Is Citi Thank You Premier Getting Devalued… Again?

Years ago you could get Citibank to buy you a ticket at any price if you met the conditions of the Thank You points program. People would manage to buy themselves $8000 coach tickets to Japan, cancel, and retain the airline credit.

Not surprising that they shut down that sort of gaming by implementing maximum ticket values into their award chart.

The sweet spot used to be redeeming for business class tickets inside the US and Canada at a value of 3 cents per point — 90,000 points bought a ticket of “up to” $2700. The trick people came up with was a ‘business class’ (rather than first class-marketed) flight to Canada for as close to $2700 as possible, plus taxes. As long as one segment was refundable, then cancel the ticket and retain a credit.

The preferred airline to do this with was Delta, because their credits were eminently divisible back them. After booking the first ticket in your own name from the credit, you could use the balance on tickets for anyone you wished.

At the beginning of 2009 they announced a devaluation — going forward Thank You points would be worth a penny apiece. No more valuation of up to three cents per point. The change was supposed to take place March 1, 2009 but was implemented in early February instead.

The golden days seemed over, but it remained possible to earn lots of Thank You points — no more 36% rebates on gas and groceries with the Drivers Edge card (6 points per dollar in those categories, matched by the miles you drove, redeemed at 3 cents per point). But you could get flight points matching spend points, and with the Citi Thank You Premier card those 2 points would redeem at 2.66 cents. With various bonuses, including category bonuses, it was still possible to do quite well by the program.

I had some hope for increasing value in the Thank You program when they introduced points transfers to Hilton in January… that it might be the beginning of a long speculated set of new points transfer options. But we’ve seen no new options in the past six months.

Of late though there have been several rumors that the program was due for another round of cuts. Frequent Miler posted about about a more rewarding experience coming July 28 but seemed to be just double points on dining. There was also a concomitant rumor about a change to double points on travel and triple points on dining.

Today, though, there’s an authoritative-sounding though as-yet unconfirmed list of changes coming for new applications starting July 28, and for existing cardholders starting October 28.

  • Triple points on dining and double points on air and hotel spend
  • An end to ‘flight points’ — no more earning for existing cardholders on tickets purchased after October 19, though banked flight points as-yet unmatched by spend won’t disappear.
  • A reduction in value from 1.33 cents per point when redeeming for airfare down to 1.25 cents per point.
  • An elimination of the 20% category bonus for supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, commuter transportation and parking merchants.

While the shave to 1.25 cents per point down from 1.33 is undesirable, if accurate it’s the elimination of flight points that kills the special leverage offered by this card and will make it wholly uninteresting going forward (without additional, positive changes).

Developing… but it may be time to match those accumulated flight points with spending and burn before your next annual fee comes due.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I just got approved for the Citi Thank you card at a citi branch(offer was 5 points/$ on gas, groceries and drugstores for a year, unlimited). I am not sure which timeline i should follow, July or October.

  2. Typo….”while the shave from 1.25 down 1.33 is undesireable” should those numbers be flipped?

  3. Rumor also includes an end to the domestic companion ticket and 15% discount on tickets. These details have been removed from a few pages on Citi’s site, already.

  4. Oh man I was so excited when the rumor was flying that they were going to have transfers to BA and SQ. But fortunately I never pulled the trigger on the card and it’s looking more and more like I never will.

  5. Ah, the good old days!! United also allowed (and still allows, with Electronic Travel Certificates) using credits to book tickets for anyone, after the first ticket was issued in your own name. From 1995 to 2002 there were several programs (Old Kent Bank, Centura Bank, Webmiles) that had no dollar cap on redemptions, hence could also be “gamed”. I still have some United tickets from those programs (rolled over many times to avoid ticket expiration) that I will use to pay for future travel.

  6. after all this devaluation, i’d love to hear what ppl think are the best way to use TYP points now. Is it worth it to get the Premier card just to gain the extra 0.25 when buying flights with points?

  7. If they get rid of the companion ticket offer and the 15% that would really stink. I save alot of money on those two promos each year. I called and got the 125 fee waived as I charge a decent amount on it although not much this yr. When it is up next yr I will pull the plug if those perks are gone and they want 125 a yr for this. They figure alot of people are clueless and wont notice. The”15%” can save you (in real dollars) an average of 7-10% on each ticket booked if those flight are in tehir system. The bonus flight points are nice also.

  8. Uh, oh – with all the bank reward devaluations going on the next time I see vagrant bankers beggar taxpayers for a bailout all they are gonna get is my pocket change and the advise to “get a shave and find a real job!”

  9. I found flight points a little confusing, but it’s sad to see them go because of they offered a unique opportunity to take advantage of the card’s benefits. The ThankYou cards are become much more like any other cash back card.

  10. I have been a customer of Citi Premier for over 5 years and endured the first round of cuts a couple years ago, where they got rid of the international companion benefit for one. If they get rid of the flight points and domestic companion ticket yearly then they have lost their edge, I agree, and they will lose me as a customer. Those benefits specifically separated it from the masses and made it the best one out there for frequent travelers.

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