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TPG's points and miles staffers reveal how they'd spend a million Citi ThankYou points

Aug. 30, 2021
14 min read
Lufthansa A340 First Class Special Flight Gino ZH
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Citi ThankYou Rewards points weren't always the favorite transferable currency for many award travelers. For various reasons, many travelers preferred American Express Membership Rewards points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points. And TPG's points and miles valuations peg the value of Citi ThankYou points a bit less than those two powerhouses at 1.8 cents per point — 0.2 cents per point less than Amex Membership Rewards points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

But it's a mistake to skip over ThankYou points and there's still a lot of value to be found in the Citi ThankYou Rewards program. So today, three of TPG's expert points and miles staffers will explain how they'd each redeem a million Citi ThankYou points.

If you decide that Citi ThankYou points are a currency you'd like to start earning, the Citi Premier® Card is currently offering a bonus of 80,000 ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months of account opening.

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Andrew Kunesh, senior reporter

Citi ThankYou points have slowly become one of my favorite transferable currencies.

The Citi ThankYou program has many incredible transfer partners, including Avianca LifeMiles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles. Personally, I think it's one of the most underrated points currencies out there.

If tasked with redeeming a million Citi ThankYou points, I'd piece together a round-the-world trip with stops in Hawaii, the South Pacific, Asia and Europe. I'd start the trip by transferring 25,000 Citi ThankYou points to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles to book two one-way first-class tickets from Newark (EWR) to Honolulu (HNL) on United's long-haul nonstop flight between the two cities. Admittedly, that award availability would be very tough to find, but let's not let that stop us from dreaming.

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From there, I would transfer 96,000 Citi points to Avianca LifeMiles to book a one-way United business-class ticket from Honolulu to Guam (GUM). This route is operated by a United 777, so it features lie-flat seating — great to have as the flight is nearly eight hours long. While I'd love to try United's Island Hopper, award space is tough to come by.

Much of United's long-haul fleet is still equipped with an older business-class product. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

Then, I would continue to Tokyo Narita (NRT) by transferring 80,000 Citi points to American Airlines AAdvantage to book two one-way business-class tickets on Japan Airlines. Award space on this route is plentiful next spring (fingers crossed the world opens up more by then).

Remember, you can transfer Citi points to AAdvantage through Nov. 13.

Related: Should you transfer your Citi points to American Airlines?

JAL operates nonstop service between Tokyo and Guam. (Photo by EQRoy/

From there, I would transfer 50,000 points to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles to book two one-way business-class tickets to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. This is one of Cathay Pacific's most popular routes and is operated multiple times per day from Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Tokyo Haneda (HND) airports.

The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business-class cabin. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

After a few nights in Hong Kong, I'd make my way to Europe via Singapore (SIN). I would book two Singapore first-class tickets from Hong Kong to Singapore to London Heathrow (LHR) for 286,000 points transferred to Singapore KrisFlyer. I'd add a stopover in Singapore for $100 per person.

Singapore Suites have gotten much more expensive to book in recent years. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Then, I'd book London Heathrow to Prague (PRG) on British Airways through Asia Miles. This trip costs 32,000 points for two people in intra-Europe business class. Usually, I would book this in coach. But I'll splurge for business class since the goal is to spend a million points.

Club Europe business class isn't the most luxurious, but it's adequate for a short flight. (Photo by Nick Morrish/British Airways)

On the flight home, I'd book Lufthansa first class from Prague to New York-JFK via Frankfurt, Germany (FRA). This ticket costs 87,000 points per person through Avianca LifeMiles, for a total of 174,000 miles. This is a lot of miles to spend, but Lufthansa first (and the soon-to-reopen First Class Terminal) is one of my favorite first-class products in the sky.

Lufthansa first class is my favorite way to travel to and from Europe. (Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

This brings me to a total of 743,000 points spent for two travelers.

Unfortunately, one of the main downsides of Citi ThankYou points is its lack of hotel transfer partners. So if tasked with redeeming a million points in one go, I'd use the remaining 257,000 points for $2,570 worth of hotel stays booked through the Citi travel portal. It isn't the best deal, but it would mean substantial cash savings on lodging.

Related: How to spend a million Marriott points for an epic post-pandemic trip

Benji Stawski, strategic travel reporter

Citi ThankYou is a transferable rewards program I actually don't currently participate in. However, it's captured my attention recently thanks to sweet spots with partners like Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles and the temporary ability to transfer points to American Airlines AAdvantage.

If I had 1 million Citi ThankYou Rewards points to burn, I'd book a mini-trip around the world with my mom. First, I'd transfer 13,000 points to Turkish to book my mom a United business-class ticket from her home in Los Angeles to New York City, where I live.

United Polaris business class on a United 767-300. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Then, I'd transfer 172,000 points to Singapore KrisFlyer to book two first-class tickets on Singapore's daily A380 flight from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA).

This is a special fifth-freedom route and the only way to book premium cabin awards on Singapore is through its own KrisFlyer program. In Germany, we'd go down memory lane, stopping by my mom's childhood home and reconnecting with family we haven't seen since the start of the pandemic.

Singapore Airlines A380 first class. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

From there, I would transfer 25,000 points to Turkish to book my mom and me a pair of Lufthansa business-class tickets from Frankfurt to Barcelona, Spain (BCN), one of my mom's favorite vacation spots.

The Barcelona Edition. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

Next, I'd transfer 180,000 points to Asia Miles to book a pair of Cathay Pacific business-class tickets to my favorite city, Tokyo (HND), via Hong Kong (HKG). Cathay Pacific flies its A350s between BCN and HKG which unfortunately don't offer first class. Otherwise, I would have splurged on that.

Cathay Pacific A350-900 business class. (Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy.)

Finally, to get back to the U.S., I'd transfer 180,000 points to Avianca LifeMiles to book two first-class tickets in ANA's new "The Suite" first class — to Los Angeles for my mom and New York for me. That's assuming there isn't a transfer bonus to Avianca as there was when I wrote this.

Citi doesn't have any hotel transfer partners, so I'd need to book our hotels directly through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. Since points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed through the portal, my 430,000 remaining points would equate to $4,300 to spend on hotels.

Hotels I'd like to check out during our trip include the Sofitel Frankfurt Opera, Barcelona Edition and Aman Tokyo.

Related: Around the world: How to spend 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Katie Genter, senior writer

When I started thinking about this piece, I instantly thought about how Citi recently added American Airlines AAdvantage as a temporary transfer partner through Nov. 13. And, since my favorite use of American Airlines miles is to fly Qatar business class from the U.S. to South Africa for 75,000 miles and $16, I considered saying I'd book six round-trip flights and ending this section right there.

Some Qatar Qsuite seats can convert into a double bed. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

It's actually not a terrible plan, but that wouldn't be very interesting to read.

So instead, I'd consider booking three separate trips. First off, I'd transfer 300,000 points to AAdvantage to book two round-trip flights in Qatar Qsuite for my husband and me. We'd fly from any of the U.S. cities served by Qatar's Qsuite product to South Africa via Doha (choosing an origin based on availability). While in South Africa, we'd spend time in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kruger National Park.

A giraffe in Kruger National Park. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Next, we would finally take my parents to Germany since my mom has been interested in going for years.

To do so, I'd book Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. After all, nonstop Delta One flights between the U.S. and Europe (excluding the U.K.) survived the Virgin Atlantic devaluation of Delta awards earlier this year and still cost just 50,000 points each way. So, I could transfer 400,000 Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and redeem for four round-trip flights from Atlanta to Frankfurt in Delta One.

Redeem Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta One transatlantic. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Finally, for a third trip, we'd take my parents to Japan.

After all, my dad spent a few years in the country as a child and is interested in returning to visit. I'd book ANA-operated flights through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, which offers the following round-trip award pricing:

  • Western U.S. to Japan: 60,000 points in economy, 90,000 points in business and 110,000 points in first.
  • Eastern U.S. to Japan: 65,000 points in economy, 95,000 points in business and 120,000 points in first.
ANA The Room business-class seat. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With my remaining 300,000 Citi ThankYou points, I could get 300,000 Virgin Atlantic points. And this would be enough to get me two round-trip awards in business class (of course, assuming I can find award availability) and two round-trip awards in economy between the western U.S. and Japan.

However, if I can't find two business-class awards from the western U.S. to Japan, I could book just one business-class round-trip and three economy round-trips between the eastern U.S. and Japan.

ANA economy cabin. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

We may have to fly on separate flights for some of these trips if award availability doesn't permit us to fly together but those are details for the real world -- not a million points exercise. I have plenty of Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards and Choice Privileges points I can redeem for hotel stays in South Africa, Japan and Germany to round out this dream use of a million ThankYou points.

Related: How to redeem 1 million Amex Membership Rewards

How to earn Citi ThankYou points

Most travelers will never have 1 million Citi ThankYou Rewards points in their account -- and that's okay.

After all, points and miles are a bad investment to sit on for the long haul. But transferable points like Citi ThankYou points are less susceptible to devaluation than points or miles with a specific airline or hotel loyalty program.

If you're looking to earn more Citi ThankYou points for your next redemption, consider signing up for a new Citi ThankYou card. However, be aware that not all Citi ThankYou points are created equal. After all, to transfer your points to most of the Citi ThankYou transfer partners, you must hold a premium Citi ThankYou card such as the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier® Card.

If you only have the Citi Rewards+® Card, the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card or the AT&T Access Card from Citi, you’ll earn “basic” ThankYou points. And you can't transfer "basic" ThankYou points to most of the ThankYou travel partners. Instead, “basic” ThankYou points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed toward gift cards and other rewards available on the website. But, if you also have a premium Citi ThankYou card, you can combine “basic” ThankYou points into your Citi Prestige or Citi Premier account and then transfer to any of the Citi ThankYou transfer partners.

The information for the Citi Prestige, Citi Rewards+ Student Card and AT&T Access Card from Citi has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Finally, the Citi® Double Cash Card deserves a mention. Although this card is not a ThankYou Rewards card, you can convert cash-back rewards from a Citi Double Cash Card to “basic” ThankYou points. And then, you can combine these “basic” ThankYou points into a full-fledged ThankYou account.

Related: Is Citi ThankYou Rewards the most underappreciated and misunderstood program?

Bottom line

The Citi ThankYou program received extra attention recently when it added American Airlines as a temporary transfer partner. For example, TPG writer Joseph Hostetler argued that the Citi Premier is now the best card for American Airlines flyers and suggested that those looking to earn more American Airlines miles consider building a Citi Quadfecta.

But TPG editor Ariana Arghandewal voiced concerns about Citi’s transfer partnership with American Airlines.

Regardless of whether you're excited, nervous or indifferent about Citi ThankYou's temporary transfer partner, there's still plenty of value to be found when redeeming Citi ThankYou Rewards points. Take a look at the Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer partners and consider which partners will provide the most value to you.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh and Benji Stawski.

Featured image by Lufthansa First Class (Photo by Zach Honig/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.

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