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Citi ThankYou Network Rewards Review
Posted By Jim On 10/14/2009 @ 11:49 am In Credit | 39 Comments
Today 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.
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.
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).
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.
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¢).
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!).
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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 increased the price of student loan rebate checks: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/citi-student-loan-rebate-reward-price-increase.html
 Logitech X-540 5.1 Speaker System (Black): http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/r/amazon.php?asin=B000JJM8XE
 thetruthabout: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetruthabout/2720499032/sizes/l/
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