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Citi is offering a promotional bonus transfer rate to its lone hotel partner Hilton Honors. The promotional rate transfer Citi ThankYou points at a 1:2 ratio. So 10 ThankYou points equals 20 Hilton Honors points. The standard ratio is 1 ThankYou point to 1.5 Hilton Honors points. This offer is only good up until September 20, 2017.
This deal comes at an interesting time after Citi discontinued its co-branded Hilton cards after losing out on a bidding war to American Express. I’m wondering how that dissolved relationship will affect Hilton as a transfer partner of Citi and if this promotion has anything to do with Citi maybe having a surplus of Honors points on the shelves.
Is this a good deal?
This really is not that great of a promotion.
Hilton Honors points are worth about .4 cents per point on average. If you assume a point value of 1.7 cents for ThankYou points then you’re losing almost a full cent in value by transferring your ThankYou points to Hilton since you’d end up with .8 cents worth of value. Even if you value ThankYou points at 1.25 cents per point, you’re still losing value when you transfer them to Hilton (in most cased, at least).
This deal is also not worth it in many cases because you can use the Citi ThankYou TravelCenter (Citi’s travel portal) to book hotels at a rate of 1.25 cents per point if you have a card like the Citi Premier. In many cases, it will make more sense to redeem ThankYou points for a hotel stay this way than transferring your points out to Hilton.
An easy to see if the deal is worth it is to look up the cost of the hotel through the ThankYou TravelCenter and see how many ThankYou points would be required. Then shop through Hilton.com and see the total points required. If the cost in Honors points is over 2X more than the ThankYou TravelCenter, then you should probably book through the ThankYou TravelCenter.
Keep in mind that by booking through the ThankYou TravelCenter you likely lose the chance to receive elite benefits and credit earned, while booking with Honors points through Hilton will still allow you to receive your free breakfasts, upgrades, etc., so that should be factored in.
If you just needed to top off your Hilton balance for an upcoming redemption this could still present decent value for you even if the exchange rate is a bit uneven. I’ve had times when I’ve just needed a couple of thousands points of a given reward currency and it made sense to take a small loss in value to allow me to make a redemption. Also, if you were going to be able to take advantage of a free fifth night that could also make more sense to transfer to Hilton.
Lessons from this promo
I think this promotion underscore two important lessons:
Transferring points to hotels like Hilton are rarely a good use of points. The only hotel programs that consistently offer good value in my experience are Hyatt and perhaps Marriott at times, which are both transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards. While you might stumble across decent value here and there, transferring points to Hilton from either Citi or American Express is rarely a good use of points.
It’s always important to consider booking through a reward program’s travel portal before going through with a booking. This is especially true if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I’ve often seen domestic United flights requiring something like 18,000 Ultimate Rewards to book while transferring points would require 25,000. So always weigh your alternative options.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.