flying Blue miles can be used to book on Delta)
Virgin Atlantic Airways
While most partners are international, you can book great domestic awards through the ThankYou Rewards program by pricing out partner awards and direct redemptions.
Sometimes you will need to transfer points to a loyalty program like Flying Blue and use those miles to book on a domestic carrier like Delta to get the best value.
The good news is that it is possible to get more than 4 cents per point value.
You can also transfer points to the Hilton HHonors program with 1,500 HHonors points for every 1,000 ThankYou points.
A nice perk of the ThankYou Rewards program is you can transfer ThankYou points between accounts with few restrictions. All you need to make a transfer is the other member's full name and ThankYou Member account number to make a transfer.
While ThankYou points don't expire, shared points do expire after just 90 days. So only share points that will be used right away.
Other Redemption Options
There are several other standard redemption options for your points like statement credits, gift card, Shop With Points, Online Bill Pay With Points, and merchandise.
Unfortunately, the value with these options is 1 cent per point or less.
If you choose another redemption option, gift cards are the only way to get the standard 1 cent per point value. Even then, you need to redeem for higher-value gift cards for this value.
With a statement credit, you need to redeem 2,000 points for a $10 credit, or a value of 0.5 cents per point.
An alternative to a statement credit is the Select and Credit redemption. This works the same way as a statement credit, but is applied to specific categories like utility bills, gas, entertainment, and dining.
In this case, your value is bumped a bit to 0.75 cents per point, but still below standard.
With Shop with Points on sites like Amazon, 10,000 points is equal to an $80 purchase, or a value of 0.8 cents/point.
The bottom line is that Citi's ThankYou rewards program is much improved, but is still not as good as the competition.
What we would like to see are:
Cards that offer the ability to earn points faster (though the Prestige card is close, even with its $450 fee)
Better redemption options - When you redeem for gift cards or statement credits, your points should always be worth at least one cent.
All that being said, if you fly American a lot, and want an alternative to the Citi / AAdvantage credit card offerings, one of the ThankYou rewards cards might be right up your alley.
Credit Shout is a community of personal finance experts dedicated to helping you save money and make smart financial decisions. Learn how to master your credit card rewards, improve your credit score and start eliminating your debt.