Citi recently implemented a massive wave of changes to its flagship Prestige card. Most of these were announced last year year but did not become effective until this week. Just ahead of the July 23rd implementation, Citi announced some meager positive changes to put a positive spin on things. While most of these recent developments are barely worth mentioning, there is one legitimate bit of good news: the sign-up bonus on the Citi Prestige card has gone up to 75k points.
Value of the Sign-Up Bonus
The bonus for this card was 40k miles, so the increase this week represents close to double the points. Unfortunately, the minimum guaranteed value of these points will be going down with the negative changes to the card. Points can be redeemed directly for airfare at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. This equates to $937.50 in free airfare if you choose to redeem your points in this manner.
Of course, you could increase the value of your points by transferring to one of Citi’s many transfer partners and creating an award booking. While this takes more time and effort, the extra value and luxury that is attainable may be worth it for many travelers. Citi does not partner with one of the three US legacy carriers (Delta, American, United), therefore if you would like to you use your miles to book an international award ticket you will need to navigate the award chart of one of the foreign carriers.
There are several great uses of ThankYou point. Points can be transferred to Flying Blue, which is the award program of Air France and KLM. Since Air France is a member of the SkyTeam alliance along with Delta, it is possible to book award flights on Delta through Flying Blue. A well-known sweet spot is booking trips from North American to Hawaii for only 30k miles round trip in economy.
Another transfer partner is Singapore Airlines, which opens up more award availability to its own members than it does for partner awards for those booking via another program. If you are looking for an aspirational first-class product, try to book Singapore Suites aboard their A380s. Another aspirational award made possible with ThankYou points is Qatar Airways Q-suites. These business class seats have partitions that can be lowered to create two- or four-person pods if you are traveling with friends or family.
Overall, the transfer partner options are as follows:
- 12 airlines which offer 1:1 point transfers
- JetBlue, which offers 2:1 points transfers (clearly you don’t want to lose half your points, so this option is best avoided)
- Hilton, which offers transfers at a 1:1.5 rate (currently there is a promo that increases this ratio to 1:2, however Hilton points are not very valuable, so this is a poor option despite the favorable ratio)
- Shop Your Way, which offers a 1:12 transfer ratio (this is a retail loyalty program for Sears and Kmart)
Amex Membership Rewards offering a 40% Transfer Bonus to Avios
There was some other good news for frequent travelers in July. The past couple of weeks have seen a huge change in the ratio for transferring American Express Membership Rewards to Avios, which is the award program of British Airways and Iberia. First, the long-standing standard transfer ratio improved from 5:4 to 1:1, meaning you no longer have to take a 20% cut when transferring Membership Rewards into Avios. Now Amex is running a promotion to give us 40% more Avios when transferring Membership Rewards.
This is welcome news because useful Membership Rewards transfer bonuses have become much less common than they were in years past. The promo ratio is 250:350 (1:1.4) and is valid through September 17. This gives travelers nearly two months to make a decision about whether to transfer their points. Anytime you a transferring a flexibility currency like Membership Rewards, it is important to carefully consider available award opportunities to ensure you don’t end up with miles you can’t use.
Should You Take Advantage of the Avios Transfer Bonus?
British Airways’ award chart has one of the starkest contrasts in value of any airline. They use a distance based chart that offers fantastic value for short haul awards yet the value equation for long haul awards is terrible. But there are some sweet spots. Let’s take a look.
Sweet Spot – Short Haul Economy Awards
British Airways award chart has nine zones based on flight distance. Zone 1 is for flights up to 650 miles. Partner awards up to this distance only cost 4,500 Avios each way. Compare that to a typical region-based award chart that would cost 10,000 to 12,500 miles each way and the savings are pretty significant. The one drawback here is that for flights within the US the lowest award price is 7,500 Avios, but this still represents a solid savings over a typical roundtrip economy award booked with one of the three US legacy carriers.
In fact, for flights in the US you can essentially combine Zones 1 and 2 since the Zone 2 price is also 7,500 Avios each way. This allows you to book roundtrip economy flights domestically up to 1,150 miles in distance each way for 15,000 Avios. The same flight would cost 25,000 miles with United or American assuming you can find saver level award availability.
Note that British Airways prices awards by segment, so in order to get these cheap award tickets you need to find non-stop routes. Also, since it is a oneworld alliance member, American Airlines is also a partner, so those flying to or from an AA hub will have the greatest number of routes from which to choose. British Airways website does a good job of pulling up American award availability so you should be able to complete the entire process online.