There are two ways to use your Citi ThankYou points to fly to Europe: booking your ticket with the Citi Travel Center and transferring your points to one of the Citi partner airline programs. If you want to maximize the value of your hard-earned Citi ThankYou points, the approach your take might depend on several factors.
- The type of Citi credit card you have
- Desired airline
- Hub or city you’re flying from
- Class of service
- Award flight availability
- Price of a corresponding cash ticket
When You Are Better Off Using the Citi Travel Center
You can only transfer points to an airline program with one of the Citi premium ThankYou cards – Citi Prestige and Citi Premier. Both of them offer additional benefit for using the Citi Travel Center. If you are a Citi Prestige cardholder, you can redeem points at 1:1.6 ratio on American Airlines.
This is a huge benefit and an excellent reason to redeem your points at the Citi Travel Center. For example, you can use 50,000 points to buy an $800 ticket. If you are looking for an economy class redemption on American Airlines that’s a great bargain. It is possible for you to save a few points by transferring to the AAdvantage program, but the simplicity of booking can’t be beat.
If you are a Citi Prestige cardholder, but want to fly on another airline, you can redeem your points at 1: 1.33 ratio. In this case the same 50,000 TY points will buy you a $665 ticket. And finally, if you don’t have a Citi Prestige card, but you are a Citi Premier cardholder, you can redeem points at 1:1.25 ratio for any airline. That means the same 50,000 TU points are good for a $625 ticket.
Since the regular award cost for a roundtrip flight between the U.S. and Europe for all major airlines is 60,000 miles, you will often come out ahead by booking your flight via the Citi Travel Center. You will still earn miles with your purchase, and it’s a simple transaction.
When You Are Better Off Transferring to Airlines
While Citi ThankYou has 12 airlines programs you can transfer you points to, not all of them offer particularly good deals to travel to Europe. Some of them have high mileage redemption rates, some make redemptions a bit complicated, while others hit you with excessive fuel surcharges. There are three partners you should consider if you want to optimize your ThankYou points.
Use Etihad to Fly to Europe
Using Etihad Guest Miles for redeeming award flights on American Airlines will feel as if you are transported back in time. Etihad uses a pre-devaluation AA award chart featuring levels you can’t get any longer with AA’s own AAdvantage miles.
A flight between the U.S. and Europe will only cost you 40,000 miles per roundtrip if you fly between October 15 and May 15. If you would like to go to Europe during this time and there is availability (you need to check the AA web site first), this is one situation where you might want to transfer points rather than book via the Travel Center. Depending on the credit card you hold, 40,000 points can buy you either a $500 ticket (with Citi Premier) or $640 ticket (with Citi Prestige). So if the cash price of your flight is higher, transferring points is a better option.
Remember that Etihad allows you to book an award flight on AA metal only.
If you are looking into getting a premium-class ticket, you’ll almost always will be better off by transferring points, as the cash price of business or first class tickets is usually very high. For example, an AA roundtrip flight in business between New York and Paris can cost around $3,000. If you were to buy this ticket with Citi ThankYou points via the Citi Travel Center, it would cost you at least around 180,000 points (and more if you are not a Citi Prestige cardholder). However, if you transfer your points to Etihad Guest to book your AA flight, you will only pay 100,000 miles.
However, the very best value for Europe can be had with another Etihad partner, Brussels Airlines. Brussels has an unbelievably generous rate on Etihad for flights between New York and the Belgian capital: 21,972 for economy and 36,620 miles for business, per roundtrip. There is absolutely no way to get anything close to these values with any frequent flyer programs in the world.
Don’t worry if Brussels is not your final destination. The Brussels award levels on Etihad are so low that you can easily add other segments and still keep ahead of the game. The cheapest add-on is to Paris for 1,550, and the most expensive is to Moscow for 13,960 miles. Both are for roundtrip flights. That means that even the most expensive roundtrip flight between New York and Europe in business class on Brussels Airlines costs less than 51,000 miles.
Right now, there is a 25% bonus for transferring ThankYou points to Etihad, which is valid until July 31. Consider taking advantage of this promotion if you intend to use the points for flights on American, Brussels or Flying Blue.
Use Flying Blue to Fly to Europe
Flying Blue is a frequent flyer program of Air France, KLM and other airlines, and as a member of SkyTeam it gives you access to Delta flights as well.
The Flying Blue award chart doesn’t offer phenomenal values between the U.S. and Europe, but there are a few sweet spots. First, economy awards cost 50,000 miles per roundtrip rather than 60,000 with the U.S. carriers. Second, the Flying Blue chart places Israel in Europe (other programs put it in the Middle East, which means more expensive redemptions). That means you can fly to Israel for 50,000 miles in economy and 125,000 miles in business per roundtrip.
Third, Flying Blue often has amazing 25%-50% off promos between certain city pairs in Europe and the U.S.
Note, however, that most Flying Blue airlines add fuel surcharges, although there aren’t any fuel surcharges for Delta.
Use Virgin Atlantic Miles to Fly to Europe
Virgin Atlantic has great award redemption values for flights between the U.S. (especially Eastern U.S.) and Europe in both classes, economy and business, although outrageous Heathrow Airport fees and fuel surcharges in Upper Class make business class TY redemptions on Virgin a less attractive option.
Still, you can book a roundtrip flight for 35,000 miles and a one-way flight for 17,500 miles. If you are using Virgin miles to fly to London, but return from another, less expensive airport, for example Madrid, you will save loads of cash. What’s even more interesting is that a one-way premium economy award flight between the Eastern U.S. and London costs only 27,500 miles. Considering that a typical U.S. airline award rate in economy between the U.S. and Europe is 30,000 miles, this is a terrific value.
Another great option to use Virgin miles for flights to Europe is on Delta, which, sometimes, offers better redemption rates than Delta’s own. For example, a roundtrip flight between the U.S. and London is 40,000 miles in economy and 90,000 in business, which is considerably cheaper than Delta’s own levels (60,000 in economy and 125,000 miles in business). Flights to other destinations in U.K. and Europe cost more traditional 60,000 in economy and 100,000 miles in business. There are no fuel surcharges for flights on Delta with Virgin Atlantic miles, but one-way redemptions are not allowed.
There are other transferring options to use ThankYou points for flights to Europe, but the ones we’ve mentioned can get you a really good bang for your points. And there’s still time to book a trip this summer!