What are the pitfalls when booking flights using Citi ThankYou Points?

With the advent of credit cards such as the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve, you might have checked whether booking a flight or hotel using points via their travel portal provided better value than simply transferring points to the respective loyalty program. While there are benefits, watch out down below for some major pitfalls!

Sometimes this can provide quite good value. For example, if a ticket is <$200 on American, this method is better value since through American, you’d still be forced to use 12,500 miles in most cases. Say if a flight is $150, you would have to use only 190 / .016 = 9,375 ThankYou points. Citi ThankYou points are worth 1.6 cents per point (cpp) when used on American Air flights. And these code as revenue flights so you earn miles and EQMs too!

The major pitfall we want to highlight is that flights booked with ThankYou points are non-refundable and non-transferable. This is a particularly critical consideration if you’re booking flights way in advance. Airlines change schedules or equipment all the time and in some instances, the conditions of carriage allow a free booking into a potentially better routing, or a refund altogether.

In American’s case, if the schedule change is less than 60 mins, the flight is not eligible for a refund even if you are a Platinum member. Since Citi’s partner, Connexions, is the travel agent through which your points redemption and flight booking is processed, American can’t do much with the booking which is so restricted that they can’t even see fare and tax information on the booking. This could ringfence you to such an extent that say a 30 min schedule change upends your entire day. You might have no choice but to forego the ThankYou points spent and book another flight.

Asking for a travel credit instead of a refund won’t work either. Nice try. American charges $200 for domestic voluntary flight changes, so if your flight is worth $150, it would cost you $200 in fees alone to be able to rebook any travel credit Connexions would be willing to offer you. The only way to get out of this flight very well could be weather related cancellations or medical emergencies.

Buyer beware, so book via the Travel Portal only if you are sure or are willing to lose the points/flight. We share the above after going through a few phone calls with both Connexions and American reps.

By the way, we wouldn’t wish dealing with one of these reps on anyone – they repeat policies and sentences in a never-ending loop, don’t let you get a word in, and when asked politely to be allowed to speak, they get defensive. The hallmark of great customer service is to listen, especially when the customer is being polite and respectful too. Happy redeeming!

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