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5 of the best Citi ThankYou Rewards redemption sweet spots

July 05, 2022
11 min read
American Airlines 777-300ER business class cabin
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Editor's Note

/strong> This post was originally published on Jan. 25, 2019. It has been updated with new information.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on Jan. 25, 2019. It has been updated with new information. Citi is a TPG advertising partner.

The Citi ThankYou Rewards program doesn't get as much love and attention as the other major transferable point programs. While it's true that ThankYou points can be harder to earn and the program has lesser-known transfer partners, it still has several high-value redemption options in common with the other transferable points programs.

Today we'll take a look at a few sweet spots to help you redeem your Citi ThankYou points for maximum value. In all instances, you'll transfer your Citi ThankYou points to various travel partners to book a high-value award.

Before we dive in, note that not all of these transfers will process instantly. Be sure to check that guide and, if possible, put an award ticket on hold if it looks like you won't receive your miles immediately; that way, you won't be stuck with points or miles you can't use.

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Earning Citi ThankYou Points

(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Of course, to utilize any of the below options, you need to actually earn Citi ThankYou Rewards points. The best way to quickly earn them is by utilizing welcome bonuses on the issuer’s top credit cards.

Right now, one of the best options is the Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees), which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This card also comes with solid earning potential on everyday purchases, awarding 3 points per dollar at airlines, hotels, supermarkets and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

For a limited time earn 10 points per $1 dollar spent on hotels, car rentals, attractions(excluding air travel) when book through Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024.

For more information, be sure to check out our full review of the card.

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Premium American Airlines awards with Etihad Guest

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

American Airlines is the only U.S. legacy carrier without a major credit card transfer partner to top up your account balance. Chase has United Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, and Amex has Delta Air Lines. You can transfer Marriott points to AA at a 3:1 ratio and Bilt Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, but the world's largest airline by passenger volume is clearly the odd one out here.

You might expect that Citi, as the primary issuer of cobranded AA credit cards, would strike a deal to fill this void. While that happened temporarily in 2021, there is still a great way to redeem ThankYou points for flights on American-operated flights.

Enter: Etihad Guest. If you transfer ThankYou points to the program, you can book American flights at prices that closely mirror what AA itself used to charge before its 2016 devaluation.

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You'll find the best values in premium cabins, such as round-trip business class flights to Europe for only 100,000 miles, as opposed to 115,000 if you booked with AAdvantage miles. Business-class awards to Asia are also attractively priced, with one-way awards to Asia 1 (Japan and Korea) costing 50,000 miles, as opposed to 60,000 with AA.

Related: Etihad Guest miles continue to fly under the radar

While first class award space on AA's small fleet of flagship 777-300ER aircraft is difficult to find, Etihad's pricing is attractive if you are able to book an award. These aircraft operate flights from major hubs like John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Miami International Airport (MIA) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to international destinations like Heathrow Airport (LHR), São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) and Hamad International Airport (DOH).

When TPG's Zach Griff flew first class from Dallas to Hong Kong, he didn't find the flight experience to be that much better than business class but loved the restaurant qualify food at the Flagship First lounge.

Related: The ultimate guide to Etihad partners

Book United flights to Hawaii with Turkish Miles & Smiles

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you can get past the clunky user interface, the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program can be a powerhouse for booking United awards.

This is because all domestic award tickets — including those to Alaska and Hawaii — cost just 7,500 miles one way in economy and 15,000 in business class. This includes ultra-long-haul flights from the East Coast to Hawaii and transcontinental flights equipped with lie-flat United Polaris business class seats. Of course, you'll need to find award space first.

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Actually booking these awards can be difficult given the airline's less-than-stellar interface and the fact that its booking engine is sometimes unavailable. However, once you find a flight, you can book it online and pay very little in taxes and fees. Check out our full guide to the program for a step-by-step guide on how to book United flights with Turkish miles.

Related: Turkish Miles & Smiles: Why you should care about the hottest frequent flyer program of the year

Star Alliance flights with Avianca LifeMiles

(Photo by Sven Hoppe/Getty Images)

For most other Star Alliance flights, your best bet may be booking with Avianca LifeMiles. The program has a reasonable award chart and doesn't pass on fuel surcharges, meaning that most tickets have just moderate taxes and fees.

One of our favorite LifeMiles redemptions is tickets from the U.S. to Europe in business or first class. These cost 63,000 and 87,000 LifeMiles, respectively, one way. Since you're not paying fuel surcharges, you can book carriers like Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss without paying more than $500 out of pocket in a premium cabin. Plus, you may be able to reduce the points cost of connecting tickets by booking a mixed-cabin award.

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If you're looking to book an economy ticket to Europe, awards range between 20,000 and 30,000 LifeMiles one-way depending on your destination.

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You can also book flights to Asia at reasonable rates, with flights from the U.S. to Taiwan priced at 35,000 LifeMiles in economy and 75,000 in business class.

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It also makes sense to book certain short-haul U.S. domestic United flights with LifeMiles too. For example, Newark to Boston costs just 6,500 LifeMiles in economy.

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Related: Here’s why you need a healthy stash of Avianca LifeMiles

Hidden gems to Europe and Japan with Virgin Atlantic partners

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

While most airlines leverage a major alliance to operate codeshare flights and utilize complementary route networks, Virgin Atlantic has built a valuable loyalty program without being a member of one of the big three alliances. As is often the case with non-alliance members, its Flying Club program has different award charts for each of its partner airlines. Most are not worth considering, but two have the potential to offer incredible value.

Two great redemptions on Delta Air Lines

Virgin Atlantic's Delta award chart received a hefty devaluation in 2021, but there are still two times when it can provide excellent value.

The first is booking flights to Europe. All flights to the region — sans flights to the U.K. — can be booked for 50,000 Virgin points in Delta One business class, plus low taxes and fees. The only stipulation is that award space can be hard to come by, so we recommend looking for tickets far in advance if this is something that interests you. Note that these same tickets often cost more than 200,00 SkyMiles when you book directly with Delta.

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You can also use Flying Club to score cheap short-haul domestic flights operated by Delta. Here's a look at the distance-based award chart that covers all Delta Flying Club awards outside of the U.S. to Europe routes:

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Typically, the best deals come on economy flights of 1,000 miles or less. This covers popular routes like Chicago to New York City, Miami to Atlanta and others. However, if you have Delta SkyMiles available to you, it's worth cross-comparing award prices as Delta sometimes offers cheap domestic award tickets. Also, note that connecting tickets cost more miles.

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All Nippon Airways flights to Tokyo

Virgin Atlantic's ANA award chart may be one of the single best sweet spots in the entire points and miles world. For less miles than most airlines would charge for a one-way award ticket, you can book a round-trip first class award from the U.S. to Japan. Here are the prices for these redemptions:

Virgin Atlantic's ANA award chart
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If you're flying from West Coast gateways like Los Angeles or San Francisco, a round-trip award costs just 110,000 miles in first class or 90,000 in business class. From the Midwest or East Coast, you'll pay just a small premium; it costs 120,000 miles in first class or 95,000 in business class. For a ticket that often retails for $16,000 or more, this is a complete steal.

Better yet, you can now book one-way tickets for half the price listed on the award chart. This means you can score a business class seat from the U.S. West Coast to Tokyo for just 45,000 points.

ANA's food and service are among the best in the skies, and its "The Room" business class scored high marks in a 2020 review.

Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines

Bottom line

Like any transferable points currency, Citi has some partners that are duds and some that can truly return an outsized value. The deals covered here are only the beginning. Whether you're looking for posh long-haul international travel or simply trying to maximize your free domestic flights, Citi ThankYou points can help you book your next trip.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.

Featured image by (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/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.