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Citi ThankYou Rewards is one of several credit card programs that allow you to transfer your points to frequent flyer miles. It currently offers 15 different airline transfer partners, and these carriers represent all three major global alliances. Star Alliance happens to have the most extensive coverage on this list, but it can be challenging to figure out which is the best option. If you have Citi ThankYou points and you are looking to book an award on United, Air Canada or any of the other Star Alliance member airlines, you’ve come to the right place, as today we’ll highlight the best options for these award tickets.
If you want to read out guides on the other alliances, check out the following posts:
- Best Ways to Redeem Citi ThankYou Points on Oneworld Airlines
- Best Ways to Redeem Citi ThankYou Points on SkyTeam Airlines
Earning Citi ThankYou Points
Of course, it’s impossible to even think about redeeming your ThankYou points for Star Alliance flights if you haven’t actually earned any. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to do this, as two credit cards award you transferable Citi ThankYou points:
- Citi Premier Card: Earn 50,00 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in 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 that’s waived the first year. 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. 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 have a hefty balance of ThankYou points, the program offers several ways to use them, including for gift cards, merchandise, travel reservations and even loan repayments. Unfortunately, these redemptions typically offer mediocre value, as you’re typically capped at 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 provides a value of 1.25 cents per point — all of these awards fall well below TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg ThankYou Points at 1.7 cents each.
If you’re looking to redeem your Citi points for maximum value, this almost always happens through transfers to airline partners. The best sweet spots in the ThankYou Rewards program involve converting your credit card points to airline miles and then booking first or business class awards or snagging last-minute tickets. If you’re especially vigilant, you could wind up getting a value of several cents per point when you redeem in this fashion.
With that said, let’s dive into the best ways to use your Citi ThankYou points for award flights on Star Alliance airlines to help you plan your next award trip.
Avianca is a South American carrier that has been known for having one of the most favorable award charts out there through its LifeMiles loyalty program. However, there isn’t a way to view this award chart since the program redesigned its site earlier this year. Nevertheless, you’ll still enjoy all of the same low award prices. Better yet, the LifeMiles frequent flyer program is one of the few that never imposes fuel surcharges on their awards. You can also combine your LifeMiles balance with points transferred from the American Express Membership Rewards program, Capital One Venture Rewards and the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Among the best award options for LifeMiles points are:
- 7,500 mile one-way United flights within a single North American Zone. For example, Colorado and California are in a single zone, as are Montana and Georgia. So are Illinois and Florida, a potentially lucrative option given United’s hub at Chicago-O’Hare.
- 87,000 miles one-way for Lufthansa first class.
- 78,000 miles to the Middle East in business class.
- 63,000 miles to Europe in business class.
Keep in mind too that you can potentially drop the costs of long-haul, premium class flights even further by adding shorter connections in a lower class of service.
For more information on this program, check out the following posts from TPG Senior Contributor Richard Kerr:
EVA Air’s Infinity MileageLands program isn’t the most compelling out there, and there aren’t too many sweet spot redemptions. For travel to and from North America, you’ll consistently find lower prices with other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs that are ThankYou Rewards transfer partners. For example, a round-trip business class flight to the Middle East is reasonable at 135,000 miles round-trip, but Singapore offers the same flights for just 115,000 miles.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Singapore’s KrisFlyer program is probably one of the best of all of Citi’s airline transfer partners, not just among the Star Alliance members. And while there no longer are any fuel surcharges on flights operated by Singapore or SilkAir, you should look out for them on all Star Alliance carriers except Avianca and United flights within the Americas. Also note that surcharges on LOT Polish flights are very low.
Another benefit of Singapore KrisFlyer miles is that they’re very easy to accrue, as the program partners with the other transfer partners including American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Unfortunately, the carrier did change the award chart for its own flights earlier this year, and it recently announced changes to its Star Alliance award chart as well. However, the new award prices on partner airlines don’t take effect until April 17, so you have a couple of weeks left to book. Among the best uses of these miles are:
- North America to Southern South America in business class. Singapore charges 100,000 miles, and flights operated by United or Avianca will have no fuel surcharges. However, this award will increase to 115,000 miles on the new award chart.
- Mainland North America to Hawaii. Singapore only charges 35,000 and 65,000 miles for these United-operated flights in economy and business class, respectively. Note that the business class award rate will jump to 69,000 miles on April 17.
- North American flights in business and first class. Flights within the United States and Canada (excluding Hawaii) are priced at 40,000 for first class on a two-class flight or business class on a plane with a separate first and business class cabin. 60,000 miles are needed for a first class award on a three-class flight. These will increase to 46,000 and 69,000 miles in the new award chart.
- Singapore Airlines New Suites. You can book the new Singapore Suites for as little as 37,500 miles between Singapore and Hong Kong. Better yet, splurge for 115,000 miles for a much longer flight between Singapore and London. For more information, read Eric Rosen’s Ultimate Guide to the New Singapore Suites.
For more information, read my post on Maximizing Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Partner Awards.
Thai Royal Orchid Plus
While Thai is known as a fine airline to fly, its Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyer program offers surprisingly little value. For example, a round-trip flight to Europe is 70,000 miles in economy and 125,000 miles in business class. And since you’ll always pay expensive fuel surcharges for these awards, you’ll undoubtedly do better when using Avianca or Singapore miles.
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
This program has some generous Star Alliance awards, and there are some sweet spots in its award chart due to how it defines award travel region.
- Flights within North America are 20,000 miles round-trip in economy class, 30,000 in business and 50,000 in first on three-class aircraft. In other words, you could fly in lie-flat business class seats on a transcontinental United flight for just 15,000 miles each way.
- Awards to Antilles (including St. Maarten and Curaçao), Bermuda, Canada and Mexico are also considered to be part of the North American zone and use the same pricing above.
- Promotional awards to Europe in business class for as little as 45,000 miles each way. To learn more about the Turkish Airlines 30th Anniversary Celebration Promotion, read my post: Deal Alert: Fly Business Class to Europe in February for 26,000 Points.
Tips for Transferring ThankYou Points
1. Look for transfer bonuses. Like the American Express Membership Rewards program, Citi frequently offers transfer bonuses that can stretch your rewards even further. That was the key to the amazing 26,000 point awards to Europe in business class.
2. Consider transfer times. The last thing that you want to do is transfer your points only to find the award you hoped to book is gone by the time your miles post. We looked at Citi ThankYou point transfer times last year and found that Avianca miles posted immediately, while Singapore and Turkish took a day. EVA took three days and Thai took seven days, which is practically an eternity when it comes to grabbing an award ticket. If you’re transferring points to miles with a program that doesn’t offer instant transfers, it’s prudent to have a few backup options in case the award you want disappears in the meantime.
3. Consider booking directly through Citi if you have a Premier card. Since the Citi Premier Card offers you 1.25 cents per point when you book airfare directly, it can be worth it to use your points in this fashion if you’re not getting excellent value from your miles. Advantages of booking directly include the flexibility to chose from a much larger revenue inventory, and since the flights are treated as normal revenue flights, you’ll also earn miles from your ticket and enjoy the benefits of elite status. Finally, flights booked directly with your ThankYou points will include all taxes and fees, while you could also have to pay a considerable cash supplement for many frequent flyer awards.
The Citi ThankYou Rewards program offers some significant value for awards on Star Alliance carriers, especially when it comes to transferring your points to Avianca LifeMiles or Singapore KrisFlyer. However, it’s critical to crunch the numbers to make sure that booking directly doesn’t make more sense, especially when it comes to economy award tickets. Hopefully this information will help you decide the best ways to use your ThankYou points as you’re planning your next award trip.
Featured photo courtesy of Star Alliance.
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