How ThankYou Points Work

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Brian asked in a comment:

Not sure about the mechanics of using [ThankYou] points. Can I transfer these to AA to receive miles that will be added to my AA balance, or are these points used exclusively on their own for a flight on, say, AA?

Here’s how ThankYou Points–the points earned on the Citi Prestige® CardCiti ThankYou® Premier Card, and other Citi cards–work. Ignoring poor redemptions like gift cards, merchandise, car rentals, etc where you get 1 cent per point or less, there are two reasonable ways to redeem ThankYou Points:

  1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight on any airline with no blackouts.
  2. Transfer them to miles with 12 airlines or to Hilton points. Then they are whatever miles you chose, subject to those rules.

1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight

When using your points like cash, their value depends on your card.

  • Points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card are worth 1.25 cents toward any flight on any airline.
  • Points earned on the Citi Prestige® Card are worth 1.25 cents toward flights on any airline. (If you have both cards, you can combine the points, so all the points get the more valuable redemption rate of the Prestige.)

To use your points like cash for a flight, go to thankyou.com, and select Flights under Shop.

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The search screen is intuitive. It will give you all the flights Expedia would show you, or you can specify to only see one airline.

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My one way search from New York to Atlanta found Delta direct flights for $143.06. Or you can pay 11,444 points, which is valuing the points at 1.25 cents each (I searched in my ThankYou Premier account.)

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Comparing that to Kayak, for whatever reason, thankyou.com is $1 more expensive. Always compare to another search engine because if the price is way higher on thankyou.com, you don’t want to book.
Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.48.11 AMOn the payment screen of thankyou.com, you can pay for the entire ticket in cash, entire ticket in points, or any number of points in between.
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My account currently only has 4,187 points, so that is the most points I can use. No matter how many points you use, you get a constant value for them, in this case 1.25 cents.

The airline sees these purchases with ThankYou Points as a cash purchase because Citi pays the airline cash. That means that you will earn miles and status for tickets purchased like this.

How to Transfer ThankYou Points to Airline Miles

You can transfer ThankYou Points in increments of 1,000 to 12 airlines’ miles at a 1:1 rate and Hilton points at a 2:3 rate. The best partners are Singapore miles and Flying Blue miles. Unfortunately American Airlines is not a partner of points transfers (yet.)

Once you transfer your points, and they show up as miles in a few days, you now have the miles you selected. You must redeem your miles in accordance with the award chart and rules of the program that your miles are now in.

Redeeming airline miles is very different than using points for any flight you want. With airline miles, you need to search award space, which is not available on every flight, and piece together an award ticket. While more difficult, it is also far more rewarding.

Airline miles are the only reasonable way to fly premium cabins like Singapore Suites or even flat bed United First Class from the mainland to Hawaii (30,000 Singapore miles one way.)

To transfer points, 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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You quickly get a confirmation email, and your points show up in a few days, depending on the program. Singapore miles usually show up in 36 hours or so.

As always when using miles, you earn no miles or status from your flights. Of course, I use most of my miles to book premium cabin awards, which gets me a fancy seat; great service; free bag check; faster check in, boarding, and security; and lounge access when flying internationally, so I don’t really care about status.

Bottom Line

There are two ways to use ThankYou Points:

  1. Like cash to book any flight. You can get up to 1.25 cents of value per point this way if you have the Prestige. This is a good use if you want to fly domestic economy or earn status.
  2. To transfer to airline miles. You can book Business and First Class cabins at a reasonable price in miles.

I much prefer transferring my ThankYou Points to miles. I have cash to book the occasional domestic economy flight (or better yet I can use my $250 per year airfare credit from my Citi Prestige® Card), but I don’t have the cash to book Singapore Suites or even United First Class from Atlanta to Honolulu in a flat bed. Those I book with miles that I get from points transfers.

Through my point transfers I get more than 1.25 cents of value from my ThankYou Points, but that is because I am flexible with travel, and I understand the programs into which I am transferring miles. Transfers are the more complicated option, and there is no shame in eschewing them for the simplicity of using ThankYou Points like cash toward any flight.


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42 COMMENTS

  1. One little correction, it doesn’t matter what card you use to earn Thank You points. It is when you redeem that the price you pay in points is set based on the type of cards you hold.

    I earn all my points on a Citi Forward card but get 1.25 cents per point in value when I redeem because I own a Citi Premier card.

  2. Is that parenthetical (yet) in your comment about transfer to American Airlines just your own musing, or is something in the offing? That would immediately increase the value of these points significantly for lots of people.

    • Currently no ThankYou Points –> AA miles transfers. At some point that may change, but I have no inside info. The possibility is heightened by the existing Citi/AA partnership, but who knows. Sorry to get your hopes up.

  3. Hi Scott: Great columns and great advice. Re: purchasing a ticket with Thank you points, how does one secure, or attempt to secure, economy plus (aka premium economy etc.) when the drop down menus don’t address that class of seats? Thanks.

  4. I suggest reviewing your article for recent changes to the Prestige in July. This bottom line summary is no longer true” Like cash to book any flight. You can get up to 1.33 cents of value per point this way if you have the Prestige.” as it is 1.25 cents.

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