How Long Do Citi ThankYou Points Take to Transfer?

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I really like the changes Citi has made to ThankYou Rewards, turning it from a fairly obscure and mediocre program to a highly desirable one. Citi now provides a multitude of ways to redeem ThankYou points for great value, and the issuer has upped its game on the earning side by expanding benefits and offering sign-up bonuses on both the Citi Premier Card and Citi Prestige.

Like any of the transferable points programs, an important aspect of using ThankYou Points is knowing how long it takes to transfer them from your ThankYou Rewards account to whichever airline or hotel partner you want to utilize. Long transfer times make it more difficult to plan and book awards, especially when availability is limited. Both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards offer instant transfers to at least some of their partners, which is a major advantage of both programs. Meanwhile, transfers from Starwood Preferred Guest tend to be lengthy and less predictable.

To see how Citi ThankYou Rewards stacks up against the competition, TPG Marketing Director Kate O’Brien, TPG Chief of Staff Adam Kotkin and I did some research for each of the program’s transfer partners. We transferred 1,000 points from my ThankYou account to each of my corresponding partner accounts, and tracked how long it took for them to show up. Here’s what we found:

Program Transfer Time
Air France/KLM Flying Blue Instantaneous
Avianca LifeMiles Instantaneous
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles < 24 hours
Etihad Guest 7 Days
EVA Infinity MileageLands 3 Days
Garuda Indonesia Miles 2 Days
Jet Airways Instantaneous
JetBlue TrueBlue  Instantaneous
Malaysian Enrich  TBD (see below)
Qantas Frequent Flyer 2 Days
Qatar Privilege Club 2 Days
Singapore KrisFlyer 1 Day
Thai Royal Orchid Plus 7 Days
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles 1 Day
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Instantaneous

Note that the times listed above represent my personal experience, and shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules. However, others have reported a similar timeline when transferring points from ThankYou Rewards. Your transfers may be faster or slower, but you can use these times as guidelines when planning your trips.

Five of the transfers to partners were instant, which is much better than what we saw last time we tested (just two). Two of them showed up within a day or so (Asia Miles), while the rest took two days all the way up to a week. Of course faster is better, but 48 hours is a reasonable window to book an award. The sluggish transfer to Etihad took almost an entire week, but as TPG Contributor Richard Kerr pointed out, the Etihad Guest program generally isn’t the best option for booking awards, even on Etihad itself.

As for Malaysian Airlines, its IT systems are a mess. I received confirmation from Citi that my transfer order had been received, but I have been unable to access my Enrich account despite numerous emails and calls to Malaysian Airlines customer service. It’s possible that the points have already shown up, but it doesn’t do me much good if I can’t tell one way or the other. If you’re considering booking an award with Malaysian, be warned that the transfer process may not be a smooth one.

Of course, the greatest risk when transferring points is that award availability can change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst case scenario you’ll be stuck with thousands of points in a program you have little use for beyond your originally intended award ticket or hotel night. Here are a few tips for how to avoid that situation:

  1. Put your award reservation on hold prior to transferring. Not all programs allow you to do this, but those that do make things much easier. For example, Singapore KrisFlyer allows you to hold an award reservation so long as you have 50% of the needed miles in your account.
  2. Choose flights that have more than 1 available award seat. This is helpful in case someone else books before your miles show up. Use tools like ExpertFlyer or KVS to find how many award seats are available on a flight. You can also do a single search for three or four passengers; that way you can determine precisely how many seats are available.
  3. Select uncommon routes. You can improve your chances by flying along routes that are less popular or originate from non-hubs, since those often have better award availability. For a transpacific flight, check out ANA’s service from San Jose to Tokyo-Narita.
  4. Have a back-up plan. If your original itinerary is kaput because availability has dried up, have another option (or multiple options) in mind so you can still book when your points arrive.

If your original flights have disappeared, don’t panic. Keep in mind that award availability changes frequently, and can increase dramatically as you get closer to your departure date. Check regularly, and be ready to act quickly when seats do open up.

In order to transfer Citi ThankYou points to travel partners, you must be a Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige cardholder. Unfortunately, the Prestige currently isn’t offering a sign-up bonus, but the Premier is offering 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months.

Many readers ask me about using ThankYou Points for American Airlines. Unfortunately, you can’t transfer points to directly to the AAdvantage program, but cardholders can redeem points toward American flights at 1.25 cents apiece through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center.

My favorite transfer options for ThankYou points include Singapore KrisFlyer for a flight on Singapore’s A380 Suites, one-way domestic Delta flights for 12,500 Flying Blue miles and 15,000 Flying Blue miles to Hawaii.

As I mentioned above, transfer times may vary from one person to another; please share your own experiences in the comments below, as well as your strategies for transferring and redeeming ThankYou points.

Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy

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