The strength of flexible bank points is, you guessed it, their flexibility. Not only can these points be transferred to an airline partner, they can also be redeemed as cash back for statement credits or used via a travel portal toward flights, hotels and car rentals.
Citi ThankYou Points can do the latter via the Citi Travel Center. It’s possible to use ThankYou Points to book flights, hotels, cars, activities and cruises through the travel portal. The value you receive varies based on the ThankYou Point-earning credit card you have.
Since the Citi Travel Center could play an important role in your redemption strategy, we’re going to touch on all the things you need to know to get the most of these portal bookings.
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Like American Express and Chase, Citi issues co-branded credit cards, such as the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard or the Costco Anywhere Visa Card, as well as cards in its own ThankYou Points portfolio.
To earn flexible ThankYou Points, you’ll want to focus on the ThankYou Points card family. Keeping one or multiple cards on the list gives you access to the Citi ThankYou Rewards portal:
- AT&T Access Card from Citi
- AT&T Access More Card from Citi (not available to new applicants)
- Citi Double Cash Card
- Citi Premier Card
- Citi Prestige Card
- Citi Rewards+ Card
- Citi Rewards+ Student Card
Keep in mind that if you want to transfer to airline partners, you’ll need to have either the Citi Premier or the Citi Prestige.
Another option to get your hands on some ThankYou Points is by opening an eligible checking or savings account with Citi or connecting an existing account with ThankYou Rewards and performing certain banking activities.
Each eligible monthly activity earns ThankYou Points. Accounts that qualify are Citigold, Citi Priority and Citi Private Bank Account. One debit or credit card transaction per month is required to keep the rewards coming from the checking or savings account.
Those with a standard Citi account have to receive a direct deposit and pay one qualifying bill per month to generate points each statement period.
As mentioned above, not all rewards earned within Citi’s ThankYou family of cards are worth the same. A ThankYou Point earned with the Citi Rewards+ Card isn’t equal to a ThankYou Point earned with the Citi Premier Card. The table below illustrates the redemption rates.
|Credit Card||ThankYou Points’ Value|
|AT&T Access Card from Citi||1 cent|
|Citi Double Cash Card||1 cent|
|Citi Premier Card||1.25 cents for airfare, hotels, cars and cruises; 1 cent for activities|
|Citi Prestige Card||1 cent|
|Citi Rewards+ Card||1 cent|
|Citi Rewards+ Student Card||1 cent|
Yes, you read the table correctly. Points earned with the Citi Premier Card are worth more toward airfare, hotel rooms and rental cars booked in the travel portal than points earned with their flagship Citi Prestige Card (annual fee of $495).
As seen in the table above, ThankYou Points earned with the Citi Premier Card are worth the most when redeemed through the Citi Travel Center. For this reason, it’s the card you want to use for portal redemptions when booking flights, hotels and cars.
If you also hold the no-fee Citi Double Cash Card, which earns 2% cash back on every single purchase, you can convert that cash back to ThankYou Points by linking your Citi accounts. Every $1 converted will result in 100 ThankYou Points redeemable through the travel portal.
Additionally, points can be transferred between Citi members, and they don’t have to be family members or live in the same household. Any Citi credit card holder can transfer ThankYou Points to another card member at no cost. The catch is that the points must be redeemed within 90 days of the transfer or they’ll expire. Because of this, do it only when you have an immediate need for points.
In some circumstances, using ThankYou Points via the Citi Travel Center will be more beneficial than transferring the same points to one of the airline partners. Why? Let’s find out.
When your ticket requires fewer points: As simple as it sounds, why would you transfer more points to an airline partner and pay taxes on top of the miles when you can book the same ticket using fewer points through the portal?
This happens whenever an airline runs a sale, usually for economy tickets, and the points valued at 1.25 cents apiece cover the purchase entirely (with taxes) at a lesser total than what an award booking would require.
When your ticket isn’t available for a redemption: Again, this sounds intuitive, but if you can’t find availability and the ticket cost in cash is reasonable, why not cover it with points by booking a flight through the travel portal? You’ll save cash and still earn miles by crediting the flight to a partner program of choice because it’s not an award ticket in a traditional sense.
When you want to save cash: Believe me, award travel isn’t rocket science (even though it seems that way at first). Have you accumulated lots of points? Do you want to save as much cash as possible on a trip? Are you OK flying in economy class? Then use points to cover a flight or a hotel room and save money for culinary adventures and activities in your destination.
The Citi Travel Center, powered by cxLoyalty Travel Solutions, acts as an online travel agency, and booking various travel components through it is pretty straightforward. Remember that you can use ThankYou Points via the portal to book any of these travel components for yourself or anyone else.
To search for a flight in the Citi Travel Center, click on the “Travel” tab and then choose “Flights.” Enter your city pairs, travel dates and number of passengers. Once you get some results on the next page, you can filter them by number of stops, airlines, price range and booking class.
Only ThankYou Points earned with the Citi Premier are worth 1.25 cents toward flights redeemed through the portal. Points earned with all other ThankYou Point-earning cards are worth 1 cent each.
If you’re short on points, you can pay with a combination of ThankYou Points and cash. Enter your name, birth date and other personal details, and you’re good to go.
You can redeem ThankYou Points online or by calling 1-800-THANK-YOU (1-800-842-6596) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern Time and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Airline tickets booked over the phone incur a $23 booking fee per ticket.
The exception to this rule is tickets for airlines not listed on the Citi Travel Center, such as Southwest Airlines, for example. You can call the number above to ticket a Southwest flight by redeeming ThankYou Points and not incur a phone booking fee.
From the same “Travel” tab, select “Hotels” and enter your destination, travel dates as well as the number of guests. The filters will let you narrow down your search by price, star rating and amenities.
As is the case with flights, you can use a mix of cash and points to make room reservations. ThankYou Points redeemed toward hotels through the travel portal are worth 1.25 cent each when redeemed in conjunction with the Citi Premier Card and 1 cent in conjunction with another ThankYou Points-earning card.
Keep in mind that chain hotels booked through the Citi Travel Center are treated like all other third-party bookings—properties where you have elite status likely won’t recognize it and won’t offer any benefits associated with said status. It’s a risk you should be comfortable taking whenever using an online travel agency to make a reservation.
It’s worth noting that hotel nights booked using the 4th Night Free benefit of the Citi Prestige Card applies to reservations made with ThankYou Points. You can use it up to two times per year, and your savings will be reflected at checkout as usual.
Need a trusted steed for a more efficient exploring while on vacation? OK, you can’t actually rent a real horse, but you can find a reliable vehicle for a weekend.
To locate a preferred rental car option, go to “Travel,” then click on “Cars” and enter your search parameters, such as location, rental dates and driver’s age. Filter your results by pickup/drop-off location, capacity, car type, rental company and other options, such as whether you want child seats or automatic transmission.
You’re just a few clicks away from renting a car. All you have left is entering personal information and submitting a payment type—in cash, points or a mix of both—to complete your reservation.
ThankYou Points earned with the Citi Premier Card are worth 1.25 cents toward renting cars through the Citi Travel Center. All other Citi ThankYou Points are worth 1 cent apiece.
If you find yourself in Greece with nothing to do—I know this would never happen, but just go with it for a second—the ThankYou Travel Center can carpe diem your entire vacation by offering activities in a city you’re visiting.
Simply type your destination and travel dates and sift through a number of sightseeing tours and activities for the dates you’ll be visiting. The options include biking tours, shore excursions and hot air balloon adventures, among others. If you need something as simple as an airport transfer to your hotel, you can find those options under “Activities” as well.
All ThankYou Points are worth about 1 to 1.1 cents when redeemed for tours and activities via the travel portal, no matter what card you click through to the portal.
Although you’re able to look through the various cruise options online, the only way to book one with ThankYou Points is over the phone by calling 1-800-THANK-YOU (1-800-842-6596). Browse the featured cruises page or search by destination. Once you choose a cruise, call Citi to complete the point redemption.
Depending on your travel goals, utilizing the Citi Travel Center shouldn’t be dismissed, especially when redeeming ThankYou Points for cars, economy flights and rooms at non-chain hotels.
Keep in mind that you won’t be getting outsized value out of your points by redeeming them in the travel portal, but certain redemptions make sense. In some cases, using the portal can provide more flexibility or a lower redemption rate, which beats partner redemptions with inconvenient itineraries.
You don’t have to fly in business class to get the most out of your rewards. The ultimate goal of award travel is accomplishing your travel goals and the Citi Travel Center just might help you do that.
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