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You don’t have to be a shopaholic to earn thousands of bonus miles or points through airline, hotel and credit card online shopping portals where you can earn multiple points or miles per dollar simply by logging in with your account and then clicking through to the merchant of your choice. While most US airlines and hotel chains still offer their online shopping portals, early last year, American Express officially closed its bonus points mall. That was bad news, but at least there were two other major credit card portals – Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou.
However, as of January 19, 2014, Citi ended the opportunity to earn bonus points through its online shopping portal. Folks with eligible cards like the Citi ThankYou Premier or Citi ThankYou Preferred can still redeem their points for travel and merchandise through the ThankYou portal, but they can no longer earn multiple points per $1 on everyday purchases.
Citi notified cardholders late in 2013 and the changes went into effect last week, as many of you no doubt have noticed. Citi reps offered the following explanation:
“We are focused on offering our ThankYou members ways to earn and redeem rewards that fit their lifestyle and needs. Due to limited usage, we have closed the ThankYou Bonus center. ThankYou members can continue to earn points through their eligible Citi credit card purchases and enrolled Citibank checking account. We also are focused on delivering new ways that members redeem their points for rewards that are personally meaningful to them, including Rewards Account Number, which enables members to use points for purchases anywhere Visa and MasterCard are accepted online.”
Although I tend to focus on transferable points and miles with specific airlines like American or hotel points like SPG and Hyatt, it’s important to keep fixed-value point like Citi ThankYou in your points portfolio for specific redemption opportunities, and the fact that Citi has removed a major way of racking up bonus points is just plain bad news.
Like with Amex, I wish Citi would have considered improving their mall – asking for consumer feedback about how it could be better and more effective – rather than just shutting it down. In my opinion, this change is another big blow to the ThankYou program (including the fact that the Citi ThankYou Premier now only offers 1.25 cents per point on travel redemptions instead of the former 1.33 cents per point), and has me thinking more and more about other fixed-value programs like Barclaycard Arrival miles, which you can redeem for 1 cent apiece for travel and get a 10% refund while earning 2X miles per $1 on spend. Plus, Barclaycard offers its Barclaycard RewardsBoost portal, so you can still earn multiple points per dollar at tons of major merchants.
However, while this is bad news, it’s not terrible, since other cards offer higher bonuses at various categories of merchants on everyday, non-portal spend, and if you’re set on using your Citi ThankYou card to earn points, you can still go through other online shopping portals to earn other bonus miles and points while still racking up ThankYou points. However, it’s just one more reason I’ll be concentrating most of my spend on other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex Premier Rewards Gold rather than banking on Citi.
For handy reference, here’s a list of still active online shopping portals:
Air Canada: Aeroplan EStore
Alaska: MileagePlan Shopping
Amtrak: Amtrak Guest Rewards
British Airways: BA Miles Estore
Chase: Ultimate Rewards Shopping
Choice Rewards: Choice Privileges Mall
Frontier: Early Returns Mall
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines eMarket
Hilton HHonors: Hilton HHonors Shop to Earn Mall
Marriott Rewards: Shop My Way
Southwest: Rapid Rewards Shopping
US Airways: Dividend Miles Shopping Mall
Virgin Atlantic: ShopsAway