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TPG reader Alec sent me a message to ask about changes coming to Citi ThankYou Rewards:
“Should I transfer my Citi points to Virgin America so I can transfer to Alaska Airlines later?”
The partnership between Citi and Virgin America didn’t last long. The Elevate program was added as a ThankYou Rewards transfer partner only about 15 months ago, but Citi recently announced that the partnership will end in late January, reducing its roster of partner airlines and hotels to 14.
That news — paired with the finalized merger between Virgin America and Alaska Airlines — means award travelers now have a window to transfer points from Citi to Alaska’s Mileage Plan program. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and I’d recommend against transferring points speculatively.
The main drawback is the transfer ratio from Citi to Virgin America. You can transfer to most of Citi’s airline partners at 1:1, but Virgin America is an unfavorable 2:1, so 1,000 ThankYou points gets you just 500 Elevate points. In fairness, I think Elevate points are worth more on average than ThankYou points, but they’re certainly not worth twice as much, so you’d be losing a fair amount of value in that exchange.
We now know that Elevate points will transfer to Mileage Plan at a ratio of 1:1.3. That’s a good deal if you already have points from Virgin America on hand, however transfers from Citi seem lackluster to me despite that more favorable ratio. You’ll end up with just 0.65 Mileage Plan miles for each ThankYou point, so again I think you’d be losing value on average.
Ultimately, there are better ways to use ThankYou points. If none of the transfer partners interest you, the ThankYou Travel Center lets you redeem points directly toward travel for as much as 1.6 cents apiece. I don’t think you’ll get nearly the same value by transferring to Virgin America. The same goes for Amex Membership Rewards, which also transfer to Virgin America at 2:1.
For more on the merger, check out these posts:
- Should I Get a Virgin America Credit Card Before the Merger?
- Alaska Airlines Might Keep the Virgin America Brand
Alaska miles are extremely valuable because you can book awards on partners like Emirates, Icelandair, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. The current bonus of 30,000 miles can book you a roundtrip ticket on Alaska Airlines from Boston to San Diego or New York to Seattle, for example.
- Special Introductory Offer: Buy 1 ticket, get 1 for just the taxes and fees with Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
- Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of your account opening.
- Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year! Each Year on your account anniversary get a companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22). Valid on all Alaska flights booked on alaskaair.com.
- Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
- Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- New - Get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Mileage Plan™ Hotels.
- Earn unlimited miles and travel with no blackout dates and no foreign transaction fees.