How to Use Citi ThankYou Points (TYP)

Citibank has several cards which earn their flexible reward points called ThankYou Points (TYP). I talked about these cards in my post about TYP earning cards which you can read here.

These points are similar to Ultimate Rewards points from Chase and Membership Rewards points from American Express by having multiple options for redemption.

TYP have a lot of uses: paying student loans or mortgages, redeeming for gift cards or statement credits for select expenses, transferring to airline and hotel partners, or redeeming the points through the TYP portal for flights based on cash prices.

For this post, I’ll focus on the redemptions giving each point a value of at least 1 cent. That is, 100 points = $1.00 or more.

The “better” methods:

  • Loan payments (might have devalued recently)
  • Gift cards
  • ThankYou Point travel portal
  • Transfer to Hotels or Airlines

Other uses for TYP:

  • Statement credit
  • Cash back (bad value)
  • Shop with TYP (bad value)
  • Shop with TYP at Amazon (bad value)

From the list of “Other Uses”, statement credits are the best option at a value of 0.75 cents per points (cpp) while cash back has a value of 0.5 cpp. These two redemptions are essentially the same (redeeming points for straight money) but different methods.

To give you an idea of what these values mean: 100 points can be redeemed for either $0.75 as a statement credit, or the same 100 points can be redeemed for $0.50 cash back (going directly into a bank account).

If you have a couple hundred points that you want to use up, redeeming those points for a statement credit could save you the money from a meal or two.

As for the “better” methods, loan payments and gift cards are exactly 1 cpp. Transferring points gives a value which varies on which airline or hotel you transfer to and what you’re booking with that hotel or airline.

Hilton seems to be the only hotel transfer partner where 1000 TYP convert into 1500 Hilton points.

Airline partners TYP can be transferred to included:

  • JetBlue
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)
  • EVA Air
  • Etihad
  • Air France and KLM (Flying Blue)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Qantas
  • Qatar
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways

Booking travel through the TYP portal gives either 1, 1.25, 1.33, or 1.6 cpp depending on which card you have, what you’re booking, and how long you’ve had your card.

TYP have the following values through the travel portal if you have:

  • Citi Prestige
    • 1.6 cents/point (cpp) for American Airline flights
    • 1.33 cpp for other airlines (1.25 cpp starting July 23, 2017)
    • 1 cpp for car rentals, hotels, and cruises
  • Citi Premier
    • 1.33 cpp for American Airlines flights
    • 1.25 cpp for all other airlines, car rentals, hotels, and cruises

The good redemptions tend to be either booking American Airline flights with the Citi Prestige before the end of July this year, flights on any airline with either card, or transferring points to other airlines where the cents/point value is strictly dependent on the flight booked.

However, this means you need large amounts of points except for short flights like from SFO to LAX or LAX to PHX. This is where many people might consider using their low balance of TYP for a statement credit against a meal they enjoyed.

A Guide to Ultimate Rewards from Chase

Chase offers 4 personal and 2 business credit cards which earn points called Ultimate Rewards (UR) and that I introduced in my Chase Branded Credit Cards post. Chase advertises the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards as cash back rewards cards, but the Sapphire cards and Ink+ can make those rewards worth much more.

These points can do a lot of things:

  • 1 cent/point ($0.01/point) Value
    • cash back
    • redeem for gift cards
  • More than 1.25-1.5+ cent/point
    • book airfare or hotels
    • transfer to airline or hotel partners (1:1 point transfers)

Ultimate Rewards (UR) points can be redeemed for cash back either as a statement credit or by sending the cash value directly to a checking account. In the Ultimate Rewards portal, there is a search engine for travel which allows for UR points to be redeemed as if they were cash. The different cards offer different values for the points:

  • Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash
    • 1000 UR points = $10.00
  • Sapphire Preferred, Ink+
    • 1000 UR = $12.50
  • Sapphire Reserve
    • 1000 UR = $15.00

Let’s say you look up a flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) and you have either the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, you would see something like this:

screenshot-2016-10-12-22-21-48
Ultimate Rewards flight search results

There are different flight options with various airlines and departure times to choose from. On the right side you see the price in both $ and pts (UR points). If you did this search with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink+ card you would see the pricing as:

  • $58.10, or
  • 4,648 pts

And searching with a Sapphire Reserve would yield the results:

  • $58.10, or
  • 3,873 (or 3,874 depending on Chase’s rounding)

The difference in points required is because, as listed above, UR points can be worth more through the UR search with different cards.

Another option is transferring Ultimate Rewards points to hotel or airline partners like United or Southwest, or Marriott or Hyatt. Let’s look at an example where it would be cheaper to transfer points from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards to an airline instead of paying through the UR travel search.

screenshot-2016-10-12-22-29-56
Ultimate Rewards flight search

 

screenshot-2016-10-12-22-30-07
United website search results

 

Booking a flight from SFO to Tokyo (NRT) on December 14, 2016 would cost just under 130,000 (129,290) UR points with the Freedom cards. This is just over 100,000 (103,432) UR points with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink+, or 86,193 UR with a Sapphire Reserve. Booking with United, however, would cost only 75,000 points, making transferring points 11,000-54,290 points cheaper depending on the card you have.

There can be situations where transferring UR points does not make sense like with the SFO to LAX flight. United would cost 10,000 points for the one-way trip, nearly double the points it costs through the UR portal.

One benefit to booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal instead of transferring to the partner airline or hotel is using points to pay acts as if you paid cash, so you can earn airline or hotel status through the UR search.

Review

Ultimate Rewards points earned from Chase branded credit cards have a wide variety of uses and have a minimum value of 1 cent/point ($0.01/point). Depending on your personal needs and situation, redeeming for cash back can be the best option or transferring to an airline or hotel will save you loads of money on a trip you otherwise would not have the money for.

 

Advantages of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Credit Card

The Arrival Plus from Barclaycard is a travel rewards card with an $89 annual fee (waived the first year), 2 points/$ on all purchases, but most important has Chip + PIN functionality (for use outside the USA).

Jpeg
Barclaycard Arrival Plus

I signed up for this card with a waived first year annual fee and 40,000 points after spending $3,000. While I have not used the Chip + PIN functionality of this card yet, I have utilized the travel rewards and intended to let my parents use the card during their trip to Europe last month.

Free Dinner in Hawaii

polynesian-culture-center
Polynesian Culture Center, where I enjoyed the luau and dinner show

Leading up to my trip to Hawaii in June I knew a few things I wanted to do: I wanted to snorkel in Hanauma Bay, to rent a bike so I could train for the Santa Cruz Tri and get around, and to attend a luau. Through my searches I found the Go City Card.

The Go Oahu Card allows for travelers to either select their own attractions and rentals (like individual ships at the Pearl Harbor museum or the Pearl Harbor-City Tour) or buy an all-in-one pass. The 3-, 5-, and 7-day all inclusive passes offer 1 premium attraction, so I picked the Alii Luau & Dinner show to go along with the Polynesian Culture Center entry because I purchased a 3-day all-inclusive pass.

Using the points earned from the 40,000 point sign-up bonus for the Arrival Plus card I paid off the $185 3-day pass. The Alii Luau & Dinner show alone was $113 making it easy to recoup the full price of the all-inclusive pass with visiting only a few more attractions. I stayed on Oahu for 5 days and the 3-day all-inclusive pass was perfect for my needs as a solo traveler.

Saving for a Triathlon

Jpeg
Ocean Pacific Lodge

I raced in the Santa Cruz Tri and book a stay at the Ocean Pacific Lodge (review soon to come) for ~$300. This was a perfect price because after my sign-up bonus and spending then redeeming points on my Hawaii trip I had just enough points for a 1 night stay. It was not until I visited Santa Cruz a few weeks before the race that I was able to see that the hotel was not only a block away from the beach start but it was also directly across the street from the transition area. The proximity of the hotel to the start and transition area were easily enough to make this hotel and points redemption a great value.

Putting the Chip and PIN to Use in Europe

My intentions were to give my parents Authorized User cards for my Arrival Plus for when they needed Chip + PIN (not Chip + Signature) functionality on their Europe trip, but the cards did not arrive in time. I guess I will have to try this card at Target to see if the Chip + PIN is triggered.fd

Introduction to the Chase Branded Credit Cards

Chase has a variety of name branded credit cards and all but one of them, the Slate, earn Ultimate Rewards points. Each card has its own perks and advantages and this post will compare these benefits across the Chase branded credit cards.

The Chase Slate card is a good choice for people who are looking to either build credit, pay off credit card debt with a 0% APR or balance transfer, or someone looking to get a credit card which gives a credit score on each statement. For someone looking for a rewards credit card, the other Chase credit cards are going to what you’re looking for.

Chase Rewards Cards: Ultimate Rewards (UR) Earning Cards

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited credit cards offer:

  1. Freedom
    • 5 points/$ for rotating categories (changing every 3 months)
    • 1x points on all non-category spending
  2. Freedom Unlimited
    • 1.5 points/$ on all purchases; no 5x or 1x categories.

Owning both cards means someone will earn either 1.5 or 5 points/$ spent at no cost because both cards have no annual fee. This quarter (October-December 2016), the 5% category for the Freedom is department stores, wholesale clubs (Sam’s Club or Costco), and drug stores.

Chase offers the Sapphire Preferred (CSP) with:

  • 2 point/$ on travel and dining
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • Redeem 1000 UR points for $12.50 of travel through the UR portal
  • Transfer UR points to partner airlines and hotels
  • No foreign transaction fee

This cards works well to fill the gap between 5x restaurant categories on the regular Freedom and earns more than the flat 1.5x of the Freedom Unlimited. Car rentals are considered travel expenses and the CSP offers primary rental insurance making the CSP a way to reduce the cost of renting a car by not needing to pay for rental insurance.

Chase recently released a new card called the Sapphire Reserve (CSR) and has an annual fee of $450. The perks include:

  • 3 points/$ on travel and dining (compared to 2x for the CSP)
  • 1 point/$ on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit (not just airline fees)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Global Entry or TSAPreCheck reimbursement
  • 1000 UR points = $15.00 in the UR portal
  • Lounge access through Priority Pass Select with unlimited guests for free

This card fills what I felt was a big void left by Chase for many years. This directly competes with the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige more than the Chase Palladium did because someone had to be a Chase Private Client (available to people with at least $250,000 in Chase accounts) to apply. $300 annual travel credit is more broadly applied and greater than the $200 and $250 annual airline fee credits offered by the American Express and Citi cards.

Business owners can apply for either the Chase Ink Cash or Ink Plus business credit cards. Both cards earn:

  • 5 points/$ on select business purchases
    • office supply stores
    • cell phones
    • landlines, internet, and TV
  • 2 points/$ at gas stations and hotels
  • 1 point/$ on everything else

The major differences between these two cards is the Ink Cash has a maximum category bonus of the first $25,000 spent in each category and no annual fee whereas the Ink Plus maxes at $50,000 in each category with a $95 annual fee which is not waived.  Also, the Ink Plus has no foreign transaction fee and the Ink Cash has the 3% foreign transaction fee, the same as the Freedom cards have.  Both cards earn UR points and can be switched (product change) to the other after at least 12 months of the card being open.

Ultimate Rewards Points

Like American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards (UR) points have a variety of uses, but better with better redemption rates. I will go into detail on how the UR points can be used in a later post, so stay tuned.

 

You can apply for the Chase Freedom from this link and earn 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $150 in cash back or more) after spending at least $500 in the first 3 months of the account being open.

What Are Membership Rewards Points and How Do I Earn Them?

American Express offers a rewards program called Membership Rewards. Most purchases with cards earning Membership Rewards (MR) points will earn 1 point for each $1 spent. A few of the cards offer bonus categories for either everyday spending or specifically for someone traveling, like on airfare.

MR points can be redeemed for gift cards, like 7,000 MR for a $50 gift card (0.7 cents per points or 0.7 cpp), as statement credits (usually a 0.6 cpp value), pay with points at certain retailers or online at amextravel.com (0.6-1 cpp), or transfer MR to another Amex rewards/payment program called Plenti. The last option I haven’t mentioned yet is transferring Membership Rewards points to airline or hotel partners, and this method is generally the way to get the best value, over 1 cent/point.

I have compiled a short list of credit and charge cards which earn Member Ship Rewards points. Clicking the name of the card will take you to a blog post (if there is one yet) explaining the card and benefits. After the name is the typical bonus associated with the card offered publicly:

  • American Express Green Card: 0 – 25,000 MR
  • Gold Card from American Express: 0 – 25,000 MR
  • Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: 0 – 50,000 MR
  • Platinum Card from American Express: 0 – 40,000 MR
  • Amex EveryDay Credit Card: 0 – 25,000 MR
  • Amex EveryDay Preferred Card: 0 – 50,000 MR

Benefits of Opening A New Credit Card

Credit cards are usually synonymous with debt and other negative thoughts and feelings, but they shouldn’t. Yes, you spend money that isn’t directly yours when you use a credit card, but that’s just one benefit to credit cards. A credit card company will fight to reclaim their stolen money if your card information is used fraudulently but a bank will probably say “sorry, but at least we tried” if someone steals your debit card.

Banks typically offer a bonus for signing up for opening a new credit card.  These bonuses can be as simple as Discovers “we’ll double the cash back you earn in your first year” to something like the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points for signing up for a Chase Sapphire Reserved credit card.

Discover sign-up bonus.PNG
Discover’s “we’ll double whatever you earn in your first year”

I had my wisdom teeth pulled out in March and I used my new United MileagePlus Explorer  (MPE) card to help meet the minimum spending requirement for the sign-up bonus. Small daily expenses added up and eventually I had spent enough to get my sign-up bonus.

Most credit cards offer at least 1 point/$ spent, some have categories which give 2 or 3 or more points for each dollar spent (1%, 2%, 3%, etc.) so using a cashback credit card means whatever you buy is effectively giving you at least a 1% rebate.  Sign-up bonuses come in and increase that rebate or point earning power by a lot.

The United MPE card had a sign-up bonus for 50,000 (currently only 30,000) for spending $2,000 which means I earned:

  • 25 points/$ (50,000/$2,000)
  • 1 point/$ on all purchases (2 if I bought things from United)
  • Total: 26 or 27 points/$ for the sign-up bonus

However, to get another 50,000 points I would have to spend no less than $25,000 and up to $50,000 unlike the initial $2,000 sign-up bonus.

Let me give a few more examples: Say you spend $200/month in each of these categories

  • Restaurants;
  • Supermarkets (groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  • Movies, concerts, theme/amusement parks
  • Travel (gas stations, public transit, airfare/bus/train tickets, etc.)
  • Fixing up or redecorating your place (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.)

This amounts to $1,000/month in spending. You could use a Chase Sapphire Preferred for the restaurants and supermarkets, a Citi ThankYou Premier for entertainment and travel, and a Discover it for home improvement. At the end of a year you would have earned:

  • 7,200 UR points ($72.00 cash or $90+ in travel);
  • 12,000 TYP ($60 cashback, $90 statement credit, $120+ travel); and
  • $96.00 in cash back (Discover doubles the 1st year)

Or you could have earned several sign-up bonuses by putting all of your spending on a single new card every few months. Most sign-up bonuses require somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 spent in 3 months time like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum or Executive cards earning 30,000-60,000 American Airlines miles (good for a round trip ticket within the US or to Europe). The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards offer $150 (15,000 Ultimate Rewards Points) after spending $500 which is more attainable for people who spend less.

Applying for a new credit card can add some more complications to your financial situation, but it can also get you a free flight you were going to take to visit your family. Like anything regarding money, make sure you have a good sense of your finances (e.g. budgeting) and do what is right for you at the time.

 

You can apply for a Discover It credit card by clicking this link. You’ll receive a bonus of $50 and after 12 months your cashback earnings (and the $50 sign-up bonus) will be doubled.