How My Citi Premier Card Helped Me Save Over $4,000 on Travel

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The Citi Premier® Card made a pair of trips much cheaper for me, and it could do the same for you.

In the time that I've had it, the Citi Premier® Card has become one of my favorite and most valuable travel cards.

There's a simple explanation why -- it's saved me a ton of money on travel. To be specific, I redeemed Citi ThankYou points for over $4,000 worth of travel in less than four months. Considering this card only has a $95 annual fee, that's an amazing value.

Here's exactly how I did it and how you could get similar value from the Citi Premier® Card.

How my Citi Premier® Card saved me over $4,000

Redeeming points for thousands of dollars in travel may seem complicated. That wasn't the case for me. I simply took advantage of the option to transfer my Citi points to one of its travel partners.

That travel partner was the Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer program. Avianca is the national carrier of Colombia, where I live. I ended up transferring Citi points to the LifeMiles program to book two business-class tickets for each of these trips:

  • Bogota to Mexico City in December 2019: Two business class seats would have cost $2,104.36. I got them for 72,000 miles and $236.50 in taxes and fees.
  • Buenos Aires to Bogota in March 2020: Two business class seats would have cost $2,614.32. I got them for 56,000 miles and $176.52 in taxes and fees.

The cash price for those four tickets would have been $4,718.68. Instead, I redeemed 128,000 points and paid $413.02 in taxes and fees. Overall, I saved $4,305.66 and got $0.034 in value per point.

This did require a sizable number of Citi points. The Citi Premier® Card's sign-up bonus of 60,000 points (for spending $4,000 within the first three months) helped with that, as well as several bonus categories where the card earns 3 points per $1.

Maximize your savings with Citi ThankYou points

There were a few simple keys to how I saved so much with my Citi points. Most important was that I transferred my Citi points to a travel partner. Transfers are the only way to get a high value for your points.

The other option is to book travel through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. With the Citi Premier® Card, you get $0.0125 per point. Let's say I booked my tickets using Citi's travel portal. I would've needed 377,494 points to cover $4,718.68 in airfare.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid using points this way, though. Sometimes it's the only way to book the travel you want, and $0.0125 per point is still a good deal. Just make sure you look for transfer opportunities first.

I also used my points to book international business-class tickets. As a general rule, more expensive travel bookings get you more value for your points. That means:

  • International airfare is typically a better use of points than domestic airfare.
  • Business- and first-class seats tend to get you more value than economy seats.

It's always a good idea to look for international business- and first-class tickets that you can book by transferring your points. These deals tend to offer the biggest savings.

Where can you transfer Citi points?

Here's a list of Citi's current travel partners, with the ones I consider most valuable in bold:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • JetPrivilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Sears Shop Your Way
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

When you transfer Citi points to an airline, you can obviously use the miles to book award tickets with that airline. That's not your only option, though. You could also book award tickets with the airline's partners, which opens up far more travel opportunities.

For example, I turned my Citi points into Avianca LifeMiles. Avianca is part of the Star Alliance, a group of partner airlines that includes United and Lufthansa. Through the LifeMiles program, you can redeem miles for award tickets with any of those partner airlines. If you want to go across the country with United or from the U.S. to Europe on Lufthansa, those are both options using LifeMiles.

The same is true with other Citi airline partners. To give a couple more notable examples, Etihad is partnered with American Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic is partnered with Delta Air Lines. Both can offer high-value transfer opportunities for your Citi points.

A low-cost, high-value travel card

The Citi Premier® Card isn't quite as well known as other top travel rewards cards, but I think it's on the way up. Citi has given the card an excellent set of features, including lots of bonus rewards and a strong collection of travel partners. If you want to open a credit card that costs less than $100 per year, this Citi card could be the one for you.

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