How To Use Citi ThankYou Points To Book American Airlines Awards


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One of the oddities in the miles and points world has long been the fact that Citi’s ThankYou points don’t transfer over to the American Airlines AAdvantage program. Citi had a monopoly on the issuance of American Airlines co-branded credit cards for years and even today it issues four of the airline’s six credit cards which are currently open for applications but AAdvantage still hasn’t appeared as a ThankYou transfer partner.

There are numerous other airline loyalty programs are Citi ThankYou transfer partners but most of them aren’t much use if what you really want to do is book an American Airlines flight as an award.

The word “most” was key in that last sentence because there is one Citi ThankYou transfer partner that’s very useful if you’re hoping to book an American Airlines flight using ThankYou points. It’s a transfer option that sometimes gets forgotten.

Etihad Guest is a Citi ThankYou transfer partner and Etihad is an American Airlines partner (which is a little weird when you think about how vociferously American Airlines lobbied the US government to impose sanctions on the Middle Eastern carriers).

Citi ThankYou points can be transferred over to Etihad Guest in a ratio of 1 ThankYou Point to 1 Etihad Guest Mile (good news) but they take approximately 7 days to transfer over (not so good news).

Etihad Guest has a separate award chart showing how many Etihad Guest Miles are needed to book American Airlines awards:

Rather amazingly this is a very generous chart and the reason it looks generous is because it appears to be modelled on American’s own award chart before it devalued it a few years ago.

Take a look at how good the value here can be:

  • USA – Europe roundtrip Business Class award: 100,000 Etihad Guest Miles v 115,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • USA – Europe roundtrip First Class award: 125,000 Etihad Guest Miles v 170,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • USA – Australia/New Zealand roundtrip Business Class award: 125,000 Etihad Guest Miles v 160,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • USA – China/Hong Kong roundtrip Business Class award: 110,000 Etihad Guest Miles v 140,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • USA – China/Hong Kong roundtrip First Class award: 135,000 Etihad Guest Miles v 220,000 AAdvantage Miles
American Airlines 787-9 Business Class

Addressing The Elephant In The Room

There’s definitely great value to be had out of transferring Citi ThankYou points across to Etihad Guest and then booking American Airlines awards but you’re only ever going to realise this value if American Airlines releases awards at the “saver” level….and American Airlines doesn’t seem to like doing that.
Over the past 2-3 years American Airlines has seriously tightened up on the saver awards that it releases and it has reached a point where it’s all a little bit of a joke.

American will happily sell you hundreds of thousands of miles in its frequent mileage sales but actually using those miles in a truly economic way has never been harder.

Etihad Guest bookings on American Airlines require saver award inventory to be available so everything I’ve typed above is only of any use if you can find saver awards available for dates that work for you.

Saver awards do still exist (they haven’t disappeared entirely) so this use of Citi ThankYou Points is a genuinely great way to get value….but you have to be prepared to be very flexible with the dates you fly and be prepared to spend quite a bit of time searching for awards (I set up ExpertFlyer alerts to save time and effort).

Bottom Line

I love that we can still somehow book American Airlines AAdvantage awards while essentially using the airline’s old award chart but I’m not about to try to suggest that it’s all plain sailing.

The lack of saver award space is definitely an issue but, if you can find awards that work for you, this can be an incredibly good way to use ThankYou points….it may even be enough to persuade me keep hold of the Citi Prestige card (for the airline earnings) despite the upcoming negative changes and the fact that I keep threatening to give it up.

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