The Smart and Extra Cheap Way to Book Business or First Class on American Airlines – Citi ThankYou Points Are the Key

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INSIDER SECRET: You can’t transfer your Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines, but you can transfer them to Etihad. In most instances, you can book the exact same flights with Etihad miles.

If you’re sitting on a stash of Citi ThankYou points and wondering how best to redeem them, you should seriously consider transferring them to Etihad and booking a flight on their partner airline, American Airlines.

In many cases, the Etihad award chart requires far fewer miles to fly certain routes compared to American Airlines, so it’s possible to save a ton by booking an award flight using Etihad miles. For example, a first-class flight to Europe will only set you back 62,500 Etihad miles, as opposed to 85,000 American Airlines miles.

You can quickly earn a ton of Citi ThankYou points by applying for the Citi Premier® Card. Right now when you apply for the card, you can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Etihad miles are a great way to book flights on American Airlines. Business-class flights are more than 20,000 miles cheaper when you transfer Citi ThankYou points to Etihad instead of using American Airlines miles. (Photo by Ser Borakovskyy/Shutterstock)

The Magic of Citi ThankYou Points and Etihad Miles

True, you can’t transfer Citi ThankYou points to American Airlines. But Etihad is a transfer partner of Citi, and American Airlines is an airline partner of Etihad. So in essence, you can transfer your ThankYou points to Etihad, and then use those Etihad miles to book a flight on one of their partner airlines such as American Airlines.

A slightly confusing detail is that if you use Etihad miles to book an American Airlines flight, you’ll be subject to Etihad’s award chart, not American Airlines’ award chart — and it often works in your favor.

The booking process is simple. Find MileSAAver award availability on the American Airlines website, and call Etihad to book that flight.

How Much Can You Save? The Sky’s the Limit

Here are some examples of how much you can save by redeeming Etihad miles for an award flight on American Airlines:

  • A business-class flight to Japan will set you back 50,000 Etihad miles. The same flight using American Airlines miles would cost 60,000 miles, so you’ll have a net savings of 10,000 miles per ticket
  • First class to Europe requires 62,500 Etihad miles. With American Airlines miles, you’d need to have 85,000 to book the same flight. So you’ll save more than 20,000 miles per ticket
  • First class flights to the South Pacific only cost 72,500 Etihad miles, compared to 110,000 American Airlines miles. That’s a whopping 37,500 mile savings per ticket

Quickly Boost Your ThankYou Points Balance

With rumors swirling around that Etihad might soon terminate its relationship with American Airlines, naturally, I looked for ways to quickly boost my ThankYou points balance. Here are a few cards that caught my eye:

  • Citi Premier Card – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Citi Prestige Card – Earn 50,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening

Note: You can only earn the bonus for one of these cards every 24 months. So, for example, if you opened the Citi Premier six months ago, you’re not eligible for the Citi Prestige bonus for another 18 months.

Bottom Line

In many cases, it’s more advantageous to book an international business- or first-class award flight on American Airlines using Etihad miles instead of American Airlines miles. In some cases, you could save more than 30,000 miles. And with rumors that Etihad could be terminating its relationship with American Airlines, it might be a good idea to book that next vacation sooner rather than later.

If you’re short on Citi ThankYou points or if you’re looking to top off your points balance, the Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige Card are both worth a look.

What do you think about this Etihad strategy? Have you had success redeeming your Citi ThankYou points in this manner? Let us know in the comments below. To learn more about Citi ThankYou points, you can read our many guides below:

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

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Andrew Wan is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where he covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines and hotels. His work has also appeared in The Simple Dollar.

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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