Citi

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Shockingly for a limited time the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card has come out with an even better offer! 75,000 bonus points after spending $2k in the first three months.

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Until Tuesday June 30, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers 50,000 bonus Hilton points after spending $1,000 in the first four months plus a $50 statement credit after spending $50 on your first stay at any hotel within the Hilton Portfolio during the first 3 months of account opening.

 

That’s an unmatched sign up bonus for a card with no annual fee ever.

Those 50,000 bonus points can be used for 12 free nights at Category 1 Hilton Hotels and six free nights at Category 2 Hiltons.

Here’s a spreadsheet and map of Hilton Category 1 and 2 properties, though there have been some changes and additions to the categories since those were made. Some new Category 1 hotels that intrigue me are the Hampton by Hilton Krakow (Poland, Category 1) and Hotel Vienna South (Austria, Category 2).

Category 1 hotels cost only 5,000 points per night, and Category 2 hotels are only 10,000 points. After that, prices rise sharply, so I advocate using points at the lowest Category properties.

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You can stretch the 50,000 points even further if you take advantage of the fifth night free on award stays that is available to all Hilton elite members. (The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card confers automatic Silver status.) With the fifth night free, 50,000 points are enough for:

  • 2 five-night stays and 1 two-night stay at Category 1 properties (12 nights)
  • 1 five-night stay and 1 one-night stay at Category 2 properties (6 nights)
  • Plus if one of the stays in the first three months, you can use the $50 statement credit for dining or other services

Here are some that look fantastic Category 1 and 2 hotels that look fantastic, including one where I’ve stayed:

DoubleTree by Hilton Beijing

Six nights free with bonus from Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
Retail cost: $1,100

Many low category hotels don’t have great locations, but the DoubleTree by Hilton Beijing is centrally located and near several sites.

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The hotels goes for 990 yuan plus tax per night or 10,000 Hilton points as a Category 2 hotel.

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A five-night cash stay would by $917 after taxes or 40,000 Hilton points, since the fifth nights is free.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 3.35.35 PM

Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, Managed by Hilton

12 nights free with bonus from Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
Retail cost: $926

You can explore the Borneo jungle in Malaysia in a Category 1 Hilton that costs just 5,000 points per night instead of 250 ringgit plus tax.
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The hotel’s location is stunning.

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The rooms are elegant.
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And a number of reviews rave about the pool.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 3.45.31 PMFive nights would cost $386 or only 20,000 points with the fifth night free.
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DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Six nights free with bonus from Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
Retail cost: $916

I stayed at the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur in August 2013 and really enjoyed myself. Every stay starts with a warm chocolate chip cookie.

The room was spacious and had an office area and big couch in addition to the bed.

The hotel was in the heart of KL and made a great base to explore the city.

Right now the room goes for 495 ringgits plus tax or 10,000 points per night.

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A five-night stay is $763 or 40,000 points with the fifth night free.

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Bottom Line

The limited time offer on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card ends Tuesday.

 

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers 50,000 bonus Hilton Points after spending $1,000 in the first four months plus a $50 statement credit after spending $50 on your first stay at any hotel within the Hilton Portfolio during the first 3 months of account opening.

The card’s automatic Hilton Silver status means you get the fifth night free on award stays. That stretches the bonus to 12 free nights at Category 1 hotels or six free nights at Category 2 hotels. Those free nights can be worth over $1,000. Plus you can use the card’s $50 statement credit for free food or spa services while you’re enjoying a free night.

Check out this (slightly out of datespreadsheet and map of Hilton Category 1 and 2 properties to see if any excite you because the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is a great no annual fee card to consider if you use the points at low category hotels.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Last week I wrote about the AT&T Access More Card from Citi, which comes with a $650 credit toward the purchase of a new smartphone after $2,000 in purchases in the first three months and 3x points on online purchases at retail and travel sites.

 

I thought I’d go into more detail about how exactly you can turn the card’s 3x points on online purchases at retail and travel sites into 4.8% back toward the purchase of American Airlines flights OR 3x Singapore, Air France, or Virgin Atlantic miles per dollar, whichever you prefer.

The process has four simple steps:

  1. Get the AT&T Access More Card from Citi and the Citi Prestige® Card eight days apart.
  2. Combine the two cards’ ThankYou accounts into one account with a quick phone call.
  3. Use the AT&T Access More Card from Citi at Amazon.com or your favorite online shopping site.
  4. Use the 3x ThankYou Points earned on those purchases like cash at a rate of 1.6 cents per point toward any American Airlines flight with no blackout OR to transfer to airline miles for even higher value redemptions.

1. Get the AT&T Access More Card from Citi and the Citi Prestige® Card eight days apart.

We need both the AT&T Access More Card from Citi and the Citi Prestige® Card for this plan to work. The  AT&T Access More Card from Citi has the incredible 3x earning rate online, and the Citi Prestige® Card has the incredible redemption options.

Both cards are issued by Citi. The rules for getting new Citi cards:

  • You cannot get more than one card in a week.
  • You cannot get more than two cards in two months.

So if these are your first two Citi cards ever, get them eight days apart. If you already have gotten two Citi cards recently, make sure there is a 65 days gap between your first and third Citi applications.

More on these rules in Getting Both Citi Prestige and Citi Premier for 100,000 Bonus ThankYou Points.

Though outside the main scope of this article, once you get the cards, you’ll want to meet their minimum spending requirements to unlock the $650 credit for a smartphone (AT&T card) and 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points (Prestige.) The combined minimum spending requirements will be $5,000 over three months and eight days. If that’s more than you normally spend, here are some ways to increase the amount of money you spend on credit cards without increasing the total amount of money you spend in life.

2. Combine the two cards’ ThankYou accounts into one account with a quick phone call.

ThankYou Points earned on the AT&T Access More Card from Citi are worth 1 cent each, while ThankYou Points earned on the Citi Prestige® Card are worth at least 1.6 cents each and possibly much more.

To make points earned on the AT&T Access More Card from Citi worth that 1.6+ cents each, we have two easy options.

  1. Combine the two cards’ ThankYou accounts into one account.
  2. Share ThankYou Points from an AT&T Access More Card to our Prestige account or someone else’s.

Combining ThankYou accounts is very easy. You can do it online at thankyou.com or by calling the number on the back of either card. I found calling in to be quicker. The advantage of combining accounts is that now all your points can be redeemed in accordance with the rules of the more valuable card’s ThankYou Points redemption options. In this case, that would give you these options with ThankYou Points earned with either card:

  1. Redeem like cash for all or part of an American Airlines or US Airways ticket–any flight, any time, no blackouts–at a value of 1.6 cents per point. If you don’t have enough points to cover the whole ticket, you can pay part of the ticket with points and part with cash.
  2. Redeem like cash for all or part of any other airlines’ ticket–any flight, any time, no blackouts–at a value of 1.33 cents per point. If you don’t have enough points to cover the whole ticket, you can pay part of the ticket with points and part with cash.
  3. Transfer points to airline miles at a rate of 1:1. This option does not offer a fixed value, but you should get at least 1.6 cents per point this way–otherwise don’t use this option. Transfers open up the opportunity to book Business and First Class awards at very cheap rates. For example, 30,000 ThankYou Points transferred to Singapore miles are enough for a one way in Flat Bed First Class to Hawaii on United flights. That same amount of points would be $480 worth of American Airlines flights, which might not even get you one way to Hawaii in economy! Here are the top uses of ThankYou Points transferred to airline miles.

Or you can keep your two ThankYou accounts separate, and when you want to redeem points earned on the AT&T Access More Card from Citi, you can share the points from that account to your Prestige or anyone else’s Prestige account for free instantly. The main drawback is that the shared points have to be redeemed within 60 days. (No flying has to occur within 60 days, but the points must be redeemed for a ticket or transferred to an airline within 60 days or they expire.)

3. Use the AT&T Access More Card from Citi at Amazon.com or your favorite online shopping site.

The AT&T Access More Card from Citi earns 3x ThankYou Points per dollar on AT&T purchases and online purchases at retail website and travel websites.

Retail websites are websites that sell goods directly to the consumer through an online website and include department store websites, specialty store websites, warehouse store websites and boutique websites. Travel websites are websites that allow you to book travel and include online travel agencies, hotel websites and airline websites.

So that means that pretty much any online purchase except eBay-style sites (sales are not direct to consumer from website) and these specifically excluded category should count:

Purchases not eligible to receive the additional ThankYou Points include but are not limited to payment for or to medical services, insurance, taxes and government services, education, charities and utilities.

FlyerTalk user x9bull reported getting 3x points for online purchases at “amazon, 6pm, guess, spear, drugstore, kohl’s.” Getting 3x back at the cheapest online stores like Amazon and Walmart is the most interesting for me, since that is usually impossible on other cards or through portals.

4. Use the 3x ThankYou Points earned on those purchases like cash at a rate of 1.6 cents per point toward any American Airlines flight with no blackout OR to transfer to airline miles for even higher value redemptions.

I already explained the redemptions in step two to make it clearer why you want to combine the ThankYou accounts of your AT&T Access More Card from Citi and Citi Prestige® Card. Here are links about redeeming ThankYou Points if you want to figure out the highest value uses for you.

The rate of return you get at Amazon and other online shopping that you earn by combining a AT&T Access More Card from Citi and Citi Prestige® Card is unheard of.

If you use the 3x points like cash toward American Airlines flights, that’s 4.8% back on all your online purchases toward the purchase of American Airlines flights with no blackouts.

If you transfer the 3x points to airline miles, then $4,167 in purchases is a one way ticket to Europe (Air France Promo awards are 12,500 miles one way) and $10,000 in purchases is a flat bed one way to Hawaii (Singapore awards are 30,000 miles one way in First Class.)

Bottom Line

The AT&T Access More Card from Citi and Citi Prestige® Card work really well together.

The AT&T Access More Card from Citi has the superpower of earning 3x points for most online purchases including at Amazon. The Citi Prestige® Card has the superpower of turning those points into 1.6 cents each toward any American Airlines miles or any one of 11 airline miles.

Simply get both cards, combine their ThankYou accounts, shop online, and redeem.

Application Links:

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has improved the redemption rate of its ThankYou Points by 25% for hotels, cruises, and car rentals.

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The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Those 50,000 points are now worth $625 toward airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals (25% more.) From the card’s application page:

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I went into my thankyou.com account to search for car rentals, and the results showed a 1.25 cents per point valuation.
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It’s fantastic that Citi made car, hotel, and and cruise redemptions more valuable, but I don’t expect to use this new benefit. Here are two easy ways to get way more than 1.25 cents of value from your ThankYou Points:

  1. Open the Citi Prestige® Card in addition to your Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. Combine the ThankYou Points earned on each card into a single account. From that account, you can redeem points like cash toward American Airlines flights (1.6 cents) or any other airlines’ flights (1.33 cents) at a higher rate than 1.25 cents per point.
  2. Transfer ThankYou Points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate. I value Singapore miles, Air France Flying Blue miles, and Virgin Atlantic miles all at well over 1.25 cents each. Check out the top redemptions you can make with ThankYou Points transferred to miles in those programs.

Bottom Line

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card now offers 1.25 cents per point toward car rentals, hotel bookings, and cruises. That’s a 25% increase!

That makes the 50,000 point sign up bonus worth $625 in car rentals, hotel stays, or cruises. It makes the 3x category bonus on travel and gas worth 3.75% back toward car rentals, hotel stays, or cruises. And it makes the 2x category bonus on dining and entertainment worth 2.5% back toward car rentals, hotel stays, or cruises.

However, I don’t plan on using this enhancement. My ThankYou Points from my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card are combined with my points from my Citi Prestige® Card, so I can get 1.6 cents per point toward the purchase of American Airlines flights. Or I can transfer my points to Singapore, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic miles and book sweet spot awards.

Hat Tip Frequent Miler

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Getting both the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers about $2,800 in free American Airlines flights. This isn’t a deal that should just get some ink. This is one that should be shouted from the roof top.

The path is easy:

  1. Get the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card eight days apart, each with a 50,000 point bonus.
  2. Combine the two ThankYou accounts into one, and meet their minimum spending requirements.
  3. Spend the 106,000+ points you have on about $1,700 in American Airlines flights.
  4. Use the Citi Prestige® Card‘s $250 Air Travel Credit in 2015 and in 2016 for $500 in American Airlines flights.
  5. Use the 25,000+ American Airlines miles you’ve earned from flying $2,200 in paid flights for an award ticket worth $600.

That’s $2,800 worth of American Airlines flights from opening two credit cards and using their benefits. This is the kind of deal you should be telling your friends about who are jealous of your free travel and want a fast start in this hobby.

As an added bonus, you can visit American Airlines lounges for free during all these trips, and you can earn American Airlines Gold Status.

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American Airlines Lounge, Honolulu

Let’s look at the steps in turn.

1. Get the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card eight days apart.

You can have both cards at once–I have them both right now–but you cannot be approved for two Citi cards on the same day.

Once you get the Citi Prestige® Card, wait 8+ days before applying for the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card.

2. Combine the two ThankYou accounts into one, and meet their minimum spending requirements.

Getting both cards will automatically open two separate ThankYou accounts. Points earned on the Prestige are more valuable for American Airlines flights than those earned on the Premier, so you’ll want to spend the five minutes to combine the two accounts into one account that has the redemption power of Prestige. Here’s how.

That way when you’ve spend $3,000 in the first three months after opening the account on each card, your 106,000+ points will be in one ThankYou account where they are worth 1.6 cents each toward American Airlines and US Airways flights.

3. Spend the 106,000+ points you have on about $1,700 in American Airlines flights.

To spend ThankYou Points, select Flights under Shop on thankyou.com.

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ThankYou Points are worth the same 1.6 cents toward any American Airlines flight with no blackouts, so learning how to find cheap flights is an essential skill in order to stretch your points.

I searched for roundtrips to Los Angeles and San Francisco from New York on ITA Matrix and found them for just under $400 for much of the year.

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I could recreate the same price on thankyou.com’s search easily.
Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.14.42 PM The 106,000 points are worth $1,696 in free American Airlines flights. When you no longer have enough points for a free redemption, you can do partial points + cash redemptions with any amount of points and still get the full 1.6 cents of value per point.Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.16.47 PM

American Airlines will see tickets purchased with ThankYou Points as cash tickets and award you miles and status based on the distance flown.

4. Use the Citi Prestige® Card‘s $250 Air Travel Credit in 2015 and in 2016 for $500 in American Airlines flights.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers an unrivaled $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year. The credit will offset the first $250 you spend on airfare, airline fees, award taxes, and pretty much anything else that codes as a purchase from an airline each calendar year.

In 2015, use the $250 as the cash part of a cash + points redemption of ThankYou Points (pictured above) for American Airlines flights. In 2016, do the same. That’s another $500 worth of American Airlines flights.

American Airlines will see tickets purchased with the Air Travel Credit as cash tickets and award you miles and status based on the distance flown.

In the last two steps, with almost $2,200 worth of American Airlines tickets purchased, you will likely earn 25,000+ redeemable miles.

For instance, $2,200 is easily enough for five roundtrips between New York and California, which are about 5,000 miles each.

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source: gcmap.com

5. Use the 25,000+ American Airlines miles you’ve earned from flying $2,200 in paid flights for an award ticket worth $600.

The final step is to redeem those 25,000+ American Airlines miles for more free flights. You have enough for one domestic roundtrip or one way in Business Class (or two-cabin First Class) within the continental United States. Or you have enough for one way to Europe, Southern South America, Japan, or Korea at off peak prices.

Of those options, I think the most fun redemption would be using the 25,000 miles for one flat bed Business Class flight between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco.

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These seats for about $600 with advance purchase, which is frankly cheaper than I was expecting.

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Or you can book them for 25,000 American Airlines miles + $5.60.

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Total

  • ~$1,700 from the 106,000 ThankYou Points from meeting the two card’s minimum spending requirements
  • $500 from the Prestige’s $250 Air Travel Credit times two calendar years before the next annual fee
  • ~$600 from the 25,000 American Airlines miles you’d earn from flying the other $2,200 worth of American Airlines flights

That’s ~$2,800 in American Airlines flights from opening two credit cards and using them well.

Bonus #1: American Airlines Status

If you fly the approximately $2,200 in free flights that American Airlines sees as paid flights in the same calendar year, you may fly 25,000+ miles, which would earn you American Airlines Gold Status.

You’d get benefits like upgrades, better seats, priority boarding, and a higher mileage earning rate on future American Airlines flights.

Bonus #2: American Airlines Lounge Access

The Citi Prestige® Card offers American Airlines lounge access every time you fly American Airlines or US Airways, which would mean that every flight in this article would come with American Airlines lounge access.

The comfortable place to relax, free drinks, free snacks, and free wifi will make the trips much less stressful.

Bottom Line

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

My review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and 3x points on travel and gas.

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Get both cards and use them as outlined above for approximately $2,800 in free American Airlines flights. During the trips, enjoy American Airlines lounge access, and maybe even earn status with American Airlines.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Citi offers you the chance to create Virtual Account Numbers for any of your credit cards to add an extra level of security for online purchases.

You can set how long you want a new virtual account number to last and how much can be charged to it. With your new virtual account number, virtual account expiration date, and virtual account three-digit code on the back, you can make purchases wherever cards don’t need to be swiped, and the purchases will be charged to your account.

The merchant never knows your “real” account details.

How to Create a Virtual Account Number for Your Citi Card

Inside your citicards.com account, click Virtual Account Numbers on the right hand menu.

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Don’t worry if the top of the next page features one of your credit cards and you want a Virtual Account Number for a different card; you have the chance to choose later.

Both times I’ve tried to create a Virtual Account Number, Citi has made me type in an identification code that they text to the phone number in my account.
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After entering the Identification Code, I chose to launch the Virtual Account Number generator. Then under Virtual Account Numbers, I chose Advanced Options to select the card for which I want a virtual number.

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My three active Citi cards were listed, and I chose my American Airlines Executive card by number.

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I chose to generate a Virtual Account Number with both a time and dollar limit.

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The time limit must be between two and 12 months.Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.14.25 PMAfter clicking a few times that I really, really wanted the Virtual Account Number generated, it finally appeared on a generic blue credit card on my screen. The card lists a new credit card number, expiration date, and three-digit code.
Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.19.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.19.23 PMI can use this number for the next two months for up to $100.01 in spending. All charges will go to my American Airlines Executive card statement.

Citi Virtual Account Numbers are easy to create and can be very useful. If you are buying something online from a site about which you have your doubts, you can create virtual number, so the site doesn’t have your details. If you want your kid at college to buy something online with your credit card number, but don’t want him to buy anything else, use a virtual account number.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card now offers 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

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Not to be confused with the Citi Prestige® Card, which has the same sign up bonus but totally different benefits.

For over a year, the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has offered 50,000 total bonus points, but they were spread out over 15 months. Now you can get the entire 50,000 points in the first three months.

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Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou Points after $3,000 in spending in the first three months
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on travel and gas, 2x on restaurants and entertainment
  • Value of ThankYou Points: Worth 1.25 cents toward the purchase of any cash ticket (or up to 1.6 cents if you also have a Citi Prestige) OR can be transferred to 11 airlines and Hilton for higher value
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first 12 months, $95 per year afterwards

Sign Up Bonus

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card now offers 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Thank You points have two primary uses.

  1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight on any airline with no blackouts.
  2. Transfer them to miles with 11 airlines or to Hilton points. Then they are whatever miles you chose, subject to those rules.

If you use these like cash toward any flight, you will get 1.25 cents each of value, making the sign up bonus worth $625 toward any flights with no blackouts. However if you have a Citi Prestige in addition to your Premier, you can combine the ThankYou Points from both cards and redeem them at the higher value the Prestige offers. In that case, you could redeem these 50,000 bonus points for 1.33 cents toward any flight or 1.6 cents toward American Airlines and US Airways flights. That would be $800 in American Airlines flights.

When you redeem ThankYou Points like cash toward any flight, the operating airline sees you as a cash-paying passenger, so you earn miles for your flights.

Instead of redeeming the points like cash, you can transfer your ThankYou Points to one of the 12 airline and hotel partners. The best partner is Singapore Airlines. In the last few months, I’ve transferred ThankYou Points to Singapore miles to fly United First Class to Hawaii, United economy to Madrid, and Avianca Business Class to Buenos Aires. Or you can use Singapore miles to book Singapore Suites.

For full details on redeeming ThankYou Points, see How ThankYou Points Work.

Category Bonuses

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers 3x ThankYou Points on travel and gas and 2x ThankYou Points on dining and entertainment, with no limit on bonus ThankYou Points earned.

Travel includes everything you’d expect like flights, hotels, and car rentals and even more like parking, tolls, campgrounds, and yacht rentals.

Restaurants include sit down places, take out, fast food, and even bars and nightclubs. Entertainment includes movie theaters, sports tickets, museums, and a lot more.

For a full breakdown on exactly what counts and what doesn’t, check out Citi ThankYou Premier Categories Change Today: 3x Gas and Travel; 2x Dining and Entertainment.

No other card offers both 3x on travel and gas. That’s incredible for travelers. Throw in 2x on dining and entertainment, and this card has among the best categories in the world.

Fees

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has no foreign transaction fees. It also has chip technology for global acceptance, so it’s a great card for overseas travel.

The card has no annual fee for the first 12 months and only $95 thereafter, which is lower than the annual fee was when I got the card.

Bottom Line

I got the card when it took 15 months to get the full sign up bonus, there were no airline transfer partners for the points, the annual fee was higher, and gas was not a 3x category. That should tell you how good I think the current offer is!

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening –  redeemable for $500 in gift cards, $625 for airfare, or other great rewards.
  • Earn 3X ThankYou Points on Travel including Gas,  2X ThankYou Points on Dining Out and Entertainment, and 1X ThankYou Points on Other Purchases
  • ThankYou® Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through thankyou.com, as compared to gift cards
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited ThankYou Points
  • Annual Fee:  $95 (fee waived for the first 12 months)

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card changed its category bonuses today and lowered its annual fee. The new category bonuses are:

  • 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on Travel including Gas
  • 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on Dining Out and Entertainment.

The new annual fee is $0 for the first 12 months, then $95 thereafter.

These are in addition to the 50,000 point sign up bonus on the card.

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As with all category bonuses, the question is: what exactly qualifies?

The 3x Category: “Travel and Gas”

The terms and conditions say that you earn 3 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at the following establishments:

(everything through the end of the parentheses on each line is a quotation, the rest in my analysis)

  • airlines (merchants that provide air travel): anything that the airline processes should count including award taxes and fees; gift cards; onboard food purchases; and, with some airlines but not all, miles purchases
  • hotels (merchants that provide sleeping or meeting room accommodations, and may include goods and services that are on a bill for these accommodations by a hotel, motel or inn): anything charged to your room like food, spa, or golf should earn 3x
  • car rental agencies (merchants that provide short-term or long-term rentals of cars)
  • travel agencies (merchants that provide travel information and booking services, and include travel aggregators and tour operators): this should include online travel agencies like Expedia
  • gas stations (merchants that sell fuel for consumer use and may or may not be attended… you will earn additional ThankYou Points on gas purchases made at warehouse clubs and convenience stores)
  • commuter transportation (merchants that provide suburban and local mass passenger transportation over regular routes and on regular schedules, including ferries, commuter railways and subways)
  • taxi/limousines (merchants that provide passenger transportation services for hire and includes horse-drawn cabs and carriages, bicycle taxis, aerial tramways, airport shuttles or cable cars): hopefully Uber falls in this category
  • passenger railways (merchants that primarily provide long-distance transportation and may include overnight accommodations on the train)
  • cruise lines (merchants that provide passenger transportation on the open sea or inland waters for the purpose of vacation or pleasure and operate predefined and advertised routes)
  • bridge and road tolls (merchants who collect fees associated with toll roads, highways and bridges)
  • parking lots/garages (merchants that provide temporary parking services for automobiles, usually on an hourly, daily or monthly contract or fee basis)
  • campgrounds and trailer parks (merchants that provide overnight or short-term campsites for recreational vehicles, trailers, campers, or tents)
  • time shares (retailers that sell, lease, and rent timeshare real estate and arrange timeshare condominium exchanges)
  • bus lines (passenger bus transportation services that operate on a regular schedule over predetermined routes)
  • motor home/RV Rental and boat rentals (merchants that rent motor homes, RVs, pop-up campers, tent trailers, and other recreational vehicles on a daily, short-term, or extended-term basis ormerchants that primarily provide boat rental and leasing services, including fishing boats, non-crew houseboats, sail boats, powerboats, jet skis, and yachts)

This 3x list includes everything that I think of as a travel expense from flights, hotels, and car rentals to tolls and renting a yacht, so the only hiccup could come from this sentence, which is standard in pretty much every credit card offer:

“We do not determine how merchants or establishments are classified; however, they are generally classified based upon the merchant’s primary line of business. We reserve the right to determine which purchases qualify for this offer.”

As long as the merchant is coded correctly as one of these travel or gas categories, you’ll get 3x points. If the merchant is not correctly classified, you can call Citi and ask for your 3x. After all, “[Citi] reserve[s] the right to determine which purchases qualify.”

The 2x Category: “Dining Out and Entertainment”

The terms and conditions say that you earn 2 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at (everything through the end of the parentheses on each line is a quotation, the rest in my analysis)

  • restaurants (dining establishments that primarily prepare food and drinks for immediate consumption by consumers, either on the merchant’s premises or packaged for takeout, and include bars, cocktail lounges, discotheques, nightclubs, taverns and fast food restaurants)
  • sports promoters (merchants that operate and promote live sporting events (professional or semi-professional), and may also include sports stadiums)
  • theatrical promoters (merchants that operate live theatrical productions or concerts, and include ticketing agencies)
  • movie theaters (establishments that sell tickets and refreshments for movie productions)
  • amusement parks, zoos, circuses and aquariums (establishments that operate parks or carnivals and offer mechanical rides and games and/or live animal shows)
  • tourist attractions, museums, and art galleries (establishments that operate attractions and exhibits for tourists)
  • record stores
  • video rental stores

“Restaurants” is a broad category that covers fine dining all the way down to takeout and fast food. Plus it covers places that aren’t really restaurants at all like bars and night clubs. Restaurants are where I’d get the most bonus points in the 2x category, though I occasionally patronize establishments in the other 2x categories.

How to Use ThankYou Points

There are two reasonable ways to redeem ThankYou Points:

  1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight on any airline with no blackouts. Used this way, points are worth 1.25 to 1.6 cents each.
  2. Transfer them to miles with 11 airlines or to Hilton points. Then they are whatever miles you chose, subject to those rules. Used this way, the value of the points depends on your redemption, but 2 cents each is very possible.

For full details on How to Use ThankYou Points, click this link.

Bottom Line

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card now offers the best return on travel and gas at 3x and also offers 2x on dining and entertainment. These very broad categories make the 50,000 point sign up bonus all the more attractive.

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The card has even dropped its annual fee to $0 for the first year and $95 thereafter.

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

This is the fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

There are currently some huge sign up bonuses that folks new to the miles game can pick up.

I’ve categorized some of the best offers below, but before applying for any cards, I recommend checking out my Introduction to Travel Credit Cards from yesterday.

I also recommend getting a Free Credit Card Consultation instead of picking cards on your own. It breaks my heart when people come to my Award Booking Service with the wrong miles for the trip they want. There’s no reason to Make the Biggest Mistake in Our Hobby.

  • What are the best cards for beginners?

Best Card for Economy Travel

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

ThankYou Points can be used like cash toward the purchase of any airline ticket with no blackouts. You get 1.6 cents off of American Airlines and US Airways flights or 1.33 cents off any other flight. That means 50,000 bonus points are worth $800 in flights on American Airlines.

The card also comes with up to $250 in statement credits each calendar year to offset airfare purchases. So the first $250 in plane tickets in 2015 and the first $250 in plane tickets in 2016 are free. That’s another $500 in free tickets before you pay the annual fee again in 12 months. (We’re up to $1,300 in flights so far if you’re counting.)

My review of the Citi Prestige Card explains its other benefits like access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, the fourth night free on hotel stays, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and 2x points on dining and entertainment. $250 Air Travel Credit each year.

The card comes with a $450 annual fee that is not waived for the first year, but remember that you get $1,300 in free flights during the period covered by the $450 annual fee.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

Best Card for Awards to Asia, South America, Central America, Australia

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

With recent devaluations to the United and Delta award charts, American Airlines miles are the most valuable miles.

American Airlines miles are the undisputed best miles for ultra-luxury redemptions, and the miles are valuable for trips to Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia. On a recent trip, I spent 67,500 American Airlines miles for a First Class redemption from New York City to Singapore with 23 hours in Macau along the way.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

That’s enough for a roundtrip to Asia, Europe, South America, or Hawaii.

Beyond the sign up bonus, cardholders also get a 10% rebate on American Airlines miles redeemed each calendar year up to 100,000 miles redeemed.

The card’s $95 annual fee is WAIVED the first year.

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Best Business Card

Ink Plus

The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonuses after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.

The Ink Plus earns 5x points on internet, phone, and cell phone bills; 5x points on purchases at office supply stores; 2x points on hotels and gas; and 1x points on everything else.

The Ink Plus has no annual fee the first 12 months, $95 thereafter.

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Best All-Around Card

Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 40k Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in 3 months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.

You also get 5k bonus points for adding an authorized user while applying, so I think of this as a 45k bonus point card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)

The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on dining and travel. Dining includes bars, restaurants, and fast food. Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, rental cars, tolls, parking, and much more.

The Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year, then $95 thereafter.

Best Hotel Credit Card (Limited Time Offer)

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is the best card for giving you free luxury hotel nights. The card comes with two free weekend nights at Hiltons worldwide after spending $2,500 in the first four months. The free nights are best spent at top-tier Hiltons and Conrads that can go for $500 or more per night.

For a limited time, the card even comes with a $100 statement credit if you spend $100+ on a Hilton stay in the first 90 days after getting the card.

This card is perfect to get aspirational stays at top tier properties like the Conrad Koh Samui that goes for 95,000 Hilton points per night and costs more than $1,000 per night.

The card also comes with Hilton Gold Status, so you can enjoy free internet and breakfast on those free stays.

The card earns 10x points on Hilton stays, 5x on airlines and car rentals, and 3x on all other purchases.

There card has no foreign transaction fee. The annual fee is $95.

Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Updated March 23, 2015 with the addition of Qantas as a partner

Citi ThankYou Points are now transferable to one hotel and 11 airline programs. Folks who have a Citi ThankYou® Premier, Citi Prestige®, or Citi Chairman card can transfer Citi ThankYou Points at a 1:1 ratio to:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

You can also transfer 1,000 ThankYou Points to 1,500 Hilton HHonors points.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.01.54 AM

This is an incredible step forward for Citi ThankYou Points and puts them in the ranks of the big three transferable points programs.

Certainly I would like to see more and better partners added to the transfer possibilities, specifically Citi’s partner American Airlines, but this is a great start and there is value with Citi’s current transfer partners.

  • What are the best Citi ThankYou Points transfer partners?
  • How can you get ThankYou Points?
  • How can you transfer ThankYou Points?
  • What are the other ThankYou Points redemption options?

Best Transfer Partners

Singapore KrisFlyer

The best Citi ThankYou points transfer partner is Singapore KrisFlyer. Singapore was already a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Now it is even easier to get the most useful Star Alliance miles for travel in the Western Hemisphere.

Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so its miles can be used to book flights on any of the 27 member airlines. Singapore miles are also the only miles that can be used to book the ultra-luxurious Singapore Suites.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.10.43 AM

Singapore Airlines collects fuel surcharges on most award flights, but not those flown by United, Taca, Avianca, and Copa. Here are some of my favorite Singapore Airlines awards (click the links for full posts on them):

  1. Between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. United charges 22,500 and 40,000 miles respectively for the same flights! (Get the flat bed in first!)
  2. Two free one ways to Hawaii plus a roundtrip to South America for 50,000 miles total in economy and 80,000 miles in Business/First with no fuel surcharges. United would charge a ton more miles.
  3. Two free one ways to Hawaii plus a roundtrip to Central America or two free one ways to Central America plus a roundtrip to Hawaii for 35,000 miles total in economy and 60,000 miles in Business/First with no fuel surcharges. United would charge a ton more miles.
  4. Booking Singapore Suites, one of the world’s nicest First Class products on the A380. Singapore miles are the only way to book the award, which is pricey in miles and includes a fuel surcharge, but is worth it for lovers of luxury.

Air France Flying Blue

Flying Blue miles are the key to booking Promo awards: 12,500 mile awards to anywhere in Europe or Israel. Flying Blue miles can be used to book any SkyTeam award space, and Flying Blue has a very cheap award chart to many places including Hawaii (15,000 miles one way.)

Here is my full post on the best options to book with Flying Blue miles.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic miles can book super cheap one way awards to London:

  • 17,500 miles in economy
  • 27,500 miles in Premium Economy
  • 40,000 miles in Upper Class (flat bed Business Class)

These awards have fuel surcharges, but they are so much cheaper in miles than other airlines charge that fuel surcharges may be worth paying.

Virgin Atlantic miles can also be used to book awards on partners like Delta, Virgin America, Virgin Australia, and Hawaiian. You can book a roundtrip to Buenos Aires on Delta for only 45,000 miles and no fuel surcharges!

Here is my full post on the best options to book with Virgin Atlantic miles.

How to Get ThankYou Points

The easiest way to earn a bundle of ThankYou Points is with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

 

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Annual Fee: $125 (fee waived for the first 12 months). On  4/19/2015, this fee will be reduced to $95 on all accounts
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

To get the full 50,000 point bonus, you do have to pay part of one annual fee of $95 (the annual fee is waived the first year, but you have to hold the card a second year.) Those 50,000 points would now transfer to Singapore Airlines and be enough for a roundtrip to South America with two free one ways to Hawaii!

For better perks, check out the Citi Prestige® Card:

  • Sign Up Bonus: 30,000 ThankYou Points after $2,000 in spending
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on air travel and hotels, 2x on restaurants and entertainment
  • Air travel fee credit:  $250 annual credit ($500 first year of cardmembership)
  • Lounge access: Admirals Clubs lounges and Priority Pass lounges worldwide
  • Free hotel nights: Get your 4th night free on all paid hotel stays (no blackout dates)
  • Global Entry: $100 application fee credit
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $450 not waived, well worth it for some

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

How to Transfer

From thankyou.com, look for the Points Transfer on the Do More tab.

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You’ll see the redemption options. I initiated a transfer to Singapore Airlines to see how the process works.

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As with Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards transfers, you must send increments of 1,000. Interestingly the name on the Singapore Airlines account is already pre-set to the cardholder’s name, so it doesn’t look like you can transfer to anyone else’s account. (Of course, I can book anyone an award from my Singapore Airlines account.)

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Other Redemption Options

Before the transfer option to airlines, the best redemption option for Citi ThankYou Points was to redeem for any flight on any airline for 1.25 cents of value per point. Most flights could be booked on thankyou.com and other flights by calling 800-THANKYOU.

That option is still around, but I don’t plan on taking advantage because I know I can get far more than 1.25 cents of value from the points as Singapore miles.

For free economy flights, I’ll continue to use my Arrival miles, since the 40,000 bonus miles earned on the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® can also be used for free flights on any airline but cannot be transferred to any airlines.

There are other redemption options for ThankYou Points, like merchandise. Avoid these options like the plague for their low return on ThankYou Points.

Two Final Thoughts

1. This transferability is really nice if you ever want to close the ThankYou card.

With cards that earn bank points, those points disappear when you close the card. (Not so for cards that earn airline miles or points.)

It would have been tough to redeem your balance close to zero before closing the card with the prior redemption options. Now you can always transfer out points until your balance is under 1,000.

2. I really, really hope Citi adds American Airlines as a transfer partner.

Citi has purchased billions of American Airlines miles as part of their partnership with the co-branded American Airlines cards, so it is strange that American Airlines isn’t on the transfer list. Making it stranger: it’s not as if the only way to earn American Airlines miles from a credit card is with the co-branded American Airlines cards. American Airlines miles are a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest points, which you can get from the SPG credit cards.

Bottom Line

Citi added 11 airlines as 1:1 transfer partners of ThankYou Points over the last few months. This is a huge addition to the program, but I really want to see American Airlines added also.

You can get over 50,000 ThankYou Points from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

The best transfer partner for those ThankYou points is Singapore KrisFlyer. The Singapore Airlines program allows redemption on all 27 Star Alliance airlines including United flights with no fuel surcharges.

There are some amazing gems on the Singapore Airlines award chart, and Singapore miles are the only way to book Singapore Suites, one of the world’s nicest First Class products.

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Citi ThankYou Points now transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles at a 1:1 rate.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 2.09.20 AMThat makes one hotel and 10 airline partners for Citi ThankYou Points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card comes with 50,000 bonus points: 20,000 after spending $2,000 in the first three months and 30,000 more after spending $3,000 in the first three months of the second year. Its awesome category bonuses are changing April 19. The definition of travel is expanding, and gas is being added as a 3x category.

The Citi Prestige® Card has a healthy 30,000 point bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months and offers 3x points on air travel and hotels plus 2x points on dining and entertainment. But this card is really about the perks: American Airlines and Priority Pass lounge access including guests, $250 in airfare credits each calendar year, and free hotel nights.

Virgin Atlantic instantly becomes one of the top three transfer options for ThankYou points, along with Singapore miles for Singapore Suites or travel in the Western Hemisphere and Flying Blue miles for Promo awards to Europe and some awards on Delta.

There are three main uses for Virgin Atlantic miles:

1. Among the Cheapest Economy and Premium Economy Awards to Europe

Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom. (Actually only 13,125 miles until January 22, 2015.)

There are modest fuel surcharges on the award, so taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are $135.

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 18,000 ThankYou Points plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United, American, or Delta miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Transatlantic Award: 13,125 Miles One Way All Summer Long.

Premium Economy

You can fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Considering most programs charge 30,000 miles one way in economy, this is a steal in my opinion even with the fuel surcharges.

2. Incredible Value Partner Awards

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners.

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Virgin Atlantic has a separate award chart for each, and the values can be good, especially with this transfer bonus. Best of all, on many partners, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect any fuel surcharges!

Last year I called Flying Club at (800) 365-9500 and priced out several awards.

The call was fairly smooth although the agent told me that Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta wasn’t bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. When I pressed him to double check, he came back with the news that it indeed is bookable. As always, you may know more than the phone agents, so be polite but firm.

Award prices including unavoidable government taxes (none include fuel surcharges):

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip economy on Delta: 45k miles + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles + $11.20
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles + $90.66
  • New York to Honolulu in roundtrip First on Hawaiian: 130k miles + $11.20

I learned a few key things about partner awards from the call:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles.
  • The Delta award chart is way underpriced to Southern South America. Buenos Aires for 45,000 ThankYou Points roundtrip is a steal. You’d need 60,000 Delta miles for the same award.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says economy roundtrips are “from 40,000 miles” and first is “from 80,000 miles.” Those prices only refer to roundtrips from the western US. The roundtrip price to/from JFK is quite a bit higher.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.
  • Not all Virgin America flights have award space that Virgin Atlantic has access to. There’s no way to check without calling Virgin Atlantic that I know of.

3. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–features fully flat beds with direct aisle access.

Virgin Atlantic offers its Flying Club members the best award availability in Upper Class, but the catch is the fuel surcharges (plus departing London taxes) of around $1,000 per roundtrip award in Upper Class.

While the out-of-pocket cost is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 80k miles roundtrip in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London roundtrip in Upper Class are only 100k miles.


Roundtrip Miles Prices to UK with Flying Club Miles listed Economy, Premium Economy, Upper Class from left to right

If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 125k miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges. But Delta SkyMiles members don’t have access to the same award availability as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members.

4. Other Uses?

Did I miss any great uses of Virgin Atlantic miles? These small foreign programs get so few expert eyeballs on them, so I know that many have hidden gems. Hopefully I’ve exposed some with the partner flights in this post. If you know of others, share them in the comments please.

Getting the Miles

Citi ThankYou Points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and Citi Prestige® Card now transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles.

Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles. American Express ran transfer bonuses of 30% and 35% to Virgin Atlantic last year. Ultimate Rewards have never had a transfer bonus, and I like to use my Ultimate Rewards with United miles, so I strongly favor transferring Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles if you want Virgin Atlantic miles.

The Virgin Atlantic credit card offers “90,000 bonus miles” if you jump through a lot of hoops.

Bottom Line

Citi has added major value to its ThankYou program three times since I got my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. First by adding airline transfer partners including Singapore, then by adding Air France Flying Blue as a partner, and now by adding Virgin Atlantic Flyinc Club. These continuous additions of value are one reason I plan to get the Citi Prestige® Card very soon.

Virgin Atlantic miles offer super cheap economy awards to Europe (13,125 miles until tomorrow and 17,500 miles normally), Premium Economy awards to Europe (27,500 miles), and Upper Class awards to Europe (40,000 miles.) Unfortunately all of these awards have fuel surcharges, but the miles prices may be low enough to justify the out-of-pocket cost.

Virgin Atlantic miles can also be used to book awards on several partners. Delta, Hawaiian, and Virgin America flights booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have no fuel surcharges, and some of the Delta awards are steals, like 45,000 miles roundtrip to Buenos Aires.

My big wish is that Citi ThankYou Points will eventually add another transfer partner, one with which Citi has a very close relationship already, American Airlines miles.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Many people can get a small business credit card. Opening small business cards roughly doubles the number of amazing miles and points cards available to you.

Every small business credit card I’ve gotten I opened by putting my social security number as the tax ID, and by saying that my business is a sole proprietorship. I got many of the cards when my business revenue was very low.

Check out my post on How to Be Approved for Business Cards.

If you have a business, make sure you are opening the right business credit cards to maximize your free, discounted, and luxury travel. Here are the top four cards, broken down by Best Sign Up Bonus, Best Category Bonuses, Best for Everyday Spending, and Best for Perks.

Best Sign Up Bonus

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months.

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American Airlines miles are currently the most valuable because United and Delta jacked up the number of miles needed for premium cabin awards last year, but American Airlines has not.

Just the sign up bonus on the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® is enough miles for a roundtrip to Europe, South America, or Asia.

The card offers double miles at office supply merchants, telecommunications merchants, and car rental merchants and a 5% mileage bonus every year you renew.

The card also comes with a free checked bag and priority boarding on American Airlines flights.

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first 12 months.

Application Link: CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard 

Best Category Bonuses

The Chase Ink Plus offers 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar for purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services. The card also offers 2x points at gas stations and hotels.

The Ink Plus offers 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the card. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, and more.

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first 12 months.

(Note that Chase is split testing higher annual fees for the card, so make sure you get the best offer.)

Best for Everyday Spending

The Starwoord Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express OPEN earns 1 Starpoint per dollar on all purchases.

Starpoints transfer to over 30 airlines, most at a 1:1 ratio. Whenever Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio, you always get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. That effectively means that you are earning 1.25 airline miles per dollar on all purchases with this card. Key 1:1 transfer partners:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Many More, but NOT United

Here is how to transfer Starpoints to airline miles.

The card comes with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Points can also be used for free hotel nights, Cash & Points stays, and Nights & Flights awards.

The annual fee of $65 is waived the first 12 months.

Best for Perks

The Business Platinum Card from American Express is the king of perks for business cards. The card comes with:

Here is how to set up and maximize those benefits.

The card comes with 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. It earns 1 Membership Rewards per dollar on all purchases with no category bonuses.

The card has a $450 annual fee that is NOT waived.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

This deal has expired on May 1 at noon ET.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is currently offering 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months of account opening.

This is enough miles for two roundtrips within the mainland United States, Canada, and Alaska or one roundtrip to Europe, South America, or Asia.

I ranked the card #2 on my top ten list of the best cards for free travel this month because of

  • the massive sign up bonus
  • American Airlines’ cheap award chart
  • the fact that cardholders get a 10% rebate on the miles used to book American Airlines award tickets
  • the $95 annual fee being waived the first 12 months

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Beyond the benefits when award booking, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® also makes traveling American Airlines less stressful.

  • Cardholders are entitled to a free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions on the same ticket. That’s up to a $250 value per roundtrip.
  • Cardholders get Group 1 boarding, so they’ll never have to gate check bags after the overhead bin space fills up.
  • Cardholders get a 25% discount on purchases onboard (I recommend the pastrami sandwich!)

The American Airlines card is one of the best airline cards, but it is not right for everyone.

  • What types of people should get the American Airlines credit card and what types shouldn’t?
  • What are the best uses of American Airlines miles?
  • What about the American Airlines/US Airways merger?

Benefits of American Airlines Miles

Cheap Award Chart & Amazing Partners

American Airlines miles are the best miles for booking ultra-luxury trips because American Airlines miles can book:

  • Etihad First Class
  • Qantas First Class
  • Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Qatar First Class
  • British Airways First Class
  • Malaysia First Class
  • Japan Airlines First Class

Delta miles cannot book international First Class. United gutted its award chart for partner First Class, so that its prices are almost double what American Airlines charges to fly some of the nicest products in the world.

United would charge 120,000 miles one way to fly from the United States to Southeast Asia via Asiana First Class. American would charge 67,500 miles via Cathay Pacific First Class, which is a better product in my opinion.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 2.06.15 PM

On the opposite end of the spectrum, American Airlines miles are the best for economy awards too. American features off peak dates with super cheap economy awards to:

  • Japan & Korea
  • Europe
  • South America
  • Central America
  • Carribean
  • Hawaii

Delta charges 70,000 miles roundtrip to Japan. American charges as little as 50,000 miles.

United charges 60,000 miles roundtrip to Europe or Southern South America. American charges as little as 40,000 miles.

American is cheaper than its competitors because they both devalued their award charts in the last year. American will likely release a new award chart in 2015 when it combines its AAdvantage program with the US Airways Dividend Miles program. I expect award prices to go up somewhat in 2015, but we still have months to book at current prices for flights throughout 2015.

10% Rebate on Awards

Folks who have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® can do even better than the award prices I just quoted. One benefit of card membership is a 10% rebate on the miles used to book American Airlines awards up to 10,000 miles rebated per calendar year.

That means a 40,000 mile off peak roundtrip to Europe is only 36,000 miles net. A 67,500 mile treat in Cathay Pacific First Class is only 60,750 miles net.

A cardholder who redeems 100,000 American Airlines miles each year (very doable for most people) gets back 10,000 American Airlines miles.

The process is automatic and the rebate posts within a few weeks. Here’s a post I wrote about the benefit in 2012.

Benefits When Traveling

Free Checked Bag

Cardholders get a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights (everyone gets a free checked bag on international flights), and up to four companions on the same reservation get the same benefit. Since the first checked bag normally costs $25, a family of five could clean up with this benefit, saving $250 per roundtrip.

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I used this benefit this week to save $25 on a one way ticket from Atlanta to Los Angeles when I had to check a tennis bag.

Group 1 Boarding

Since all the airlines started charging for checked bags, more people are carrying on big roll-a-boards that need to go in the overhead bin. When those fill up, you have to surrender your carry on for a dreaded “gate check.” I hate to gate check my carry ons because I have to wait around for 15 extra minutes to get the bag at baggage claim and because I lose access to everything in the bag during my flight.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® gets you Group 1 boarding on American Airlines flight, so you will definitely secure overhead bin space and avoid gate checking. This came in handy for me last week to keep my big backpack on the plane and not under the seat in front of me.

Best Uses of American Airlines Miles

Here are the basics of the AAdvantage program and the award booking rules.

American Airlines miles are best used for:

  • International Premium Cabins
  • Off Peak economy awards
  • Awards that are severely under-priced on the American Airlines award chart (here are five such awards)

American Airlines miles are almost never your best option for domestic economy awards.

Why not?

If there is MileSAAver award space on the flight you want, you can book it with British Airways Avios instead, almost certainly for fewer miles.

If there is not MileSAAver award space on the flight you want (only AAnytime space), you are almost certainly better off using Arrival miles to book the ticket.

Who Should and Shouldn’t Get This Card?

Look back at the previous section. Will you use the miles for a high value use? If so, this card with its 50,000 bonus miles and other benefits is a no-brainer.

Will you use the card for a low-value use? Skip the card and get the right card for your trip goal. (Fill out my Free Credit Card Consultation form.)

What about the US Airways Integration?

American Airlines and US Airways merged in December 2013, but they have not combined their frequent flyer programs.

A few days ago, I said I expected that an announcement about the integration of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles would come imminently and the combination would occur is 2015. I still believe that.

Hopefully we’ll know soon when American Airlines and US Airways miles will be combined and whether they will be freely transferable between the programs in advance of that date.

Citi issues the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and Barclaycard issues the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, so anyone can get both, which is a good idea if you are serious about collecting American Airlines miles.

Offer Details

  • For a limited time, earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Your first eligible checked bag is free*
  • Group 1 boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Citi ThankYou Points, which transfer to nine airlines plus Hilton, can be freely shared among ThankYou accounts.

Right now the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card offers up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points.

  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember

If you and your travel partner have both offered this card or if you have opened the ThankYou Premier and the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, you can freely combine balances before redeeming the points for airline miles or free flights.

  • What is the one big restriction on shared points?
  • What are the two best ways to redeem ThankYou Points?

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Citi has just released a new cash back card that is the best on the market:

Citi® Double Cash Card

You earn 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back as you make payments. You should, of course, pay in full every month to avoid interest. This has the added benefit of getting your cash back more quickly.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 1.37.41 AM

The 1% + 1% cash back and no annual fee immediately make the Citi® Double Cash Card the best cash back card on the market.

This card is slightly better than the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express, which offers 2% back and no annual fee, for four reasons:

  1. The Citi Double Cash is a MasterCard, and the Fidelity card is an American Express. MasterCards are more widely accepted.
  2. The Citi Double Cash’s rewards can be redeemed in increments of $25 for statement credits. You have to wait until you have $50 in rewards on the Fidelity card.
  3. The Citi Double Cash offers 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers made in the first four months. (There is a 3% fee on balance transfers.)
  4. The Fidelity card requires you to have a Fidelity account. That’s one more step.

The Citi® Double Cash Card also clearly has a chip in its promotional images. I don’t see whether it’s chip and PIN (more useful) or chip and signature, so I’ll hold off on calling this a benefit.

  • How does the Citi Double Cash Card compare to the Arrival Plus and miles earning cards?
  • Who should not get the Citi Double Cash Card?

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I wrote that Citi ThankYou Points had added Air France Flying Blue as a 1:1 transfer partner.

That’s big news because there are some amazing high value uses for Flying Blue miles, and ThankYou Points are so easy to earn from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card with its 50,000 point sign up bonus and 3x category bonus on travel and gas purchases.

When I was researching that post though, I couldn’t find Flying Blue’s complete award chart. All I could find was an award chart for awards originating in Europe:

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I took it upon myself to compile an award chart for awards departing the United States, which I believe to be the only Air France/KLM Flying Blue award chart online for awards departing the United States. I priced out awards from the continental United States to every region on the Flying Blue award chart.

  • What is the award chart?
  • Where is it cheaper than Delta’s award chart?

Here is the award chart in thousands of Flying Blue miles each way from the United States to the listed region, flying on Classic Awards. I didn’t include Premium Economy awards, which are bookable with Flying Blue miles, because the airlines on which you can book them collect fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 2.44.26 AM

The first thing to notice is that awards in economy are often very cheap, but awards in business class are often 2.5x the price, which makes them extremely expensive.

Here’s the same award chart with awards that are cheaper in miles than the same Delta award in red. (I compare Flying Blue to Delta since both are members of SkyTeam.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 2.46.53 AM

Some of the black numbers are the same price as Delta awards, and some are more expensive.

The near international awards in economy are downright cheap with Flying Blue miles.

  • 15,000 Flying Blue miles each way to Hawaii vs. 22,500 Delta miles
  • 15,000 Flying Blue miles each way to Central America/Caribbean vs. 17,500 Delta miles
  • 25,000 Flying Blue miles each way to Europe or Southern South America vs. 30,000 Delta miles

There’s nothing particularly sexy about flying economy, but paying 30,000 Flying Blue miles instead of $1,000 for a roundtrip to Hawaii–and then enjoying Hawaii–is an awesome deal!

What’s your favorite deal on the award chart?

How to Get ThankYou Points

The easiest way to earn a bundle of ThankYou Points is with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening –  redeemable for $500 in gift cards, $625 for airfare, or other great rewards.
  • Earn 3X ThankYou Points on Travel including Gas,  2X ThankYou Points on Dining Out and Entertainment, and 1X ThankYou Points on Other Purchases
  • ThankYou® Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through thankyou.com, as compared to gift cards
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited ThankYou Points
  • Annual Fee:  $95 (fee waived for the first 12 months)

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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