For a long time, Citi’s ThankYou points was the runt of travel rewards programs offered by the major banks.
While others like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards offered you the valuable opportunity to convert your reward points into airline miles, the best that Citi could offer were the same tired old options like gift cards and merchandise. And in every case, the redemption choices for ThankYou points returned a value of one cent per point, at best.
Meanwhile, savvy owners of other cards were redeeming 100,000 reward points to fly in international business class — worth $5,000 or more — rather than earning just $1,000 worth of gift cards to Red Lobster and Marshall’s.
Earlier this year, Citi finally started offering cardholders the ability to transfer ThankYou reward points to eight different airlines. Since then, it has upgraded its top-of-the-line Citi Prestige card to be a viable alternative to the vaunted American Express Platinum.
- Earn ThankYou points. Earn three points per dollar on air travel and hotel expenses, double points on entertainment and dining out, and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
- Transfer ThankYou points. You can now transfer points to miles with eight different airlines, plus Hilton HHonors points.
- Redeem points for flights on American and US Airways. Points redeemed for flights with American and US Airways (soon to be the same) are worth a respectable 1.6 cents each, or 1.33 cents towards flights on other airlines. Thankfully, reward flights booked this way earn frequent-flier points and are eligible for upgrades.
- Airport lounge access. Receive a membership in the American Airlines Admirals Club (which now includes US Airways lounges) as well as the Priority Pass Select membership. And unlike some other cards, these memberships allow you and your immediate family members, or two guests, complimentary access.
- $250 annual air travel credit. Receive statement credits for flight-related expenses charged to your card, including airline tickets, baggage fees, and upgrades.
- $100 Global Entry application fee credit. This is a must for frequent travelers: The Global Entry program offered by the U.S. government allows you to bypass long lines at emigration and offers pre-check access at domestic security as well.
- International complimentary night hotels and resorts program. Receive a complimentary fourth night at any hotel property when your stay is charged to the card and made though the Citi Prestige Travel Advisor service.
- International golf benefit. Receive three complimentary rounds each calendar year at over 2,000 public and private golf courses in the United States, Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa— which is only great if you like golf. (Personally, I’d rather have ski tickets or something else.)
- No foreign transaction fees. There are no fees added to charges processed outside of the United States.
- Lots of other benefits. This card comes with all the bells and whistles, such as travel assistance services, lost luggage coverage, trip delay reimbursement, and just about every other feature commonly found on premium credit cards.
- Choice of airline transfer partners. Although none of these options are domestic airlines, the strongest options are Air France/Flying Blue, which is a Delta partner, and Singapore Airlines, which is a United partner.
- $450 annual fee. This is the same as other premium cards such as the American Express Platinum, but it’s still a lot of money.
What was once just a very expensive card with few valuable features is now a worthy competitor to premium reward cards like the American Express Platinum and Citi’s own American Airlines AAdvantage Executive.