Best ways to redeem Citi ThankYou points on Oneworld airlines
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The value of a flexible rewards program like Citi ThankYou Rewards comes from the ability to transfer your points to frequent flyer miles with numerous airlines. Citi currently offers 15 different airline transfer partners, representing all three major global alliances. However, in many cases, you have more than one airline within an alliance from which to choose when it comes to transferring your points, and it can be challenging to figure out which one is best.
Today we’ll help you sort through this decision by looking at your transfer options for Oneworld carriers. If you have Citi ThankYou points and you are looking to book an award on American Airlines, British Airways or or any of the other 10 member airlines, this guide will help identify your best options.
It’s worth noting that just because Citi partners with a Oneworld airline, doesn’t mean you should transfer your points there. Qatar Airways Privilege Club is a great example of this. Although the airline is a member of the Oneworld alliance and a transfer partner of Citi, it doesn’t make this list because of a combination of poor redemption values and a confusing and hard to navigate program.
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Earning Citi ThankYou Points
Before you can even think about transferring your Citi ThankYou points, you need to earn them. At the time of writing, you can earn transferable ThankYou points through two different credit cards:
- Citi Premier℠ Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 3x points on travel including gas and 2x points at restaurants and on entertainment purchases. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card. For more information, read our review of the Citi Premier.
- Citi Prestige® Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 5x points on air travel and at restaurants, 3x points on hotels and cruises and 1x on all other purchases. You’ll also enjoy cell phone protection, Priority Pass Select membership and a fourth night free on paid hotel stays twice per year. There’s a $495 annual fee for this card.
In addition, Citi offers a handful of other credit cards that accrue ThankYou points. However, in order for these earnings to be transferable, you must have a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige and combine points into that “premium” account:
- Citi Rewards+℠ Card: Earn 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on your first $6,000 spent each year (then 1x). The card will also round up your purchases to the nearest 10 points, and you’ll receive 10% of your redeemed rewards back. There’s no annual fee for this card. For more information, read our review of the no-annual-fee Citi Rewards+ Card.
- Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card: The student version of this card offers 2,500 points after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Like the standard version, it also offers you 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on your first $6,000 spent each year (then 1x). Likewise, it will round up your purchases to the nearest 10 points, and you’ll receive 10% of your redeemed rewards back. There’s no annual fee for this card.
- AT&T Access Card from Citi: Earn 10,000 points after you spend $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 2x points for purchases made online at eligible retail and travel websites, and for products and services purchased directly from AT&T. There’s no annual fee for this card.
The information for the Citi Premier, Citi Prestige and AT&T Access Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Cathay Pacific’s loyalty program doesn’t get a whole lot of attention from U.S.-based travelers, though it’s worth paying serious attention to as it’s now one of the best ways to find premium-cabin Cathay Pacific award space, especially close to departure. Points transfer 1:1 from Citi, and Citi also occasionally runs transfer bonuses that can give you an even greater bang for your buck.
All awards are priced as one-way, meaning that a round-trip simply costs double the miles. Here are the prices for flights operated by Cathay Pacific and its low-cost subsidiary Cathay Dragon:
On the lower end of the award chart, you can find some decent prices for short- and medium-haul economy flights around Asia, Australia and the Middle East. If you’re departing from Hong Kong, even on short trips, you may want to consider paying the premium to upgrade to business class in order to gain access to Cathay’s incredible network of lounges.
For long-haul premium-cabin travel, Asia Miles represents a better though still fairly mediocre value. If you only have Citi ThankYou points to redeem, the rates aren’t atrocious, but there are ways to do better. For example, you could transfer 125,000 Citi points to Asia Miles to fly first class from Hong Kong to New York-JFK on Cathay Pacific, or you could redeem 70,000 Alaska miles for the same ticket. Or maybe you want to experience Cathay’s longest flight from Hong Kong to Washington-Dulles (IAD). Sitting in business class on that A350-1000 would only cost you 70,000 AAdvantage miles instead of 85,000 Asia Miles.
The best benefit to using Asia Miles and its more expensive pricing is that the program has access to more Cathay Pacific first- and business-class award space, especially close to departure. Asia Miles also offers generous mixed-cabin pricing, where the price of your ticket is averaged out based on the distance you fly in each cabin. This means, astonishingly enough, it can be cheaper to fly from New York-JFK to Hong Kong in first class and connect on to certain other destinations in economy than to just book the first-class leg by itself.
Asia Miles does not appear to publish an award chart for single-partner Oneworld itineraries, but you can use this calculator to check the costs. Also note that certain partners like Iberia and JAL only offer round-trip awards, not one-ways. Prices are somewhat reasonable, with transpacific partner awards appearing to cost 40,000 miles each way in economy, 75,000 in business and 120,000 in first.
Asia Miles also has a distance-based award chart for multi-partner Oneworld flights, though the pricing isn’t much to get excited about.
Take the example of a flight from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Beijing (PEK) on Malaysia, connecting on to Dallas (DFW) on AA. This trip would cover about 9,700 miles and thus fall into Award Zone 7. You’d need to redeem 110,000 Asia Miles to fly business class on this itinerary. That’s the same cost as flying Cathay Pacific first class from Hong Kong to the West Coast, and it’s a lot more miles than you should be paying for a one-way business-class ticket between Asia and the U.S. This option is worth considering if you only have Citi points to spend, but there are plenty of cheaper options for booking Oneworld awards.
You’ll also want to note that the actual booking process for Asia Miles is very convoluted. You can redeem your miles for select carriers online: Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Qantas and Qatar Airways. For all others, you need to fill out a flight award request form. A member services representative will then confirm the availability and contact you to pay the applicable taxes and fees. However, I have heard reports that the response time can be multiple weeks, at which point award availability may be gone.
As a result, if you do have to redeem Asia Miles on Oneworld carriers, your best bet is to stick with the ones that appear online.
While Etihad is not a formal member of the Oneworld alliance, it does partner with American and Sri Lankan (at least for the time being). Using Etihad Guest miles on American can be a terrific redemption, as the program still uses the award rates that American used to charge before its 2016 devaluation. You can access the full award chart here (warning: PDF link), but some of the best deals include:
- Flights to Europe in business class for just 50,000 miles, each way.
- Flights to Europe in first class for only 62,500 miles, each way.
- Business-class flights on American’s three-class A321T for just 25,000 miles.
- Hawaii in business class for 37,500 miles.
- North America to Japan or Korea one-way in business is only 50,000 Etihad miles.
Of course finding saver-level award space on American Airlines (the type needed to book these awards through Etihad) is a challenging goal, especially on long haul international routes. American’s slow expansion of dynamic award pricing in the form of “web specials” awards makes it even harder to tell which tickets are saver level and which aren’t, so you might be better off searching through ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) if your end goal is to book with Etihad.
Australia and New Zealand are constantly in high demand from U.S.-based travelers, but that combined with a limited number of flight options also makes them some of the hardest destinations to get to using points and miles. Unfortunately, U.S.-based travelers will want to steer clear of using Qantas points to actually fly on Qantas. Even the shortest flights from the West Coast to Australia are priced pretty egregiously, and that’s if you actually manage to find an elusive Qantas award seat (note that if you do, you’d be better off booking through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.)
You might be able to carve out a small savings flying from New York-JFK to London (LHR), with one-way awards costing 28,000 miles in economy and 53,000 in business. This is slightly below the industry standard of about 30,000 and 60,000 miles respectively. However, one of the best values with Qantas points is a multi-partner itinerary (confusingly named “Oneworld flight reward”). The following chart applies when you fly on at least two Oneworld airlines other than Qantas, and no airlines that aren’t in Oneworld.
These tickets are more like a round-the-world itinerary, as you must return to your origin city and can only have five stopovers, but you can build some interesting itineraries this way. Flying from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo-Haneda on JAL, then on to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, then connecting Hong Kong to Sydney (SYD) on Cathay Pacific and returning to San Francisco with Qantas would cover just under 19,000 flight miles. You could book this four-flight extravaganza, including stopovers in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney, for only 130,000 miles in economy or 260,000 in business class.
If Qantas is flying its A380 between Hong Kong and Sydney during your trip, you could even do the whole thing in first class for 390,000 miles (though availability might be scarce).In addition to its Oneworld alliance partners, Qantas also partners with El Al, providing a great option to get to Israel from the U.S. A business-class award from Newark (EWR) to Tel Aviv (TLV) on one of El Al’s new 787 Dreamliners would only set you back 78,000 Qantas miles each way. Given how few nonstop options there are from the U.S. to Israel, that’s a great option to keep in mind for your next trip.
While the above transfer partners can help you get an outsized value from your ThankYou points, they require you to hunt for and successfully find award space. Another option worth considering is a direct redemption through the Citi travel portal, especially if you have the Citi Premier card. Premier cardholders receive a 25% bonus on these redemptions, making their points worth a respectable 1.25 cents each.
Most importantly, you can book any flight you want this way, regardless of whether there’s award availability. Because these are treated as cash bookings, you’ll even earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles on them, helping you increase your redemption value even further.
You have a plethora of options when it comes to using Citi ThankYou points on Oneworld airlines, though not all of them offer a great value. If you can successfully navigate the Asia Miles program, there’s some value to be had there, while Etihad Guest is likely your best bet for American-operated flights.
However, be sure to crunch the numbers on your redemptions, especially in economy class. While redeeming ThankYou points directly for travel at a rate of 1 to 1.25 cents per point isn’t spectacular, it may offer lower award rates in some cases.
Featured photo by Anna Zvereva via Wikipedia.
Jason Steele contributed to this post.
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