One of my favorite credit card programs is Citi ThankYou Rewards. While they’ve really bolstered the program lately with cards like the Citi Prestige, it has a special place for me since my first credit card was a Citi MTVu card, that is now a Citi Forward card that still earns 5X ThankYou Points at restaurants.
It also helps that my favorite domestic airline is American Airlines. With the Citi Prestige card, I get 1.6 cents value out of every ThankYou Point when I book an American Airlines or US Airways fare. This means that I get 8% back toward airline fare whenever I dine out (or have other 5X transactions). Compare this to just 1.25 cents per point value for other airlines, or 1 cent value if I didn’t have a card like the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier.
First, a quick review of what the Citi Prestige offers (public non-affiliate link):
- The best current bonus is 50,000 points after $3,000 spending in 3 months. That’s good for
- $500 in gift cards
- $625 in air travel
- $800 in air travel on American Airlines or US Airways
- You earn 3x ThankYou Points on air travel & hotels, 2X ThankYou Points on dining & entertainment, and 1X ThankYou Points everywhere else.
- There’s a $450 annual fee as well as a $50 fee per authorized user.
- You get an annual $250 Air Travel credit, effectively making the fee $200.
- Priority Pass Membership that includes 2 guests free (making it better than the membership given with the American Express Platinum Card).
- Access to American Airlines Admirals Club when traveling on American Airlines or US Airways the same day.
- No foreign transaction fee
There have also been reports that you can walk in to a Citi branch and get a card with a $350 annual fee as a CitiGold client. With the jump from 1.25 cents per point to 1.6 cents per point value, I easily pay off the remainder of the annual fee with 1 American Airlines booking each year.
Leveraging American Airlines/US Airways partners
The main reason for this post is to point out that the 1.6-cent value for American Airlines and US Airways means any American Airlines or US Airways flight, including codeshares. I was helping a friend book a flight from Washington DC to Portland, and she needed the nonstop flight which is only offered on Alaska Airlines. There was no mileage availability on any airline, including others that would require a connection.
We then looked toward using ThankYou Points, and I found that the nonstop Alaska Airlines flight booked as an American Airlines codeshare cost fewer points, since Citi considered it an American Airlines flight.
I recreated that below – the same Los Angeles-Seattle flight on Alaska Airlines metal costs fewer points as an American Airlines codeshare than as an Alaska Airlines flight number.
If you’re curious, below is the list of American Airlines codeshare partners. Note that not all flights/routes between airlines have codeshare agreements, and the ThankYou Points booking portal doesn’t always find every codeshare flight.
Keep in mind, you do have to consider the ramifications of booking a codeshare flight when doing this. In the example above, there shouldn’t be any problems for an American AAdvantage elite member, especially since it’s the flight number that matters when earning miles (so you’d earn according to the American Airlines earning chart since it’s an American Airlines flight number). You’ll still be able to get a free checked bag and a preferred economy class seat.
However, if you’re an Alaska Airlines elite member, this can affect things like upgrades. You can always add your Alaska Mileage Plan number and waitlist for an upgrade at the airport, but reports from places like FlyerTalk and Milepoint suggest that upgrades on a codeshare might be tough. Scott, our resident Alaska Airlines flyer, avoids booking codeshares simply for this reason.
Booking it via American also means that MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K can’t use the benefit of canceling a ticket and having the funds transferred to their Alaska Airlines wallet, since it’s an American Airlines ticket.
If you’re an Alaska Airlines elite member, it’s up to you if these loss of benefits are worth using fewer ThankYou Points. It may be worth it for a short flight down the coast, but not so much for a Hawaii or transcontinental flight. Though it is good to know this option exists!