Transfer Citi ThankYou Points to JetBlue: Good Deal or Bad Deal?

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Over the last few years, Citi has done a commendable job of adding transfer partners to their ThankYou Rewards program. Continuing with this trend, earlier this week Citi announced JetBlue as a new ThankYou Points transfer partner. While it is certainly good news whenever a rewards program adds a new transfer partner, is transferring Citi ThankYou Points to JetBlue a good idea? In short, with very few exceptions, we don't think so.

Citi JetBlue Transfer Partner Announcement

ThankYou to JetBlue Transfer Basics

ThankYou Points earned from the Citi Prestige® Card and the Citi Premier Card transfer at a 1.25:1 ratio — 1,000 ThankYou Points converts to 800 JetBlue TrueBlue points. If you've got the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card points transfer at a 2:1 ratio; you'll get 500 JetBlue TrueBlue points for every 1,000 Citi ThankYou Points you transfer. Regardless of the associated earning credit card, the minimum transfer amount is 1,000 ThankYou Points, and transfers are made in increments of 1,000 points.

In identifying value, we're only going to focus on the 1.25:1 transfer ratio. If you've got the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, you're going to receive such little value we'd suggest looking elsewhere.

JetBlue Award Redemptions

JetBlue has a revenue based rewards program, which means that the number of points you earn when you fly JetBlue will depend on the price paid for your ticket. The amount required for an award redemption will depend on the fare of the flights you're looking to book. Generally speaking, the higher the fare, the more points required. However, the value at which points are redeemed is not fixed, which means that the redemption value can vary by flight or itinerary. We think your goal should be to redeem TrueBlue points at a value as close to 2 cents per point as possible. However, anything at 1.5 cents per point or above should be considered acceptable.

Redeeming ThankYou Points for Airline Tickets

If you have the Prestige Card, you can redeem your ThankYou Points for air travel on JetBlue at a value of 1.33 cents per point. If you have the Citi Premier, those same points will get you 1.25 cents per point towards JetBlue flights. As an example, here are the cash rates for three JetBlue New York JFK-Los Angeles flights on November 9th, along with the points rate if you are interested in redeeming the points earned through your Prestige Card for these same flights:

Citi ThankYou Points JetBlue Flights

The displayed fares are JetBlue Blue fares, their most basic fare. When booking with this mechanism, whether you charge the purchase to your credit card or redeem your ThankYou Points you earn TrueBlue points. Even though you'd be redeeming ThankYou Points, what is effectively happening is Citi is purchasing a ticket for you with their credit card, and taking your points as a currency exchange at 1.33 cents per point, the value you receive by having a Prestige Card.

An important aspect to keep in mind when booking flights in this manner is that if you have multiple ThankYou Points earning credit cards, with your accounts properly linked, you'll receive the highest value for all of your points regardless of the credit card used to earn them. So, if you have a Prestige Card, a Citi Premier, and a ThankYou Preferred, when you redeem points, you'll receive the value afforded to the Prestige Card.

Award Bookings with JetBlue for Same Flights

Here are the prices you'd pay with JetBlue if you were to redeem TrueBlue points:

JetBlue JFK-LAX Award Options

While the number of points required for a Blue fare using JetBlue TrueBlue points on these flights is less than the amount of ThankYou Points, remember that at best ThankYou Points convert to JetBlue TrueBlue Points at a 1.25:1 and not 1:1 ratio. In this example, to book the first and third flights you would need to transfer 17,000 or 19,000 ThankYou Points depending on the desired flight. And remember, if you go with the first approach of redeeming your ThankYou Points directly at ThankYou.com and not transferring to JetBlue, you will earn JetBlue TrueBlue points for those flights, something you would not do on a JetBlue award ticket.

When You Should Transfer ThankYou Points to JetBlue TrueBlue

There aren't many scenarios where we'd recommend this, but some may make sense for you:

  1. Closing Your Citi Credit Card Account. If you're closing a credit card account and have no immediate plans for redeeming the points you've accumulated, transferring them to any transfer partner makes sense. Pick the one from which you'll receive the most value — it could be JetBlue.
  2. Topping off a balance. If you're short points for a redemption you're looking to cash in on, this is an excellent way to do just that. JetBlue doesn't allow you to purchase a ticket with a partial payment of points and the rest cash; it is all or nothing.
  3. Booking a fare other than Blue. The least expensive/base fare is what will show up at ThankYou.com if you look to redeem your points directly through the ThankYou Rewards portal. If you want to step up to a Blue Plus or Blue Flex fare, transferring points to TrueBlue would allow you to make that booking.
  4. If you have Mosaic status and want Even More Space seats. One perk of JetBlue Mosaic is that you can redeem TrueBlue points for Even More Space seats. If you have the TrueBlue points in your account already, we wouldn't recommend transferring them over just for this. However, the rates for Even More Space seats with points can be exponentially better than paying cash.

Bottom Line

More options are always a plus for the consumer, but it doesn't mean that option is one you should regularly leverage. In most circumstances, we wouldn't recommend leveraging the transfer functionality, but there could be a unique situation where it fits your goals. The fastest way to build up your balance of JetBlue TrueBlue rewards would be through either the JetBlue Card or the JetBlue Plus Card.

Transfer Citi ThankYou Points to JetBlue: Good Deal or Bad Deal?
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