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I’m not a fan of chasing elite status, even though the perks can be nice. But if there is an opportunity to pick low hanging fruit, I’m all about it.
Recently, my wife and I were both targeted for free American Airlines elite status until May 15th! And if we meet certain requirements, we can extend it through the end of 2019. And I can pull this off easily by paying for flights with Citi ThankYou points.
I’ll explain how it works and why I’m using Citi ThankYou points.
Pay for American Airlines Flights With Citi ThankYou Points
I was targeted for American Airlines Platinum Pro status and I’m not going to bother trying to reach the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQDs) and Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMS) requirement to extend the benefits. But my wife was given American Airlines Platinum status and she only needs $1,500 EQDs and 12,500 EQMs to extend her status until the end of the year. With paid flights we’ve already booked, she’ll get about halfway there and we plan to earn the rest of what we need by using Citi ThankYou points to pay for a flight to Glasgow she’s been wanting to take.
We’ll end up using 50,000 to 55,000 Citi ThankYou points for the ticket because we want to avoid Basic Economy. This is comparable to what we’d pay for the cheapest award flights on the same route except we won’t be paying additional taxes and fees. This is huge because she’ll have to fly through London which has some of the worst fees for award flights in the world.
Because we’re paying for the flight with points we also don’t need to worry about finding open award seats. And she’ll have the potential of getting upgraded because of her elite status. On award flights you normally can’t get upgraded (unless you have the top-tier American Airlines status). To top it all off, she’ll also earn American Airlines miles for the flight.
Paying for expensive Business or First Class flights with points doesn’t make sense. But you can see how the perks of paying for certain flights with points can really add up.
You can use Citi ThankYou points to pay for travel booked through the ThankYou travel center. And when you’re booking airfare, your ThankYou points are usually worth 1 cent each. But they are worth 1.25 cents each toward airfare if you have the:
- Citi Premier℠ Card – I’ve got this card
- Citi Prestige® Card
Note: Starting on September 1, 2019, the Citi Prestige will no longer allow you to redeem Citi ThankYou points toward airfare for 1.25 cents each (the redemption rate will drop to 1 cent each).
Paying for airfare through the Citi ThankYou center is just like booking flights with Expedia, Kayak, etc. I did a quick price comparison with Google flights and I found the same prices for the flights I found through Citi’s travel center. But it’s always a good idea to double check the prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal because not every airline will show up on the Citi ThankYou travel site.
You can also earn Citi ThankYou points with these cards:
The ThankYou points you earn with either Citi Rewards+ card aren’t transferable to airline partners and can be redeemed for travel on ThankYou site for 1 cent each. But if you have the Citi Premier℠ Card or Citi Prestige then the ThankYou points you earn with these cards can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each toward airfare or transferred to Citi’s travel partners.
Other Points You Can Use to Pay for Airfare
I usually prefer to transfer my flexible rewards to airlines to book flights. But, in this case, I earned the Citi ThankYou points I’m using to pay for my wife’s flights to Europe from a targeted Citibank checking account bonus. And the ThankYou points you earn from Citibank checking bonuses can’t be transferred to airline partners.
Normally, if you prefer to pay for airfare with points, I’d suggest earning rewards with the following cards:
- U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card – US Bank Altitude points are worth 1.5 cents each toward travel, like airfare, rental cars, and hotels. And with the US Bank Real-Time rewards you can instantly redeem points toward eligible travel purchases without having to book through the US Bank travel site.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® – With this card your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each toward travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal.
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® – Arrival miles are worth 1 cent each toward any eligible travel expense of $100+ made in the previous 120 days. You also get a 5% miles rebate on all redemptions.
- Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card — Points earned with the card can be redeemed toward airfare booked through the Wells Fargo travel site for 1.5 cents each. And if you spend $50,000+ per calendar year with the card, they can be redeemed for 1.75 cents each toward airfare.
Information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card, Citi Premier, Citi Prestige, Citi Rewards Student cards has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Of course you always have the option of earning cash back and paying for flights that way as well.
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