Citi ThankYou Points are something of a red-headed stepchild in the points and miles world. They’re not as sought after, or useful, as Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards nor do they carry the value of Starpoints. However, despite not quite making the varsity cut, there is a lot of value that one can glean from their redemption. After all transfer partners were evaluated, we assigned an ACRV of $0.0186 per Citi ThankYou Point.
It’s worth pointing out, that like Chase and American Express’ programs, our valuation is based purely on the assumption that they will inevitably be used for travel via a transfer partner.
Let’s Start With Transfer Partners
|Program||Transfer Ratio||ACR Value||NZ Average||Updated|
|Garuda Indonesia - NLS||1.0000||0.0008||0.0078||02/26/2018|
|Malaysia Airlines - NLS||1.0000||0.0015||0.0058||02/25/2018|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||1.0000||0.0104||0.0145||02/15/2018|
As is the case with all transferable point programs, one’s best value is going to come from utilizing the issuer’s partner network. Sadly, Citi ThankYou Points is the only major transferable program that does not partner with one of the major US airlines.
Below, we can see Cathay, Eva and Singapore all provide the opportunity to redeem for more than $.06 per mile. To translate that to usable awards, lets consider the Citi ThankYou Premier card, which commonly has a signup bonus of 50,000 points. If one were to transfer this to one of the aforementioned airlines, redeem for $.05 each, that bonus would be world $2,500!
Let’s Talk Realistic Expectations
Of course, most in the points and miles community view international premium cabin travel, at redemption levels exceeding $0.010 as something of a goal. And while these ultra-lofty redemption opportunities do exist, they’re far outnumbered by low-value ones. Taking a look at the normal distribution below, we see the average of all partners non-zero values is $0.0125, with a standard deviation of $0.0091. This means that, theoretically, 68% of all partner award redemptions should fall in the range of $0.0034 and $0.0215. Of course, we would hope that our readers are savvy enough to not consider a redemption worth less than $.01.
Other Ways to Redeem
After transferring to an airline partner, the next best option is to book via Citi’s Travel Center. Here, those holding ThankYou points are able to redeem(for airfare) at 1.25¢ each. Actually not a terrible option, but we think one can do better. The big draw here, is convenience. Theoretically no more hassle than searching via Google Flights and booking with a carrier. Furthermore, the resulting itinerary is a full revenue fare, itself earning miles and status credit.
If One Want’s to Throw Value Away
Looking past travel options, we start to get into the lower-value redemption choices. These are usually best avoided. Similar to many other transferable point programs, one can redeem for cash. Sadly, not for very much. Currently, the “cash out” rate is only .5¢ per point. One can get a slightly better redemption value by using Citi’s select and credit option. In a nutshell, one selects a charge and pays it using points. This is generally available for $.0075 per point. Just terrible.
Gift cards are a slight improvement over cash, but still not recommended. The most common redemption value is 1¢, though we have seen specials on some merchants. Commonly, these are the ones you wouldn’t want anyway. Probably why we’ve seen discounts.
Like American Express, Citi also offers a shopping portal. Also just like Amex, it’s a terrible deal. We did a cursory average of 5 items, using the “points divided by Amazon price method”. Our results were very sad, only $.0075. One would be better off purchasing a gift card for $.01/point and buying from their preferred merchant.
If one really wants some goods, but does not want to go through the hassle of purchasing a gift card first, one can use their ThankYou points directly on Amazon. What Citi is selling here is convenience. Link your Amazon and eligible ThankYou Point earning Citi card and shop at the world’s largest online merchant. The downside? Redemption value, here, expect to redeem for only $0.008 per point.
Citi ThankYou Points are a potentially high-value award program, with some low-value traps if one is not careful. While they do offer a wide array of redemption options, they are frequently not all that valuable. We consider the program a step below Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and Amex’s Membership Rewards in term of predicted value. In the future, we’d really like to see Citi partner with American Airlines and bring them on as a transfer partner. This alone would do much to bring them in parity with the other two majors.
Below is a quick summary, in order, of how we would use Citi ThankYou Points.
|Value of ThankYou Points Redemptions|
|Transfer to a Travel Partner||>1.4¢|
|Book using Citi’s Travel Portal||1.25¢|
|Buy a Gift Card||1¢|
|Use Points on Amazon||.8¢|
|Select and Credit||.75¢|
|Shop at Citi’s Merchandise Mall||.75¢|
|Statement Credit/Cash Back||.5¢|