|by Mr Credit Card|
A few days ago, a reader sent me an email telling me about his experience with Citi ThankYou Network when he redeemed points for an airline ticket. He mentioned that rather than requiring just 25,000 points for a roundtrip flight from Salt Lake City to Miami, he had to cough up 38,000 points.
Well, I also got on to investigate whether Citi has made any changes to the program. It took a while, but I finally found some new information on the ThankYou website and after a few calls, I managed to clarify how the airline ticket rewards work. The new program allows you to redeem points in two ways : the Fixed Option (where you have to phone the Citi ThankYou Network agent) or the Flexible Option method, where you can book your flights online. The old program resembled more the fixed option method. This is how it now works.
Fixed Flight Options
The Fixed Flight Options is available to elite citi cardholders (which includes most of their reward cards). This option is the way most typical reward program (or at least the way they used to run it) are run. With this option, you require a fixed number of points to redeem for a free airline ticket. The number of points depends on your destinations. However with this option, you have to book your travel 14 days in advance, have a Saturday night stay and the tickets you get are restricted tickets.
Variable Flight Options
If you do not want to be bounded by the usual restrictions of having to book your tickets in advance and staying a Saturday night, then there is another option, called the Flexible Option. All of the ThankYou Online Booking and Variable Flight Options are run by Expedia (yes, the Expedia). With this option, you book your flights online and the points you need for your free airline ticket depends on the cost of your flight. So if you get a cheap flight, you may only need for example 18,000 points or 22,000 points rather than the usual 25,000 points for a standard US roundtrip flight. (But as in the case of our reader, he needed 38,000 points – I suspect that is because his flight must have cost more than $300). With this option, as long as the flight is available, you will get a seat. Hence, there are no blackout dates and no requirements to book in advance.
What if you do not get the flights you want?
As with most credit card reward program, you may not get the exact flights you want. That is because airline reserve their seats for different agents. They reserve some seats for ThankYou Network, some for Worldpoints, some for expedia and other travel agents. When ThankYou Network’s seat alottment is taken up, then you cannot use your thankyou points even though you can get that flight from another agent.
Citi claims that you can request the flight through the “Fullfill your wish” program where you can request a reward which is not presently available in the program. I have not tried this yet, so I cannot report on it’s effectiveness.
I just want to highlight this so that you are more aware of the finer details of the program. If you have Citi Reward Cards and have used ThankYou Network for free airline tickets, please share your experience.