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With all the improvements Citi has made to ThankYou Rewards in the last year, it’s no surprise that two of the program’s cards made my recent list of the 5 Hottest Credit Cards for Summer 2015. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at ten ways you can use these cards for great award redemptions.
Citi recently stepped up its travel rewards game with a big bonus offer for the Citi ThankYou Premier Card. You can now earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. ThankYou points are pretty versatile, since you can redeem them directly for travel or transfer them to 12 different airline and hotel partners, so today I want to help readers figure out how to use these points by exploring what I think are the 10 best uses for 50,000 ThankYou points.
Of course, the options presented here also apply to the sign-up bonus from the Citi Prestige Card, which is currently offering 40,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first three months. For more on that card specifically, check out TPG’s recent review of the sign-up bonus and benefits.
1. Flying Blue Awards on Delta to the Dutch Caribbean
Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program of Air France, KLM and other carriers, and like other programs that offer zone-based awards, Flying Blue takes its own unique view of world geography based on its history. Since KLM serves the former Dutch colonies of Saint Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao from Amsterdam, it chooses to lump these particular destinations in with the rest of North America, and offers economy-class award tickets there from the United States and Canada for just 25,000 miles round-trip.
ThankYou Rewards transfer to Flying Blue at 1:1, so this one sign-up bonus from the ThankYou Premier card is enough for two people to fly to these islands on Delta for just the cost of taxes. If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of trying to find two award seats that Delta makes available to its partners, it’s worth noting that I did find plenty of options on the flight from New York-JFK to Aruba this November.
For more information, see my post on Maximizing Flying Blue: Earning, Redeeming, Transfers & More.
2. Round-Trip Flight to Israel
Another nice quirk of the Flying Blue award chart is that it includes Israel as part of Europe. While other programs typically lump award flights to Tel Aviv as part of the Middle East, North Africa or even the Indian subcontinent — and charge as much as 50% more to get there — you can fly round-trip from North America to Israel in economy class using just 50,000 Flying Blue miles.
3. Flying Blue Promo Awards
The Flying Blue program is also legendary for offering highly discounted awards known as Promo Awards. These offers aren’t as impressive as they once were, but there are still some great deals to be had from time to time. For example, a business-class award ticket on KLM between Dallas and Europe (including Israel) this July and August is 46,875 miles one-way, a 25% discount. Considering that this ticket would normally cost thousands of dollars, it’s not a bad use of ThankYou points, even when you consider the $221 worth of taxes and fuel surcharges that you’d have to pay.
4. $625 Worth of Travel Booked through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center
The ThankYou Premier card has long offered 1.25 cents per point in value when you redeem toward airfare directly through Citi. However, the card now offers that same redemption rate for hotels, car rentals and cruises, so you can use your sign-up bonus to book $625 worth of a wider array of travel. This is a great use of points when you already have airline and hotel awards taken care of, and a rental car is your only remaining out of pocket expense.
5. Hilton HHonors Awards
Since ThankYou points transfer to Hilton HHonors at a 1:1.5 ratio, your sign-up bonus is worth 75,000 HHonors points, or at least 79,500 after you meet the minimum spending requirement. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of value in this program, and those points are enough for a weekend stay that would cost well over $500.
For example, the DoubleTree-branded Curtis Denver (a high-rise property in a great location) is available for just 30,000 points a night, when rooms normally go for more than $300.
For more great Hilton HHonors award ideas, check out Nick Ewen’s recent post on 8 Low-Level Hilton Properties that Make for Awesome Awards.
6. Round-Trip Flight to Hawaii for 35,000 points
One solid option for award travel to Hawaii is the 35,000-mile awards on United using miles from Singapore’s KrisFlyer program (with no fuel surcharges). This compares favorably to United Airlines itself, which charges 45,000 miles for saver-level awards on the exact same flights. ThankYou Rewards transfer to Singapore Krisflyer at 1:1, so you could use the sign-up bonus to book a trip to Hawaii and have 15,000 points left over for hotels, car rentals or perhaps an inter-island flight.
7. Virgin Atlantic Awards from the US to South America on Delta for 45,000 miles
Virgin Atlantic is another one of the more valuable transfer partners in this program, and it offers round-trip awards to South America on Delta for just 45,000 miles (with no fuel surcharges). These flights can easily cost well over $1,000. As in the previous example, using your sign-up bonus to book one of these awards would leave you some extra points to use toward other expenses.
8. Virgin Atlantic Business-Class Award to South Africa from Frankfurt or Munich
Another sweet spot on Virgin Atlantic’s award chart is flights to South Africa from Europe on South African Airways, so long as you don’t originate in London. This leaves flights from Frankfurt and Munich to both Cape Town and Johannesburg (a distance of more than 5,000 miles each way) for just 50,000 miles. Cape Town is a favorite destination of both TPG and myself, and it makes a great addition to a European trip, as nonstop award flights from the US to South Africa are extremely rare.
9. Star Alliance Award Flights within Europe for 30,000 Miles on EVA
30,000 miles doesn’t seem like such a great deal for an award flight within Europe, until you realize that EVA allows two stopovers (greater than 24 hours) and an open jaw in addition to your destination. Furthermore, the Star Alliance has an incredible route network and strong award availability within Europe, and you can choose from flights on Lufthansa, Swiss, LOT Polish, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish, Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Austrian, Brussels, Croatia and Scandinavian. Additionally, EVA considers “Europe” to be everywhere from Iceland to Russia, so you can consider this award to be the equivalent of a European air pass when used creatively.
10. 30,000-Mile Star Alliance Awards on EVA within the North Asia zone
Just like in Europe, you can add some exotic destinations to your next Asia trip by using this award. Although EVA’s definition of “North Asia” may not be as expansive as US Airways’ (which left geographical regions up to the interpretation of the representative you spoke with), it includes Guam, Japan, Micronesia, Palau, South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia and the Russian Far East. Once again, you get two stopovers and an open jaw on just one round-trip award. I’ve always found the most exotic destinations to have the best award availability, so there’s plenty of potential here to travel off the beaten path. For more information, see Richard Kerr’s post on Maximizing ThankYou Rewards on Cathay Pacific and Eva Air.
How would you use 50,000 points from the ThankYou Premier card?
Citi ThankYou® Premier Card