For a Truly Great Points Program, Citi Needs American Airlines as a ThankYou Transfer Partner

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For a Truly Great Points Program, Citi Needs American Airlines as a ThankYou Transfer Partner

Harlan VaughnFor a Truly Great Points Program, Citi Needs American Airlines as a ThankYou Transfer PartnerMillion Mile Secrets Team

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American Airlines, the world’s largest air carrier, is notably missing a points transfer partner.  The other legacy airlines, Delta and United Airlines, allow 1:1 instant transfers from AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, respectively.

For American Airlines, the obvious bank program to pair with is Citi ThankYou points – because Citi is their primary card issuer with these cards:

Plus, Citi ThankYou only has 1 domestic travel partner (JetBlue).

To come in line with other bank points currencies, Citi needs American Airlines as a transfer partner.  And the transfers need to be 1:1 and instant from Citi Prestige and the Citi Premier℠ Card.

What’s the holdup?  

I’m a Fan of American Airlines and Citi ThankYou Points. Why Can’t Citi Get American Airlines on Board as a ThankYou Transfer Partner?

Citi would crush it with ThankYou points if they’d add American Airlines!

Citi ThankYou + American Airlines Makes Sense and Needs to Happen Yesterday

Of the 3 main transferable points program, I rank Citi ThankYou points as a distant 3rd place.  No question.

The points are incredibly easy to earn, but there are a couple of sticking points.

First, no hotel partners.  AMEX has Choice, Hilton (which is actually good when there are transfer bonuses), and Marriott.  Chase has Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott.

It’s because Citi doesn’t issue any hotel cards.  Losing Hilton cards must’ve stung for them.

Second, their only domestic airline partner is JetBlue.  Which is fine but…the limited network and dynamic pricing are hard to work with.

For example, there are only 5 nonstop routes from Austin.  And just 1 from Dallas (to Boston).  Plus, you can’t book partner flights with their points.

Flying Japan Air Lines Business Class With American Airlines Miles Was a Real Treat

I’ve been able to find creative niche uses for my Citi ThankYou points.  And having American Airlines in the mix would:

  • Give us more ways to redeem your points
  • Open more routes, city pairs, and access to Oneworld partners
  • Make Citi comparable to other bank points programs
  • Be appealing to newbies

This has been a sore spot for years by now.  The capability and partnership are there, so why hasn’t it happened?

My feeling is Citi would love it, but that American Airlines is the one holding everything up.  With their inflated/devalued award chart, numerous credit cards, and scattershot award space, I don’t think setting up transfers would “flood the system.”

Plus, as the world’s largest airline, shouldn’t they be able to handle it?  Or at least want to match their competition (lord knows they copy everything else Delta does)?

As I gaze into my crystal ball, I don’t have much hope for this happening any time soon, if ever.  That said, I’d love if I were wrong about this! 🔮

Citi ThankYou Points Are Useful for Award Travel – but Still Have a Ways to Go

Apply Here:   Citi Premier℠ Card

Our Review of the Citi Premier Card

Citi ThankYou has 2 cards that earn points you can transfer to airline partners.  One is Citi Prestige, which should be available for new applications later this month.

The other is the Citi Premier℠ Card.  You can currently earn 50,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

And you’ll earn:

  • 3 Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations (also including airfare, hotels, car rental agencies, parking, tolls, and much more)
  • 2 Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent at restaurants and on select entertainment (like amusement parks, museums, sporting events, movies, and more)
  • 1 Citi ThankYou point per $1 spent on all other purchases

If you spend a lot in the bonus categories, you can rack up Citi ThankYou points at a quick clip.

Here’s our full review of the Citi Premier card.

I Used Citi ThankYou Points to Visit Prague and Loved Seeing the Gorgeous Architecture

But what to do with the points you earn?  Aside from JetBlue, you have to depend on sweet spots with foreign airline loyalty programs.  Luckily, there are many.  With 50,000 Citi ThankYou points, you could:

  • Fly 2 people between New York and Vancouver on Cathay Pacific for 20,000 Asia miles round-trip in coach
  • Visit Hawaii on United Airlines flights booked with 35,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip in coach
  • Hop around Europe on Brussels Airlines for 5,000 or 7,000 Etihad miles each way (and get up to 10 award flights!)
  • Fly 3 people to London from Boston, Newark, New York-JFK, or Washington, DC, for 20,000 Virgin Atlantic miles round-trip in coach during off-peak season

As great as these trips are, having another domestic transfer partner would make it even better.  As it stands, the ThankYou program is mostly for intermediate to advanced level points collectors.

Adding American Airlines would appeal to beginners and serve as a gateway to these excellent awards.  Plus, American Airlines miles can be incredibly valuable – especially for international premium class award seats on partner airlines.

In the Meantime, Earn American Airlines Miles With These Cards

Apply Here:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Apply Here:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Apply Here:   American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

Until Citi makes our dreams come true, we’ll have to make do with earning American Airlines miles with other card offers.  There are 6 American Airlines credit cards, so it’s easy to keep your account stocked with miles.

American Airlines Credit CardsWelcome BonusMinimum SpendAnnual Fee
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card10,000 American Airlines miles + $50 statement credit$500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening$0
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®60,000 American Airlines milesEarn 60,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.$99, waived the first 12 months
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®50,000 American Airlines miles$5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening$450
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®70,000 American Airlines milesEarn 70,000 American Airlines miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 4 months of opening your account. $99, waived the first 12 months
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®60,000 American Airlines miles 1 purchase within first 90 days of account opening$95
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®60,000 American Airlines miles1 purchase within first 90 days of account opening$95

Here’s everything you need to know about Citi’s application rules.

And here are all the ways to earn American Airlines miles – including details and benefits of each of the cards above!

Bottom Line

Until Citi scrounges up another domestic airline partner, they’ll always rank last among the 3 major transferable points programs.  The easiest solution would be to add American Airlines as a ThankYou transfer partner.  Personally, I think the value of Citi ThankYou points would go way up – especially for beginners!

Though the ability and desire might be there on Citi’s part, I don’t foresee American Airlines allowing it any time soon.

For now, we’ll have to earn Citi ThankYou points with cards like Citi Prestige and the Citi Premier℠ Card.  And keep American Airlines miles rolling in with their own cards, like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® or American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.

What do you think?  Would American Airlines as a Citi ThankYou partner change your points-earning strategy?

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American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • No Annual Fee*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*

More Info

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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Derek (DebrianTravels.com)

I agree that AA needs to have Citi as a transfer partner, but given their utter lack of international business award space, I don’t see any benefit. I just blogged about how I am no longer actually pursuing AAdvantage miles because I can’t use them for the reason I collect them – transAtlantic business class.

http://www.debriantravels.com/blog/2019/1/24/why-i-will-no-longer-actively-accumulate-american-aadvantage-miles

Correction: You can use JetBlue points to book partner flights with Hawaiian. Just not their other partners.

With the way rewards are going with transferrable programs becoming more popular they may both not have a choice in the future. Unless you live in an AA city there really isn’t much incentive to get an AA card over the transferrable programs with Chase or Amex. I’ve debated branching out to Citi but I just can’t make the leap. Same here for me in that JetBlue is pointless. Don’t even fly to CVG. It seems like a no brainier but unfortunately stupidity may get in the way and this marriage never happens. Either way Citi needs another domestic partner. Unfortunately you don’t have any options left other than Allegiant or Frontier I guess. At this point those aren’t really going to move the needle and they probably would need an overhaul of their programs. Sigh. We’ll keep waiting.

“My feeling is Citi would love it, but that American Airlines is the one holding everything up. “

Transfers to AA were on the table during co-brand negotiations. AA thought this should come at a premium, Citi thought it should be a throw-in. Ultimately Citi was unwilling to pay AA’s price for exclusivity including transfers and we wound up with a dual-issuer scenario (Barclays onboard and in-airport but not within 100 feet of an Admirals Club where Citi has rights) without transfers for either bank.

That means less revenue for AA without transfers, but at the same time there’s a reason to get an AA card if you want AA miles while there’s really no reason to spend on a UA card (Chase cards that transfer are better) or Delta card (Amex cards that transfer are better) unless you need a spend waiver for elite status with those airlines.

Do we know the terms of the current co-brand contracts? When are they up for renewal? I completely agree with the article’s analysis, and also with your point about UA cards vs AA cards. With the new Citi AA Platinum bonus cats coming into play, maybe there is a middle ground going forward, whereby both Premier/Prestige and AA co-brands can have similar bonus cats, increasing the utility for both camps.
No AA xfer is what’s holding me back from jumping on the Prestige bandwagon.

Excellent article, Harlan. And Gary, as usual, gives the best, most precise analysis. As GHW Bush used to say, “it ain’t gonna happen.” No huge loss. AA miles are relatively easy to come by, more often than not difficult to use. Brilliant summary of workarounds by Harlan.