Confession: I Use Citi ThankYou Points for Cheap Flights – And Why I Don’t Get Caught on “Value”

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Confession: I Use Citi ThankYou Points for Cheap Flights – And Why I Don’t Get Caught on “Value”

Harlan VaughnConfession: I Use Citi ThankYou Points for Cheap Flights – And Why I Don’t Get Caught on “Value”Million Mile Secrets Team

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You’ll notice here at MMS we don’t have “points valuations.”  A useful metric to aim for with transferable points, including Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and AMEX Membership Rewards, is 2 cents each.

That’s to say, if you get a value of 2 cents per point, you’re doing well for yourself.  It’s easy to get caught up on redeeming points for First Class flights to faraway destinations.  And while I’ve taken my share of luxurious trips, lately I’ve been using my Citi ThankYou points to pay for cheap flights at a rate of 1.25 cents each!

Last week, I flew home for Thanksgiving and my mom’s birthday on United Airlines and used 21,888 Citi ThankYou points.  And loved every second of it!

You can earn Citi ThankYou points with Citi Prestige and the Citi Premier℠ Card.  And here are the best travel rewards cards for your future travels.

It’s Always Good to Be Back in Memphis! I Happily Used Citi ThankYou Points to Fly Home for 4 Days

Here’s my reasoning.

Only YOU Can Assign Value to Your Points

What are points worth?  The truth is they’re worth whatever you want them to be.

There’s no right or wrong way to earn or redeem your points.  The only thing that matters is that you’re happy with where they take you.  That’s it.

For all the talk about value, and endless examples of trips you “could” use your points for, I find most folks redeem their points for seemingly mundane trips to places like Cleveland, Memphis, or Tucson (ya know, regular ol’ places).

They’re visiting friends, attending weddings, meeting newborn family, or participating in conferences – and want to save cash on their flights.

It Was Worth Everything to See My Mom and Gramma, and I Saved Cash on My Flights

A few weeks ago, my mom asked if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.  And spur of the moment, I checked flights, which were ~$274 for the most reasonable times.

Not bad, but I didn’t want to pay cash.  Because I have a big collection of Citi ThankYou points, I found the same flights on Citi’s travel portal and saw I could use 21,888 Citi ThankYou points instead.

This Was a Great Deal to Fly Home for the Holidays!

Because I’d still have well over 100,000 Citi ThankYou points after redeeming, I decided to go for it.

Not only would I be there for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but as an added bonus, I’d get to celebrate my mom’s birthday – something I haven’t been able to do in years.

And just like that, the concept of “value” went right out the window.  Those experiences would be worth it.  And instead of spending a cent, points got me a seat on those flights home.

It’s Hard to Place a Value on Points Anyway

When you redeem Citi ThankYou points and have a Citi Prestige (open to new applicants again in January 2019) or Citi Premier℠ Card, each point is worth 1.25 cents toward flights.

Note:  As of September 2019, ThankYou points linked to the Citi Prestige will only be worth 1 cent each toward flights.

That’s fine and all, but I earn most of my points from bonus categories.  With Citi Prestige, for example, you’ll earn 5X Citi ThankYou points on airfare and dining starting January 2019.

And through September 2019, you can redeem points for 1.25 cents each.  So for each $1 you spend, that’s like getting 6.25% back for flights (5 X 1.25), which is awesome!

In that light, using Citi ThankYou points for flights is actually a terrific deal.  But if you only earn 1 Citi ThankYou point per $1 spent, that drops to a 1.25% return.

Is that bad?  Not necessarily.  Ultimately, it’s about what makes you happy.

I Loved Treating My Mom to a Birthday Lunch

That’s why I don’t get overly obsessed with squeezing the highest value from each point any more.  Sure, I could wait until perfect flights open up on the perfect route to the perfect destination, but realistically, I take what I can get.

I look for award flights around dates that work, keep an eye on it, and strike when the iron is hot.  I’ve gotten lucky many times.

I recently flew home in Japan Airlines Business Class.  Team member Keith is currently visiting Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific’s amazing First Class seat.  And Jasmin just got back from a mother-daughter trip to Ireland on Aer Lingus.

So the opportunities are still out there.  But when you can be home for Thanksgiving and catch your mom’s birthday at the same time?  Well, I’d say that’s an awesome points redemption.

And that’s why I’m not as caught up on “value” as I used to be when I started collecting points.  If it makes you happy, go for it!

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Citi Premier Card

Citi Premier Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 50,000 Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

More Info

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I would argue that my purchases are 3.75x. I only use the card for travel purchases which earn 3x points compared to a card like Capital One which earns only 2x points. Plus, I used the card for one-off airlines that aren’t part of any FF program. For me, the goal is to never pay for airline tickets. MC also appears to give a better exchange rate than visa so the cost difference is a factory’s well.


I definitely agree with your reasoning. And cheers to never paying for airline tickets!

Great and touching story. WOW what a beautiful lady must have been fun. Lol


Isn’t she beautiful? I’ll be sure to tell her! 😉

Thank you for reading – and yes, it was a blast!

Agreed, great article.


Thank you so much, Dena!

Glad you got home to see family. I totally agree that when it comes to seeing family, the value of points go out the window.


Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Byron! Really appreciate it.