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- Citi ThankYou Rewards points are valuable because the program partners with 16 airlines, including JetBlue, Air France / KLM, and Cathay Pacific.
- Some partners, including Turkish Airlines and Singapore Airlines, have lower award prices on some routes than other frequent flyer programs (like the mainland US to Hawaii).
- Others, including Qantas and Avianca, might seem strange for US-based travelers to consider — but you can also get cheaper award flights in the US with their pricing.
- A few programs, like Malaysia Airlines and Eva Air, aren't useful to the average flyer at all.
- To access all of Citi's transfer partners, you'll need to have the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, but you can combine ThankYou points from other cards to these accounts then make a transfer.
- Read Business Insider's guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.
Earning transferable points with rewards credit cards is one of the best strategies you can use to maximize returns on your spending. Programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards are popular with award travelers, in part because their transfer partners include numerous domestic airlines and popular hotel chains.
The Citi ThankYou Rewards program is a bit of an underdog in this regard, with just one domestic carrier among 16 airline transfer options and no current hotel partners. But that doesn't mean you can't squeeze excellent value from the program — in fact, some of Citi's international airline transfer partners offer lucrative sweet spots that allow you to book award flights for far less than other frequent flyer programs charge.
That's on top of the numerous other ways to use your rewards points, like booking travel directly through the Citi travel portal, paying your student loan or mortgage, or cashing in rewards for gift cards and merchandise. These options are available to any ThankYou Rewards cardholder, but to unlock the ability to transfer points to all of Citi's airline partners, you'll need to have the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card in your wallet.
Citi Premier® Card
For example, the Miles & Smiles partner award chart requires only 7,500 Turkish miles for an economy-class flight anywhere within the US, including Hawaii, on Star Alliance partner United Airlines. If you booked the exact same flight through the United MileagePlus frequently flyer program, you'd pay 22,500 United miles.
Using the Miles & Smiles program does take a bit of patience as its online booking site can be hard to navigate, but cheap award prices like these can make it worth the extra effort.
Air France / KLM Flying Blue
Air France and KLM share the Flying Blue frequent flyer program, and one of the best uses of Flying Blue miles is its recurring promo rewards. Each month, Flying Blue publishes a list of routes with a 25 to 50% discount in mileage cost. This can be a great way to stretch the value of your ThankYou points.
Rates for a one-way economy flight from the US to Europe range from about 15,000 to 30,000 Flying Blue miles. The number of miles required varies quite a bit depending on the date and if the route is on a monthly promo award. Keep in mind Flying Blue adds more taxes and fees than other programs, so you'll have to weigh the savings in miles and the increased cash cost.
Because it's a transfer partner of all of the major transferable rewards currencies, Flying Blue is a great place to combine points balances from different programs.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Singapore Airlines is also a member of the Star Alliance, which means that you can use KrisFlyer miles to book travel on partner airlines like United, Air Canada, and Lufthansa.
In fact, using Singapore Airlines is also cheaper than using United's own miles for flights anywhere in the continental US to Hawaii. Singapore also has a non-alliance partnership with Alaska Airlines, and you can use as few as 11,500 KrisFlyer miles to get to Hawaii as well.
For luxury aficionados, Singapore Airlines also flies the ultra-premium Singapore Suites first class on certain routes. Singapore rarely opens up award seats in Suites Class to partner airlines, so transferring to KrisFlyer is often the only way to book these bucket-list awards.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Although Virgin Atlantic is headquartered in the UK and isn't a member of a major airline alliance, its mileage program offers a fair amount of value for US travelers. You'll often get the best deal from Virgin Atlantic miles when you book award flights on its non-alliance partners, like Delta.
Because Delta no longer publishes an award chart, the cost of a flight in Delta SkyMiles can vary wildly depending on the route, date, and number of stops. Before you book an award flight using your Delta miles, it pays to check with Virgin Atlantic. It is quite common that the exact same Delta flight will cost fewer miles if you book with Flying Club miles.
Here's an example — for a sample flight from Cincinnati to Paris, Delta is charging 58,000 SkyMiles:
But Virgin Atlantic is only charging 42,500 Flying Club points for the exact same flight (over a 25% savings):
Avianca is also a member of the Star Alliance, which means that you can use its miles to book partners like United, Lufthansa, and Ethiopian Airlines. Avianca's award chart divides the US into three separate regions, with flights within a region requiring only 7,500 Avianca Lifemiles to book. Some US airline frequent flyer programs would charge 12,500 miles or more for the exact same flights.
Avianca also offers regular promotions that offer huge (150% or more) bonuses on buying or transferring LifeMiles. This can make it easy to top off your balance if you just need a few more miles to book your next trip.
Good Citi ThankYou points transfer partners
Some Citi airline transfer partners can provide decent value, but only in certain situations.
Etihad is not a member of any airline alliance but has a number of non-alliance partnerships that can provide good value for your Citi ThankYou points. These include Czech Airways (Prague to Seoul in business class for 25,610 Etihad Guest miles) and Royal Air Maroc (New York-JFK to Casablanca for 22,000 miles in economy or 44,000 miles in business class).
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific is a member of the oneworld alliance and has a distance-based award chart. The number of miles you need will depend on whether you are flying only Cathay Pacific or if you are flying one of their oneworld partners, like American Airlines or British Airways. A flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong is only 30,000 Cathay Pacific miles in economy or 70,000 miles in business class.
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Like Cathay Pacific, Qantas is also a member of the oneworld alliance and also has a distance-based award chart. The best value for using Qantas miles is on short flights under 600 flown miles on either Qantas or oneworld partners like American Airlines. These short flights can be had for only 8,000 Qantas miles.
The number of points required for a JetBlue award flight is directly tied to the cash price of a ticket, so it's hard to get outsized value from your TrueBlue points. Still, it is possible to save points by transferring your Citi ThankYou points to JetBlue instead of using them directly to book a paid flight through the Citi portal.
Remember that JetBlue is the only Citi airline transfer partner that you can use without Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card (though at a lesser ratio of 1,000 ThankYou points to 800 JetBlue points).
Citi transfer partners that aren't great value
The rest of the Citi ThankYou airline transfer partners are generally not worth considering, except for extremely niche redemptions.
Aeromexico Club Premier
Aeromexico uses kilometers instead of miles, so its award chart is generally inflated by 1.6x compared to other programs. While other bank program points, such as American Express Membership Rewards, transfer to Aeromexico at a rate of 1:1.6, Citi transfers at only 1:1.
Eva Air Infinity MileageLands
The award chart for Eva Air Infinity MileageLands is not spectacular when compared to most other airline programs, and you'll generally find better value elsewhere. Eva Air does have some generous stopover allowances, though you can't book stopovers online — instead, you'll need to call the airline directly.
While Emirates first-class cabins are among the best in the world, it's best to use partner miles to book these awards. While Emirates recently reduced the astronomical fuel surcharges they charge on Skywards award tickets, there are other mileage programs that offer better value.
InterMiles (formerly JetPrivilege)
Jet Airways (which no longer operates) rebranded its loyalty program from JetPrivilege to InterMiles in late 2019, but there isn't a lot of value here for most customers. You can redeem InterMiles for flights, hotels, or merchandise, but the vast majority of people will be better off saving their valuable ThankYou points for other redemptions.
Malaysia Airlines Enrich
Malaysia Airlines has devalued its frequent flyer program twice in recent years — once in 2015 and again in 2017. As such, it may not be the safest program to park your miles in, unless you already have Enrich miles and are looking to top off your account for a specific award.
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Like fellow Gulf carrier Emirates, Qatar has a great premium cabin flight experience that is best booked with partner miles. In Qatar's case, rather than transferring Citi ThankYou points to Qatar Airways Privilege Club, it's better to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly on Qatar Airways.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
Thai Airways is currently in the middle of a potential bankruptcy, spurred on at least in part by the limited travel demand due to COVID-19. And while a bankruptcy does not mean that your Royal Orchid Plus miles would all of a sudden become worthless, it does give you one more reason to avoid transferring your ThankYou points here.
Citi ThankYou points retail transfer partners
Citi does not currently have any hotel transfer partners, but in addition to the Citi airline transfer partners, they do have one retail transfer partner.
Sears Shop Your Way
You can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to Sears Shop Your Way points at a rate of 1:10. Shop Your Way points are worth 0.1 cents each, and Sears does sell some third-party gift cards that you can buy with Shop Your Way points.
This would allow you to effectively redeem your Citi ThankYou points for 1 cent per point for gift cards (or other merchandise) available for purchase at Sears. Unless you already have Sears Shop Your Way points and need to top off your account for a redemption, it's easier to redeem Citi ThankYou points directly for gift cards through the ThankYou portal.
How to transfer Citi ThankYou points
Transferring your Citi ThankYou points is a fairly straightforward process. Once you log into to your account at thankyou.com, find "More Ways To Redeem" in the top header, then choose "Points Transfer."
You'll then see a list of Citi transfer partner options available to you. It's important to note that the first and last names on your ThankYou account and the account you're transferring to must match in order to be able to transfer.
Remember, transfers are only one-way (from ThankYou points to airlines). Once you've transferred Citi ThankYou points to a partner, you can't move them back.
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