Citi has really been getting aggressive with their credit card portfolio over the past year.
After years of rumors, they finally added the ability to transfer ThankYou points to airline and hotel partners. Those currently include:
-Air France/KLM Flying Blue
-Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
The transfer ratio is 1K:1K except for Hilton where you get 1,500 points for every 1,000 points transferred.
Flying Blue offers promo awards from rotating cities that allow travel to Europe, Israel, and Russia from just 25,000 miles round-trip plus relatively small fuel surcharges in coach. They charge just 50,000 miles regularly for round-trip travel to Europe, Israel, and Russia and there are no fuel surcharges at all when you fly on Delta.
Singapore has a great Star Alliance award chart, with bargains on United that have no fuel surcharges. One-way flights are available at half the listed rates. Domestic business class, with lie-flat seats on some routes, is just 20K each way. United charges more of their own miles for awards to Alaska, but Singapore will book you on United to Alaska for the domestic rate. A flight to Hawaii is just 17.5K in coach or 30K in lie-flat business each way. A flight to Israel is just 37.5K in coach or 57.5K in business each way. A Singapore A380 enclosed suite or double suite from JFK to Frankfurt is just 57K miles each way and a suite from LA to Tokyo is just 74K each way.
Plus Singapore only charges $20 for a date change ($12 for Singapore flight changes made online) or $30 to cancel a flight and redeposit your miles. And there are no close-in booking fees.
Points transfers require that you have a Premier, Prestige, or Chairman card.
And now they are increasing the signup bonuses on their cards to very competitive levels.
The Citi Premier card previously offered 20,000 points for spending $2,000 within 3 months and another 30,000 points for holding onto the card for a 2nd year, paying the annual fee, and spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of the 2nd cardmembership year.
That was a whole lot of hoops.
For a limited time the card only requires $3,000 of spending within 3 months to land 50,000 Citi ThankYou bonus points. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year and there are no foreign transaction fees.
The card has very strong spend categories, triple points for travel and gas and double points on dining and entertainment. Travel includes airfare, car rentals, hotels, cruises, travel agencies, public transportation, boat rentals, taxis, tolls, parking, etc. Entertainment includes sporting events, amusement parks, tourist attractions, theater, concerts, movies, etc.
The 50K points can be transferred to an airline, used for $500 of gift cards, or used for $625 of travel purchases. They can be worth even more if you also have a Citi Prestige card.
The Citi Prestige card previously offered 30,000 points for spending $2,000 within 3 months.
For a limited time the card offers 50,000 Citi ThankYou bonus points for $3,000 of spending within 3 months.
It offers 3 points per dollar on airfare, hotels, and travel agencies, and double points on dining and entertainment.
The card has a hefty $450 annual fee, but it has a ton of benefits that make up for that and then some:
-$250 annual air travel credit. No need to pick an airline. No need to buy a gift card. Just a straight credit for up to $250 of whatever you spend from any airline including airfare, bag fees, seat fees, etc. That’s $250 back in 2015 and $250 back in 2016, which more than covers the annual fee.
-Free American Admirals Club lounge access for you and your family or 2 guests when flying American.
-Priority Club lounge membership with free guests access for your family or 2 guests when flying any airline. Additional cardmembers are just $50 and they also get their own Priority Club lounge membership with free guest privileges. The Priority pass membership that comes with the AMEX Platinum card doesn’t include free guests access, so that’s a nice perk of this membership.
-Global Entry or Pre-Check reimbursement. A 5 year Global Entry membership is normally $100 but will be free when paid with the Prestige card. Skip the lines when returning to the US and get Pre-Check included as well. Pre-Check allows you to keep your shoes and jacket on, skip the nude-o-scope, and leave your laptop in the bag.
-When you make a hotel reservation of 4 or more nights just call 561-922-0158 to make the reservation and you’ll get the 4th night of the reservation rebated back to your for free. The rates will be the same as on the hotel website and the rates do qualify for hotel elite status and points. Note that the 4th night of the stay will be the rebated night. In some cases the 4th night may cost significantly more or less than the rest of the nights, so always check to see the actual rate for each night. There is no limit to how many times you can take advantage of this offer. You need to use your Prestige card, but you get triple points for hotel spending, so that’s not a bad thing.
Several folks who have CitiGold accounts have gotten notices that their annual fee on the Prestige account has been adjusted down from $450 to just $350. Citigold checking is free for 2 months after which point you can downgrade to a free checking account or keep $50K in it, but benefits typically stay even after your downgrade. CitiGold customers can also signup for the card in-branch with the $350 fee, but the in-branch offer requires $15,000 in spending…
The advantage of having both the Premier and the Prestige cards and how to do it:
When you have a Prestige card you can also redeem ThankYou points for 1.33 cents towards airfare or 1.6 cents towards airfare on American or USAirways. That means you can book $800 of free travel (and earn miles for the flights) with the 50K signup bonus if you would rather go down that route as opposed to transferring points into miles.
If you have both the Prestige and Premier cards all of your points will be able to be used at the 1.6 cents per point value towards American or USAirways airfare. From just the signup bonuses alone that’s at least $1,600 in free travel from the points plus $500 in free travel from the Prestige airline credit in your first cardmembership year.
The cheaper Premier card actually has better bonus categories, but the Prestige card makes all of your ThankYou points worth more.
Citibank doesn’t generally allow 2BMs, though you can apply for one card, wait 8 days, and then apply for another Citi card. You would have to wait 60 days from the date of your first card application before you can apply for a 3rd Citi card and 60 days from the date of your second card application before you can apply for a 4th Citi card.
Most Citi card applications now require an 18 month waiting period from when you last had that exact card before you can get the signup bonus again.
Both the consumer and business American AAdvantage cards offer 50,000 AA miles for spending $3,000 in 3 months.
The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year on both of these cards.
As with most airline cards, these cards get you a free checked bag and priority boarding. There’s no need to actually buy the ticket on the card, just having the card and providing your AAdvantage number will get you and your companions a free checked bag and group 1 boarding. This even works when using Avios to fly on American.
You’ll also get 25% back on in-flight purchases.
The biggest benefit of the consumer card is that it also saves you miles. You get a 10% rebate of miles used, up to a 10K mileage rebate per year.
On both the business and consumer card you can save 7.5K miles on rotating awards. With those discounts combined a 25K award would be just 15,750 miles if you have the consumer card.
The business card gives a companion certificate for spending $30,000 in a year on the card, a 5% mileage dividend for purchases made the previous cardmembership year, and double miles on car rentals, office supplies, and telecom spending.
Both cards give double miles for American and USAirways purchases.
Another Citi card that doesn’t have a limited time 50K bonus but is still worth discussing is the Hilton Reserve card with 2 free nights worldwide. I used that card to get free nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem last month. Forget about the $1,300/night room that I got there with the nights, it was worth signing up for the card just for the mind-boggling over-the-top kosher breakfast that is included even on award stays. But that’s something I’ll talk about more when I type up trip notes from that vacation…