Posted by Beth | January 11, 2016
A few days ago we gave an overview of how we’ve used flexible bank rewards points (versus just hotel points and airline miles) to book free travel for our round-the-world trip. Today we’re narrowing in on Citi Thank You points, and specifically our experience booking hotel awards.
Within the past several months Citi has had some of the most competitive credit card sign-up offers, and we earned 150,000 points by getting two of the Thank You Premier cards and one of the Citi Prestige cards. We were pretty new to Citi Thank You points, thus we spent some time figuring out the redemptions that work best for us. Of course there are probably better ways to get more “value” out of your points, but we take a pretty short-term, “how can this save us the most money on this particular trip?” approach.
Pre Booking Hotels
We have found Thank You points to be particularly helpful when pre-booking hotel stays in cities and towns where there are no chain hotel options to use our various hotel points (i.e. Marriott, IHG, etc.). I say pre-booking because one lesson we learned the hard way is you do have to book your stay the day prior, as no same-day bookings are allowed. The Citi Thank You Travel Center is easy to use, and essentially functions the same way Expedia or Hotels.com would. You’re able to compare small boutique hotels or guesthouses and use your points (or pay cash) to book your stay. Through the Travel Center you receive a rate of one cent per point.
For example, in El Calafate, Argentina we knew we needed to book a one-night stay and there were no major hotel options. A friend had recommended the America del Sur hostel, so we were hoping to stay there. By logging in to Citi we saw it was an option to book on points, so we secured a private room for 6,970 points. It’s a good idea to compare rates on Citi with other sites such as hostels.com, hotels.com, Expedia, etc. as the rates can often be higher. As I said before, points are easier for us to come by than cash money on this trip, so we went ahead and booked it. Once we got there, we of course realized that the in-person going rate for the room we booked was much lower, but they did sell out practically every night so we were relieved we had pre-booked on points.
Overall we have had pretty good luck booking rooms in South America through the Citi Thank You Center. We did have one negative experience with one of the hotels that we booked through the site, but after the hotel graciously offered to refund us (without us asking even), Citi was quick to refund the points back to our account.
Booking hotels is by no means the only way to redeem Citi Thank You points. You can also transfer your points directly to any one of the 11 different airline partners at a rate of 1:1, or to Hilton Honors at a rate of 1:1.5, but we have not yet done this. Another great option is booking flights through the Travel Center at a rate of 1.33 cents per point (so actually a much better deal than booking hotels). And even better, if you have the Prestige, the BEST value for your points is booking American Airlines flights at a rate of 1.6 cents per point. Just a few days ago I booked a flight for a friend (to meet us in Spain!) using Citi TY points to book an AA flight, so that will be covered in a future post.