According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Citi has announced that ThankYou Points earned from  its own ThankYou Point credit cards can now be transferred to Hilton HHonors points.

There some huge pros to this announcement but also some really troubling concerns that need further clarification. Read on for my analysis.

What is the transfer ratio of ThankYouPoints to Hilton HHonors points?

According to the Hilton website, ThankYou Points (TYP) can be transferred to Hilton HHonors at a ratio of 1:1.5. The minimum number of TYP that can be transferred is 1,000. They also must be transferred in increments of 1,000.

Is this transfer ratio better or worse than other possible HHonors transfer partners?

The 1:1.5 ratio falls in line with the American Express Membership Rewards transfer ratio. Take note that until January 31, American Express is actually offering a better 1:2 transfer ratio. For more details on that, check out my post Hilton HHonors-33% Bonus on Membership Rewards Transfers.

Starwood Preferred Guest points transfer to HHonors at a 1:2.5 ratio, but it takes some legwork. In general, this is a really poor way to spend your SPG points. However, if you are desperate for HHonors points and close to topping off an aspirational award, it might make sense.

To pull this off, you will need to transfer your SPG points to either Virgin Atlantic or Hawaiian Airlines.

Starwood Points transfer to Virgin Atlantic or Hawaiian Airlines at a ratio of 1:1.25 when you transfer in increments of 20,000. For example, converting 20k SPG points will net you 25k Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. Virgin Atlantic miles then transfer to HHonors at a ratio of 1:2. For a step by step, check out Scott’s post Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points and Transferring Hawaiian Miles to Hilton.

In a basic example, transfer 20k SPG points to Virgin Atlantic to net 25k Flying Club miles. 25k Flying Club miles then convert to 50k HHonors points.

If the ratio isn’t that great, why is this announcement a big deal?

I’m excited about the news from Citi merely on the hope they add more transfer partners. Having just one transfer partner isn’t very exciting. It won’t tempt me to apply for the cards outright. However, if Citi can add more potential partners, especially airlines, then the value of a ThankYou Point could be mentioned in the same breath as American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, two flexible point programs with many great airline and hotel transfer options.

As you know, we have a great Award Booking Service here at MileValue and love tackling all types of difficult and complex awards. When clients contact us, having flexible points like Chase or American Express gives us options. It opens up routes that wouldn’t be otherwise possible. It makes bookings much easier.

If Citi becomes the third flexible bank point currency, then more potential award redemptions are accessible to frequent flyers.

Wasn’t Citi rumored to have added some airline transfer partners last year?

Actually, yes. In March of 2012, FlyerTalk was abuzz about Citi potentially adding British Airways and Singapore Air. The supposed partnership was to take place in April but never materialized. The addition of Hilton to Citi’s portfolio hopefully rekindles some of those rumors. To read about that big letdown, check out the FlyerTalk thread here.

Do all Citi cards that earn ThankYou Points qualify for transfers?

No. According to Citi’s own terms and conditions listed below, you must have a Citi Premier or Prestige card to be eligible for transfers. Other cards that earn TYP such as the Preferred, Forward, and Standard cards, do not qualify.

Anything else worry you about the terms and conditions?

Yes! There is some real concern about T&C #3 on the list above. It appears that TYP earned through sign up bonuses are not eligible for transfers to Hilton. I can’t overstate how much of a dealbreaker this is. But I also am not sure that it’s true.

The vast majority of my Membership Rewards balance was earned through the sign up bonus. I’m sure Scott can say the same about his Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards. We simply don’t generate enough spend to accumulate the points for premium cabin redemptions. Sign up bonuses are the clear-cut best method in quickly attaining premium cabin awards.

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, the Citi Premier card was offering a 50,000 TYP sign up bonus as recently as last year. The card now as a standard 25k sign up bonus.

The possible sign up bonus exclusion from Citi TYP transfers is a massive negative for the program. The data points are still pretty scarce on FlyerTalk, so feel free to comment if the TYP earned through your sign up bonuses are eligible for transfer to Hilton.

If I can’t transfer ThankYou Points, what are they good for?

TYP can be redeemed for a variety of gift cards at a rate of $0.01/point. Citi Premier and Prestige cardholders can also redeem them for airfare at a rate of $0.0133/point. Using TYP for airline tickets gives you much more value and allows you to earn redeemable and elite qualifying miles on the trips. Citi is essentially purchasing the ticket for you.

Recap

Citi has added Hilton HHonors as a transfer partner to a select few of its ThankYou Point earning cards. The transfer ratio is not a good deal, in my opinion.

The potential for Citi to add additional transfer partners is extremely exciting. They were rumored to have an agreement with British Airways and Singapore Air, but that never materialized last year. If they were to add more hotel and airline partners, Citi could give American Express and Chase a run for their money when it comes to “Best Flexible Bank Point.”

I’m still very concerned about the language in the terms and conditions excluding sign up bonus points from transfers. If that turns out to be true, the strategic value of TYP diminishes greatly.

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