It’s been fascinating to watch how banks and credit card companies have reacted to the global markets over the past couple of years, as travel began to return. Two years ago, with nobody hitting the roads and consumer spending uncertain, they pulled back on sign-up bonuses. But with the sudden return of travel, banks have suddenly dialed up their marketing with some of the best deals that I’ve ever seen. For example, Marriott offered five free nights for its Boundless card, worth up to 250,000 Bonvoy points.
Citi Ups the Ante with the Citi Premier Mastercard
I’m constantly amazed by what banks are willing to offer just to get people to acquire their credit cards. In the case of the Citi Premier card, that number starts at $800. All you have to do is spend $4,000 in the first three months as a cardholder and pay the $95 annual fee.
Fortunately, the annual fee is easy to take care of. Citi offers a $100 travel credit every year on a single hotel stay that costs $500 or more, so you’ll actually end up making $5 in the end.
The bonus comes in the form of 80,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards points, which are Citibank’s proprietary “currency.” Rather than using them for a single type of reward or miles on only one airline, Citi gives you a variety of options, some better than others. I’ll concentrate on the best.
Bonus Categories for Spending – Citi Premier
One of the best features of the card is the number of categories in which you’ll earn bonus points. While you earn one point per dollar for some purchases, there are a ton of everyday spending categories where you’ll earn triple points, including:
- 3X points at gas stations
- 3X points at supermarkets
- 3X points at restaurants
- 3X points for air travel and hotels
The bonus categories are great for racking up miles fast, since most of us shop in those several times per week.
There are Two Great Uses for Points
Like any other reward program, there are several redemption opportunities, but some are better than others. I think that there are two particularly valuable options for ThankYou points.
Option 1: An Easy $800
There’s nothing quite like a bank that gives me free money. In this case, they’re handing over a check for $800. If you choose to take your reward points in cash, all you need to do is go online, tell Citi that you want them to convert your points to cash and they’ll credit your statement, mail you a check or direct deposit the money. I have little doubt that, by next year, they’ll be able to send it by owl.
But Transferring the Points to Miles Could be the Best Option
If you prefer to travel with your points, you could make out big. Citi allows you to transfer your points to one of 14 global airlines, two hotel companies or, oddly enough, the Shop Your Way program. The airlines are going to get you the best value and you have your choice of:
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Cathay Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest Miles
- Eva Air Infinity MileageLands
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Thai Royal Orchid
- Turkish Miles & Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
What can I do with my Miles?
Airline miles convert 1 to 1, so you’ll bring in a cool 80,000 miles, which can get you just about anywhere you want to go in style.
If you’ve never flown the famous Singapore Airlines in business class, now is your chance! You can start with Europe, since a flight from JFK to Frankfurt will cost you as little as 81,000 KrisFlyer miles. And if you pick up a few more, you can make it all the way to Singapore from either coast, with the trip costing around 110,000 miles. Don’t worry about the return flight; once you’ve arrived in Singapore, you may never want to come back.
Want to stay a little closer to home? Try JetBlue. TrueBlue uses variable redemption pricing, so the cost in points is going to vary with the cash cost of the ticket. And while JetBlue has slowly been decreasing the value of TrueBlue points, your 80,000 points can still get you over $1,000 in travel.
The beauty to ThankYou points is that you’ll have so many airlines to choose from when booking your award. So if one airline is charging an outrageous amount of miles to get to your destination, but another one can do it for a lot less, you can simply transfer to the cheaper partner.
The Citi Premier Card is a Core Card to Carry
The Citi Premier Card has a rare combination of a tremendous sign-up bonus and great spending bonuses, so it’s actually worth keeping the card beyond the introductory period. Be sure to use the $100 travel credit, as well, to offset the annual fee.
Check out the Citi Premier Card.