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The Citi ThankYou Rewards program currently offers 15 different airline transfer partners, and each of the major alliances is represented. However, if you’re looking to book a flight on any one of the 19 SkyTeam carriers, you’ll find the thinnest coverage of the three. In fact, Flying Blue, the frequent flyer program for Air France, KLM and others, is one of only two SkyTeam members in the list, sharing the stage with little-known Garuda Indonesia.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost, as there’s a third transfer partner that can be a fantastic option for select SkyTeam flights.
Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to use Citi ThankYou points for award flights on SkyTeam carriers.
Earning Citi ThankYou Points
Before getting into the options for transferring your ThankYou points to book flights with SkyTeam airlines, it’s important to highlight how exactly you can earn Citi points. At the time of writing, there are two credit cards that award you transferable ThankYou points:
- Citi Premier Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 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: Earn 50,00 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 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 (which will be capped at twice per year starting in September 2019). There’s a $495 annual fee for this card. For more information, read our review of the Citi Prestige.
In addition, Citi offers a handful of other credit cards that accrue non-transferable ThankYou points. However, you can effectively “convert” these earnings to fully transferable points if you carry one of the following cards in addition to a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige (and combine all of your points into that “premium” account):
- AT&T Access Card from Citi: Earn 10,000 bonus points after making $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.
- Citi Rewards+ Card: This card currently offers new applicants 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within three months of account opening. It features 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on your first $6,000 spent each year. It will also round up your purchases to the nearest 10 points, and receive 10% of your redeemed rewards back. There’s no annual fee for this card. For more information, read our post on No-Fee Citi Rewards+ Card Now Available With Sign-up Bonus.
- Citi Rewards+ Student Card: The student version of this card offers new applicants just 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 within 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.
Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points
Once you’ve earned ThankYou points, you’ll find a variety of ways to use them, including for gift cards, merchandise, travel reservations and even loan repayments. Unfortunately, the majority of these redemptions provide less-than-deal value, as you’re typically limited to 1 cent per point or even less. While there is one significant exception — airfare booked through the Citi ThankYou Rewards travel center when you have a Citi Premier Card , giving you a value of 1.25 cents per point — even this award option pales in comparison to TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg ThankYou Points at 1.7 cents each.
This leaves transfers to airline partners as the best redemption choice. The true sweet spots in the ThankYou Rewards program lie in converting your credit card points to airline miles and then booking last-minute awards or snagging premium class award seats. Under the right circumstances, you could wind up realizing several cents in value for every point you transfer.
With that said, let’s dive into the best ways to use your Citi ThankYou points for award flights on SkyTeam airlines to help you plan your next award trip.
Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for not just Air France and KLM but also Kenya Airways, Tarom, Transavia and the soon-to-disappear Joon. This used to be a fantastic program, but in 2018, it “pulled a Delta” and removed its fixed award chart. Now, you’ll find an award calculator that will tell you the starting price of your desired route, but this typically results in much higher award prices along with some bizarre features when you actually search. Occasionally you can find some good values, but often you’ll find prices several times higher than you would expect.
The program’s primary strength is its monthly Promo Awards, which can offer 25-50% savings on flights to Europe from select cities. And better yet, Flying Blue has traditionally used unique geographical classifications when it comes to pricing awards. For example, Israel has generally priced the same as flights to Europe for the purposes of booking award travel, while Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are usually considered part of North America. Flying Blue has also traditionally priced Delta awards to Hawaii at significantly lower rates than booking through SkyMiles would get you, though it’s also had issues displaying Delta award availability at times.
TPG last reviewed this program back in 2014, and it doesn’t appear to have changed much since. It still has a distance-based award program that makes the most sense when you are crossing regions of traditional award programs. For example, flights to Mexico and the Caribbean that are under 1,000 miles are just 15,000 miles each way. In comparison, other SkyTeam carriers could charge significantly more. This is also a good opportunity to use miles for relatively short-haul flights between Asia, Europe and North Africa. The biggest problem is that you’ll have to call to book these awards.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
The final option for booking SkyTeam flights isn’t actually a member of the alliance, but for US-based travelers, it just may be the best option. Virgin Atlantic has independent agreements with multiple airlines around the world, including SkyTeam member Delta. As a result, you can earn and redeem Flying Club miles on Delta-operated flights around the world. In addition, we’ve found that Virgin Atlantic tends to have more access to Delta awards than SkyTeam members (which could be explained by the fact that Delta actually owns a large stake in Virgin Atlantic). For example, last summer I was able to fly my family of five round-trip to Amsterdam in business class for just 100,000 Virgin Flying Club miles each.
Other sweet spots for Delta awards include:
- South America for 45,000 miles in economy and 90,000 miles in business, round-trip.
- Domestic first class for 45,000 miles, round-trip.
- Africa, the Middle East and Asia in business class for 120,000 miles.
- Hawaii in first class for 37,500 miles.
Just note that Virgin Atlantic uses additive pricing for Delta award flights, so you’ll be charged separately for every segment you book. For more information, read our posts on:
- Unlock Incredible Value With Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- How to Book Cheap Delta Awards With Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program doesn’t have the same level of fanfare as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, and its points fall below those two in our monthly valuations. Of the major alliances, SkyTeam has the thinnest coverage among Citi’s transfer partners. However, you may be able to find a decent value with Flying Blue, and I’d highly recommend considering Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program if you’re considering a nonstop Delta flight. Hopefully these tips will help you use ThankYou points for your next award trip.
Featured photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
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