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5 great ways to maximize 80,000 Citi ThankYou points

Nov. 08, 2022
10 min read
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With a variety of transfer partners, Citi ThankYou points are some of the most valuable transferable points out there. You can leverage these transfer partners to book everything from low-cost domestic flights to high-end international first-class tickets with minimal out-of-pocket cost.

In this guide, I'll show you some of my favorite uses of (roughly) 80,000 ThankYou points — the current sign-up bonus on the Citi Premier® Card. Right now, you can earn 80,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 on qualifying purchases on the card within the first three months of opening your account.

So, let's take a closer look at Citi's list of transfer partners and how to leverage them to book high-value award tickets.

Maximizing Citi ThankYou points

Avianca LifeMiles is one of Citi's most valuable transfer partners. DANIEL MUNOZ/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

While TPG values 80,000 ThankYou points at $1,440, you can get significantly more value by transferring them to partner programs, especially if you’re looking to fly premium classes. So the real question is, "What are the best programs to use to maximize my ThankYou points?"

Here's a look at Citi's transfer partners, which all have 1:1 transfer ratios (meaning 1,000 ThankYou points equal 1,000 airline miles), except where noted:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier.
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue.
  • Avianca LifeMiles.
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
  • Choice Privileges (1:2 or 1:1.5 for non-premium cards).
  • Emirates Skywards.
  • Etihad Guest.
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands.
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (5:4 for non-premium cards).
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer.
  • Qatar Privilege Club.
  • Singapore KrisFlyer.
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus.
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Wyndham Rewards (1:0.8 for non-premium cards).

If you’re questioning the value of some of these partners, you’re not alone, as only a handful provide high-value redemptions. While the list below isn't exhaustive, it demonstrates the power of a handful of these programs. Use them as inspiration for your own award travel, even if you're not interested in the destinations or flights we outline below.

Related: The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards

Flights to India via Istanbul in Turkish Airlines business class

Turkish Airlines business class on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is a TPG staff favorite. When there's business-class saver space available, you can travel from the United States to Istanbul for just 45,000 miles one-way. But we believe that the real sweet spot of the program is redeeming miles from the United States to South Asia — which can be done for just 52,500 miles. This includes itineraries to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

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Flights from the U.S. to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia cost 67,500 miles.

If you decide to travel on Turkish Airlines in business class, try to find a flight operated on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350. These two planes feature the airline's newer 1-2-1 business class as opposed to the outgoing 2-3-2 or 2-2-2 business class found on its Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s.

The only downside to this award is the process to actually book it. Turkish's website isn't the most user-friendly, and there are some hoops you have to jump through to book awards for other travelers. Check out our full guide to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles for more information.

Flying United business class from the US mainland to Hawaii

United 767-400 business class. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles can also be a fantastic option for domestic United itineraries, particularly on flights to Hawaii. Miles&Smiles slots Hawaii in the same region as the United States, meaning that you can travel for the same number of miles on a flight from the East Coast to Hawaii as a short skip from Newark to Washington, D.C., for instance. Economy-class tickets are 7,500 miles, while business class tickets are 12,500 miles one-way.

Long-haul nonstop flights from the East Coast to Honolulu are difficult to book using Star Alliance partner programs. You can set ExpertFlyer notifications for the "X" (Star Alliance economy saver) and "I" (Star Alliance business saver) fare classes. That way, if a seat gets released, you can quickly book it using Turkish Airlines miles. (ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures.)

United generally flies its Boeing 767-400ER on long-haul flights from Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). Unfortunately, most of these planes have yet to receive their Polaris retrofit, but United has confirmed that they will be refurbished in the coming months.

Flights from the West Coast to Tokyo with ANA

ANA business class. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

ANA's new business class is one of the best in the skies, and for just 90,000 or 95,000 miles round-trip, you can travel to Japan on round-trip West Coast or East Coast itineraries, respectively. One-way tickets cost half this, bringing the cost down to 45,000 and 47,500 miles from the West Coast and East Coast, respectively.

You can find award availability on a Star Alliance search engine. I find united.com to be the easiest one to use.

Once you find your desired ANA business-class route, call Virgin Atlantic and provide the flight details you found online. Once the representative has confirmed that there's award space, you can transfer your ThankYou points to Flying Club while still on the phone. Our tests indicate that ThankYou points to Flying Club transfers are instantaneous.

Flights to Asia in EVA Air's top-tier business-class product

EVA business class. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

If Ferragamo amenity kits, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 sparkling wine that retails for $160 and seats designed by BMW appeal to you, look no further than EVA's Royal Laurel business class. I tried this product earlier this year and it quickly became my favorite way to get across the Pacific.

EVA has regularly scheduled passenger flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

The airline also flies to most major airports in East and Southeast Asia. If you book just a Seattle-to-Taiwan flight using Avianca LifeMiles, it will set you back 85,000 miles. Making Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) a quick layover and continuing to Southeast Asia on a connecting flight will set you back an extra 5,000 additional miles. While award availability is limited, you should find award space if you book about 10 months out with flexible travel dates.

LIFEMILES.COM

Sure, this is a little more than 80,000 points, but it should be relatively easy to earn the difference by meeting the Citi Premier's minimum spending requirement. Remember, the card earns 3 points per dollar on airfare, hotels, gas, groceries and restaurants.

Related: Can’t find award availability with Avianca LifeMiles? Don’t give up until you try this trick

Flights from the US to Frankfurt in Lufthansa first class

Lufthansa first class. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

With cash fares starting at $8,300 one-way, booking Lufthansa's first class on miles is what TPG's Zach Griff once called "the holy grail of award tickets."

Lufthansa first-class passengers enjoy high-end four-course meals, seats that recline into 84-inch beds and, if traveling on a Boeing 747, the opportunity to sit in the nose of the plane.

You can book Lufthansa's first-class award tickets on LifeMiles starting 30 days before the departure of your flight. As these are some of the most coveted seats across the Atlantic, we suggest setting award alerts on ExpertFlyer. That way, you'll be notified by email when a seat becomes available, allowing you to hopefully snag the seat before it's taken.

How to earn Citi ThankYou points

JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

As mentioned in the introduction, the Citi Premier card is still offering its best-ever welcome bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening your account. This is enough to book almost everything discussed in this guide once you've met the spending requirement. Even better, the card has a variety of spending categories that earn 3 points per dollar, including:

  • Air travel.
  • Hotels.
  • Restaurants.
  • Supermarkets.
  • Gas stations.

This covers a good portion of the costs many of us incur daily and makes your next coffee run, grocery purchase or gas fill-up a step closer to your next big trip. Plus, all other purchases you put on the card earn 1 point per dollar spent. The card also has no foreign transaction fees, so you won't pay more when you make a purchase abroad.

Related: TPG's full review of the Citi Premier card

You can also pair the Citi Premier with the Citi® Double Cash Card, which earns 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% cash back when you make a payment. However, this cash back is awarded as ThankYou points — with $0.01 equaling 1 point — that you can merge with the points earned with your Citi Premier card. Hence, you can transfer those points to airline and hotel partners at the same rate as the Citi Premier.

Right now, the Citi Double Cash offers a welcome bonus of $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. This equals 20,000 points.

Related: How to get maximum value out of your Citi Double Cash ThankYou points

Bottom line

Transferable point currencies can be incredibly valuable, thanks to their inherent flexibility. You can wait to transfer to partners until you’re ready to book and even have the option to redeem directly for travel on a variety of airlines. While we don’t value Citi ThankYou points as high as other transferable points currencies, there are some terrific ways to redeem them for solid value.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh and Nick Ewen.

Featured image by ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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