So my numbers from this morning’s post were off by about half. That’s embarrassing. You cannot get $1,400 in free travel from the Citi ThankYou Premier card. I had mistakenly assumed that flight points were some separate currency and when redeemed for, say, a purchase that cost 10K points, you would use 5K from the ThankYou points pool and another 5K from the flight points pool. This would be great since you already have 52,500 ThankYou points after completing the minimum spend and earning your sign up bonus and flight points are reasonably easy to get.
But not so fast…
It turns out that flight points are instead held in some invisible reserve. When you spend a dollar and earn 1 ThankYou point, 1 flight point will be converted into a second ThankYou point. All you ever get to convert into free tickets is ThankYou points. Even if you but tickets with your ThankYou card and fly 100K miles and earn 100K flight points, none of those will become ThankYou points unless you spend $100K.
Of course, if you don’t buy any tickets with your ThankYou card, you won’t earn any flight points at all, and you’ll still just be stuck with the regular points earned through spend.
The new math
This lessens the reward of getting Citi’s ThankYou Premier card significantly, but I still think it’s a good deal. It just might not be worth paying the high $125 annual fee after your first year’s waiver is up. The sign-up bonus of 50K points plus the additional 2,500 points earned from reaching the minimum spend threshold is worth $698.25 when redeemed for travel at 1.33 cents per point.
If you are clever and reach that threshold by purchasing tickets that involve flying at least 2,500 miles, you’ll earn another 2,500 ThankYou points when the flight points are converted. 55K points turns into $731.50 of free travel.
And I still think the best part of this deal is that all these free flights earn you elite qualifying and redeemable miles on your preferred airline with none of the restrictions that come with traditional award tickets. If you can buy it with cash, you can buy it with ThankYou points, and at a more generous rate of redemption than with some other cards. You also stay in the running for free domestic elite upgrades.
Citi ThankYou Premier or Chase Sapphire Preferred?
Other cards also let you buy revenue tickets with points, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Ultimate Rewards points get a 20% discount when redeemed for travel, meaning that a $500 ticket costs only 40K points. But ThankYou points offer a slightly better ratio and would only require 37,594 points in this example.
The question is, can you do anything else with ThankYou points? And the answer is not much. The real value is that since Chase can be so restrictive about issuing multiple cards to the same account, this is an opportunity to diversify your churning opportunities. And if you’re tied to a single airline like me and don’t particularly want American Airlines miles, then ThankYou points are much more valuable because I can use them on any airline I want.