What Am I Missing? Why Doesn’t Everyone Think Citi ThankYou Points Blow?

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What Am I Missing? Why Doesn’t Everyone Think Citi ThankYou Points Blow?

I have noticed an interesting trend lately. People have been professing their love for Citi ThankYou points. Ian shared his favorite two card lineup, the Citi Premier and Citi Double Cash. Ariana, formerly of Pointschaser, wrote an article for TPG saying that she values them well ahead of Ultimate Rewards now. I get that Ultimate Rewards are not what they once were but that seemed kind of crazy to me. My buddy Spencer, of Straight to the Points, also loves himself some Citi ThankYou points. Maybe it is me, maybe I am just crazy? I’ll do my best to show you why I don’t give ThankYou points much of a second thought and you can tell me why I am wrong in the comments 😁.

Recent Devaluation With Loss Of Portal Redemption Bonus

I’ll start off with the upcoming portal redemption devaluation. This used to be my go to redemption with Citi. It wasn’t sexy but it worked for me. I used it for my cash flights or for times I needed to book a non points hotel. I could have done this with Ultimate Rewards etc. but this allowed me to save those currencies for a more lucrative redemption. It made Citi ThankYou points somewhat notable for me but with the change they took away my go to. I know this was a big play for Benjy and for a lot of Disney enthusiasts as well. Even if the redemption could be annoying at times.

Why Doesn't Everyone Think Citi ThankYou Points Blow

Lack Of Unique Transfer Partners

The reduction in the portal redemption kind of rolls into my next beef with ThankYou points. They have a serious lack of unique transfer partners. Here is a list of the partners that are unique to Citi:

  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines

That list isn’t too inspiring to me. The only one worth notation, in my opinion, is Turkish Airlines. And if you are a United hub captive or often fly United I could see why you would want to actively collect ThankYou points. But outside of that what are we shooting for here? What is drawing you in? The partners that I use on a regular basis like Virgin, LifeMiles and Flying Blue are available with other currencies. So why should I extend myself into another points structure for something I can get somewhere else? Adding another thing to track just doesn’t make sense to me.

Why Doesn't Everyone Think Citi ThankYou Points Blow

No Hotel Option

Going along the lack of unique transfer partners theme is the fact that Citi has no hotel partnerships, none. Not even less that ideal ones, like IHG, that may make sense when cash rates are extremely high. Even Amex has some hotel partners that can sometimes make sense with transfer bonuses, like Hilton, and Chase of course has Hyatt.

Why Doesn't Everyone Think Citi ThankYou Points Blow

No Increased Cash Out Option

So we have a devaluation and a lack of unique transfer partners then you need to throw in the fact that there is no increased cash out option like there is with Amex and Chase. Chase has Pay Yourself Back where you can get up to 1.5 cents per point and Amex allows cash outs at 1.25 cents with the Schwab Platinum card. Citi? Nothing!

And not only that, they don’t have an easy way to turn points into cash. You either need to cash them out for gift cards or play the mortgage payment game. Why not allow a cash out to your bank account at 1 cent a piece at least? They could allow ThankYou points to Citi Double Cash transfers so you could do it. It seems like an easy fix and a way to encourage carrying multiple products. Currently you can only go from cashback to ThankYou points and not the other way around.

Tough Application Rules

Citi has the most annoying application rules in my opinion. Yes even more annoying than Chase 5/24 or Amex’s once per lifetime (7 years) rule. That is because they group all of their cards into families and then block you from getting different cards from the same family. If you get a Citi Premier then you are automatically blocked from getting the welcome offer on the Prestige as well. Not only that, but opening OR closing a card resets the clock. What is that? No one else bases anything on a closure date. Then to put the cherry on top, they rolled out the new 3/6 Premier rule. Put all of that together and I think they have the most restrictive rules in the hobby.

Why Doesn't Everyone Think Citi ThankYou Points Blow

What About The Good?

I will say Citi has one thing going for it. They offer a pretty good earning structure with the recent Premier revamp. Uncapped gas and grocery spend at 3X is tough to beat. You can also get 5X on restaurants and air travel with the Prestige card. Throw in the fun you can have with the Citi Rewards+ and the earnings get even better. Last but not least, if you were lucky enough to be grandfathered into 3X online with the AT&T Access More card you are sitting pretty.

But more of something doesn’t mean it is better does it? If that something is not useful to you then you don’t care how many of them you get.

Final Thoughts

I understand that all of this is subjective to your personal preferences. Maybe you use Turkish all the time, like Ian, and that value is tough to replace. Or maybe the earning structure matches up perfectly with your spending habits and you are willing to take lesser travel partnerships for a higher earn rate.

I understand where that could make sense but it just doesn’t line up for me. The lack of interesting transfer partners, the tough application rules limiting my earn rate and recent devaluation of the portal have made ThankYou points an afterthought for me. I will still grab a card here and there for the welcome offer but it is not something I will actively pursue.

What do you think? Do you find a lot of value in ThankYou points or are they more of an afterthought to you too?

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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52 COMMENTS

  1. The earning options for $50k in general spending of 110k Citi TYP, and 2 TYP/$ after that for the Citi Double, Citi Premier, Citi Rewards + is excellent and one of the biggest draws to me for spending that would go beyond spending thresholds and SUBS for other cards.

    I have no problem adding another currency to my points options if that currency makes sense.

    With transfer promo bonuses to Jet Blue this card combo even after $50k spend can be superior to Amtrak via Jet Blue’s 2:1 option, making it the best option for Amtrak and only major viable transferable solid option, even better than on the Amtrak cards on general spending if waiting to transfer during a promo.

    With Turkish it’s the number one currency I would love to have.

    The transfer bonuses to non-unique as well as unique (i.e. Turkish) airlines combined with the earning options are excellent.

    I would never want to use these for 1.25 cents per point so the inability to do that anymore means nothing to me.

    The absence of hotel options is disappointing but there are plenty of other currencies for those, transferable and generated by cobranded cards. I don’t have good Citi TYP options yet, but they are my next goal and I have begun racking up spend on the Double cash to prepare for when I can transfer that cash to TYP and then to partners effectively.

  2. Citi TY points have a very good value proposition. They’re not going to be everything to everyone, but probably don’t get enough love from the blogs based on referral bonuses.
    Citi’s earn rates are generally better than Amex MR and Chase UR, which makes them more attractive. 5x on Airline tickets booked by travel agents, great for OPM spending. 2x points for everyday non-bonus spend which is not possible with Chase UR and only available for business for MR.
    For airline transfers:
    Citi has the best star alliance options. It’s missing United for when you have a redemption not available to partners, but so is Amex.
    Oneworld is mixed. AA doesn’t allow transfers from transferable currencies, so all three are miss that one. But you can get a Citi AA card. I wish Citi had BA which a nice alternative that both Chase and MR have, especially for shorthaul, but AA restricts partner availability. Qatar and Qantas have their sweet spots. Cathay allows waitlisting on CX metal.
    Skyteam is mixed. It’s hard to get value with DL Skypesos. DL flyers will have DL Amexes to earn MQM. Who is really transferring to DL. Most of the time, it’s better to buy with Cash. Virgin WAS a really good option. Korean WAS a great Chase option. Flying Blue which is available to all three is generally the best skyteam option. Sure it’s not unique, but i’d rather have a Citi card with higher Flying Blue earn rates.
    Lack of hotel points are fine. Each major hotel chain has benefits of getting a co-branded card the provides enough benefits. I wouldn’t transfer MR to Hotels. Chase UR works for hyatt and only when i can get more than 1.5c of value from Hyatt.
    So if I’m optimizing. If i’m redeeming on Star, i’d go for TYP first unless i’m looking for united metal only on united. OW – i’m using my AA stash, BA with MR or TYP to CX/QR/Qantas. Skyteam, i’m paying cash or TYP to Virgin. Hotels, free certs with hotel cards, hotel points. Maybe UR to hyatt if it makes sense, but been paying cash more often than not

  3. Mark I’ll lump another reason I keep TYPs around. I truly get tired of playing mental gymnastics on what Amex will or won’t frown on. It gets old and tiring.

    Don’t get wrong, I do earn MR points as there’s no denying that they are a front runner in this space. But man, having to constantly kiss the ring or worry about if even a legit purchase will be clawed back at worst and having to justify by way of a financial review at best.

    I could go and load up on gift cards earning 3x in my Premier at the grocery store and Citi just doesn’t care. ATTAM is near and dear to my heart and has been a true workhorse for me. I’ve done some really interesting things with this card and not a peep from Citi.

    Amex on the other hand baits you in with offers and then nail you to the wall for actually taking advantage of it.

    Arg, I could go on but I won’t. I have a love/hate relationship with Amex. In full transparency I’ll still pissed about them jacking my Bonvoy points from the summer grocery offer.

  4. I feel that valuing TY points at 1 cent per point is still not a bad redemption. You definitely earn more points with the TY points. If you do find a great redemption with one of the airline partners, that’s great. I think back to the Jetblue 25% transfer bonus last year. Couple that with some other cards like the Barclays Jetblue Plus card for 10% back on the redemption side and you can get some pretty great synergy which pushes the value up to about 2 cents per TY point. It’s not consistent but I think possible.

    However, I think of Citi Prestige as a 5% cashback card for restaurants. My Access More card is a 3% cashback card for online purchases. If you need more airline miles, it’s always there as an option if you need it. Having a Rewards+ card turns this into a 1.1 cent redemption value up to 100,000 pts. The nice thing is the flexibility in it. At worst, redeem for cashback but at best turn it into something great.

  5. I wonder if commissions/referral bonuses could possibly have anything to do with this curious love and hyping of mediocre points-earning cards? Card bloggers will ALWAYS latch on to the slightest positive bit, however insignificant, in hopes of enticing someone to click their app link. Pretty sure that answers most of your question.

    • I am sure that plays a part but I have noticed it in Facebook groups and at meet ups etc. that people are more and more getting excited by TY points.

      • This is cynical but I think that a lot of that has do with how much Citi points have been gushed about by points bloggers. I really enjoyed Pointchaser and like Ariana’s work but take a second to consider that TPG is probably the biggest blog around and dude himself is absolutely devoid of integrity. He takes in talented people and makes them cogs in his soul sucking machine. If pumping Citi cards pays the bills and/or pays a higher commission, so what if the cards blow? On the post you link to, did you see how many links Ariana had to Chase cards even while she was dumping on Chase? A “this sucks but use my link” philosophy I suppose. As to Ian, well some people love ugly dogs over pretty ones. Different strokes.
        I’m using my Double Cash card for non bonused spending, mostly because I don’t MS and I don’t see any lower hanging fruit than 2x on everything. If Chase or Amex offered double points on everything for a personal card, I’d probably switch to that. Well may not Amex because they still don’t have the same degree of acceptance but you get the point. Long story short, Citi points aren’t all that great but they’re another tool in the toolbox.

  6. All of these points are valid if someone is making the decision of whether or not to *start* acquiring TY points.

    The more difficult question is what to do if you already have a pile of TY points, were planning on redeeming them in 2020/2021 but now can not, and your Prestige card renews in March 2021: points earned with that card will expire 60 days after cancelling/product-changing that card. You want to transfer to VS for ANA but are worried about that chart devaluing, not being able to find award availability thru 2021, etc.

      • Yes I believe they changed that a little while back. So mojo you could downgrade it to the Premier instead and buy yourself another year for $95 or just transfer out the points last minute.

        • In my most recent conversation (less than 2 weeks ago) with a TY rep they confirmed that they expire in 60 days after closing/cancelling/product changing.

          I’m not saying I don’t believe you guys, but I’m not willing to risk 200k TY points, either.

  7. For me Qatar is at least as important as Turkish here. Both are amazing partners. The earn rate for the Premier + DC combo is phenomenal, but you, of course, acknowledged that.

    The card “ecosystem” that lacks unique valuable partners for me is Chase (Hyatt being the only one). United, which people tend to bring up in that conversation, blows 99% of the time for me (exception being those EWR-JNB Polaris seats that have been popping up at 70K + $5 OW).

    Never been a portal redeemer (at 1.25 rate for Amex or 1.5 for Chase), so it’s irrelevant in my case.

  8. Calling out Citi for not having great unique transfer partners misses the point. If you have a portfolio of points across multiple banks, you can take advantage of the unique earning offers that each provide, and you’ve pointed out that Citi has cards with great earning potential. I want points programs to overlap as much as possible, so that I can spread out my spending where each has the best multipliers and then pool them in a program that offers the redemption I need.

    And yeah, as much as Turkish is a nightmare to deal with, I’ve stretched my TYPs a lot further with them than would have been possible with any other bank program. That’s the only unique program I really care about, otherwise having overlapping programs works great for me.

  9. I generally agree with most, if not all, of your points, and also think that the Citi Thank You points/program are a bit overrated and certainly inferior to the UR and MR points/programs. While the earning structure is solid, it’s still significantly inferior to the UR and MR programs. For me, two beneifts of Citi Thank You points come to mind. First, the no-fee Sears City card that earns Thank you Points is incredibly lucrative and possibly the most underrated card out there. There are 10/x – 15/x bonus point promotions every month, and I racked up about 200,000 Thank You Points last year with this card. Second, while I completely agree that there aren’t any unique transfer partners (at least for me), this isn’t a deal breaker for me because I just use Thank you Points for overlapping transfer partners (in my case, Ethiad for AA flights), which allows me save MR points for other uses. Conceptually, this is the same as your previous use of cashing out Thank You points in the portal to save UR points for other uses.

  10. I get your arguments, and for AA or DL hub captives there isn’t too much going for Citi TYP over the other programs. However, there also isn’t a lot going against them either. If looking purely from a “unique transfer partner” view, I agree that Amex and Chase are better but the other Citi transfer partners are not bad. You have Etihad for flights with AA to Europe, Asia, Australia and even Hawaii (17.5k eco, 37.5k in business – of course I’d prefer United with TK Miles&Smiles, but if live in Dallas and you prefer non-stop lie-flat for example this is a solid option). Additionally, you have FlyingBlue, Lifemiles, Cathay Asia Miles and Virgin Atlantic that all offer good value in some form or another.

    I have to admit that I have not used a single Citi TYP other than transferring them to TK, but for people who don’t want to deal with signing up for new cards all the time, or the headache that comes with running to office supply stores to buy Visa or MC giftcards and simply look for good return on daily spend, Citi offers a very good option to earn lots of points and yet still have useful transfer partners apart from just Turkish.

    • I think you make a great point at the end. If you simply want a good return on your daily spend Citi does a great job there at a low cost.

  11. Citi points are good for 2 types of people and you can be both, – Either you are over 5/24 and can’t get any Chase cards or you had all the Lifetime signup bonus’s of Amex cards or Amex just wont approve you. Citi is much looser wither approvals than Chase or Amex. If you want to MS but can’t get any Chase cards plus it isn’t advisable to MS with Amex in certain situations Citi is a good (only) option.

  12. I’m going to cancel my Double Cash, and almost certainly my Prestige as well, but not due to any concerns with TYP.

    I applied for a Citi AA card on December 19th. I still don’t have it. They finally closed that one & issued a new one, so I’ll probably have to wait another week or so for that one. They are absolutely refusing to expedite the card at all. Because of this delay, I may not be able to meet the minimum spend. I am NOT paying $500 a year for this crap, so I’m going to cancel my DC as soon as I finally get my new AA card. Will probably cancel my Prestige once I figure out where to put my 73K TYP, although if I’m in a really good mood, I may call Citi and see if they have any kind of retention offer.

    • That sucks big time. I would hope they would extend the welcome offer period with the delays but it sounds like they aren’t. Citi’s customer service is another thing I should have put on the list for sure 🙂

  13. Mark, the question should be why don’t you lovf TYPs as much as we do? LOL!

    Prestige, Premier, Rewards+, and Double Cash is the cheapest wide covering ecosystem out there. For less than the cost of the Platinum/Gold setup and the CSR/CSP setup, I can get 5x on dining and airfare, 3x on gas, grocery, and hotel, 10% back on the first 100k redeemed, and most importantly, Citi doesn’t whine and clawback my TYPs because they don’t like my spend. As long as I don’t cycle my limit, Citi leaves me alone. The same can’t be said for AMEX.

    As for lack of a domestic transfer partner, I don’t usually transfer my membership rewards or ultimate rewards to United or Delta anyway. I don’t hate myself enough to fly Southwest, so no need to consider Rapid Rewards.

    I can transfer TYPs to all of the alliances so no issue there. I don’t care about the lack of a hotel partner, because who is transferring points to hotels anyway?

    Citi does have quirky application rules, but I will definitely say that they are still easier to deal with an AMEX, and to an extent, better than 5/24 over at Chase.

    So now you know why I like thank you points, my question to you is, why don’t you? LOL!

    • Fair points Heavy. And if you are focusing solely on spend I can see where it makes sense. But I will take the plentiful Amex welcome offers and referral bonuses etc. any day over Citi. But if you are focusing solely on spend it is tough to beat for sure.

  14. I currently use Citi DC for all of my Simon MS due to 2.5x TYPs with Citi checking. I agree redemption options are limited. My liquidation method was the SYW gift cards at 1.2x value but that ended. I also did the holiday gift card transfer bonus to Apple which was at 1.25x. I’ll prob just hoard TYPs until the next transfer bonus pops up.

    • SYW was big and would have been a great long term play for sure. If that ever comes back I could be changing my tune 🙂

  15. I used to feel that way until my 20 year old Sears card was converted to a TYP card. Or more specifically about a year after that when the crazy 10x offers started rolling in. A couple years ago I got one that was 45,000 bonus points/month for 3 months that coincided with Safeway accidentally giving double rewards on metas. Easily more lucrative than any sign-up bonus I’ve had. Used them for SQ, but have also now done the TK for United to Hawaii booked successfully online.

  16. TY points aren’t great for all the reason you listed. But they’re still great for 1 to 1 airline transfers. And the partners don’t have to be unique. Here’s an example:

    Let’s say you have a huge round trip business class redemption on Air France for a family of 4. So you essentially need 8 business class awards. Obviously, lots of points needed. You’re maxed out on your Chase Ink office supply bandwidth. You’re maxed out on your Amex Gold grocery bandwidth. Now what? There’s only so much dining you can do on your CSR and Gold card.

    So in comes your Premier (uncapped grocery bandwidth) and Double Cash (uncapped 2x) to save the day. You can use those cards to easily top off the points needed for your Air France redemption. And Air France (Flying Blue) is a transfer partner for all 3 banks. You could apply the same example to the other “shared” partners as well.

    My point is that it just adds another option to your spending arsenal. We all have cards that excel in specific spending categories and not all those cards are from the same bank.

  17. All your remarks are totally fair, but not impactful on my own redemption patterns (obviously that must be accurate for the other Citi cheerleaders also). Lack of specific options — if they’re options I’m not using anyway — is just an academic debate. Citi aligns well with my organic spending patterns so I earn quickly for only a $95 annual fee. I find that hard to beat.

  18. You are missing that you do have a good cash out option and it’s far better than either 1.5 (chase) or 1.25 (schwab) for nonbonus every day spend. Double cash earns 2 cents per dollar spent. You can use those points AS CASH. There is nothing easier or better. You can have the cash sent directly to your checking account. If you have a $1,000 purchase on in a non bonus category and put it on Amex and want cash back, you get $12.50. If you put on chase, you get $15.00 but can only use by putting spending on a $500 a year card in a certain category that may be suboptimal (for example if you would rather use your Amex gold on groceries to earn 4x). If you put that $1,000 in spend on citi double cash you get an ACH transfer of $20 cash to your checking account.

    The thing that puts it over the top is that you can earn this 2 percent cash back on anything OR with a $95 card you can transfer to points programs. It is the flexibility that is key. Yes, the programs are not ideal but the ability to cash out at 2 cents per dollar of nonbonus spend OR transfer to miles 1:1 is very powerful. There is nothing better, except the combination of the Amex blue business and Schwab, which gives you 2x on every day spend and allows you to cash out effectively at 2.5 cents per dollar of nonbonus spend, but is capped at $50,000 in spend per year.

    • The thing is that you only get the 2% cash back for the non-bonused spend, but you miss out on cashing out on bonused spend. CSP gives effective 2.5% cash back, CSR gives an effective 4.5% cash back for its bonus categories, Amex Gold can get you up to 5% cash back, and Platinum can get you 6.25% cash back on airline tickets.

      • Oh, and forgot to add that with Chase Freedom Unlimited and CSR combo, you can get effective 2.25% cash back on non-bonus spend, beating out Citi Double Cash by a hair.

        • Good point — yes, the pay yourself back feature for reserve has changed the analysis for sure and takes some of the shine off the premier/double cash promo, especially if you have Hyatt status and like Hyatt redemptions. I don’t have reserve though so I only get 1.25 cents on pay yourself back, which isn’t worth it to me.

      • Exactly – this doesn’t help people with a stash of ThankYou points. There is no easy way to turn those points into cash and especially not at an increased rate like others.

        • Mark, the easy way is to hold a Prestige and request a check at 1 cent per point. For an elevated rate, hold a Rewards+ for 1.1 cpp.
          You’re comparing the value of points at 1:1, which is only accurate for something like booking a cruise for 3x where all three have the same earning rate. In most cases, you’d get more TYP per dollar spent than UR or MR, so it shouldn’t be surprising that each TYP is worth less.
          Take dining for example. Citi returns 5×1.1=5.5%. Chase returns 3×1.5=4.5%. AmEx returns 4×1.25=5%. Saying “TYP blow because each point is worth less” sounds like saying “Dollars blow because each Euro is worth more.”

          • You are conveniently leaving out that the 1.1% boost is limited to 100K in redemptions per year 😉

      • Agree. With bonus spend there are usually better options. For me, there is no one right card for bonus spend. Especially with all the current promos. I probably have 10 different cards that I use for different stuff and often I’ll even do nonbonus spend by using a gift card purchased at 5x so it effectively beats 2x even with the fees. Still, for nonbonus spend, double cash and amex blue business are my go tos and I think the provide good value and flexibility.

  19. Totally agree. With the possible exception of Turkish (although booking with their miles can be fraught at best), I really don’t get the appeal.

    • Turkish is the feather in their cap for sure. I have flown United once in 10 years so it doesn’t do much for me 🙂

      • After they screwed her over a zillion times about 20 years ago, my wife absolutely refuses to fly UA; she’d rather walk to California. Government monopoly contract on Chicago-DC so it was mandatory for those trips. She hates them with the burning flame of 1000 suns.

        Cuts down the appeal of Turkish for me.

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