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Citi ThankYou Points are almost an afterthought for many points and miles collectors. However, if you are ignoring ThankYou Points, you are doing yourself a disservice. They aren’t the easiest or the most straightforward to use, but they definitely should be in your points and miles arsenal. 

There are a couple of ThankYou Points-earning cards, and in light of Citi recently increasing the welcome bonus on its Citi Premier® card (Note from the editor: Citi Premier® Card is no longer available to new applicants) , we thought we’d bring to your attention some great redemption options for United Airlines flights. 

United isn’t one of Citi’s transfer partners, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book United flights with ThankYou Points. This is where knowing a little bit about airline alliances could be really useful. Citi’s transfer partners include a few Star Alliance carriers, namely Avianca LifeMiles, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles and Singapore KrisFlyer. All of these programs can be used to book United-operated flights. 

You might be thinking, if United isn’t one of Citi’s transfer partners, why would I use ThankYou Points to book United flights? There are two main reasons to consider. First, United flights booked via the partners might cost less than if you were to use United miles. Or, if you don’t have United miles or Ultimate Rewards points that you can transfer to United, using another program’s points could be a workaround. 

Keep in mind that you’ll find United award space through any of the Star Alliance carriers’ programs only if United releases saver award space to its partners. If you see flights on Google Flights or on United’s own site, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find the same flights via partners. And, of course, partner airline’s awards prices apply when you book United flights with partner miles.  

Avianca LifeMiles

This is a great program for booking United flights. You can often find that awards are priced cheaper than if you were to use United’s own miles. And with the United eliminating their award chart, and award prices being all over the place, checking LifeMiles first makes even more sense. You’ll save on both domestic and international flights but will have to pay the non-refundable Star Alliance booking fee of $25.

Watch out for transfer bonuses that pop up either on the Citi or the LifeMiles side. We’ve seen bonuses as high as 25% in the past, and they come around pretty often. We don’t recommend transferring the points speculatively and instead only transfer points with a specific redemption in mind. 

United Domestic Flights

Here’s an example of a short, nonstop domestic flight from Cleveland, Ohio (CLE), to Newark, New Jersey (EWR). The flight will cost at least 8,600 miles if booked with United MileagePlus miles.  

But LifeMiles shows award space on the same flight for that entire week at cheaper rates than what you can see on United’s own fare calendar.  

United International Flights

If you want to travel internationally, you can also find some good deals using LifeMiles. For example, a one-way award from the U.S. to Japan in economy can be booked with 35,000 miles. This is the same number of miles as United, but if you don’t have any United miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards points, this could be a decent redemption.

Business class to Europe can be booked with 63,000 miles or less if you add a short domestic economy flight. Thanks to the LifeMiles quirks, you can shave off about 3,000 to 5,000 miles by adding a domestic economy flight. For example, if you want to fly from Newark to Frankfurt (FRA) on the nonstop flight in business class, LifeMiles will charge you 63,000 miles. However, if you add a connection from Cleveland to Newark, then you’ll pay only about 57,000 miles to fly all the way from Cleveland to Frankfurt.  

Economy class to Europe is 30,000 LifeMiles, same as the cheapest United redemption. But with United dynamically pricing some awards, you might be better off using LifeMiles. And LifeMiles are easier to accumulate, so this could be a double win. 

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles 

One of the best ways to use Citi ThankYou Points is to transfer them to Turkish Airlines to book domestic flights on United, including flights to Hawaii in both economy and business class. Turkish has a zone-based award chart and places Hawaii in the same zone as the rest of the U.S. 

One-way economy class award can be booked with just 7,500 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles, and business class will set you back 15,000 miles. 

To search for award space on Star Alliance partners, including United, you’ll first need to create an account. After you log in, click on your name in the top right, then Miles Transactions.

Then click on Book now under the Star Alliance award ticket header. 

Enter your dates and the airports, and you’ll see the results on the next page. 

United International Flights

Flights from the U.S. to Mexico on United Airlines cost just 10,000 miles one way in economy or 15,000 in business class and about $35 in taxes. 

This is a much better rate than you can find with United’s own program. You’ll need at least 17,500 United miles to book the same flight, so we know who’s the winner here. 

And if Europe’s on your list of travel destinations, business class can be booked with just 45,000 miles one way; economy class is just 30,000 miles (same if booked with United miles).  

One-way from the U.S. to India is bookable with just 52,000 miles one way in business class, if you can find award availability on United-operated flights. Availability will be sparse, but if India is on your list, there are other Star Alliance partners that fly to India that might open more award seats. 

Note that Citi ThankYou Points don’t transfer instantly to Turkish. The transfer might take anywhere from less than 24 hours to a couple of days. So keep that in mind and have a backup plan in case your first choice of flights isn’t available anymore. 

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Here’s another example of using a foreign carrier to book United flights. KrisFlyer, the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines, has much better rates than United itself for booking transcontinental flights on United. While United eliminated its award chart, KrisFlyer still offers fixed-priced awards. 

A one-way flight in economy will set you back 12,500 miles, and business class will cost 23,000 KrisFlyer miles instead of 25,000 miles on United. The caveat here, of course, is finding award space in business class because United could be extremely stingy with releasing premium cabin award space to partners.  

Similarly, the flights between the Continental U.S. and Hawaii could cost less with KrisFlyer miles. A one-way trip in economy costs 17,500 miles and business class is 34,500 miles. 

The points transfer can take from one to three days. 

Card to Help You Earn Citi ThankYou Points

Citi has a few ThankYou Points-earning cards that will help you accumulate a good stash of points quickly—enough to take a whole family on vacation. You can pool points from various cards and can transfer the points to anyone else up to 100,000 points per calendar year. That’s right, the person you are transferring to doesn’t have to live in the same household or be an authorized user on the card. Just keep in mind that points transferred from one cardmember to another will expire after 90 days. 

The Citi Premier Card is an excellent card. We love this card for the useful bonus spending categories, such as 3X at supermarkets and gas stations. The annual fee is $95, which is not waived the first year.  

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is the latest addition to Citi’s lineup of ThankYou Rewards-earning cards. It comes with 20,000 ThankYou Points offered after you spend $1,500 in the first six months, and the card earns 5X on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle, up to the first $500. 

This no-fuss and no-annual fee card is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to deal with tracking the bonus spending categories. You’ll earn 5X on things you buy the most.

The Citi Rewards+® Card is another way that you can earn some additional Citi ThankYou Points.

The bonus categories aren’t stellar, but the card has two unique features. The Citi Rewards+ Card has an annual 10% points rebate on ThankYou Points you redeem (up to 100,000 points per year). The card also rounds up rewards to the nearest 10 points, which makes it a perfect card for making small purchases. 

Final Thoughts

If you don’t have any way to earn United miles or Ultimate Rewards points that you can transfer to United, using Citi points to book United flights is the next best thing. You can transfer ThankYou Points to one of Citi’s transfer partner airlines and book United flights with Avianca LifeMiles, Turkish Miles&Smiles or Singapore KrisFlyer miles. 

Keep in mind that transfers aren’t always instant and can take a couple of days. Partner airlines might not have the same availability, so that might limit your redemption options. However, the transfer bonuses can make an already-good redemption even more affordable. 

There are a few great cards issued by Citi bank that can help you earn a good stash of Citi ThankYou Points. Additionally, Citi allows you to transfer the points to anyone with a ThankYou Rewards account.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve booked United flights with ThankYou Points and the great redemptions you’ve found. 

Travel well,


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