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Citi ThankYou Network Rewards Review

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CitibankToday we’ll take a look at the ThankYou Network, the rewards network for Citi credit cards, as part of my series on reviewing credit card reward networks. As is the case with every credit card rewards catalog, the points to dollar ratio changes with the things you redeem. This review will give you a better understanding of the catalog, how to find the best deals, what the best item is, and help you decide whether this rewards program is right for you.

ThankYou Network

The ThankYou Network is probably one of the most extensive rewards catalogs available, as it includes all the standard stuff like gift cards and statemetn credits, plus it adds in thousands of products. If you had enough points, you have over three hundred laptops to choose from! They have outdoor equipment, automotive supplies, home goods, music downloads, and basically anything and everything you could imagine. If you are green, you can even participate in American Forests’ “Plant a Tree program” at the cost of 4,800 points per twenty-five trees.

So let’s take a look at the program, see where the value is and where the fluff is, and try to find out if it’s a good program or not.

Rewards on Sale

Every week, a different set of products will be in the “Rewards on Sale” category. There doesn’t seem to be a theme to the rewards but each one is discounted off their regular price by about 17-20%. For example, in the week I looked at the Rewards on Sale section, I saw a Wilson Hope LX 16-Piece Women’s Golf Set for 29,000 points, down from 35,200 (17.6% off). There was also a Fisher-Price® TMX Cookie Monster for 5,100 points, down from 6,200 (17.7% off).

The Best Rewards

If I wrote this a few months ago, I would’ve said the best reward in the entire catalog is their student loan rebate check (if you have student loans). However, they recently (within the last few months I think), increased the price of student loan rebate checks to less than a 1¢ per point value, regardless of how much you spend. They put the reward on par with the mortgage loan check.

Now what’s the best reward in the Citi ThankYou network? I searched for a bit and found that only gift cards and charitable donation gifts give you a value of 1¢ per point. On charitable donations, you have to give at least a $50 donation to get the 1¢ per point rate. On gift cards, you have to buy at least a $100 gift card and not every store offers a $100 gift card.

There’s also one slight downside to the charity route – there’s only one charity available: The American Red Cross. Right now, you can get a $100 donation to the American Red Cross for 10,000 points.

Cash Rewards

Most reward networks give you the option of getting a cash check or a statement credit. With the ThankYou Network, you can get statement credits credited directly to your card’s balance. The cost of a $100 statement credit is 14,500, valuing each point at 0.69¢. It sounds like a bad deal until you realize it’s a better deal than most other reward networks. American Express recently instituted a system where you can pay “everyday expenses” with points at a rate that values each point at 0.60¢.

If you want a cash reward, $100 will cost you 16,000 points, valuing each point at 0.625¢. Whereas the statement credit is available in a variety of denominations, cash is only available in $50 (8000 points) and $100 (16000 points) amounts.

Another option is to get a Citi Gift Card, which is basically a debit gift card with a $100 value. The gift card costs 14,000 (0.714¢), making it better than cash and slightly cheaper than a $100 statement credit (0.69¢).

My Rewards Math

I am always looking to get a penny per point. When I look in the catalog, I see how much something costs in points, divide by 100, and then compare it with the price I could normally buy it for. For example, the Logitech X-540 5.1 Speaker System (Black) is available on the Citi ThankYou Network for 16,100 points. If I can buy it for less than $161, then I’d rather buy it than convert it. If I can’t, then this becomes a good deal.

The Logitech X-540 5.1 Speaker System (Black) is available from Amazon for $79.95. If I were to buy it from Citi for 16,100 points, I’m getting 0.497¢ per point, which is less than if I just opted for cash. It’s far less than if I opted for a $100 gift card.

I still use a penny per point as my benchmark because I feel I can find a gift card in the network that I will use. If you can’t, then you should be comparing the price of a product against a value of a statement credit (0.69¢). If the product gives you more than cash and you want it, then go with the product. Otherwise, take the cash and buy it yourself (and get even more rewards!).

Buying Points

Citi gives you the option of buying ThankYou points at the cost of $25 for 1,000 points, valuing each at 2.5¢ per point. As we’ve seen above, getting even 1¢ per point in value is difficult so you’re paying a significant premium for points. This is not a good deal.

All in all, I’ve been pretty happy with the rewards program because of the student loans. I don’t spend a great deal each month with my Citi card so I never had reason to review the catalog until recently. In the case of student loan checks, I had to call in to redeem the reward and always found their customer service to be fast and courteous. It’s an entirely separate call system set up specifically for the ThankYou Network, which probably cuts down on wait time.

If you have a Citi card, do you have a go to “reward” that you always redeem it for? I’m leaning towards some of the $100 gift cards like a Macy’s or Staples.

(Photo: thetruthabout)

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39 Responses to “Citi ThankYou Network Rewards Review”

  1. F2O says:

    This past summer I cashed in 60,000 points on Old Navy gift cards and various restaurant gift cards. This was before they started jacking up the prices on them, so I got everything for $.01 per point. My wife used the Old Navy cards for her new materniy clothing and went out to dinner every so often with the others.

  2. lostAnnfound says:

    I have a Citi Simplicity card, have had Citibank card since 1987. The past few years when September rolls around I order a couple of iTunes cards to put in the kids’ Christmas stockings (even though this year they are 16 & 14, I will probably still do stockings!). They get a gift card I know they will definitely use & I am not looking through the catalog to find “something” to spend my points on.

  3. Debra says:

    Would love to see a similar review of the Discover Card rewards program. If you’ve already done one, perhaps you could direct me to it.

    Thanks.

  4. D says:

    What about redeeming for Expedia travel, e.g. flights and hotels booked with Thank You points? Comparing costs of flights with points required shows that they’re pretty close to 1pt=1cent, no?

  5. Debra says:

    Damn, that’s complicated!

  6. Gabriel Tulum says:

    I booked my airline ticket using ThankYou Points and got a ticket from LA to New York for 37,500 points…when I checked the dollar price on Expedia it was $375. So I got a penny per point. Good deal!

  7. I have the Amazon Visa so I just get Amazon GCs mailed to me when I have 2500 points. Sometimes I really want a card where I could “shop.”

  8. eric says:

    Yup back in Spring I cashed in a few tens of thousands of points for fixed flights (which by far were the best value 1.5 to 2 cents a point). Now I’ve accumulated about twenty something more thousand points (mostly through bonuses) and getting a gift card is the only best choice left.

  9. Nice review. I’ve had Citi cards with Thank You for a few years now and the rewards have definitely gotten worse. The best thing I find to use my points on is the mortgage payment reward, which right now works out to a little less than .8¢ per point.

    I don’t like their gift card offerings anymore since the only cards they offer at a price of 1¢ per point are overpriced department stores and mall outlets I don’t normally shop at anyway. They used to offer the Lands End gift card that could be redeemed at Sears at better than 1¢ a point (9,000 points for a $100 gift card), but they ended that over a year ago.

    Ultimately choosing the mortgage payment reward is the best use I have for the points and helps me pay down my mortgage while avoiding buying more crap with the gift cards.

  10. Jon says:

    Hey Jim, which gift cards are you seeing at .01/point? I’ve been hunting around with no luck. Anyone?

  11. Jim says:

    Jon, all the $100 dining ones are for 10,000 points, or a penny per point.

  12. Jon says:

    Aaahhhh, OK, that’s one area I didn’t look. Anything besides dining that you’ve run across? Thanks jim.

  13. Jim says:

    Unfortunately that’s the only category I know about, you could always redeem and sell them on eBay or something.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Jim–
      Finally got around to checking out the dining category and I’m not seeing the .01/point anymore! Have you checked them out recently?

  14. Jon says:

    Oh, that’s a good idea, hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for your time!

  15. Bongo says:

    The Citi Gift Cards are a pain. You can’t use the “debit” card at an ATM for cash. You can’t swipe them at a gas pump. (must go in to the store) You can’t add funds to them.

    And Citi forces you to order and register each card separately online. Claiming “certain in-store point-of-sale purchases may require customer to register online” So if you have 10 cards, you’ll need 10 different login names & passwords – one for each gift card.

  16. sean says:

    They have recently gotten rid of all their $100 gift cards! I am starting to feel ripped off. I think I will cancel my card and find something better.

  17. sean says:

    I was incorrect in my previous post. They still have the gift cards they just don’t show up in the search anymore. They are now in a dropdownlist.

  18. Ike says:

    I’ve been on the thankyou rewards program for a few years now and i’ve cashed in a few hundred dollars worth of gift cards every year.

    Over the last year though they have removed most of the $100 gift cards and make you spend more points for lower valued gift cards.

    I keep saving my points hoping that they bring back $100 gift cards for some more retailers, if not then I guess i’ll have to do Marshalls, or Macy’s or something.

    Is there any alternative rewards programs with better gift card to point ratios?

  19. Mike says:

    Now the expedia / thank you network relationship is ending. Frankly, I’m not surprised. The rewards available from the Thank You network have been decreasing signficantly in value over the years. More offerings, but more points required to buy something than the old 100 points = $1.00. So a $30 item used to cost 3,000 points. Now, it would be closer to 4,000 points.

    The end for me was when Citi dropped the only worthwhile travel reward. Any flight under $400 (40,000 points) only cost 20,000 points for elite members. The elite card had a $75 annual fee. They got rid of the program with no notice, and still had the nerve to charge the $75 annual fee. I found out three months after they charged the annual fee, and five months after they ended the program. It took me five calls to get the annual fee reversed. There were no other worthwhile benefits of the premier pass elite.

    Don’t get me started on the new interest rate they tried to charge me (21.99%) earlier this year. I used to charge almost $20,000 a month on my card (I used it as a business card), and always paid my entire balance on time at the end of the month. It was either “take the new rate, or we won’t renew the card when it expires (Sept 2010)”. So AMEX has been getting my $20,000 a month, and I’ve been getting cash back. And I close my Citi card in a month.

  20. Christian says:

    Your explanations and mathematics have been the best and most thorough out of all the reviews about Rewards Programs that I’ve read while bargain shopping cards and programs.
    Thank You

  21. Anonymous says:

    Citi is canceling the Driver’s Edge Charter card I have had with them for 15 years. Instead of the 2% back I have earned I am now having a thankyou reward card foisted upon me. Thanks to your review I can cancel my account with Citi and take my business elsewhere. $.01 per point is the minimum anyone should accept for a rewards card and it is obvious from your analysis above that the very best one can do with the Citi thankyou points is $.01 per point.

  22. John says:

    Chase Freedom Rewards you can get a 20 dollar cash reward for 2000 points compared to Citi’s 8000 points for 50 dollars cash rewards. No comparison, Citi Thankyou rewards program is a rip off.

  23. ThankYou says:

    For those of you that like to complain about the rewards. Just be grateful they are giving this to you for FREE!

    • Mila says:

      These ‘rewards’ are NOT FREE. Rewards are paid for with swipe fee, foreign transaction fee, membership fee, and that’s assuming 0 balance and on time payments.

  24. Ep says:

    Its not free they charge my card $25.00

  25. Anonymous says:

    they just ripped me off…


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