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As many of you are aware, tomorrow is the last day to transfer Citi Thank You points to AAdvantage program on 1:1 basis. In order to do that, you have to have Premier or Prestige card. It’s possible that Citi will bring back this opportunity at some point in the future, but right now we are operating under the assumption that this is a one-time deal.
So, should you go for it? As with many things in the miles and points hobby, the answer is “it depends.” For what it’s worth, if I had Citi Thank You points on hand right now, I would most likely take advantage, I mean AAdvantage of it. Alas, I don’t.
Here is why I think AAdvanatge program is worth looking into. For one, you get free cancellation on award tickets. This is a huge benefit, especially in our uncertain times. Just when you think the pandemic is over, some new variant pops up and messes with your international travel plans. It definitely reduces stress when you know that you can cancel your tickets for free.
I also like the relative ease of booking award flights. For most partners, you can book everything online, so it saves time and aggravation. Sure, you can sometimes score a better deal on AA flights via Etihad frequent flyer program. But you have to jump through some serious hoops. Who needs that? Plus, with American program pricing its award flights somewhat randomly, you can’t count on availability via partners still being there in the future. Avios program is a good example.
For all of its flaws, AAdvantage gives you access to most of the world via its frequent flyer program, including smaller airports in the US. As much as I like Southwest and Jet Blue (and I do), they won’t fly you to Jackson Hole or some other relatively remote location.
Speaking of Jet Blue, Citi Thank You points also transfer to its program on 1:1 basis. And at some point in the near future, you will be able to use your Jet Blue stash towards AA redemptions. But we don’t yet know what the rate will be, or how easy it will be to take advantage of this option. Plus, Jet Blue won’t partner with other OneWorld airlines, so you will only be limited to AA-operated flights.
With AAdvantage, you will be able to redeem miles on One World airlines, plus other partners like Air Tahiti Nui. So, if I had to choose between Jet Blue points and AA miles, I would have to go with the latter because having more choices in a frequent flyer program is always a good thing.
Some would argue that Citi has some pretty cool “niche” redemptions where you can get fantastic value. Turkish Miles and Smiles program is often given as an example. Sure, flying to Hawaii via United for 7,500 Turkish miles is a hot deal. But! You have to make sure there is saver availability on United.com, then call and hope that Turkish agents see it on their end. And if you have to cancel, it could be a nightmare. Again, it’s a sweet deal, but with some serious caveats.
Plus, we are talking about a speculative transfer. Would you dump your Citi Thank You points to Turkish without an immediate plan for your miles in mind? I wouldn’t. For all of its problems, I would trust AAdvantage over Turkish program any day.
For those who were concerned about AA program gutting partner redemptions in business class, there was some good news recently. For now, the best deals (like 60k miles one-way for JAL business flight from US to Japan) are sticking around. It doesn’t mean they will still be there in the future, of course. So, I recommend having a plan B if you decide to do a speculative transfer.
Now, lets’a talk about the ease of earning AA miles. Back in the olden days, you could sign up for AA co-branded card every few months. Now, not so much.
Sure, you can get Barclay’s Aviator card (if you can get approved), which is a super easy win. But Citi has mostly cut of access to their everflowing river of AAdvantage miles. You can now get a bonus every 48 months. Plus, getting approved for Citi cards has gotten tougher. I’ve tried multiple times to get Citi Premier and failed.
AAdvantage doesn’t partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards. The only decent way to get AA miles (aside from co-branded cards) is via transfer from Marriott Bonvoy. And those points are quite hard to accumulate.
Any time you transfer flexible points to miles, you are taking a leap of faith. There is no guarantee that your gamble will pay off, so I suggest you consider the worst case scenario. With Citi Premier, you no longer get 1.25 cents per point towards travel. So, your floor is 1 cent.
In the past I would not purchase AA miles for this price, but I would now, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned earlier. Of course, every person has to decide for themselves. For some, speculatively transferring Citi points to Choice on 1:2 basis may be the best deal of all.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.