Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program is one of my main credit card rewards programs, and also my longest tenured program – I’ve been a member for almost 8 years now. In recent years, the value of ThankYou Points has actually increased. I used to value them at around 1¢ per point, since the best you could do was cash them out to pay for a mortgage or student loan. I now value them at around 1.6¢ per point, mainly because that’s how much points are worth for fares on American Airlines when you have a Citi Prestige card.
There are a ton of ways to earn Citi ThankYou points, via both credit cards and via bank accounts. Not only can you earn ThankYou Points for opening a Citigold checking account, you can earn miles by funding the account with a credit card. You can also actively earn ThankYou Points by performing things like a bill pay from or a direct deposit to a Citigold account. Even just having a Citigold account can help you get an extra 0.15 points per dollar spent on your Citi Prestige card. That means purchasing airfare or hotel on that card actually earns 3.15 points per dollar, or just above 5% return.
For more information on Citi banking accounts, I’ll defer to Doctor of Credit – their team does a great job keeping up to date on those promotions (and is, in general, a blog I keep track of very regularly).
In addition to bank accounts, plenty of credit cards earn ThankYou points, including:
- Citi ThankYou Preferred
- Citi ThankYou Premier
- Citi Prestige
- Citi Forward
- Citi Chairman
- Citi PremierPass/Expedia
- Citi PremierPass/Expedia – Elite
- AT&T Access Card
- AT&T Access More Card
- AT&T Universal Rewards Card
- AT&T Universal Business Rewards Card
- Citi Professional Card
- Citi Business ThankYou Card
- CitiBusiness World Card
Some credit cards aren’t even open for new signups anymore, but Citi has often kept the product alive and current users grandfathered into the old terms. For example, I applied for a Citi MTVu card in 2008, which was turned into a Citi Forward card a while later. That card earns 5 ThankYou Points per dollar at bookstores, record stores, restaurants (including cafes), fast food restaurants, movie theaters, video rental stores, and on-demand internet streaming media. Video rental stores? Clearly this is an old card! But earning 5x ThankYou Points at restaurants is my main use of this card. Unfortunately, the Citi Forward is no longer available for new signups, but I always have a smile on my face when I split a dinner check with friends and see someone else with the black and green card. 😉
However, the Forward’s terms and conditions state that “bakeries, bar, and lounges” don’t count for 5x – I learned that when had a large bar transaction that did not get 5x. Now, whenever I’m out at a bar, I’m more likely to put down my Citi Prestige, or on a card that I’m meeting minimum spend on.
It can be confusing keeping track of all these ThankYou cards …
I have to admit, even I sometimes get confused about which cards have which bonus categories. Citi recently sent out booklets to members that list out the terms and conditions of all their ThankYou products, and as someone with several methods of earning ThankYou Points, I’ve found it to be very useful. They’ve also launched a website at thankyou.com/terms that clearly delineates the terms of the program, including what categories each card is best used for. I’m not sure how recent it is, but it can’t be older than about 6 weeks since it’s different from when I checked the terms in late December 2015.
Clarifying ThankYou Points Expiration
With constant evolution of the program, different Citi accounts had different expiration terms. In general, if you apply for a personal Citi card today, your ThankYou points won’t expire.
ThankYou Points earned from Citi Checking accounts or from Citi Business credit cards expire 3 years later on December 31st (i.e., points earned in 2016 will expire on December 31, 2019). For those with the Citi Forward card, those points expire after 5 year on December 31st.
In addition, if you transfer points from one ThankYou points account to another, those transferred points immediately have a 90-day expiration countdown, even if they were earned on a card that normally doesn’t have points expiration. Fortunately with Citi, points transfers are very easy to do – you can even transfer the exact amount of points you need for a redemption. For example, my mother recently transferred exactly 16,604 points to me, all of which I used to book a flight for her on American Airlines. Even though they had a 90-day expiration clock, I used them all within 10 minutes. I just make sure to do the transfer before I redeem the reward.
This does means that in a single ThankYou account earning points from several sources, you might have some points that have an expiration date, while other points don’t expire. Fortunately, when you redeem points, Citi seems to pull points that have earlier expiration dates first. My Citi Forward card earns points that expire 5 years after earning them, but because I earn those points in the same ThankYou account as my Citi Prestige, I can transfer to airline or hotel partners. Since those Forward points have an expiration date, they were ostensibly the points that Citi sent to Virgin Atlantic when I made a recent points redemption. When I look in my account now, none of my points have an expiration date.
There is one caveat to this – points earned from checking accounts aren’t eligible for transfers to airline or hotel partners; however, you can gain higher value from them for things like paid flights. That means that while a 50,000-point Citigold bonus cannot transfer to a partner like Singapore Airlines, it can be used for $800 in American Airlines airfare if you hold a Citi Prestige.
Keeping in line with the point above, I believe Citi uses up the “most restricted” points first (i.e., if you have 50,000 points from Citigold and 50,000 from Prestige, and go to book an $800 American Airlines flight, it will use the Citigold points first), but I currently have no way of checking this. For that matter, Citigold points also have an expiration date, so I’m sure that those points would get used up first if you paid for airfare with ThankYou Points.
Thankfully, Citi does make tracking expirations easy, as you can go to the Points Summary tab of your ThankYou points account to do this.
Treatment of ThankYou points after death
Apparently, if a ThankYou Points member passed away, Citi used to confiscate those points. They still will, but there’s now an option to glean cash rewards from the points within 1 year of death, so long as the administrator of the estate can provide satisfactory evidence of death.
Other changes, but nothing negative
Citi made some changes to the ThankYou Rewards terms, which include:
- Auto-enrollment in Shop with Points at Amazon.com
- Pay with Points with participating merchants
I don’t use either of these features regularly since I usually find better things to do with my points, but for those who use their points for shopping, having the process become more seamless is a positive.
Citi’s program can be a confusing one, but I think it is one of the most rewarding programs at the moment. Making their program easier to understand was something they needed to do, and I think they’re working on that with the booklet they sent out as well as the matching website.