The 5 Best Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners Are…

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Citi ThankYou points are easier than ever to earn.

I plan to put airfare and dining on my Citi Prestige to earn 5X points per $1 spent, and use my Citi AT&T Access More card (not open to new applicants) to get 3X points for online shopping. Between these 2 cards, I’ll be flush with Citi ThankYou points this year.

And peeps with the Citi Premier can earn 3X points on all travel, including gas, and 2X points on dining.

In that light, I’m giving thought to Citi’s 15 airline transfer partners. But in my eyes, a solid 2/3 of them are total caca.

That means only 5 are worthwhile.

Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners

Man, I gotta get back to Hawaii this year. You can use Flying Blue or Singapore miles to get there cheap!

Let’s take a looky loo, shall we?

The 5 Best Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners

Currently, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to 15 airline loyalty programs:

  • Avianca
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • EVA Air
  • Etihad Guest
  • Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways
  • JetBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Citi ThankYou points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to all of their partners.   All transfers must be in 1,000-point increments.

Here are the 5 most valuable – and creative uses.

1. Avianca

To start, there are never fuel surcharges when you redeem Avianca miles, which is awesome. That alone can save you $100s.

Plus, you can book most Star Alliance partners online. Note you’ll pay $25 every time you book an award. That said, there are no close-in booking fees, so depending when you book, it could work in your favor.

Pricing can be wonky. You might pay more – or less – depending what direction you’re flying. Seriously.

Good deals with Avianca miles include:

  • 87,000 miles to Europe in Lufthansa First Class
  • 63,000 miles for Business Class to Europe on LOT, SAS, SWISS, TAP, Turkish Airlines, or United Polaris
  • 25,000 miles within the US (including transcon) in United Business Class
  • 40,000 or 50,000 miles to fly coach to Asia/Australia/New Zealand, or within Asia – sometimes in Business Class!

I loved flying SWISS Business Class from JFK to Zurich

Any time I want to fly on a Star Alliance partner, I check the Avianca site to see how much they’re charging. The deals to Europe alone are just too good.

They also have funky zone pricing within the US. For example, it’s only 7,500 Avianca miles to fly United one-way in coach from Texas to Montana. Or 10,000 Avianca miles from Michigan, New York, or Ohio, to anywhere in Florida. Compare that to the 12,500 miles United would charge you.

You can also transfer 1:1 from Amex Membership Rewards, so it’s easy to pool your points if you need more. Plus, transfers are usually instant.

2. Etihad Guest

While transfers are slow, and usefulness is limited by availability, there are a couple of gems worth mentioning.

For one, you can fly from Brussels to most of Europe (or to there) for 5,000 or 7,000 Etihad miles each way in coach on Brussels Airlines.

If you find yourself in Brussels, this is an easy way to give yourself more options, like taking the train from Paris or Amsterdam, for example (which is exactly what I did). Plus, Belgium is so cute – take a day trip to Bruges!

Etihad’s Brussels Airlines award chart – I flew Prague to Brussels

Another thing that amazes me is Etihad partners with American, and still uses their old award chart before the last big devaluation. It’s all still there:

  • 50,000 miles in Business Class to Japan or South Korea
  • 20,000 miles in coach to South America
  • 17,500 miles off-peak in coach to Hawaii (and only 37,500 miles for Business Class!)
  • 20,000 miles off-peak in coach to Europe
  • And all the rest!

The issue is, of course, AA’s award space. Well, that and slow transfers to Etihad, which can take about a week.

While I wouldn’t hold Etihad miles speculatively, it might be worth keeping a stash in case you find that perfect award. I was able to book over the phone with no problem.

And Etihad miles expire after 2 years from the date you transfer them. So that’s a while, but you might not feel comfy having Etihad miles sitting around unused for too long.

Of course, you can also use them for flights on Etihad. Oddly enough, it’s better to redeem American miles for Etihad flights, and Etihad miles for American flights.

I mention this one because I’ve had luck with it in the past – maybe you will, too.

Amex Membership Rewards points also transfer to Etihad, in case you need more.

3. Flying Blue

This one’s worth mentioning even though Flying Blue doesn’t have an official award chart because transfers are instant.

So if a flight is super expensive with Delta miles, you can check here instead. And if it works, book it right away.

For example, a one-way coach flight from Atlanta to Paris is at least 37,000 Delta miles:

And they all have connex

Or you could pay 29,000 Flying Blue miles instead:

You’ll pay ~$67 for fuel surcharges, but fewer miles

Plus, they have nonstop options.

Any time I want to see about Delta or a SkyTeam partner flight, I peek on Air France prices. Sometimes they’re reasonable. And the monthly Promo Awards are a steal if they work with your schedule.

I’ve actually been meaning to book a Promo Award to Tel Aviv. The second it works, I’m gonna pull the trigger.

Again, limited uses, but when it works, it’s great.

You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue as well.

4. Qantas

This one’s a hidden gem thanks to distance-based award prices.

Round-trip coach flights under 600 miles on American Airlines (and Qantas) are only 16,000 Qantas mileseven if you have to connect. Yes, you’ll pay 15,000 American miles for round-trip domestic coach flights under 500 miles – but American miles are harder to earn.

Save them and use your Citi ThankYou points instead! This also works for near-international flights, like to Mexico or the Caribbean.

Sweet spot! Although the whole chart is reasonable, IMO

I recently flew from Austin to Oklahoma City with a connection in Dallas for 8,000 Qantas miles one-way. The flights were otherwise $500+. That would’ve been 15,000 British Airways Avios points (because of the connex) or 7,500 American miles.

The only drawback is transfers can take 2 or 3 days. But if you want to fly on American and don’t want to use British Airways Avios points or American miles, this is an excellent option.

The same pricing works on Qantas flights too, in case you wanna “hop” around Australia. (That was a veiled kangaroo joke, forgive me.)

I had a great experience flying Fiji Airways to Nadi, Fiji

It also works for flights on Emirates and Fiji Airways – in case you want to stop in Fiji on your way back home, or fly Emirates for cheap.

5. Singapore Airlines

If you wanna save your United miles, you can use Singapore miles to pay the same prices within the mainland US – and get nice discounts on United flights to Hawaii.

Singapore also partners with Alaska, which unlocks even more ways to get to Hawaii (or around the US), and is zone-based. Remember, Alaska also flies to Mexico and Central America.

Singapore charges per segment for Alaska flights, so nonstops are best. But if a paid flight is expensive, this is an easy way to save.

Of course, you can also use Singapore miles to fly in Singapore Airlines’ magnificent First Class cabin.

Transfers from Citi ThankYou take ~1 day to get to your Singapore account. And if you need more Singapore miles, you can transfer points in from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.

What about the 10 other transfer partners?

Here’s my brief take on why I avoid them:

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) – distance-based, super inflated prices
  • EVA Air – they charge a ridiculous amount of miles to go literally anywhere
  • Garuda Indonesia – inflated
  • Jet Airways – ditto
  • JetBlue – could be useful for expensive flights, like Mint Business Class, but there’s only one JetBlue flight from Dallas, and it’s to Boston. Plus, points have a set value
  • Malaysia Airlines – inflated
  • Qatar Airways – ridiculously high prices, omg
  • Thai Airways – inflated
  • Turkish Airlines – have to book award flights in person, no thanks
  • Virgin Atlantic – fuel surcharges aren’t cute, but some good deals to the UK

Bottom line


The Top 5 Citi ThankYou transfer partners are:

  • Avianca – cheap prices to Europe in Business Class, and around the US (depending on zone)
  • Etihad – great deals on Brussels Airlines and American flights, if you can find award space
  • Flying Blue – save on Delta flights, use Promo Awards for cheap flights to Europe
  • Qantas – hidden gem for short flights on American, easy to hop around Australia
  • Singapore – save your United or Alaska miles, or fly in Singapore First Class

The others all have crazy pricing, fuel surcharges, or super niche uses.

And admittedly, the Top 5 have limited uses, too – just not as limited. I’ve personally booked 4/5 of these picks, and have never messed with the ones I excluded. So if I overlooked something great, please share any tidbits of information!

In general, I consider Citi ThankYou points to be 3rd place among the 3 main transferable points programs (1st is Chase Ultimate Rewards, 2nd is Amex Membership Rewards). But there are great deals in there.

I’ll be paying more attention now that Citi Prestige earns 5X on airfare and dining. I slipped it into my wallet this week and am sure I’ll give it a workout – and rack up the Citi ThankYou points like never before.

I also just used the 4th night free perk to save $430 on an upcoming hotel stay, which nearly covers the card’s entire annual fee. But more on that later.

Do you agree with my Top 5 ranking?

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. HARLAN —

    I really like all your knowledge concerning use of Cit Thank You points — I did not know about Quantas, and isn’t this better than Avios, because it includes connections for the trip, whereas, a connection using Avios is 2 trips??

    However, why not Jet Blue transfers?

    Thanks,

    Colin

    • Hi Colin!

      For nonstop flights, BA charges 7,500 Avios for flights under 1,151 miles. And you are right, you pay per segment. Qantas charges 8,000 miles for flights under 600 miles, including connections. That goes up to 12,000 miles for flight up to 1,200 miles, including connections. So it depends on flight distance and if you have a connection – or if you just want to burn some Citi ThankYou points and save your Avios for longer nonstop flights.

      JetBlue points’ value are tied to the cash cost of the ticket. More expensive ticket = more points required. So you can do well with cheap flights, but between the decreased transfer ratio and fixed pricing, it’s too case-by-case to be useful to everyone. Plus, they only serve select cities whereas the other airlines have a much broader network and way more partners.

      That’s my reasoning, anyway! 🙂

      • Thanx Harlan! I live in your old haunt — NYC — where there are oodles of Jet Blue flights. Also, Citi just upped their transfer ratio to Jet Blue, not the other way around, so I think it is a better value proposition that you might give it credit.

        I don’t really like Citi or Amex’s reliance on chiefly foreign carriers, especially those with either high surcharges or miles expiring no matter what you do.

        Given that I have plenty of United miles, Avianca’s utility to me is limited.

        What do you think given my further refinement of my situation, oh wise one!

        • Lol, sounds like you got some good points! 🙂 If I wanted a JetBlue flight, I’d also price it out on the Citi ThankYou site to see which had the better deal and go from there. Totally agree with you about all the foreign carriers – you end up with a lot of orphan points. But when you can transfer and empty the account right away, that’s the best (like the Qantas dealio).

          You’re lucky to have lots of United miles – they’re very valuable! With all this in mind, you could do well with the JetBlue transfer. I’ll have to run another few scenarios but you’re definitely convincing me they might be surprisingly useful.

  2. If you’re booking a Star Alliance award using TK, then you either need to go to a ticketing office in person or email them and get lucky. Definitely a pain.

    But you can book TK metal awards online, and the rates are pretty great: 45k one way to Europe in business class.

  3. you really should change the title to 5 Best TY transfers if you are Dallas based Only. If a person is based elsewhere then the #s will be different as to what works best eg B6 if a person lives near LGB,LAX,JFK,FLL, or BOS then B6 can be a very sweet deal, while its not if Dallas based.Im sure the same with some other carriers as well. Plus at times theres a promo bonus say with Asia Miles

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! The JetBlue transfer option can definitely be useful. Between the 5:4 transfer ratio (not 1:1 like the other partners) and revenue-based redemptions, you can often do better with other partners and airlines. Not always, but most of the time. And transfers to JetBlue usually get you a value of 1 cent per ThankYou point. Others offer much higher value.

      For Asia miles, they’re great within Asia, or for a few specific flights (JFK-YVR in Business Class would be a good use) – limited appeal. But if a promo bonus lines up with your travel plans, definitely go for it! I just wouldn’t rank it in the Top 5.

  4. My family of 4 is flying to Paris RT out of Seattle via 400K total Virgin Atlantic miles and $520 on Delta metal Biz class Delta One I believe it’s called. The same trip on the same Delta metal using Delta points was 2,900,000 or $112,000 cash money. I don’t understand why Virgin Atlantic mile usage on Delta isn’t better known, but thank god for that. They were wide open to fly us into Amsterdam or Paris on various dates with very generous return dates. Did this reservation 3 months ago for July this year.

    • Wow, that’s amazing, Mike! I wonder what the price might’ve been with Flying Blue miles. But all the same, I’m glad you got a good deal finding 4 award seats for your family in Business Class!

      The few times I’ve checked, there have either been high fuel surcharges or very scant space. That’s awesome that you were able to book. Thank you for sharing. Sounds like a fun trip! 🙂

  5. What’s your experience with Avianca? I’ve put in some busy work tooling around and have found some decent business awards to Europe, but I’ve never been able to get it to show Lufthansa First. Have you?

    • Hi, Garrett! Yes, I’m looking at a few open seats now. The issue is Lufthansa doesn’t release First Class seats to partners until ~15 days before departure or 11+ months in advance. There’s very little open between those times.

      I love tooling around with their award search. There are some real gems there, especially to Europe as you noted. But yeah, you have to be really persistent about the Lufty First Class seat – it’s nearly unicorn-level outside of really far out or super soon.

  6. To reinforce what Mike L just said. On Christmas Day Delta wanted 300,000 miles for Delta 1 Los Angeles to Haneda. Virgin Atlantic priced the same flight at 60,000 miles. Guess which one I took? I have also booked ANA west coast to Tokyo in First for 110,000 Virgin miles.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! Maybe I should poke around the Virgin Atlantic site a bit more. Really appreciate your reply.

      And wow, what a great deal – Haneda is definitely the way to go. Sounds like you really like Japan! I can’t get enough – what an amazing place!

  7. Booked Virgin Atlantic EWR to LHR one way for 17,500 points + $224 fees. Was able to find availability for a group of 6 (105,000 points, $13xx fees, although the Citi Prestige $250 airline credit did kick in automatically). Looked at flying back from Paris on Air France, although the fees were $300+ (would probably have booked if this was a solo trip, just to check it out).

    • Thanks for the datapoint, Pat! Seems there is value to unlock with Virgin Atlantic miles. I will definitely look into it more. Appreciate the reply!

      And def check out Air France if you get a chance – super cool planes.

  8. I’ve used these points to get Turkish business class from Houston to IST at a great points rate via the Turkish website. The points transferred fast and I got seats easily and all online. For a 13 hour flight its an incredible experience. I just book my positioning flight from Austin on United, and my onwards flight to wherever I am going (if it’s not on Turkish too) separately. I even had remarkable customer service from Turkish (oddly by email) when my flight from IAH to IST was delayed. They rebooked me on Emirates business class to my final destination. It was fantastic.

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