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Getting The Most Out Of Your Citi Thank You Points

by on May 21, 2010

Update September 2011: Citi ThankYou Points just got restructured, and much for the better: you can now redeem as few as 1,000 TY Points for a $10 gift certificate to a wide range of retailers. Previously, you had to rack up 10,000 points to get a full-value gift card. Because of this change, we’re now far happier with points than we were before. Still, it’s not impossible that Citi will once again devalue their points, so we’ll stick with cautious optimism for now. Changes are highlighted below.

Getting full value out of Citi ThankYou Points is an impressive feat. Not, mind you, that it’s impossible, but  Citi makes it really, really hard . If you redeem right, you’ll get the full value of 1 cent per point, but make the wrong choice and you’ll see your rewards rate halved. To its credit, Citibank offers a wide variety of redemption options, and it’s vastly improved both its offerings and its rates in recent months. Now you can finally redeem a reasonable number of points for a decent gift card. Before, could trade in, say, 6k points for a $50 gift card, but now you can trade 2,500 points for a $25 gift card. Still, the points’ value varies widely depending on how you use them. We’ll take you through the different redemption options and tell you how to get the most out of each.

Reward Type Sample Redemption Point Value
Cash $50 cash: 8,000 points 0.625 cents
Gift cards $25 gift card: 2,500 points 1 cent
Music downloads $1 music voucher: 100 points 1 cent
Prepaid debit $25 card: 4,000 points 0.625-0.71 cents
Merchandise $19 book set: 3,900 points 0.5-0.8 cents
Charity $10 to any charity: 1,900 points 0.52-1 cent
Mortgage/student loan payment $25 payment: 2,500 points 1 cent
Travel certificates $25 Avis gift card: 3,500 points 0.71-1 cent

As you can see, three categories (as of this writing) reliably offer 1 cent per point redemption rates: gift cards, loan repayments, and music downloads.

Citi actually has a decent range of gift cards to choose from, including Old Navy, Red Lobster and Sony. A few merchants will give you $10 for 1k points, but for the most part, you can trade 2,500 points for a $25 gift card. 

You can also use your ThankYou Points to pay off installment loans. If you’re paying off a student loan, you can get a $25-$1,000 rebate on your loan payments (that’s 2,500-100,000 points). If you’ve got a mortgage, you can trade in that same amount and Citi will send a check to your lender. The music downloads are courtesy of Sony: you get a voucher good for MP3 downloads.

Charitable donations are almost universally redeemable at full value. If you donate to Citi’s charity du jour (at the moment, it’s the American Red Cross) you can get $1 in donations for 100 points. The option described in the table above applies to a charity of your choice. If you want to donate to, say, cancer research, the value of your points will be nearly halved.

Here’s a card that’ll get you there faster:

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  • James

    You can also get 1 cent per point by buying a Marriott $100 or certain other travel gift cards for 10,000 points!

  • Barbara Lynch

    They have idiots working at Citibank Thank you Points. If you speak to seven different people, you get seven different answers for the same problem. They randomly forfeited 12,500 points of mine, claiming that the account was closed. Not so. It was not even easy to get that information. I was told the error was on their part would be corrected in 24 hours, then 48 hours, and now it is up to 7 days. They say I have filed a “dispute” claim. Darn right. Should be very easy to correct. The account has not been closed, make the correction and credit the thank-you points. Should be very simple. Not!

  • Vance

    Have you seen the rates they have for “statement credits”? I was wondering if they would have similar rates as cash ($50 for 8,000 points) or gift cards.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com NerdWallet

      Statement credits are actually a little better than cash, in terms of the redemption ratio. Where cash redeems at about 62.5 cents, statement credits redeem at more like 69 – 71 cents.

      Plus you can only earn cash for 8,000 or 16,000 points, while statement credits can be redeemed starting at 2,500 points.

  • Matt

    A lot of retailers and restaurants changed their redemption rates to let you get a $100 gift card for 10,000 points. Unfortunately, the ThankYou Rewards website still makes it difficult by not allowing you to sort retailers by redemption rate, but I checked and with a few exceptions, nearly all of them now offer the $100 gift card for 10,000 points. I was going to list them, but the number is more than on your current list. Most notable to me is Walmart, which in my opinion is almost like getting cash back.

  • Julie Herrick

    I achieved the best TY Point to Cash ratio by purchasing a $100 WalMart gift card with 10,000 points, and then selling that gift card to http://www.PlasticJungle.com for $92. Yes, it’s a few more hoops to jump through, but I got a $0.92 redemption rate to cash (as opposed to the $0.62 offered directly from TY Points).

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

      Thanks Julie, that’s a great idea. Citi offers so many different gift card
      redemption options that many people will probably be able to get the full1%
      out of their points, but it is a shame they don’t have Amazon gift cards or
      something similar. Those are as good as cash, since you can buy almost
      anything you’d ever need from Amazon.

      However, to get Amazon gift cards, you can follow a similar strategy and
      exchange a $100 Walmart for a $94.50 Amazon card at PlasticJungle’s
      competitor site http://www.CardPool.com.

      It’s only a small improvement, but we’re all about maximizing here :-)

  • Alice

    On 9/15/11, I was going to redeem some of my Citi Thank You rewards points, and not only are the $10, $25 and $50 gift cards back to the less favorable ratios (costing 1,500, 3,500 & 6,000 points respectively) but there is no longer an option for getting a $100 gift card for 10,000 points.

  • tinfoil hat

    Yesterday I got an offer from Citibank for $400 in gift cards if I open up a checking account with them. It required one direct deposit within 45 days and one electronic bill payment for two consecutive months.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

      Yep, they just rolled out that deal for the Citigold checking account. Note however that you have to keep $50k in your accounts at Citi, or they charge you $30/month.

      There’s also a deal to get $200 in gift cards with an account that only has a $20 fee, waived if you keep $6k in your accounts: the “Citibank Account “.

      However, they also just announced they’re raising the minimum balances on their accounts later this year:
      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Citi-announces-new-fees-on-cnnm-215283524.html

  • Daddude

    Does Citi now provide an annual anniversary bonus? Does this effectively raise the return percentage? I’m looking the Citi ThankYou and Citi ThankYou Preferred Card Terms and Conditions that say:

    “At the end of each Citi ThankYou Card account membership year (your membership year begins the date you become a Citi ThankYou cardmember and resets each year on that date) you will also earn an Anniversary Bonus calculated as a percentage of ThankYou Points earned from purchases during that membership year as follows:

    Membership Year Anniversary Bonus %
    0 – 1 1%
    1 – 2 2%
    2 – and after 3%

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

      Yes they do this with certain cards, but it doesn’t raise the return percentage by much. If you are able to get the full 1% return out of your ThankYou Points (for instance, by redeeming 10,000 points for a $100 gift card), then a 1% anniversary bonus your first year only increases that to 1.01%.

      And only if you keep the card for more than two years do you get the 3% bonus, which still only raises your return to 1.03%.

      Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card pays 2% on travel and dining, 1% on everything else, and gives you a 7% anniversary bonus every year, no matter how long you have the card: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/2011/chase-sapphire-offers-50000-point-signup-bonus-worth-500/

  • Pingback: How to Get the Chase Freedom $100 Bonus

  • YK

    Not sure if Citi devalued their points again. I checked their redemption options for gift cards and am seeing for the most part 6k pts gets you $50.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hey there,

      Do you have a Citi card? From their public site, it seems like you can redeem gift cards at a rate of 2,500 points for $25.

      • James

        I have a citi card, looks like 3.5k for $25 on most things, how come people with cards get worse rates?