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The hits just keep on coming with Citi ThankYou points, most recently with the loss of Garuda Indonesia as a ThankYou points transfer partner. This won’t impact most people, but Garuda did provide some interesting niche redemptions, ran irregular (but spectacular) mileage sales and provided access to first class inventory on SkyTeam airlines.
Will the end of the partnership matter to you? Keep reading to find out.
What is Garuda Indonesia?
Garuda Indonesia is the national airline of Indonesia and is a member of the SkyTeam alliance. The money-losing airline has gone through substantial churn, with three CEOs in three years. There hasn’t been a ton of route stability, either, with Garuda ending its nonstop London to Bali service almost as quickly as it started.
Point transfers from Citi ThankYou weren’t immediate, but it's possible to successfully put award seats on hold over the phone. No other major transferrable point currency transfers to Garuda Indonesia.
» Learn more: Citi ThankYou points: How to earn and use them
Booking process for partner and sale awards
Garuda Indonesia has perhaps the most complicated and convoluted booking process of any airline for partner and sale-priced award flights. Officially, you have to call their call center in Indonesia to put the award flight that you want on hold. Then, you need to transfer the points required for the award.
Finally, you have to physically visit a Garuda Indonesia ticketing office in person to get partner airline tickets issued. They have ticket offices in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Vancouver.
There have been some reports of successful Garuda Indonesia bookings without visiting a ticket office, but it’s a lot of work.
Why would anyone be willing to go through this much trouble? Because Garuda Indonesia allows access to first class awards on certain SkyTeam airlines. Mind you, this is possible only at extremely expensive redemption rates (you can calculate your award ticket price on Garuda Indonesia’s website) but it’s at least available. That is not the case with most other programs. Whether it could ever possibly make sense to go through this much trouble for access to China Eastern or Korean Air first class, however, is for you to determine.
Garuda Indonesia was probably best known for running crazy award sales. In one case, they offered 90% off awards on Garuda Indonesia flights only. Although the award chart for Garuda isn’t particularly attractive, this offer was insanely low.
It’s not unusual for card issuers to change up their relationships with airlines, and Citi is no exception. However, unlike Chase’s loss of Korean Air as a transfer partner, which was a huge blow to the Ultimate Rewards® program, Garuda Indonesia isn’t an important Citi transfer partner with multiple sweet spots. It's possible that the small number of points transferred into this program just didn’t justify the cost of maintaining the partnership.
That being said, card issuers usually provide advance notice before ending a partnership. In this case, Citi provided no notice — the option to transfer points to Garuda Indonesia disappeared overnight.
Citi recently made some very aggressive moves in stripping benefits from its cards, including travel benefits from even their premium cards. Given this, it's a good idea to review the transfer partners available for your ThankYou Points and use these points sooner rather than later.
The bottom line
The loss of Garuda Indonesia as a transfer partner is barely a blip on the radar for most people, but when you dig beneath the surface, there is some cause for concern about the stability of the Citi ThankYou points program. If you've been eyeing an attractive award with a Citi transfer partner, book it sooner rather than later.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you Citi Double Cash to allow conversions to ThankYou points Best Citi credit cards