In the world of general travel rewards credit cards, there are three competing programs that dominate the market:
Even though the ThankYou program has been around for a long time, it only became popular last year when Citi added transfer airline partners and beefed up its credit card offerings. The benefits offered by the Citi ThankYou program make it a formidable alternative to Amex and Chase.
There are several avenues to get ThankYou points, most of them with credit cards. However, you can also earn ThankYou points with some of the Citi banking products.
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How to Get ThankYou Points with Citi Credit Cards
Citi ThankYou Credit Cards
- Citi Prestige
- Citi Premier
- Citi Preferred
Citi Prestige is the most rewarding ThankYou points card despite its high $450 annual fee. The card’s most valuable benefits include a 50,000-point sign up bonus (that you can use to buy an American Airlines $800 ticket); a $250 annual travel credit that you can apply to all airline-related expenses; a $100 Global Entry fee credit; and access to hundreds of AA Admiral Clubs, as well as Priority Pass airport lounges all over the world. The card also offers a good earning scheme that includes three points on a dollar for hotel and air travel and two points on dining and entertainment.
Citi Premier is another great way to earn ThankYou points, but its glorious days of 40,000-50,000-point sign up bonuses appear to be behind us. The reason why you might still want to consider the Citi Premier card is an excellent earning scheme, which is even better than what you get with Citi Prestige. The card offers three points for a dollar spent on all kinds of travel and commute, including gas, airfare, hotels, cruises, car rental agencies, travel agencies, railways, public transportation, tolls, taxis, parking and even vacation rentals, like Airbnb. You also get two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment just like you do with the Citi Prestige card. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Citi Preferred would appeal to people with strong feelings against annual-fee cards, and you still get two points for each dollar spent on dining and entertainment, and one point on everything else. With a 10,000-point sign-up bonus and no annual fee, Citi Preferred is a cheap and easy way to get acquainted with the program and see if it’s right for you. Note, however, that unlike Citi Prestige and Citi Premier, Citi Preferred does not allow you to transfer points to airline and Hilton HHonor programs.
Citi Preferred for College Students
This card is designed especially for students and has the same benefits as the regular Citi Preferred, except you only get a 2,500-point sign-up bonus. This card also carries no annual fee and applying for it is a good way to build one’s credit history while still getting two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment.
How to Get Citi ThankYou Points with Citi Banking Relationships
There are two Citibank checking accounts that allow you to earn ThankYou points: CitiGold and CitiBank. You can earn ThankYou points by using direct deposit, bill payment, and other functions of your account. Basically, you can earn from 1,000 monthly (CitiBank account) to 1,600 points monthly (CitiGold account) for different kinds of activities. That translates into 12,000 to 19,200 points annually. Note, however, that you might be responsible for paying taxes if you receive $600 per year or more by spending ThankYou points. See the chart below or refer to this Citi TY Calculator.
Both accounts carry monthly fees unless you meet certain requirements. You will pay a $30 monthly fee for CitiGold account unless you meet one of the following conditions:
- $50,000 or more average daily balance in all linked deposit accounts.
- $100,000 or more in investment account combined with average daily balance in linked deposit accounts.
- $250,000 or more in mortgage balance combined with average daily balance in linked deposit accounts.
You will pay a $20 monthly fee for CitiBank account unless you meet one of the following conditions:
- $15,000 or more average daily balance in all linked deposit accounts.
- $15,000 or more in investment or Home Equity Line or Loan.
- $15,000 or more mortgage balance.
Citibank is known for targeting some people with a 40,000-50,000-point bonus for opening a CitiGold account, but you must really be targeted for the offer. Lately, Citibank has been cracking down on those who have applied for the account using codes found on the Internet.
How to Use ThankYou Points
Not all ThankYou points are equal. Here is what you need to know if you have the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier credit card.
- You can transfer points to an airline of your choice or the Hilton HHonors program.
- The Citi Prestige cardholders can redeem points at 1:1.6 ratio for American Airlines flights or 1: 1.33 ratio for other airlines.
- The Citi Premier cardholders can redeem points at 1:1.25 ratio for all flights.
Transferring to Airlines
If you hold one of these credit cards, transferring your ThankYou points to a partner airline is one of your most lucrative options, especially for business or first class travel. The transfer partners are:
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Etihad Guest (get a 25% bonus on transfers until 7/31/16)
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
- Flying Blue (Air France, KLM, etc.)
- Garuda Indonesia GarudaMiles
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Airways Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
- Virgin America (1,000 TY points = 500 Virgin points)
- Virgin Atlantic
- Hilton HHonors (1000 TY points = 1,500 HH points)
Redeeming for Gift Cards and Other Methods
If you don’t have the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier credit card, your best bet is redeeming your points for gift cards, or payment of student loans or mortgages. All these redemptions will generally give you a penny for every point. Other options, such as redeeming for a Visa gift card, statement balance credit or purchases should be avoided due to poor redemption rates.
Transferring to Other Members
Citi ThankYou has the most liberal transferring policy among general credit card rewards program. You can transfer your points to any other ThankYou member without limitations, however, the transferred points expire within 90 days. So you probably shouldn’t transfer your points to another account until you are ready to book your travel.
Strategies for Optimizing and not Losing Citi ThankYou Points
Citi ThankYou points is one of the best travel reward currencies out there, but you need to understand how they work or you might find your points forfeited. Citi tracks the ways your points have been earned, so it doesn’t matter if you are using your points yourself or transfer them to another person because Citi will not allow you to use taxable points (from your banking account) to be transferred to a travel program. Here is the breakdown.
ThankYou Points Earned with Banking Accounts
- Your ThankYou points will expire in three years after the end of the first year when you opened your account.
- If you transfer your ThankYou points earned from your banking activities to another person, she won’t be able to transfer them to an airline even if this person is a Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cardholder. However, these points can be used for airline redemptions at 1:1.6/1.33 ratio (with Citi Prestige) or 1:1.25 ratio (with Citi Premier).
ThankYou Points Earned with All Accounts
- If you transfer your ThankYou points to another person, they will expire in 90 days after the transfer if not used.
- If you close your account, you will need to use the ThankYou points within the next two months to avoid the forfeiture.
And of course, ThankYou points earned with a credit card will not expire as long as you have the card. This is why if you want to get rid of your annual fee ThankYou card, you should consider downgrading rather than closing. If you still have unused points, it’s always a better idea to downgrade to the Citi Preferred card rather than cancel your account altogether.