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Transferring points from credit card rewards programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou, is great not only because it gives you a lot of choices, including some great ones that aren’t obvious at first glance. For instance, if you’re savvy and do some research, you can redeem points on airlines that are not on these credit card partner lists.
Delta Air Lines, for example, isn’t anywhere to be found on the Citi ThankYou list of partner airlines. Yet, even though you can’t transfer your points directly there are several ways to use Citi ThankYou points to book Delta flights.
We’ll walk through three of them here:
Citi points aren’t the best points to earn if you want to fly Delta (Amex Membership Rewards, which you can transfer directly into Delta SkyMiles, are a better choice), but if you have some ThankYou points and want to fly Delta you have these options at your disposal.
There are other options to use ThankYou points for Delta, such as transferring ThankYou points to GarudaMiles (a SkyTeam airline program) or to Singapore KrisFlyer (with the subsequent transfer to Virgin Australia, another Delta partner). But the last two methods rarely offer a good value so we’ll leave them out.
Just remember the key warning about point transfers. Once you transfer points out of Citi ThankYou, you can’t transfer them back in. So always make sure the flights you want are available before making a transfer.
Air France is a member of the same SkyTeam alliance as Delta, which means you can book Delta flights with Air France Flying Blue miles, provided there is availability on your route. And Air France Flying Blue is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, so you can convert your ThankYou points into Flying Blue miles anytime.
To check flights, you can simply search for award flights on AirFrance.us, and you’ll see the prices Flying Blue will charge. You can also see a chart of Flying Blue award prices here.
Here’s how to search and book Delta flights by transferring your points to Flying Blue.
1. Create a free FlyingBlue account here. You’ll need the account ID to search for award flights.
2. Go to the AirFrance.us home page, and click on ‘Use Your Miles,’ then login with your account ID.
3. You can enter your destination and travel dates
4. You’ll get a calendar of dates with awards available and their prices
5. When you click on a date, you’ll get a list of flights to choose from.
If you like one of the options, call Air France on 1 800 375 8723. Tell them you want to book an award, but need to transfer points from Citi. They should be able to put the award on hold for up to 48 hours while you complete the point transfer.
You could avoid the phone call by doing the booking entirely on the Air France website. The issue is, if you have a brand new account and transfer points into it, Air France has been known to freeze the reservation until you show up at an Air France (not Delta) ticket counter to verify your identity.
So best to play it safe before transferring your points and call Air France first.
Once you’re ready to transfer, go to the ThankYou.com website, select ‘More Ways to Redeem,’ then ‘Points Transfer’ and you can login to make the transfer to Flying Blue.
Flights can cost more than Delta SkyMiles. If you already have Delta SkyMiles keep in mind using Flying Blue can often cost you more than using Delta SkyMiles for the same flights, especially in Business and First Class.
Some fuel surcharges. Also keep in mind fuel surcharges. Flying Blue doesn’t have fuel surcharges on most Delta flights, but when you are forced to use a connecting flight with one leg on Delta and another leg on a partner airline, you will be hit with a fuel surcharge more often than not. You’ll see them listed clearly when you look at flights on the Air France website.
Travel to Israel can be a very good deal. In the right circumstances, there are some very good deals, one of which is an award between the U.S. and Israel. Flying Blue puts Israel in Europe, while Delta places it in the Middle East — hence it costs 50,000 Flying Blue miles for a round-trip flight vs. 80,000 Delta SkyMiles.
Since we always strive to compare apples to apples, we’ve tried to find identical flights and dummy-book them on both Delta and Flying Blue in order to do a fair comparison.
The Delta and Alitalia flights between New York (JFK) and Tel Aviv (TLV) cost 50,000 Flying Blue miles and $134.05 in taxes and fees.
The exact same Delta / Alitalia flight combo booked on Delta costs 80,000 SkyMiles and $98.69 in taxes and fees.
The discrepancies in the cash portion of the ticket are due to the small $36 fuel surcharge, imposed by Alitalia for the segment between Rome and Tel Aviv in both directions. Since Delta doesn’t add fuel surcharges to Alitalia flights, it costs less in cash outlay than when you book the same ticket with Flying Blue. However, it’s a tiny price to pay for the 30,000-mile savings.
Of course, if you find a non-stop flight to Israel, you will save even more, but it’s not easy – at time of writing this, we couldn’t find economy non-stop roundtrips on Delta for less than 175,000 SkyMiles, but availability does change from time to time (in the case of Delta, it usually gets worse and more expensive).
Good prices to Hawaii. You can book Delta flights to Hawaii from the Continental U.S. for 30,000 Air France Flying Blue miles vs. a minimum of 50,000 Delta SkyMiles. No surcharge either way.
South America is also a good deal. You can book Delta flights to northern South America destinations like Lima, Peru for just 35,000 Flying Blue miles round trip. If you redeem Delta miles for the same trip, it’s 10,000 miles more. Southern South America is cheaper too – 50,000 Flying Blue vs. 60,000 Delta miles.
Keep in mind
Delta is a part owner in, and codeshare / award redemption partner with Virgin Atlantic. You can book Delta flights with Virgin Flying Club miles provided there is low-level award availability on Delta.
On some occasions, you will spend fewer Virgin Flying Club points than Delta SkyMiles, which can make using Virgin Flying Club miles – especially when transferred from Citi ThankYou points – a good deal.
Hawaii is a good deal. For example, a round-trip flight between the Continental U.S. and Hawaii in economy/business costs only 40,000/75,000 Virgin Flying Club miles vs. 45,000/80,000 Delta SkyMiles.
South America is also strong. Flights between the U.S. and southern South America yield an even better deal: 45,000/90,000 Delta SkyMiles vs. 60,000/125,000 Virgin Flying Club miles. And, Citi sometimes offers special bonuses when you transfer points to Virgin Atlantic, so you can stretch your points even further.
Here’s a list of prices for Delta flights using Virgin Flying Club miles.
While the Virgin award chart for Delta flights only lists a few European cities, you can book flights to any city Delta serves with its own flights, provided award space is available.
Business Class tickets to Europe are a great deal at 100,000 miles roundtrip, compared to about 125,000 miles with Delta SkyMiles and award availability is usually pretty decent if you plan ahead.
On the other hand, booking Delta flights with Virgin points is not always a straightforward affair.
You can check award space on the Air France site using the method above to see what flights might be available.
Delta flights available on the Air France website should be available using Virgin miles, and you could also check the Delta website, but you’ll have to wade through many flights that are only bookable with Delta’s own miles.
The catch is Virgin agents often don’t see availability even if you’ve found an award seat on Delta. And they often can’t see a connecting flight, so the more straightforward your itinerary is, the better chance your reservation goes smoothly.
It’s always safest to call and ask agents if they can see the award available in their booking systems before transferring points.
Keep in mind
Sometimes it may make sense to book flights directly with ThankYou points using the ThankYou.com Travel Center.
Prices in points on the ThankYou website are based on how much a ticket would cost in cash, so 10,000 points gets you $125 in flight value if you have a ThankYou Premier card, and $133 in flight value if you have a Citi Prestige.
You can choose to pay all in points, part in points and cash, or all in cash. It’s your choice. And it’s easy to narrow your search to Delta flights by selecting Delta as your preferred airline on the main search page.
For example, a round-trip flight in economy between Atlanta and Los Angeles would cost you 25,000 Flying Blue miles or the same number of Virgin points. However, if you book it at the ThankYou Citi portal it will cost you slightly less, and you will earn miles, too.
The same strategy can backfire for more expensive flights, though. In this example, for instance, the cheapest flight between New York and Tel Aviv would cost you over 82,000 points, while by transferring your points into the Flying Blue program you can get the flight for just 50,000 points.
Keep in mind
So, while Citi ThankYou points aren’t the best points out there to earn for Delta flights, your options are wider than first glance if you’re willing to do some homework.
And with ThankYou points so easy to earn, they’re a great alternative if you’ve already used up the low hanging fruit to earn miles via Amex Membership Rewards and Delta SkyMiles.
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