Best ways to use Citi ThankYou points: Save on flights to Hawaii, Europe, and across the US

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Citi ThankYou points are surprisingly valuable. With only one domestic airline transfer partner, the program looks like it has limited uses, but the Citi transfer partners include Star Alliance airlines with excellent prices for domestic flights and flights to popular destinations, like Europe and Hawaii.

Transferring ThankYou points to airlines is the best way to get the most value for your points. However, you can only transfer ThankYou points to airlines with two travel credit cards – the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier® Card. If you have other Citibank credit cards that earn ThankYou points, you can combine your ThankYou accounts and then transfer.

Let’s take a look at how to use Citi ThankYou points for maximum value.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Using Citi ThankYou points is the best way to book awards to Hawaii. (Photo by Shane Myers Photography/Shutterstock)

Best ways to use Citi ThankYou points

You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to these airlines at a 1:1 ratio:

  • Avianca
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • Emirates
  • EVA Air
  • Etihad Guest
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways
  • JetBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Only one of them is U.S.-based (JetBlue), but the others offer keys to every major airline alliance and other partnerships that can take you literally around the world. The possibilities are limitless, but let’s take a look at the top ways to redeem Citi ThankYou points.

Round-trip flights to Hawaii for 15,000 miles

The Turkish Airlines award chart includes Hawaii and the mainland U.S. in the same North America region. That’s good news for you and me.

It only costs 15,000 Turkish Airlines miles for a partner round-trip award flight within North America (7,500 miles one-way). Turkish Airlines and United Airlines are Star Alliance partners, so you can book United awards to Hawaii for less than one-third what it would typically cost (not factoring in dynamic pricing) if you booked the same award with United Airlines miles.

This is by far the cheapest way to get from anywhere in the U.S. to Hawaii. You could even book business class on the same routes for only 12,500 miles each way. These prices also apply to any domestic flight, so you could book a transcontinental business-class flight for only 25,000 miles round-trip.

Business-class flights to Europe for 45,000 miles

Turkish Airlines again comes up big if you want to fly to Europe in comfort. It only costs 45,000 miles for a one-way business-class award with Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa, United or Swiss. You will pay fuel surcharges on some of these flights, depending on the airline. With United you won’t pay any surcharges, but with Lufthansa they will be high.

Lufthansa has excellent premium-cabin seats, but also has higher fuel surcharges on award flights. (Photo by Emily McNutt)

Book Delta flights for less

Before you book a Delta award flight, see if you can get it cheaper with Virgin Atlantic miles acquired with your Citi ThankYou points. Virgin Atlantic partners with Delta and this trick works domestically and internationally and for coach, business- or first-class flights. Comparing prices is easy. For example, Virgin Atlantic charges a flat 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta domestic flights. So anytime Delta is charging more than that, you can pay less by using Virgin Atlantic. Be aware that Virgin Atlantic charges per segment, so if you have a connection, that will increase the price.

Since Delta isn’t a direct Citi transfer partner this is a work-around to book Delta flights with your Citi points.

Using the Delta-Virgin Atlantic partnership is also an excellent way to book Delta business-class flights to Europe for only 50,000 miles — way less than what Delta normally charges for the same seats.

The biggest hurdle to booking Delta business class is finding award seats that are open to partners, but if you’re flexible with your travel dates, it’s a great deal. Again, if you have to book a connection, the price will increase a bit.

Cheap international SkyTeam coach flights

The Flying Blue program is the loyalty program for KLM and Air France. What you’ll get with Flying Blue is a bit of a mixed bag because there is no longer a set award chart. Instead, awards are subject to dynamic pricing. I checked to see what Delta, KLM’s SkyTeam partner, was charging for flights from New York to Amsterdam nonstop in coach in December 2020. Delta flights were offered for 25,000 or 44,000 miles.

Below is what Flying Blue is charging over the same dates. Flying Blue does charge fees that are $60-$75 higher, but on a few days you’ll only pay half as many miles. Some days, however, the award price is the same. If you can be flexible on your travel dates, using Flying Blue can be a great way to save.

Cheap flights to Hawaii with Singapore Airlines

Turkish Airlines is the gold standard when it comes to award flights to Hawaii, but using Singapore Airlines miles unlocks two valuable ways to get to Hawaii — on either Alaska Airlines or United Airlines. You can fly from anywhere in the mainland U.S. to Hawaii for 35,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip in coach. With Alaska Airlines, you can fly from the West Coast to Hawaii for 12,000 Singapore Airlines miles one-way in coach.

Although both of these prices are higher than what Turkish Airlines charges, there are two advantages to using Singapore Airlines. The first is that Singapore Airlines miles are much easier to earn — you can transfer to Singapore Airlines from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One and Marriott. On the other hand, Turkish Airlines only partners with Citi and Marriott. Also, Singapore Airlines awards can be easier to book than Turkish Airlines awards. Searching for partner awards through the Turkish Airlines website can be hit or miss, so you might need to find the partner awards on another site (like United’s) and then call to book. And in the past, the only way to book Turkish Airlines partner awards was to email or show up in person at a Turkish Airlines ticket office.

Business-class flights to Europe without fuel surcharges

You can also transfer Citi ThankYou points to Avianca. The Avianca LifeMiles program has solid prices for international business- or first-class flights and it doesn’t add fuel surcharges to partner awards flights. That opens the door to savings on posh Star Alliance business-class awards from the U.S. to Europe.

Avianca’s prices, at 63,000 miles each way, aren’t quite as low as what you’d pay with Turkish Airlines, but with Avianca you’ll pay less in taxes and fees.

The downside with Avianca is that you’ll pay a $25 award-booking fee, even if you book online. Also, if you have to make any adjustments to your flight, Avianca’s customer service doesn’t have a reputation for being easy to deal with.

American Airlines international business class for 50,000 miles one-way

When you transfer your Citi ThankYou points to Etihad, you can access incredible deals through their partnership with American Airlines, like flying business class from North America to:

  • Europe for 50,000 Etihad miles each way
  • Japan for 50,000 Etihad miles each way

Those are crazy prices. Just keep in mind, transfers to Etihad can take about a week, so it’s best to transfer as soon as you find a seat and be prepared for it to disappear. But if there are plenty of seats open on the flight you want, you might feel comfortable booking this way.

Flying Blue Promo Awards

Flying Blue has suspended its Promo Awards in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but normally each month there are new discounts on flights between specific city pairs. These discounts range from 20% to 50% off the normal prices. If you can find the right route, you can end up with excellent deals for flights all over the world.

In the past, we’ve seen Promo Awards for under 14,000 miles one-way in economy and in the low 30,000s for business class. These can be even better deals if you’re able to stack them with a transfer bonus to Flying Blue. You will, however, pay slightly higher taxes with Flying Blue — they can top $300 for a business-class award.

Cheap Delta flights to Mexico

Flying Blue prices award flights to Mexico the same as within the U.S. This means you can fly from anywhere in North America to Mexico on Delta for as little as 14,500 miles one-way.

For example, I found flights from Chicago and Toronto to Cancun for only 14,500 Flying Blue miles each way in coach. That’s a savings over other airline programs and you can preserve your Delta miles by using Citi ThankYou points instead.

Book hotels directly through Citi

This might not seem like a great deal at first glance because when you book this way, you won’t earn elite-status credit and may not even have your elite-status perks recognized. But it can make sense when you find a great cash deal and award prices are high, especially at hotels where you’re not concerned with earning credit for the stay.

In these situations, you might consider using Citi ThankYou points through the ThankYou travel portal instead of paying cash. With most Citi cards your ThankYou points are worth 1 cent each when booking travel through the ThankYou site. (If you have the Citi Premier, your points will be worth 1.25 cents each toward travel booked through the ThankYou portal, but this increased redemption rate is dropping to 1 cent per point on April 10, 2021.)

I’ve seen hotels asking 50,000 points per night when the cash rate is ~$200. In this case, you’d pay either:

  • 20,000 Citi ThankYou points per night at 1 cent per point
  • 16,000 Citi ThankYou points per night if you have the Citi Premier Card (through April 10, 2021)

In each case, you pay far fewer points than if you used hotel points. Save them for when cash rates are expensive. Also, if you have Citi Prestige, you can still get the fourth night free on your stay twice per year when booking through the Citi website. That makes the deal even better because you could save points and cash. Plus, if you have the Citi Rewards+℠ Card and combine your accounts, you’ll get 10% of your redeemed Citi ThankYou points back (on up to 100,000 points per year).

Bottom line

The best ways to redeem your Citi ThankYou points almost always involve transferring points to an airline partner. Some of Citi’s airline partners don’t have useful loyalty programs, but others have specific sweet spots.

Being aware of the best places to visit with Citi ThankYou points makes the decision of whether or not to earn ThankYou points much easier. Personally, I’m amassing Citi points to transfer to Singapore Airlines because it’s easy to collect enough miles (from different programs) to book premium Singapore Airlines awards.

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Jason Stauffer is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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