Redeem Citi ThankYou Points For Gift Cards: An Interesting Opportunity

Filed Under: Citi, Credit Cards
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I never thought I’d even consider transferring my credit card rewards to Sears’ loyalty program, but I guess 2020 is a year where anything can happen, so…

Citi ThankYou points are usually best transferred to airline partners

I love earning transferable points currencies for the flexibility that they offer. Unlike earning miles in a specific frequent flyer program, you’re better shielded from devaluations and potential airline bankruptcy.

I get lots of value from Citi ThankYou airline transfer partners, especially when we see transfer bonuses.

However, aside from that, there aren’t many other great ways to redeem ThankYou points, as most redemption options get you at most one cent of value per point.

For example, if you want to redeem ThankYou points towards hotel stays or gift cards, you’re only going to get one cent of value per point under normal circumstances. Going to the Citi ThankYou website, you can redeem 2,500 ThankYou points for a $25 gift card from your choice of a variety of retailers.

As it turns out, there’s a way to receive least 20% more value than that when redeeming for gift cards.

Convert Citi ThankYou points into Sears Shop Your Way Points

Frequent Miler notes an interesting redemption opportunity that’s at least worth being aware of, and it’s something I had previously never explored.

Citi ThankYou Points points can be converted into Sears Shop Your Way points at a 1:12 ratio. As much as I love loyalty programs, I can’t say I’ve spent much time studying Sears’ program up until this point.

Why is this even worth considering? Because you can redeem Sears Shop Your Way points towards gift cards, and it’s at a better rate than through the ThankYou program.

Generally speaking, a $1 gift card requires 1,000 Shop Your Way Points.

In other words, you can redeem 30,000 Shop Your Way Points for a $30 gift card.

Keep in mind that you transferred those points at a 1:12 ratio, meaning that the $30 gift card is costing you 30,000 Shop Your Way points, or 2,500 Citi ThankYou points (given the 1:12 transfer ratio).

In other words, this is a way to get 1.2 cents of value per ThankYou point when redeeming for gift cards, rather than the typical one cent per point directly through Citi ThankYou.

Shop Your Way lets you redeem points for gift cards from a variety of retailers, including Chipotle, DoorDash, eBay, iTunes, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Uber, Walmart, and many more.

One challenge is that with most retailers, gift cards can only be redeemed for in relatively small increments ($100 at most), so if you have a lot of points to offload, you could be stuck with a lot of individual gift cards.

What are the practical implications of this?

Why should you care about being able to redeem Citi ThankYou points for gift cards at a more efficient rate? Let’s talk about this in the context of a larger Citi credit card strategy.

The no annual fee Citi® Double Cash Card (review) offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase. In conjunction with a card earning ThankYou points, you can convert the rewards on this card into ThankYou points.

To me that means the card earns 2x ThankYou points per dollar spent (after paying the bill), which is awesome. While I’d personally prefer to transfer those rewards to an airline, alternatively you could transfer them to Sears Shop Your Way, and then you could get the equivalent of 2.4% back in the form of gift cards.

It potentially gets even better than that, as the no annual fee Citi Rewards+℠ Card (review):

  • Offers 2x ThankYou points at supermarkets and gas stations, for the first $6,000 spent per calendar year
  • Rounds up purchases to the nearest 10 ThankYou points
  • Gets 10% of points back for the first 100,000 ThankYou points you redeem each year

Having the Citi Double Cash and Citi Rewards+ can potentially improve your rewards even more. Lets say you have both of these cards:

  • Say you earned $100 cash back on the Citi Double Cash
  • You could then convert that cash back into 10,000 ThankYou points
  • You could then convert the 10,000 ThankYou points into 120,000 Shop Your Way points
  • You could then redeem the 120,000 Shop Your Way points for $120 in gift cards
  • You’d then get 10% of the redeemed ThankYou points refunded due to having the Citi Rewards+ (which is 1,000 ThankYou points)
  • In other words, in the end you spent 9,000 ThankYou points for $120 in gift cards, which is 1.33 cents of value per ThankYou point
  • Looking at it a different way, you could get ~2.67% back in the form of gift cards when spending on the Citi Double Cash, assuming you also have the Citi Rewards+

This isn’t how I would redeem my Citi ThankYou points

Personally this still isn’t how I would choose to redeem my Citi ThankYou points. I value Citi ThankYou points at ~1.7 cents each, so getting ~1.2 cents per point doesn’t quite get me the value I’m looking for.

That being said:

  • This could be a great option for someone using the Citi Double Cash who doesn’t want to earn travel rewards; 2% cash back is a good rate, but some might prefer an additional 20% bonus for choosing gift cards instead
  • This could be useful for someone looking to close down a Citi ThankYou card, who needs to cash out points, but doesn’t have any other ideas for how to do so
  • Given that fewer people are traveling right now, many people are just looking to use their points to cover everyday expenses

Bottom line

There can be value in transferring Citi ThankYou points to Sears Shop Your Way points for the purposes of gift card redemptions. You’ll get 20% more value than you’d get redeeming for gift cards directly through the ThankYou program.

It’s a bit of a roundabout process (especially if these are rewards earned with the Citi Double Cash), but it could still be worthwhile.

Lastly, I should mention that I would only transfer Citi points to Sears if you’re ready to redeem for gift cards immediately, since presumably redemption rates could be changed at anytime.

Has anyone used the trick of redeeming for gift cards through Sears Shop Your Way, rather than through Citi ThankYou directly? If not, would you consider redeeming points this way?

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Comments
  1. The rewards plus option really makes this intriguing — especially as you note because all of this can be done with no fee cards even if it’s a bit cumbersome.

    I’m not affiliated with them but I read the frequent miler blog and those guys do some really amazing work on stuff like this. This really is next level stuff. Thanks for bringing it up, Ben.

  2. “Generally speaking a $1 gift card requires 100 Shop Your Way points.”

    You meant 1000 points here right?

  3. It’s worth noting that Sears is on the rocks and who knows how much longer it will even be around, so I definitely wouldn’t let any points sit in a Sears Rewards account for 1 minute longer than necessary to do this!

  4. Honestly it is really cumbersome. $30 gift cards being the max is the real impediment here, and the retailers are limited. Not that interesting. If you want to redeem cash back for credit card spend, there are better and easier options, including
    – Just use Double Cash as intended (2%)
    – Amex BBP + Amex Gold + Charles Schwab Platinum (converts MR at 1.25 cents)
    – Churn Discover It Miles (3% cash back)
    – Apple Card (at least 2% as long as you never swipe)
    – Various cards with bonuses earned via cash in bank of brokerage accounts (BofA, Fidelity)

  5. Ben, we all can see, it has it’s GOOD outcome, when you’re home for so long and not trying to manage some travel itinerary, but study FQTV programs! 🙂

  6. Greg and Nick at Frequent Miler offer really unique perspectives and “outside the box” strategies and techniques in earning and redeeming our points and miles.

  7. What about TY points earned from bank accounts? Since they can’t be transferred to airlines, what’s the way to redeem these points?

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