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One of the best ways to lower the cost of a trip is to use travel points earned through credit cards. Fortunately, one of our favorite Citi credit cards — the Citi Premier® Card — is currently offering a record-high 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months after opening the account.
You could redeem those Citi ThankYou points for gift cards or through the Citi travel portal and get 1 cent apiece for them, making the 80,000 bonus points worth $800. But there are ways to get even more value for them by transferring them to some of Citi’s 16 partner airlines. While this takes a little extra time and work, it’s well worth it and will help you book your next trip at a significantly lower cost.
Not sure where to start? Here are my five personal favorite ways to spend 80,000 points from the Citi Premier card on flights to destinations around the world.
1. Take advantage of the limited-time American Airlines partnership to fly to Japan
Citi recently announced a temporary transfer partnership with American Airlines that’s available through Nov. 13, 2021. This means if you act fast, the 80,000 bonus points earned from the Citi Premier sign-up offer can turn into 80,000 miles in your American Airlines AAdvantage account. And if you’re familiar with American’s program, you already know it’s a great way to get awards on American flights, or more often, on American’s partners.
If you’re looking to literally travel around the world, you can use American Airlines miles to fly to Tokyo on Japan Airlines, one of American’s partners. These flights can be booked one-way from the US at an incredibly reasonable 35,000 miles for economy, 60,000 miles in business class or 80,000 miles in first class.
Assuming you’re comfortable sitting in coach for that long, at just 70,000 miles round trip, the sign-up bonus on the Citi Premier card is enough points all on its own to book this trip. And best of all, the taxes and fees on this award are incredibly low, as low as $60 when flying from Boston to Tokyo.
Of course, Japan isn’t open to American tourists right now, so if you want to travel soon instead of booking a future trip, you can also use American miles to fly throughout the United States or even to the Caribbean. By booking early and having some flexibility, I was able to secure nonstop round-trip flights for my family of four from the US to Grand Cayman at just 25,000 miles apiece.
2. Transfer Citi ThankYou points to JetBlue
When it comes to using frequent flyer points, JetBlue is one of the easiest programs to use, as there’s never any blackout dates or issues with award availability. If there’s a seat available for sale on a JetBlue flight, you can always use JetBlue points to book it. You can even use your points to fly in a JetBlue Mint seat and experience a great domestic first-class experience.
The reason is that JetBlue doesn’t have a classic award chart. Instead, the number of points you need to redeem for a seat is roughly tied to the ticket price — when the cash price goes up or down, the points price follows.
Typically, JetBlue points are worth about 1.4 cents apiece. That means transferring your Citi Premier points to JetBlue is a much better option than booking JetBlue flights directly through the Citi travel portal, since your points will only be worth 1 cent apiece when redeeming them directly with Citi.
In fact, if you transferred your entire 80,000-point sign-up bonus from the Citi Premier to JetBlue and redeem them for flights at that average 1.4 cents per point value, the sign-up bonus would be worth an impressive $1,120 in travel. But there’s no need to transfer all your points at once — you can transfer ThankYou points in blocks of 1,000 whenever you need them, and most transfers happen instantly.
3. Fly throughout the United States on Delta
Although Delta isn’t a partner in the Citi ThankYou program, it’s still possible to use your Citi Premier points to book Delta flights. The trick is to instead transfer your points to Virgin Atlantic, which is a partner of both Citi and Delta. From there, you can use Virgin points to book many Delta flights.
When it comes to Delta flights within the US, Virgin Atlantic has a distance-based award chart for economy seats that looks like this:
- Flights between 0 and 500 miles cost 7,500 points
- Flights between 501 and 1,000 miles cost 8,500 points
- Flights between 1,001 and 1,500 miles cost 11,500 points
- Flights between 1,501 and 2,000 miles cost 12,500 points
- Flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles cost 15,000 points
- Flights between 3,001 and 4,000 miles cost 22,500 points
- Flights between 4,001 and 5,000 miles cost 27,500 points
- Flights between 5,001 and 6,000 miles cost 35,000 points
- Flights over 6,001 miles cost 45,000 points
This means when award space is available, a round-trip nonstop Delta flight between Boston and Los Angeles costs 30,000 Virgin Atlantic points. That can sometimes be cheaper than booking the exact same flight using Delta’s own miles, which fluctuate depending on the cash price of the ticket.
Just remember that Virgin Atlantic prices awards by adding up the miles required for each flight segment. So a routing that requires a connection will cost more than a nonstop flight, because the two connecting flights will be priced separately, then added together.
Also, if you’re wondering whether you can transfer your Citi Premier points to Virgin Atlantic and redeem them for flights to Europe and the United Kingdom, you can — but I don’t recommend it. That’s because Virgin adds extremely high carrier surcharges to their own award redemptions — as much as hundreds of dollars, which often make your “free” flight not worth the cost. Fortunately, you won’t see those high surcharges when you’re redeeming Virgin points for domestic Delta flights.
4. Fly to Hawaii using Turkish Airlines miles (yes, really)
Hawaii isn’t part of the continental United States, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles award chart. The airline groups the Hawaiian Islands in with the rest of the 48 mainland states, making it incredibly cheap to use Turkish miles to fly to Hawaii.
Of course, you’re probably thinking to yourself that Turkish Airlines doesn’t fly from the rest of the US to Hawaii — and you’re correct. But Turkish Airlines is part of the Star Alliance airline partnership, which means you can redeem its miles for flights on United Airlines, which is also part of the Star Alliance. And you can transfer your Citi Premier points to Turkish Airlines, since it’s one of Citi’s 16 airline partners.
For just 7,500 Turkish Airlines miles one-way — or 15,000 miles round trip — you can fly on a United flight from almost any destination in the US to any Hawaiian island when there’s award space available. Or, if you’re looking to sit up front, you can fly the same route for just 25,000 miles round trip in business class.
Now, if you’re on the East Coast and Hawaii is slightly too far away for your liking, you can instead visit Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands for the same 7,500 miles each way, since those destinations are also grouped together as part of the US on the Turkish Airlines award chart.
5. Visit Europe without paying hefty carrier surcharges
While you shouldn’t transfer Citi Premier points to Virgin Atlantic for flights to Europe due to that carrier’s high surcharges, there’s another option for transatlantic trips without paying huge fees.
Avianca is another airline that’s both in the Star Alliance network and a Citi transfer partner, and while its LifeMiles award chart might look slightly more expensive than some other airlines’ award charts, it’s one of the few programs that doesn’t pass along major surcharges on partner awards, although it does charge a small $25 fee for all award bookings.
The number of Avianca LifeMiles required for an award flight from the US to Europe depends on which route you’re flying. LifeMiles divides both the US and Europe into regional zones, which means there’s a different award chart tier for each zone you’re flying to and from.
For example, if you’re flying on a Star Alliance partner out of New York (United States Zone 1) to London (Europe Zone 1), it’ll cost you only 20,000 miles one-way on a Star Alliance partner. But Los Angeles (United States Zone 3) to Athens (Europe Zone 3) will cost you 30,000 miles one-way. Still, those are very reasonable redemption rates for flights across the pond.
Additionally, you can use Avianca miles to fly domestically around the US on United Airlines, since again, both are members of the Star Alliance. One-way flights within the US are typically 7,500 miles each way, but there are times you may find routes as low as 3,500 miles one-way using LifeMiles.
Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.