The Cambria Hotel Washington D.C. Capitol Riverfront, a Choice Hotel property.
Choice Hotels International, Inc
The Cambria Hotel Washington D.C. Capitol Riverfront, a Choice Hotel property.
CNN —  

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value, but does not review all financial companies or all available financial offers. We may receive compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com, and this compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site.

One of the most flexible rewards programs just got better. Starting Monday, Oct. 18, you can transfer your Citi ThankYou Rewards points to the Choice Privileges hotel program. The addition of Choice marks the only hotel program included in ThankYou’s list of partners — of which there are now 17 in total.

Related: From travel rewards to balance transfers, here are our favorite Citi credit cards.

Before diving into the partnership, as a reminder, you can earn ThankYou points from credit cards like the Citi Premier® Card and the Citi Rewards+® Card. The ThankYou points earned from these cards can then be transferred to any of the ThankYou program’s partners — which now includes Choice.

Choice is the latest transfer partner of Citi ThankYou
Citi
Choice is the latest transfer partner of Citi ThankYou

While this might not be a hotel program that’s typically on your radar, there are hidden gems. And since Choice operates more than 7,000 properties across the world, there are thousands of opportunities to redeem your points.

Although most Citi ThankYou partners require you to have a premium card to transfer points directly to a partner program, with this new partnership, both those with an annual fee card and one that doesn’t charge an annual fee can transfer their points.

For the annual fee cards, such as the Citi Premier, points transfer at a 1-to-2 ratio, meaning you’ll get 2,000 Choice Privileges points for every 1,000 Citi ThankYou points you transfer. With the current 80,000-point sign-up bonus that comes with the Citi Premier, this could earn you 160,000 Choice Privileges points — which can be redeemed for up to 26 free nights at Choice properties.

Related: 5 great ways to travel for free with the 80,000 bonus points on the Citi Premier credit card.

With the no-annual-fee cards, such as the Citi Rewards+, points will transfer at a slightly inferior 1-to-1.5 ratio. This means you’ll only receive 1,500 Choice Privileges points for every 1,000 points transferred over. However, if you have one Citi ThankYou account for multiple cards — including a premium card — you’ll be able to transfer at the higher ratio.

And while cash back earned from the Citi® Double Cash Card can’t be transferred to ThankYou partner programs on its own, if you first transfer your cash back into ThankYou points, you can then transfer the points earned to a partner program. The transfer ratio will depend on whether you have an annual fee card or no-annual-fee card tied to your account.

The best ways to use Choice Privileges hotel points

The Choice Privileges loyalty program is made up of many hotel brands, including the following: Ascend Hotel Collection, Cambria Hotels, Comfort, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Clarion Pointe, Quality Inn, MainStay Suites, WoodSpring Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn. Within the Ascend Hotel Collection, there’s also the Bluegreen Vacation resorts, which are Choice Hotels’ vacation club properties.

Unlike most other hotel programs, properties aren’t tied to a specific category, so there’s no consistent redemption rate. Instead, free nights range between 6,000 and 35,000 points (excluding in the Asia Pacific region, where reward nights require up to 75,000 points), and award rates for each property are only published a few months out at a time. Typically, the number of points required fluctuates throughout the year based on the season and whether you’re staying during the week versus a weekend.

Directly on the property website, you’ll be able to find the number of points required. For example, at the Golden Eagle Resort in Stowe, Vermont, stays from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30, 2021, cost between 16,000 and 25,000 points per night, but stays starting Dec. 1, 2021, through Jan. 31, 2022, will increase to 25,000 to 30,000 points per night. But if you’re looking to stay in February or beyond, we won’t know the number of points required until the calendar for those dates is published.

A sample stay at the Golden Eagle Resort
Choice Hotels
A sample stay at the Golden Eagle Resort

Unfortunately, with award stays, Choice only allows you to make a reservation for 100 days out. So if you like to plan out your vacations well ahead of time, this might be a big roadblock.

On the plus side, you can book any room type with the same amount of Choice Privileges points — including suites. If you’re looking to stay at a property that offers multiple bedrooms, which is common at many of its Ascend properties and Bluegreen Vacation resorts, you’ll be charged the same number of points as if you book a standard hotel room. This is a true hidden gem in the program and one that my family has taken advantage of quite often.

For example, the Golden Eagle Resort is a property just down the road from well-known Stowe Mountain. The property offers many room types, including a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen and fireplace that can sleep up to eight guests. If the room type is available on the date you’re looking to travel, you can book this room for the exact same number of points as its lowest-level room.

Reward redemption options at the Golden Eagle Resort
Choice Hotels
Reward redemption options at the Golden Eagle Resort

The Choice Privileges loyalty program also allows you to use a combination of points and cash to book the same exact room type. With the option, you can redeem just 6,000 points, plus a cash outlay. The cash portion requires you to pay $90 per 1,000 points to complete the stay. For example, if you’re looking to stay at a hotel that requires 25,000 points, you’ll need to pay a cash equivalent of 19,000 points (since you’re already paying 6,000 points), thus costing you $171 to “purchase” the additional points.

While this is a great option if you don’t have enough points in your account to book fully with points, if you end up canceling a reservation booked with points and cash, the cash portion will be credited to you back in the form of points — not cash — at the same $90 per 1,000 points.

While most of the Choice Hotels won’t get you the same luxurious stay as you might receive with the Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt or Hilton Honors program, it offers a favorable award chart — especially if you’re traveling on off-peak dates — while also allowing you to book a premium room at no additional points. But, due to the 100-day limitation, using your Choice Privileges points is best for last-minute vacation bookings.

Ultimately, this is a nice addition to the ThankYou program from Citi. By adding a hotel transfer partner, ThankYou card holders now have a new option for redeeming their points for free travel.

Read CNN Underscored’s guide on how to combine multiple Citi credit cards for the ultimate travel rewards.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.