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Citi and its ThankYou Points rewards program usually receive less attention than Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. Chase has its notorious 5/24 rule for approving credit card applications. Amex is famous for generous sign-up bonuses and a broad slate of credit card offerings. But what is Citi known for? Three things: excellent points earning potential among its cards, great transfer partners, and the easiest way to cash out your points.
Earning Citi ThankYou Points
Citi offers the most bonus categories for earning points across the fewest cards. They have 3 cards worth mentioning: the Citi Premier, Citi Double Cash, and Citi Custom Cash. Of these, only the Citi Premier has an annual fee ($95).
The Citi Premier is the cornerstone of the ThankYou Points system. The Premier earns 3x points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and hotels, and 1x on all other purchases. The Premier is one of our favorite cards at ToP. No other credit card offers 3x point on these many categories. Currently, the Premier has its highest sign-up bonus ever at 80,000 TYPs after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
The Double Cash card earns 2% cash back (or 2x points) on every purchase (1%/1x when you make the purchase, and another 1%/1x when you pay your bill). This card is another favorite of the ToP team, especially when paired with the Citi Premier. The Double Cash has no annual fee. Currently, this card does not offer a sign-up bonus.
The Custom Cash earns 5% cash back (or 5x TYPs) in your eligible top spending category per billing cycle, on up to $500 spent. The eligible categories are restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment. The Custom Cash has no annual fee. The Custom Cash currently offers 20,000 TYPs after spending only $750 in the first 3 months. This is similar to the Chase Freedom Flex, but the Custom Cash is easier to maximize because the categories don't rotate.
If you have each of these Citi cards, you can earn between 2x, 3x, or 5x on every single purchase. Even better, you will only pay $95 in annual fees per year. Neither Chase nor Amex offer you this earning potential for so little in annual fees.
Citi's Transfer Partners
Citi TYPs work like Chase Ultimate Rewards (URs) and Amex Membership Rewards (MRs). You can redeem them through for travel through Citi's travel portal or by transferring to airline partners. As always, you will get the most value for your points by transferring to partners. Citi has the following 17 airline transfer partners:
- American Airlines (temporary, through November 13, 2021)
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Avianca Lifemiles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- Eva Air Infinity MileageLands
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue
- Jet Airways InterMiles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
You might recognize a few transfer partners in common with Chase and Amex. These include Emirates, Flying Blue, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
Some may see this overlap in transfer partners as a weakness for Citi. Why earn TYPs when Chase URs can be used for the same partners? This is actually a strength for fans of TYPs. Few of us–if anyone–have Citi cards without having any UR- or MR-earning cards. This means Citi TYPs are an excellent way to supplement URs and MRs for those transfer partners they have in common. After all, Citi cards generally earn more points per dollar than Chase cards. And Citi offers regular transfer bonuses to many of its partners.
Say you want to book a roundtrip business class flight to Europe through Flying Blue. This can cost as little as 106,000 miles. The Citi Premier's current sign-up bonus of 80,000 points alone gets you almost there. You can then cover the remaining 26,000 miles by transferring Chase or Amex URs. And if Citi has one of its regular transfer bonuses to Flying Blue, you would need even fewer URs or MRs to cover the balance.
Meanwhile, Citi's exclusive transfer partners also offer excellent redemption opportunities. Transferring TYPs to Turkish can get you domestic flights on United for only 7,500 points one-way, including to Hawaii! Transferring to American Airlines can get you great premium cabin redemptions on Oneworld partners, such as Qatar Airways' famous Qsuites and Japan Airlines' excellent business or first class.
Cashing Out Citi TYPs
Cashing out your points will never get you the most value for your points. That said, we all have reasons to cash out our points, especially during the pandemic. With that in mind, Citi offers the easiest way to cash out your TYPs.
Through Citi's Cash Rewards option on its website, you can redeem TYPs for cash at 1 cent per point (cpp). This is as simple as it gets. Citi simply mails you a check for the amount you are redeeming. You can redeem in $50 (5,000 points) or $100 (10,000 points) denominations. There is no annual dollar cap or limit to the number of cash redemptions you can make.
Despite only 1 cpp in redemption, Cash Rewards is actually better than it looks. Yes, 1 cent per point is a low value, especially compared to the 1.25 cpp you can get from redeeming URs through Chase's Pay Yourself Back (PYB) if you hold a CSP (1.5 cpp if you hold a Sapphire Reserve). But remember Citi's powerful earning structure. For example, spending $1,000 on a Citi Double Cash earns you 2,000 TYPs. Spending $1,000 on a Chase Freedom Unlimited only earns you 1,500 URs. Cashing out 2,000 TYPs at 1 cpp gets you $20, while cashing out 1,500 URs through PYB gets you $18.75. This means you can come out ahead with Citi if you are earning points with the goal of cashing them out.
Citi ThankYou Points are an underrated transferable points currency. Yet it provides great value and flexibility. Citi's cards offer an excellent earning structure with a baseline of 2x on every purchase. Having so many transfer partners in common with Chase and Amex is actually a strength of Citi's. Lastly, for those looking to cash out their points, Citi offers ease and flexibility.
Do you have questions about how Citi ThankYou Points can be helpful for your award traveling goals? Come join the discussion in our Facebook group to learn more!