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.

Citi Credit Cards That Earn ThankYou Points (TYP)

Citibank offers 4 credit cards which earn their flexible rewards points, similar to Chase’s UR and Amex’s MR, called ThankYou Points (TYP). These cards are called Citi ThankYou –

  • Preferred Card;
  • Preferred Card For College Students;
  • Premier Card; and
  • Prestige Card

Another similarity between the Chase, Amex, and Citi cards which earn flexible rewards is the annual fee structure. The annual fee (AF) can tell someone which cards are competing with each other.

The Preferred cards have no annual fee (AF), similar to the Amex Everyday and Chase Freedom cards. The Premier has the same $95 AF the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex Everyday Preferred or Premier Rewards Gold card (after taking into account the airline fee credit) have. And the Prestige competes with Amex’s longtime Platinum charge card and Chase’s new Sapphire Reserve card.

The Cards

The ThankYou Preferred Card and ThankYou Preferred Card For College Students are essentially the same with the only differences being the sign-up bonus and the introductory interest rate period of 0%. Let me list the points earning structure, annual fees, and other perks for the three/four cards:

  • Preferred Card – No Annual Fee
    • 3x – No bonus categories; cannot earn 3x points on purchases
    • 2x – Dinning out and Entertainment
      • Restaurants;
      • Movies;
      • Sports events; etc.
    • 1x – Everything else
  • Premier Card – $95 Annual Fee
    • 3x – Travel
      • Gas;
      • Airfare;
      • Hotels;
      • Cruises; etc.
    • 2x – Dining out and entertainment
      • Restaurants;
      • Movies;
      • Sports events; etc.
    • 1x – Everything else
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Baggage Delay, Trip Delay, and Lost Baggage Protections
  • Prestige Card – $450 Annual Fee
    • 3x – Air travel and hotels
    • 2x – Dining out and entertainment
    • 1x – Everything else
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Baggage Delay, Trip Delay, and Lost Baggage Protections
    • Medical evacuation
    • $250 Air travel statement credit (not just for fees)
    • 4th night hotel benefit
    • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership (same as the Amex Platinum but 2 guests enter with you for free)
    • $100 Global Entry application fee credit

Which Card for What Reason(s)?

If you do not want a card with an annual fee but you want to earn ThankYou Points I’m sure you are looking at the ThankYou Preferred card. However, I would advise you to look at the Premier card.

Why? Because the annual fee might be waived for the first year and the sign-up bonus for the Preferred card is much less than the sign-up bonus on the Premier. Plus, you have 3x Travel instead of only the 2x Dining and entertainment categories.

Preferred vs. Premier

If your monthly spending is less than $3000 in 3 months but at least $1000 in 3 months then the Preferred would be better. If your monthly spending allows for you to meet the $3000 in 3 months spending requirement then your choice would be split between the Premier and Prestige assuming you are okay with an annual fee.

Premier vs. Prestige

Basing the decision on the points earning structure of the cards, I would go with the Premier because the 2x categories are the same for both cards but the Premier has a more general 3x category (travel; more than air fare and hotels) compared to the specific 3x categories of the Prestige (Air fare and hotels only).

Another thing to consider about points between all three cards is the Preferred cannot transfer points, and the Premier and Prestige have bonus point values when using the TYP to book hotels and flights and other travel through the TYP portal. New applicants get the following bonuses when using their ThankYou Points through the TYP portal:

  • Premier
    • 1.33 cents per point for American Airline (AA) Flight (7,518 pts for a $100 AA/US Ticket)
    • 1.25 cents per point for other airlines (8,000 pts for a $100 Southwest ticket)
    • 1.25 cents per point for Car Rental
    • 1.25 cents per point for Hotels
    • 1.25 cents per point for Cruises
  • Prestige
    • 1.6 cents per point for AA Flight (6,250 pts for a $100 AA/US Ticket)
    • 1.33 cents per point for other airlines (7,518 pts for a $100 Southwest ticket)
    • 1.00 cents per point for Car Rental
    • 1.00 cents per point for Hotels
    • 1.00 cents per point for Cruises

Looking at the annual fees, the Premier should be a clear winner but not quite. For someone already planning some travel, specifically flights, they could effectively reduce the annual fee from $450 down to only $100 via the $100 Global Entry and $250 airfare credits. This puts the effective annual fee of the Prestige only $5 higher than the Premier.

Again, this is an effective decrease and not exactly a true decrease. A real way to reduce the annual fee from $450 down to $350 is by being having a Citi Gold bank account, but that is another topic.

Now, with all of this information, the decision as to which card to get is up to each person and their personal situation. I say which card rather than which card first because Citi recently implemented a limit to sign-up bonuses. If you get the sign-up bonus on a card you can’t get a bonus of the same type of points for another 24 months.

If you get the Preferred and earn the sign-up bonus, you have to wait 2 full years to be eligible for the sign-up bonus for the Premier or Prestige, or the Preferred again. This is why I recommend the Premier over the Preferred given the sign-up bonus and earning structure.