Did you know you can use points earned from your Citi Prestige Visa on Garuda Indonesia First Class, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, avoiding expensive plane tickets in South America, and booking Radisson Blu hotels for cheap?
In this guide, we go beyond the common transfer partners that you probably know quite a bit about to explore unique ways to use your Citibank Rewards points.
Common transfer partners for travellers from Australia
We’ve written a lot about the following frequent flyer programs, which just so happen to be the most useful for travellers from our part of the world (the ratio in brackets is the transfer rate, explained later on):
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (2.5:1)
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (2.5:1)
- Virgin Australia Velocity (2:1)
- Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1)
- Etihad Guest (3:1)
Other programs you can transfer to from Citibank Rewards, but which don’t represent great value and, thus, which we won’t be delving into are:
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich (3:1)
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid (3:1)
- Emirates Skywards (2.5:1)
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands (3:1)
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles (3:1)
- Hilton HHonors (2:1)
- IHG Rewards (2.5:1)
Unique transfer partners
Delta SkyMiles (2:1)
US airline Delta’s frequent flyer program SkyMiles probably offers the broadest value to Australian travellers apart from the programs listed above.
SkyMiles can be used for travel on Virgin Australia, with an award ticket on the updated Business Class cabin to Los Angeles from Sydney, Brisbane and reintroduced Melbourne service from (4 April 2017) costing 80,000 miles one-way.
Award availability when booking via Delta is usually the same as when booking using Velocity points, but the costs are a little cheaper – 83,500 Velocity Points for the same Business Class flight. There’s more on how to search Virgin Australia award availability via Delta’s website here.
It is arguably the best Business Class product out of the five currently offered on direct Australia-USA flights (Virgin Australia, Delta, Qantas, American Airlines and United).
Virgin Atlantic offers a solid ‘Upper Class‘ (Business Class) product from London to US cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Miami for 62,500 miles one-way.
Out of the six inhabited continents, South America and Africa top the list for the most expensive aviation markets. Low-cost carriers are starting to take hold, but are certainly behind leaders Europe and Asia, and North America and Australia.
This means that using 12,500 SkyMiles for an Economy Class award ticket on Aerolineas Argentinas (Argentina) or GOL (Brazil) instead of having to buy an expensive cash ticket may represent good value when, say, flying from Buenos Aires down to see the glaciers in Patagonia, or from Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo to the Amazon.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue (3:1)
Flying Blue also runs monthly promotions for travel 8-12 weeks out, during which it discounts Business, Premium Economy and Economy Class award redemptions by 25-50% on routes that have substantial award space available. The promotion focusses mainly on flights within Europe and from Europe to North America, the Caribbean, South America and Asia.
As neither Air France nor KLM flies to Australia, and these promotions apply only to these two airlines and not to their SkyTeam partners, you’ll need to look for awards that link overseas legs of your trip.
For example, during the current September 2016 promotion, there is 25% off Business Class awards between Europe (which includes as far east as Israel and down to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and many North American cities such as Vancouver, Montreal, Chicago and Mexico City for 46,875 miles one-way.
Be aware that premium cabin award redemptions through Flying Blue tend to attract high fuel surcharges (e.g. ~$230 USD for the routes above).
Qatar Privilege Club (3:1)
With Qatar’s best First and Business Class product being on their A380s, Australian travellers are lucky that they have just started flying it to Sydney from its Doha hub, as well as to London, Paris, Bangkok and Guangzhou.
Sydney to Doha one-way will set you back 70,000 miles in Business Class, or 90,000 miles all the way to London. If you do the reverse trip departing from Doha, you’ll get access to the excellent Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge.
Like Flying Blue above, Privilege Club runs regular Easy Deals promotions, giving discounts of up to 50% on award travel on selected Qatar Airways routes.
Two other advantages of this program are that there are no fuel surcharges and stopovers are permitted.
Garuda Frequent Flyer (3:1)
Garuda Indonesia is a bit of an underdog, but it is rated as one of only eight five-star airlines in the world, which is higher than Emirates and Etihad.
Unfortunately, the only way to redeem Garuda Indonesia First Class is through their own frequent flyer program.
First Class is offered on the Boeing 777-300ER, which is currently flying from Jakarta to Amsterdam and London (via Singapore), as well as between Bali and Tokyo Narita (and slated to continue onto Los Angeles and/or Seattle from sometime around April 2017). Current routes are in red and proposed routes in white:
Flights in green to its Indonesian hubs of Jakarta and Bali from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are on two-cabin (i.e. only Business and Economy Class) Airbus A330s.
With over 17,000 islands (of which only a third are inhabited though) and the fourth-largest population of any country in the world, there has been boom in low-cost carriers such as Lion Air and AirAsia Indonesia since the turn of the century, which has decreased the price of flying within Indonesia.
Still, if you are island hopping around and find a route that is monopolised by Garuda and, therefore, quite expensive, an Economy or Business Class award redemption may represent good value for you.
Now comes the bad news: there is a complicated award booking process, in which you have to phone the call centre to make the redemption, print out and sign a form, take it in person to a Garuda sales office and claim your award ticket there. The only sales offices in Australia are in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Garuda, along with many Middle Eastern airlines, lacks an award chart for redemptions on its own metal, so you’ll have to use the mileage calculator tool.
For redemptions on SkyTeam partner airlines, you are better off using another SkyTeam airline program such as Delta SkyMiles or Air France/KLM Flying Blue to avoid the complicated award booking process.
Radisson Rewards (2:1)
Capping off the top five unique transfer partners for the Citi Prestige card is the owner of the Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Inn and Park Plaza hotel brands.
Citi have recently devalued their Rewards, we’ve detailed the changes here, which saw transfers to most programs increased to a ratio of 2.5-3:1. Meaning 2.5 or 3 Citibank Rewards points now transfers to 1 frequent flyer point in the chosen frequent flyer program.
Notable exceptions are Virgin Australia and Delta Skymiles which remains at 2:1.
There’s a minimum transfer of 15,000 Citi Rewards points and you can transfer as many points over the minimum as you like.
A special case, you can transfer to Qantas Frequent Flyer at a nice rate of 1:1, but you have to pay an annual fee of $49 and there is an automatic transfer of your Citibank Rewards points to Qantas, meaning you are locked in to that frequent flyer program as your only transfer partner.
The aim of this article was to explore alternative Citi Rewards redemption partners to the ones we tend to focus on here in Australia.
But having said that, there is a reason we focus on these programs, and that is because they tend to offer better value. So, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles, Velocity, Qantas and Etihad Guest should probably be at the top of your research list for the next trip you want to book using points earned from your Citi Prestige Visa card.
However, if wanting to experience Garuda Indonesia First Class, then you will have to transfer miles to its respective program.
Delta SkyMiles offers good-value redemptions on Business Class on Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic, as well as Economy redemptions within expensive South America.
If you can find award space on any of Qatar Airways’ A380 flights, then your Privilege Club miles may come in handy for a solid First or Business Class redemption.
Finally, once your flights are sorted, why not use a smaller amount of points leftover to grab a good deal at a Category 1 or 2 hotel with Radisson Rewards?
All images courtesy of Point Hacks and the respective airlines and hotels.