Citi ThankYou Rewards Review: Tips, Transfer Partners & More
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Citibank’s rewards program, branded Citi ThankYou Rewards, features several popular offers like the Citi Prestige and the Citi Forward. Using ThankYou points as its rewards currency, the program enables customers to redeem for perks ranging from travel accommodations and gift cards to benefits as specific as student loan reimbursement.
One distinguishing factor is that ThankYou Rewards coverage extends beyond credit card users to the company’s banking products, also enabling folks to earn points by enrolling in certain banking services (such as direct deposit of their paycheck). This represents a great way for institutionally-loyal customers to supercharge their earning power.
We at WalletHub make it a priority to review issuers’ rewards programs because it helps consumers strategically earn and redeem for maximum value at minimum cost. With that in mind, it’s time to examine whether we really should be expressing our gratitude to the Citi ThankYou Rewards program.
Products Eligible for ThankYou Rewards
Note that Citi Accounts are divided into two categories – those with partial ThankYou Rewards perks, which cannot transfer points to Citi’s corporate partners, and those with full ThankYou Rewards Perks, which can make such transfers.
|Full ThankYou Rewards Perks||Partial ThankYou Rewards Perks|
|Citi Premier℠ Card||Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card|
|Citi Prestige® Card||Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students|
|Citi Corporate Card*|
|Citi One Card*|
* These corporate credit cards are eligible for Citi ThankYou Rewards as long as you enroll in the Citi Corporate Card Rewards Program, which has an annual enrollment fee.
ThankYou Banking Accounts:
|Full ThankYou Rewards Rights||Partial ThankYou Rewards Rights|
|There are no checking accounts that fit this description.||CitiBusiness Streamlined Checking Account|
|CitiBusiness Flexible Checking Account|
|CitiBusiness Preferred Banking|
|Citi Private Bank Account|
|The Citibank Account|
Maximizing ThankYou Rewards Earnings
Citi ThankYou Rewards allows you to earn at least one point for every dollar you spend with your eligible Citi credit card. However, earning doesn’t stop there – in fact, there are two key ways that you can squeeze more juice out of this program (and doing so could mean the difference between redeeming a free night at a hotel versus a complimentary week-long cruise):
- Take Advantage of the Right Card: Select Citi cards have “ThankYou promotions,” which enable you to earn extra points by spending a certain amount of money in a given time period as well as by spending in particular categories – such as travel, gas and groceries.
- Open a Citi Bank Account: Given that Citi offers rewards banking, take advantage of this option as a supplementary way to help you rack up more ThankYou points – provided that your credit card and bank account both provide competitive terms.
Other Earning Perks:
- Combining Points: You can merge the points from all of your Citi Accounts into one ThankYou Member Account in order to redeem for bigger rewards.
- Sharing is Caring: Not many rewards programs let you share your points with friends, but Citi ThankYou Rewards does (as long as both of you have Citi Accounts).
- No Minimum Threshold: You don’t need to spend a set amount on your card in order to begin earning points.
Earning Restrictions to Watch Out For:
- No Real Cash Back Options: There aren’t any credit cards in the program that actually allow you to earn cash back. You can only redeem points for cash at a lousy rate of 0.5 – 0.75 cents per point (and this is potentially subject to devaluation).
- Earning Limit: While none of Citi’s cards currently have an earnings limit, the company’s fine print leaves open the possibility of there being one on other types of accounts, as you can see below.
ThankYou Banking Rewards
In addition to rewarding credit cardholders, Citi ThankYou Rewards also permits individuals to earn points by maintaining an eligible checking account.
For both consumer and business banking accounts, you must complete certain “required monthly activities” in order to be eligible to earn points. Once you do, the amount of points you earn each month depends on the type of checking account you use as well as the services you enroll your account in and the additional Citi products that you have.
For Consumer Checking Accounts:
For The Citibank Account, members need to sign up to receive one direct deposit and complete one online bill payment each month in order to begin earning points (you can enroll in both of these services online).
Though the Citigold Account’s and Citi Private Bank Account’s “monthly required activities” only require you to make one debit or credit transaction each month in order to begin earning points, taking things a step further and completing both a direct deposit and bill payment qualifies you for higher earning rates.
For example, as you can see below, the Citigold Account earns 125 points per month for having a Citi mortgage loan when meeting the “one debit or credit transaction” requirement, compared to the 225 points per month you’d receive after setting up a direct deposit and bill payment.
Refer to Citi’s official table (the numbers refer to the amount of points you’d receive per month):
For Business Checking Accounts:
Citi’s business checking accounts require you to either pay two bills – via enrolling in the online bill payment service – or have two checks paid (or one of each) in order to earn points in a given month. Take a look at Citi’s table below to determine how many points you can earn each month:
Redeeming ThankYou Rewards for Maximum Value
Now that you understand how to maximize your ThankYou earnings, it’s time to capitalize on redemption. It’s critical to find the most lucrative redemption option possible because you could unwittingly sacrifice half your accrued value if you approach the task haphazardly, thereby allowing the hard work you put into earning those points go to waste.
With that being said, the key question at hand is: Which redemption option yields the most value for your points? We did the math and found that the best ways to redeem your points are for gift cards and travel – all other redemption options, as you can see below, don’t yield much value per point.
How Much are Citi ThankYou Points Worth?
For those interested in a bit more detail, the following breakdown shows the monetary value of each point when used with the different redemption options offered by Citi ThankYou Rewards.
|Redemption Options||Dollar Cost||Points Needed||Points Valuation|
|Airfare using “Travel Center”||$100.00||10,000||1 cent|
|Hotel using “Travel Center”||$100.00||10,000||1 cent|
|Car Rental using “Travel Center”||$100.00||10,000||1 cent|
|Travel Certificates||$100.00||10,000||1 cent|
|$50 Item||$49.99||6,400||0.78 cents|
|$100 Item||$94.95||11,800||0.80 cents|
|$200 Item||$189.99||23,200||0.82 cents|
|$300 Item||$299.95||40,000||0.75 cents|
|$25 iTunes Gift Card||$25.00||2,500||1 cent|
|$25 Best Buy Gift Card||$25.00||2,500||1 cent|
|Statement Credit and Cash Back|
|Cash Back||$50.00||10,000||0.50 cents|
|Statement Credit||$100.00||20,000||0.50 cents|
|“Select & Credit”||$1.00||133||0.75 cents|
|Red Cross Charity Donation||$25.00||2,500||1 cent|
|"Shop With Points" at Amazon.com||$1.00||125||0.80 cents|
|"Shop With Points" at Live Nation||$1.00||125||0.80 cents|
|Online Bill Pay With Points||$1.00||153||0.65 cents|
|Student Loans/Mortgage Bills||$100.00||10,000||1 cent|
|"Shop With Points" with Rewards Account Numbers||$1.00||140||0.71 cents|
|Point Transfer to Hilton HHonors (Average)||$209.00||17,500||1.19 cents|
Other Redemption Perks:
- No Travel Limitations: There are no restrictions on travel dates, seat availability or airline/hotel/car rental choices for trips booked through the Citi Travel Center. In other words, Citi doesn’t try to limit your travel options simply because you’re paying with points.
Points Versatility: ThankYou Rewards takes flexibility to the next level by offering a Points Concierge, which enables cardholders to redeem for perks that are not offered directly through the program – like getting tickets to your favorite jazz festival, for instance.
You can contact customer service, explain what type of purchase you’re looking to apply your points to, and ask how many points it will take. Then make sure you do the points-to-price conversion to verify that you are getting a competitive redemption rate.
- Ability to Offset Any Student Loans & Monthly Mortgages: Members can apply their ThankYou points directly towards any monthly mortgage or student loan payments (even from other issuers) at a decent rate of 1 cent per point, which is drastically better than the 0.5 cents per point you get with a statement credit or check.
- Citi Travel Center Offers Travel Discounts: Certain cards give you a discount on the amount of points needed when redeeming for airfare. The Premier Card gives you a 20% discount, valuing each point at 1.25 cents instead of 1 cent. The Citi Prestige card provides even higher discounts, as you can see below, valuing each point at 1.6 cents with American Airlines or US Airways and 1.33 cents with all other airlines.
- Travel Certificates Guarantee Fair Prices: Citi ThankYou points can be redeemed for travel certificates from hotel and car rental companies. These certificates are available at the same redemption rate as the internal booking tool (1 cent per point), and members can then use these certificates directly with the respective merchants, ensuring they’re receiving fair prices rather than those dictated by Citi in the booking tool.
Redemption Restrictions to Watch Out For:
- Minimum Threshold: Several redemption options have a minimum points requirement. For example, you need at least 2,000 points to redeem for a statement credit.
- Set Increments for Cash Back: Cash back can be redeemed in the form of a statement credit or as a mailed check. Checks can only be redeemed in increments of $50 or $100, whereas statement credits can be done in increments of $10, $15, $25, $50, $100 or $250.
Restrictions on “Select & Credit”: Citi’s “Select & Credit” option permits consumer credit card customers to use their points to offset individual charges on their monthly statements. This feature is only applicable to charges incurred in the current billing cycle, which means you cannot use it in months where you haven’t made any purchases.
To top it off, Citi’s fine print dictates that “Select and Credit” can only be applied towards “eligible” charges. What’s “eligible” and what’s not is described below (note that whether a charge is eligible or not ultimately depends on the store’s merchant category code):
The only edge this feature has over cash back received in the form of a general statement credit or a check, given its inflexibility, is that points redeemed via this method are valued at slightly better rates (0.75 cents instead of 0.5 cents).
ThankYou Rewards Transfer Partners
Citi ThankYou Rewards permits certain participants in the program to transfer their points into the loyalty programs of Citi’s transfer partners, allowing travel accommodations to be booked directly through them.
Although transfers are free of charge, they must be completed in 1,000 point increments and cannot be reversed or canceled. Moreover, they can take up to 14 days to process, so make sure to plan your vacations ahead of time. Below are Citi’s 9 transfer partners:
|Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners||Transfer Ratio|
Pros & Cons of ThankYou Rewards
Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at the Citi ThankYou Rewards program, we can assess its key advantages and disadvantages, as well as the “fluff” features you can pretty much ignore.
- Several Transfer Partners– The flexibility of Citi ThankYou Rewards points has increased in recent years, with the addition of 9 transfer partners with whom customers can redeem points.
- No Minimum Threshold– There is no minimum amount you need to spend in order to begin earning Citi ThankYou points.
- Travel Discounts– When booking through the Citi Travel Center, certain Citi cards offer discounts on the amount of points needed to redeem airfare.
- Ability to Earn Points Through Banking– Citi ThankYou Rewards enables members to collect points using checking accounts, thereby opening up the rewards program landscape to individuals who do not have credit cards.
- Restraints on Travel– When using points to redeem for travel, you must transfer your points into an external loyalty program, obtain a travel certificate from a particular provider or use the Citi Travel Center. The versatility of ThankYou points therefore falls short of other credit cards that permit you to use apply rewards to travel-related purchase made with any company.
- Earning Limits– Citi’s fine print renders it possible for several of the company’s non-credit-card products to have limits on the number of points that can be earned each year.
Buying Points– ThankYou Rewards gives its members the option of purchasing points at a rate of 1,000 points for $25. Though this might seem appealing, do not buy into this scheme – and we mean that quite literally.
You’d be paying 2.5 cents for each point, which won’t yield anything more than 1 cent upon redemption. Not only are you losing the versatility of cash, you’re also getting less value for what you initially paid.
Where Does ThankYou Rewards Rank?
WalletHub evaluated each of the 10 largest credit card issuers’ the primary consumer rewards programs according to a standardized grading methodology in order to provide a basis for comparison for brand agnostic consumers. Citi ThankYou Rewards ranked 5th, as you can see in the following graph.
Consumer Credit Card Rewards Program Rankings
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