Citi Beefs Up Their ThankYou Rewards Program, So How Does It Compare?

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Citi's ThankYou rewards program has always been somewhat competitive, but it garnered very few die-hard fans compared to some of the other competing credit card reward programs. One of the things that these other programs have had in common is the ability to transfer reward points to multiple different frequent flier programs. By doing so, customers can have the flexibility to transfer their rewards to the airline that is offering the best award for their immediate needs, rather than choosing a single program that they hope they can use in the future.

Now Citi has joined Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and the Starwood Preferred Guest program by allowing customers to transfer their points to miles with several different airline programs.

How Citi's program works

Holders of Citi ThankYou® Premier, ThankYou Prestige, and Chairman cards now have the option to transfer their points to miles with one of the following airlines:

  • Cathay Pacific
  • EVA Air
  • Etihad
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Air France/KLM

Cardholders can earn points with other cards such as the ThankYou Preferred card, and still transfer them to airline miles, so long as they hold at least one qualifying card. Points transfer on a 1:1 basis, and transactions are not reversible.

How this rewards program compares to other airline mileage transfer programs

For several years now, there have been three different airline transfer programs. The American Express Membership Rewards program currently offers 17 different airline transfer partners, including six in North America. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program offers six airline different transfer partners, including domestic carriers United and Southwest. Finally, the Starwood Preferred Guest program features 32 different airline transfer partners, eight of which are based in North America.

In contrast, none of the nine airline transfer partners in Citi's ThankYou rewards program are based in North America, and two of them don't even fly here. Furthermore, several of them offer very little value to American credit card users. For example, Garuda Indonesia, which is one of the transfer partners that does not offer any flights to North America, requires that cardholders present themselves to one of their ticket offices (they have four in the United States), in order to redeem miles on one of their flights or their partners. Furthermore, Thai Airways has recently changed their award chart to require far more miles for their flights than most other airlines. Finally, Malaysia Airlines (which doesn't offer flights to the United States) is among the world's most troubled carriers, following the tragic loss of two of its aircraft this year.

Nevertheless, there are some outstanding options among the list. Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance and a partner of both United and Air Canada. Furthermore, there are some awards on the Singapore chart that are even less than the United Chart. For example, award flights to Hawaii are just 35,000 mile in economy and 60,000 in first, versus 45,000 and 80,000 on United.

Domestic flights within the United States and Canada (excluding Hawaii) are just 25,000 in economy and 40,000 in first. So the economy class flights are the same as United, but the first class flights are a full 10,000 miles fewer.

Finally, Singapore is known for offering amazing service on its own flights, especially in business and first class, which often features a fully enclosed "suite". And since they rarely release these award seats to their partners, such as United, the only practical way to enjoy these awards is by transferring your points to Singapore's program. Interestingly, Singapore happens to be the only airline that is a transfer partner of all four of these major credit card reward programs.

In addition, the Flying Blue program of Air France and KLM offers a reasonable award chart, and the opportunity to redeem miles for one-way flights on Delta and other Skyteam carriers.

Conclusions

It is good news that Citi is now offering airline mileage transfers as an option to some ThankYou rewards credit card holders. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this program is the weakest of the four major airline mileage transfer programs. Thankfully, there is some speculation that Citi may eventually add American Airlines, especially since it already offers several credit cards co-branded with the carrier. So if you have a bunch of ThankYou points, now is the time to see if one of these new transfer options makes sense for you.

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Citibank. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Citibank.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

*This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.

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