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TPG reader Ryan sent me a message on Facebook to ask about redeeming Citi ThankYou points:
“I was planning to redeem 40,000 bonus points from my Citigold account to book a flight on Singapore Suites, but I was told points from checking don’t transfer to airline partners. What are my options?”
Many credit card issuers also provide incentives for other banking relationships. In particular, Citi occasionally offers large bonuses for checking accounts that can earn you as much as 50,000 ThankYou points or AAdvantage miles. That’s on par with what you’ll get from many of the top credit card offers, but as Ryan learned the hard way, there are some important differences.
Citi makes some unusual distinctions between points based on where they come from. You can earn “ThankYou points” from both Citi checking accounts and credit cards in the ThankYou Rewards program, but those points are equal in name only — the award options, redemption rates and expiration policy all depend on the source.
Points earned from Citi checking accounts are referred to as “taxable” points, and taxable points are ineligible for transfer to airline and hotel partners. These points also can’t be shared with other ThankYou Rewards members, and they expire three years after you earn them (regardless of ongoing account activity). You can redeem them directly for travel and statement credits, but you’ll get less than one cent per point that way, so those options are unattractive.
The good news is that you can combine taxable ThankYou points with normal ThankYou points earned from the Citi ThankYou Premier Card or Citi Prestige Card. Weirdly, Citi still considers those taxable points inferior even once they’ve been combined, so the transfer option remains unavailable. However, you can redeem them directly for travel at the higher rates offered by those cards (1.25 cents per point for Premier, or up to 1.6 cents per point for Prestige).
Unfortunately, redeeming 40,000 points through the ThankYou Travel Center isn’t likely to help Ryan book a flight in Singapore Suites, since those tickets cost thousands of dollars. My advice would be to use those points toward other trip expenses (like hotels, positioning flights, etc.), and look for another solution to get points into your Singapore KrisFlyer account.
Singapore Airlines is a partner of all four major transferable points programs, so you have plenty of options. Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest all transfer to KrisFlyer at 1:1, so even if you don’t have a large balance in any one of those programs, you could combine points from each of them to book your award. If you don’t already have the points you need, there are plenty of opportunities to earn them. Depending on when you plan to travel, you may still be able to find availability.
Citi’s system of classifying ThankYou points is unintuitive, and I’d love to see them change it for the sake of all ThankYou Rewards members. Until that happens, make sure you know the policies governing your own points so you can avoid unpleasant surprises.
While Citi announced some negative changes to this card back in July — including a lower sign-up bonus, the elimination of Admirals Club access and the end of the free rounds of golf benefit — one of its most valuable perks still remains, which is the 4th Night Free perk. This benefit alone can save you thousands of dollars a year if you use it to its full advantage.