Remember Pitfall? It was that seemingly simple game for Atari that ended up being incredibly difficult because if you jumped at the wrong time or was a pixel to the left, you were dead, video game speaking. You then had to start all over to get to the same place and try not to make the same mistake again.
My dealing with Citi’s websites, trying to redeem Thank You points for an upcoming hotel stay, has felt much like this process over the last several days. Every time I got past one obstacle, another one appeared that was just as difficult to accomplish as the last one.
I offer my guidance, much like a cheat guide, to let you know where the traps lie and how to avoid them or what to do if you get caught by one.
This started because Sharon and I were looking to take a long weekend getaway to Tennessee. Sticking to our plans of staying more local, we decided to make this a long road trip instead of just flying. We’d also be able to stop along the way and catch up with family, a thing we love to do while traveling.
A group of us on this trip decided on a conveniently located Marriott hotel so I looked at the rates for the hotel. (Disclaimer: I always search for refundable rates) The cash rates weren’t too bad for the times we wanted to stay (With the Marriott Preferred Member Rate):
I then checked AAA rates, which I found to be less expensive:
That’s not a bad price for three nights in a hotel but I’ve set a goal for myself to not pay for hotels or airfares this year, if possible. I know there will be exceptions but I’m gonna try every time. I checked to see if I could use Marriott Rewards points:
I could book a room for 45,000 points but when the room costs only $319.38 for cash, that will only give me a value of 0.71 cents per point. Too low for me to use the points. I have an upcoming stay where I’m getting twice that value for Marriott Rewards points and another one on the books where I’m gonna get almost 2 cents per Marriott Rewards point. Here’s a hint on that one:
So how else could I pay for the room using points?
Flexible points: With flexible points, you have the ability to transfer them to hotel programs or to airlines but you can also make bookings through the credit card travel portal websites and use your points to pay for the reservations. I could have used my AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Reward points for this booking but I have a bunch of Citi Thank You points that I have no current use for.
When you log into the website, you may receive an option to select which account you want to use. For my case, I have Thank You points with a Citi AT&T Universal Rewards no annual fee card earned any time they let me get 5x points for spending categories (gone for a long time now), as well as with my Citi Thank You Premier card. I wanted to make this booking with the Premier card because holders of that card get a value of 1.25 cents per point. If I were to have logged into the AT&T Universal Rewards account, I would only get 1 cent per point value. Even stranger is that if I logged into Sharon’s account, as she’s the one in the family with a Citi Prestige card, she would also only get 1 cent per dollar of value. For some reason, the most expensive card gets less benefits than the cheaper one.
Not to get too much into this at the time, but you can transfer points between any of your Thank You accounts online. Here’s a recent article that helped me walk through the process. Just be aware that transferred points have to be used within 90 days, so don’t do this unless you’re ready to use them right away.
Now, I’ve managed to get of my points to the Premier account and I’m ready to make the booking:
Start by going to http://www.thankyou.com
The sign on button is on the top right of the screen:
From there hover over (or click on) “Travel” and then click on “Hotels”:
From there you’ll need to fill in your travel details (location, dates, number of people):
You’ll see many different types of rooms and you need to check the room types the best you can. Some can look repetitive, and they often are. I just need to be on the lookout for non-refundable rooms and I also double check the cancellation policy.
Since this hotel only lists three types of rooms on their website, I’m pretty sure this booking is for a King bed and Sofa bed (sleeping 3)
I like that Citi will allow you to book with cash and points. In this case, I want to use all points. The numbers to work out to 1.25 cents a point.
Now, to book the room I did pay a bit more than the $319 AAA rate I found above. That brings my actual value of the points to around 1.14 cents each.
From there, it’s just a matter of entering in your personal information and verifying all your plans/dates/locations are correct and then finalizing the reservation.
I’ve gotta wait to see if I can put my Marriott Rewards number on the reservation. I’ve heard conflicting reports if I can get points or benefits during a stay booked through the Citi portal.
There are so many things you can do wrong. Just selecting the wrong card can cause your reservation to be more expensive. Transferring points between accounts seems simple but the restrictions and short expiration of points transferred means you need to make sure you have a reservation in mind.
This seemingly easy reservation took me over 4 days, two phone calls and one online chat to Citi to accomplish. My Thank You accounts were linked and shouldn’t have been. Once undone, it still didn’t work and their suggestion was to wait for 24 hours. Unbelievably, that did the trick and I was able to get rid of the points from the AT&T card that I’ve had for years and keep to my resolution of not paying for a hotel or flight directly with cash.
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