Best Value for Citi ThankYou Points Redemptions

If you have a Citi credit card or a Citibank account with the ThankYou points rewards system, you have a wide array of options to redeem your points at ThankYou.com. But while that fancy coffeemaker may look nice, chances are the cash equivalent value for your points is quite poor. I’ve covered this in bits and pieces before, but here’s a complete guide to getting the most value out of your points.

Eligible ThankYou accounts (* are the ones I have linked to my account):

Best Value Option #1: Limited Time Offers

If you have either patience or luck, Citi does offer “sales” on gift card redemptions which can reduce the cost of a reward by up to 25%. For example, right now until 3/31 you can get a $50 Home Depot gift card for 4,500 points. Normally, you’d need 5,000-6,000 points. That equates 1.11 cents in gift card value per point. If you wanted cash, you could sell a Home Depot gift card at PlasticJungle.com for 87% of face value in cash, 91.35% in Amazon.com gift certificates. That equates to 0.967 cents per point in cash.

Previously ThankYou point sales have involved gift card to other popular retailers like Wal-mart, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Gap, and Macy’s. The regular price is usually 1 cent in gift card value per point.

Best Value Option #2: Student Loan & Mortgage Rebate Checks


You can redeem your points towards a “rebate” check towards either a student loan or mortgage. You can redeem in increments of $25 for 2,500 points, which equates to a full 1 cent cash per point. You must call them and provide them the name of your lending institution, and they will mail you a physical check written out directly to that lending institution (i.e. Chase Student Loans). You are then supposed to add in your account number or whatever else is necessary, and then send it on to your lender. Reader Chris shared that he has a workaround if your lender doesn’t take third-party checks:

I just have the check written out to my bank, Chase, and then write my checking account number in the memo space. I drop it in an ATM and they have always deposited it into my checking account just fine. I’ve been doing this for years with no problem. I would just apply the money myself to my auto-payments and keep my 0.25% rate reduction.

I didn’t want to send in a $100 check towards my mortgage, so I tried this method with my local bank as well and the ATM deposit worked for me without any issues. I did indeed use the money from that check to pay extra towards my mortgage. (Note: You can also make a donation to the Red Cross at the same ratio.)

Best Value Option #3: Book Travel and Pay with Points

You can also use your ThankYou points to book any flight and car rental through their Book Travel portal. It’s basically the same flights that are available at Expedia.com, but sometimes at a slight markup. For example, the exact same flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas cost $101.42 at ThankYou.com and $97.80 at Expedia. However, another flight on American Airlines from LAX-JFK was exactly the same price on both down to the penny. So while the official redemption rate is a full 1 cent per point, a potential slight markup may ding the conversion rate a bit. However, this is also a good way to use up all your points as you can split the payment exactly between cash and points. For example, a $100 ticket could be paid with 5,000 points + $50 or 1,234 points + $87.66.

Note: If you have the Citi ThankYou Premier card which does have an annual fee, you have the added option of redeeming your points directly towards travel with a 33% bonus. That tilts things in favor of the travel option.

Why Everything Else Is Worse
Here’s a quick rundown of the other redemptions that you might think is a good deal but doesn’t work out when you do the math.

  • Pay with points at Amazon.com: 0.80 cents per point
  • Citi Prepaid Visa card: 0.63-0.67 cents per point
  • Cash reward: 0.5 cents per point
  • Statement credit: 0.5 cents per point

Warning: Citi ThankYou Point Tiered System
I should point out that Citi does a confusing thing where they don’t offer the same redemption options to everyone. It is my understanding that they separate credit cards into “standard” and “premium” cards. As long as you have one premium card as a “Sponsor account” linked to your pooled ThankYou point account, then you will get the preferred set of available options even if the rest of your cards are standard and all your points come from them. I don’t have enough data points to figure out the exact breakdown of which card is premium and which is not. For example, I believe the Citi ThankYou Preferred card is premium, but the Citi ThankYou card and Citi Forward cards are standard. But all three have no annual fee?! I’ve never had a problem with this, but if you only have the Citi Forward card you may have come across it.

Comments

  1. I can confirm the redemption levels: “Wanted to confirm that if you are only getting 4% Amazon.com gift card redemption on Citi Forward that when you also get the Citi ThankYou Preferred card and merge your ThankYou Rewards it will change the redemption rate to 5%.”
    http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/1256660/

    Now unfortunately they have dropped the Amazon redemption (the still offer linked but at lower redemption) so I will be doing the mortgage check. Many on fatwallet.com noted that you can just deposit the check in any account, not just mortgage accounts.
    http://www.fatwallet.com/forum.....start=2240

  2. I disagree on the Travel being a good option. My experience has shown that Citi inflates their prices up to 300%. Making points almost valueless. I would have paid $220 in points for a $75 ticket from JetBlue. Why would I waste so many points? The equation becomes drastically different with their inflated prices.

  3. I’ve used option 2 multiple times with it made out to Sallie Mae and haven’t had a problem. Good way to passively pay off student loan.

  4. Thanks for this post. I signed up for the Citi Premium Thank You card several months back to get the 40k points based on an offer you posted here. I’m intrigued by these bonuses available for opening up a checking account (another 40k points for the Gold account= another $400 in gift cards). I don’t have an interest in switching my entire banking relationship to Citibank, though.

    In order to get the bonus it looks like you have to fund a checking account and do two consecutive months of both a direct deposit and a bill pay out of the checking account. As I say, I don’t want to switch my direct deposit for my paycheck, which is essentially my only regular source of external income. Does anyone have any tricks for generating direct deposits that will qualify for this offer? Would a tax refund qualify? Might be too late for that, as I’ve already filed. Any other ideas?

  5. @Andy

    Does your employer allow you to split your paycheck to multiple accounts? I have a direct deposit set up for $100 to my Citi basic checking account, then simply use their bill pay system to send the money to one of my credit cards. My employer, though, makes it very easy to add and remove direct deposit instructions.

  6. I redeem for $100 Staples gift cards which I monetize via Free After Rebate/Rewards items. I have a lot of paper.

  7. The $50 Home Depot card is 5500 points for me…

  8. Its showing $50 for 4500 points. I have premier card.

  9. @mat – 300%? I haven’t seen anything close. You can just open up two tabs side-by-side when searching and compare.

    @Andy – As @Matt said, my employer lets me split my direct deposit online quite easily. In the past people have simulated direct deposits with regular online bank transfers or PayPal funds transfers, but I don’t have any recent data as to whether this works with Citibank.

    @David – That’s another good option if you usually do that sort of promotion. Even their “Easy” rebates are too much hassle for me personally.

    @Tyler – Note that last paragraph – what Citi cards do you have linked to your ThankYou account?

  10. Thanks, guys. I looked into it today and my employer does now have direct deposit set-up online and I can do multiple accounts pretty easily. That’s a big change from when I started here and it was all done on paper (systems implementation!). So I opened a checking account with Citi today.

  11. I get the Amazon gift cards (e-card) for $25 for every 2500 points. This month they stopped listing Amazon as an available gift card “for security reasons” on the web site but they did redeem it instantly over the phone.

  12. Should one report the promotional cash bonus/ miles/ points in the tax return? Is it taxed at marginal tax rate? Should I expect the card issuer to send me any form?

  13. @Andy – this article on thefinancebuff.com confirms that an ACH transfer into your Citi account satisfies the direct deposit requirement:

    http://thefinancebuff.com/keep.....-bank.html

    @whytax – Citibank will send you a 1099-MISC if the total value of your rewards is over $600 in one calendar year:

    “The value of rewards from redeemed Points may be reported to the IRS as miscellaneous income on Form 1099-MISC in the year redeemed, if the value of the rewards plus other taxable miscellaneous income awards received from Citibank, N.A., is in the aggregate $600 or greater for a calendar year, as required by applicable law.”

    Source: https://banking.citibank.com/cbol/13/checking/q1/consumer/versionb/default.htm

    I read that as meaning only points earned from your checking account — not from any credit cards — would count towards the $600 amount, since points earned from credit cards are not considered “taxable income”.

  14. Jonathan, what do you think about the Citi Prestige card? There is a $400 annual fee but the companion ticket includes international flights.

    https://creditcards.citi.com/credit-cards/citi-prestige-card/

  15. Atlanta GA Wealth Manager says:

    Thanks for posting this. It is nice to have a breakdown of the benefits that one can utilize. I will second what Mat said,however, the point prices are often very much inflated.

  16. (removed)

  17. Margaret R says:

    Am I too late? thanks

  18. Note: Citi Premier travel redemption bonus has been reduced from 33% to 25%.

  19. For The Obvious says:

    The PC post above is a scam. Don’t give your number .

  20. Thanks for the posting. I wish I had read this before I apply the citi thankyou card.
    I agree those are BAD options.
    (1) Pay with points at Amazon.com: 0.80 cents per point
    (2) Cash reward: 0.5 cents per point
    I feel citi is lying and cheating the customer. They issue the point with all different reduced value which make the point worthless or meaningless. When I link it with amazon.com, I did not know the conversion rate is so bad. I have discover, chase, they are 100 point=$1. I have no idea why citi has the reduced value of point.
    I redeem point with cash check and again I get hit with only one half of the value, 100 point=50 cents.
    I stop using my citi thank you card because I feel I have been cheated with scam.

  21. Obito Ishii says:

    So can anyone confirm that the “Citi Thank You Preferred Card” is included in the top Tier for redemption values? (i.e Best Buy gift card @ 5k instead of 6k) I’m still cautious since the Preferred Card has no Annual Fee, only the Premier, and the Prestige havd an Annual Fee attached. Any help would greatly be appreciated.

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