5 Innovative Ways to Use 75k Points Through Citi Transfer Partners

Jul 28, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Prestige Card

As we first reported earlier this month, Citi recently updated the points and perks of the Citi Prestige Card, and one of the most intriguing features is a 75,000-point sign-up bonus after $7,500 in purchases within three months of account opening. This bonus alone is worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, and that doesn’t even take into account the other benefits on the card like the 4th Night Free perk and $250 air travel credit.

There are many ways to redeem your ThankYou points, but if you want to get maximum value on your redemptions, the best option is typically through transfers to one of the program’s travel partners, which currently number 14:

  • Hilton Honors
  • JetBlue True Blue
  • Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air
  • Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • JetPrivilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Today, on the heels of this new offer on the Citi Prestige Card, I’m listing five “outside the box” ways to redeem 75,000 ThankYou points by leveraging these travel partners, primarily focused on economy and premium economy redemptions. You can often get more value from premium-cabin awards (which you can read about here, and we’ll detail in an upcoming post), but here I’d like to highlight some innovative redemptions, to give you an idea of what else you might be able to book.

In the past we’ve talked about maximizing Citi ThankYou points with Singapore and Flying Blue redemptions, among others, but today we’re focusing on economy and premium economy awards you can book with Citi partners — specifically when it could make sense to save cash since most people pay out of pocket for non-premium flights. Even though there are taxes and fees involved in many of these cases — and sometimes they are on the high side — the miles required are so low that you’re essentially using Citi points to decrease the actual cash cost of the ticket.

For each of these award options, I’ll first go through an overview of the redemption and then provide a specific example. This will include a calculation of the value of the transferred points (based on TPG’s valuations, keeping in mind that points must be transferring in increments of 1,000) and a calculation of the value of the redemption. In all cases, you’re getting more value by transferring, though keep in mind that award inventory can change by the minute, so there’s no guarantee that the itineraries I use below will still be available when you read this. Nevertheless, they are meant to serve as examples of just how to leverage the new bonus on the Citi Prestige Card to get outsized value.

So what are some options for redeeming 75,000 ThankYou points? Here’s my list, in no particular order:

1. Two Round-Trip Premium Economy Tickets to London Through Virgin Atlantic

virgin atlantic premium economy
Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy is readily available using miles in advance, though you will need to pay some fuel surcharges.

Virgin Atlantic is known for a couple of things: its swanky Clubhouse lounges and notoriously high fuel surcharges. Book an award ticket in the carrier’s Upper Class cabin and you’ll have to shell out well over $1,000 per person in addition to miles! However, the carrier’s premium economy is much more reasonable and still represents a relatively comfortable way to fly across the pond. What makes this option even more intriguing is that you’ll only need 35,000 miles for a round-trip flight from the northeastern US to London during “standard” (read: off-peak) travel dates. The Citi Prestige sign-up bonus alone can get you and a friend/family member from Boston, Newark, New York or Washington, D.C. to London and back.

In addition, if you book in advance, availability is quite plentiful. Here’s a calendar view when you search for two award seats from the New York area for next May/June:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.05.32 PM

Here’s the same view for Washington-Dulles:

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Note that you will still need to pay just over $500 per person in taxes, but the value can still be significant.

As an example, let’s say you wanted to fly from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to London-Heathrow (LHR) for a week over Memorial Day. As the calendar above indicates, availability is plentiful, and for two round-trip tickets you’d need to spend 70,000 miles plus $1,130.52:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.09.27 PM

Paying for these same flights in Premium Economy would set you back a lot more than that:

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You’d even have 5,000 ThankYou points left over for a future redemption.

  • Total ThankYou Points Transferred: 70,000, worth $1,120
  • Total Value of Redemption: $1,927 (or 2.75 cents per point)

2. Three Round-Trip Economy Tickets to London Through Virgin Atlantic

If you don’t want to splurge for Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic, the new sign-up bonus on the Prestige could get you three round-trip coach tickets from many US gateways to the UK. Flights from the northeast are just 20,000 miles round-trip, while those from the south (like Miami) and midwest (like Chicago) are 25,000 miles. Unfortunately, you’ll still need to pay almost $500 in taxes and fees if you book a flight operated by Virgin Atlantic, but there’s a unique way to get around this: book on Delta.

The catch here is that you need to wait until September 1 to lock in those award tickets. As of that date, Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club is adjusting its award rates on Delta-operated flights to match the rates you’d pay on its own flights. That means that a round-trip economy award ticket from the northeastern US to the UK (which is currently 60,000 miles) will drop to 20,000 miles, while one from the south or midwest will fall to 25,000 miles. You’ll also avoid Virgin Atlantic’s surcharges, though you are still subject to the UK departure tax.

Here’s a quick example of how this will work. Let’s say you were wanting to fly from New York (JFK) to London-Heathrow (LHR) next Memorial Day on the same dates I used above. Virgin Atlantic has numerous flights with award availability for three travelers, but these flights would set you back 20,000 miles plus $463.66 in taxes and fees. However, Delta operates this same route and has low-level economy tickets for three passengers on the same dates (ignore the number of miles, as that’s what Delta would charge):

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.44.29 PM

Note the taxes and fees… just $177.66 per person! I called Flying Club and verified that booking these flights through Virgin Atlantic would incur this same amount of taxes and fees, and come September 1, the number of miles needed drops by two-thirds! As a result, if you can find low-level award tickets on Delta from the US to the UK, this is a great redemption for your ThankYou points.

Paying for these exact same flights would set you back $866.18 apiece:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.45.31 PM

Keep in mind too that your account balance would technically be high enough for four award tickets from the East Coast to the UK (once you factor in the points you’ll earn meeting the minimum spend on the card). You also have the option of booking similar flights from gateways like Atlanta (ATL) and Detroit (DTW) for just 25,000 miles round-trip, again giving you enough points for three award tickets.

  • Total ThankYou Points Transferred: 60,000, worth $960
  • Total Value of Redemption: $2,065.50 (or 3.44 cents per point)

3. See most of Australia on Virgin Australia

Another intriguing transfer partner of the Citi ThankYou Rewards program is Etihad Guest, and while the booking process can be a bit challenging, there are some gems to be had. One of Etihad’s partners is Virgin Australia, and the redemption table has some great deals for flights within Australia and the South Pacific. Many short- and medium-haul flights are just 6,900 miles, so you can see a huge chunk of the country using the sign-up bonus on the Citi Prestige Card.

Here’s a sample itinerary I found using random dates in November and December:

  • Sydney (SYD) to Melbourne (MEL): November 10, 6,900 miles
  • Melbourne (MEL) to Adelaide (ADL): November 14, 6,900 miles
  • Adelaide (ADL) to Alice Springs (ASP): November 17, 6,900 miles
  • Alice Springs (ASP) to Darwin (DRW): November 22, 6,900 miles
  • Darwin (DRW) to Perth (PER): November 25, 10,900 miles
  • Perth (PER) to Brisbane (BNE): November 28, 16,900 miles
  • Brisbane (BNE) to Hamilton Island (HTI): December 2, 6,900 miles
  • Hamilton Island (HTI) to Sydney (SYD): December 5, 6,900 miles

Here’s what that looks like on the map:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 11.51.45 PM

All of these routes have economy availability on these dates, bringing your total to 69,200 miles. Paying for this itinerary out-of-pocket would set you back almost AU$1,600, so even when you factor in the exchange rate and the taxes you’d need to pay on the award ticket, you’re still coming out with a fantastic redemption that includes seven cities for just a single sign-up bonus.

  • Total ThankYou Points Transferred: 70,000, worth $1,120
  • Total Value of Redemption: $1,278.70 (or 1.83 cents per point)

4. Round-Trip Premium Economy to Hong Kong With Cathay Pacific

The Asia Miles program is another transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards, giving you a decent option for Oneworld redemptions with your sign-up bonus. TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr wrote a great overview of everything you need to know about the Asia Miles program earlier this year, but in a nutshell, the program has several different award charts and generally follows a distance-based formula for determining the number of miles you need for a given ticket. A flight of up to 7,500 miles in length would only cost you 72,000 miles round-trip for a premium-economy flight, allowing you to use the sign-up bonus for flights from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) or Vancouver (YVR) to Hong Kong.

Let’s take a look at some random dates of travel in the fall. For a trip from September 23 through October 7, I see the following flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) and back available using Asia Miles (HK$886 is roughly $113.50):

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 12.16.48 AM

That same flight would cost you over $2,000 if you paid for it directly:

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 12.20.29 AM

While Cathay’s premium economy doesn’t compare to the carrier’s business or first-class offerings, it’s still a much more comfortable way to spent 13+ hours traversing the Pacific, especially when you consider that this flight is just a 12,000-mile premium over regular coach.

  • Total ThankYou Points Transferred: 72,000, worth $1,152
  • Total Value of Redemption: $1,947.89 (or 2.7 cents per point)

5. Transfer to Hilton Honors for Special Event Bookings

A final off-the-beaten-path redemption option for your 75,000 points is one that is especially appealing right now thanks to a limited-time bonus: Hilton Honors. Now through September 20, you can enjoy a 33% bonus on Citi ThankYou points transferred to Hilton, allowing you to receive 2,000 Hilton points (instead of the usual 1,500) for every 1,000 points you transfer.

On the surface, this seems like a crazy proposition given TPG’s most recent valuations. After all, he pegs Hilton points at just 0.6 cents apiece, so even with the bonus, the value of Hilton points you’re receiving is still less than the value of Citi ThankYou points. However, you can get incredible value from the Hilton Honors program by booking at the right time.

For an extreme example, let’s consider New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York City. The DoubleTree Suites is (believe it or not) selling rooms for $3,599 for that one night! Incredibly enough, the program is allowing award redemptions for that night at 95,000 points. With the current bonus, you only need to transfer 48,000 ThankYou points to cover the redemption. When you add in the taxes and fees for the room, you’re looking at a total of $4,135.35 when paying cash, an incredible value of 8.6 cents per point.

Of course, who wants to go to New York City for New Year’s and only stay one night? Fortunately, you could book two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square using your Hilton points transferred from Citi (with the current bonus):

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 12.42.08 AM

This same stay would set you back almost $2,000 if you paid for it out-of-pocket:

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 12.42.41 AM

While many hotels will restrict award availability around special events, if you can find something, it could make it worth your while to transfer points from ThankYou Rewards to Hilton Honors.

  • Total ThankYou Points Transferred: 70,000, worth $1,120
  • Total Value of Redemption: $1,903.98 (or 2.72 cents per point)

Bottom Line

The transfer partners of the Citi ThankYou Rewards program aren’t nearly as exciting or valuable as those from other programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. That being said, the current sign-up bonus on the recently refreshed Citi Prestige Card makes this an ideal time to carefully analyze the program to consider your redemption options if you do choose to apply. Just be aware that the card’s application page includes the following language:

“Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”

If you’re still eligible for the bonus and interested in applying, I hope this post has highlighted a few options to make the most of transferring your ThankYou points to the program’s partners!

Which transfer partner would be most likely to get your 75,000 Citi ThankYou points?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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