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How to Book Low-Cost Carriers with American Express and Citi

by on Thu October 26, 2017 • 5 Comments
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One of the easiest ways to use bank points programs is booking trips directly through their rewards centers. Both American Express and Citi allow you to turn points into flights, hotel rooms, cruises, and many other experiences.

With American Express Travel and the Citi ThankYou® Rewards Center, you have access to dozens of airlines flying all around the world. But did you know that much like with Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can book airlines not available online directly through the rewards programs?

Regional airlines and low cost carriers can be booked with American Express Membership Rewards® and Citi ThankYou® Points – but you have to know how to book them. With a phone call or online login, it’s easy to book “secret” airlines with the points you earned.

Can I buy a low-cost carrier ticket with American Express Membership Rewards?

Depending on which American Express card you hold, your options for booking low-cost carriers are limited. If you have the Platinum Card® From American Express, you can book award travel on Southwest Airlines at a value of one cent per point by calling American Express Travel Online. All other cardholders – including the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express – can’t directly book award travel with an airline not shown on the American Express website. The carriers available to book through American Express travel include:

Visible on Amex website?Bookable by phone?
SouthwestNoYes, for Platinum cardholders
RyanairNoNo
easyJetNoNo
Air AsiaNoNo
Lion AirNoNo
GolNoNo
JetBlueYesYes
IndiGoNoNo
NorwegianNoNo
PegasusNoNo
WestJetYesYes
Wizz AirNoNo
Cebu PacificNoNo
SpiritNoNo
SpiceJetNoNo
AllegiantNoNo
flydubaiNoNo
flybeYesYes
VolarisNoNo
InterjetNoNo
Wow AirNoNo

Membership Rewards can still be applied towards those travel purchases by paying with miles. According to American Express, you should first book your flight directly with your carrier. After the purchase posts, you can use Membership Rewards points to pay off the charge.

amex-your-charges-ss

While you can book travel with any airline, you would need enough points to cover the entire airfare cost. At a rate of 167 Membership Rewards points for $1 of airfare, 60,000 points would cover $360 in airfare.

Is booking low-cost carriers with Membership Rewards® a good deal?

When you use points to pay off travel booked on your American Express card with Your Charges, Membership Rewards® points are valued at around 0.6 cents each. Because the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express earns 3X Membership Rewards® points on travel and the Platinum Card® From American Express earns 5X Membership Rewards® on airfare bought directly at airlines, you could get more value from buying a low-cost ticket instead of using points.

If you don’t mind taking the extra step of calling and booking over the phone or asking to apply points on previous charges, you could get a value of one cent per point from your Membership Rewards points – the same as booking online. As a bonus, you also get to keep frequent flyer award miles and status miles, because the ticket is treated as a cash flight. For flying some low-cost carriers, this could be a good use of Membership Rewards®.

How else can I use Membership Rewards®?

In addition to using Membership Rewards® with American Express Travel, points transfer to over a dozen airlines. You can also shift points to Starwood Preferred Guest, which can then transfer again to almost any airline loyalty program available. No matter where you want to go in the world, transferring points may give you a better value than booking with American Express Travel.

Booking low-cost carriers with Citi ThankYou® points

Like Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou® points can be used to book trips on many airlines through the ThankYou® Rewards Center. Adding even more value is the ability to book airlines not listed online with a phone call.

By calling the ThankYou Travel Center, you can use points for “all airlines” through their travel agency. However, not all airlines are available over the phone. The airlines you can book with ThankYou® points include:

Visible on Citi website?Bookable by phone?
SouthwestNoYes
RyanairNoNo
easyJetNoNo
Air AsiaNoYes
Lion AirNoNo
GolNoYes
JetBlueYesYes
IndiGoNoNo
NorwegianNoNo
PegasusNoYes
WestJetYesYes
Wizz AirNoNo
Cebu PacificNoNo
SpiritNoNo
SpiceJetNoNo
AllegiantNoNo
flydubaiNoNo
flybeYesYes
VolarisNoNo
InterjetNoNo
Wow AirNoNo

Booking on the phone has two disadvantages. First, the prices you find online may not be the same as those in the travel agents database, meaning your cost in points could be higher. Second, some additional charges may apply for phone bookings, including cancellation and change fees.

Is booking low-cost carriers with Citi ThankYou® points a good deal?

It depends on which Citi ThankYou® card you hold. If you hold the Citi Prestige® Card or the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, ThankYou® Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents towards travel. If you have the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, those same points are worth one cent each for travel.

With the 25% bonus from the Citi Prestige® and Citi ThankYou® Premier cards, using points through the ThankYou® Rewards Center can yield a good value on low-cost carriers – but the value may be negated by higher prices through their travel agency. When you can book at 1.25 cents per point, this is a good deal. If it costs more to book over the phone, or you hold the ThankYou® Preferred card, your best value may come from transferring points.

How else can I use Citi ThankYou® points?

Citi ThankYou® Points transfer to 14 airline loyalty programs, including JetBlue TrueBlue and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. While TrueBlue awards trend on the expensive side, domestic Delta Air Lines awards using Virgin Atlantic points can be cheap. Before booking through the Citi ThankYou® Rewards Center, check to see if a better award is available by transferring points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

Yes

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."

5 thoughts on How to Book Low-Cost Carriers with American Express and Citi

  1. ff_lover

    BTW, Ryanair has a very bad customer service and not trustworthy. When I tried to change a flight within 24 hours of buying it, they really gave me hard time.
    I will “NEVER” trust them again!

    Reply
  2. Raj

    Just to confirm for Amex (and your Citi table looks like it’s the Amex one) – there are only 2 airlines for which you can receive 1c per point by phone that are not available online: Southwest and Norwegian? If so, I think this article could’ve been much clearer and shorter 🙂

    Reply

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