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Travel rewards enthusiasts can receive the most valuable possible rewards by earning points in a credit card’s flexible rewards program.  These are programs that allow you to earn points that you can later transfer to airline miles or hotel points. When you’re able to redeem those points and miles for what would be very expensive travel reservations, then you can earn a tremendous value, often several cents per point or mile.

Two of the most popular programs are Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points. Let’s take a closer look at these programs and see which one might be best for your needs:

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program currently features ten airline and three hotel partners, including United, Southwest, British Airways, Singapore, and Air France/KLM airlines. Hyatt hotels is also an especially valuable transfer partner.


Related: The 10 Best Travel Credit Card Bonuses for October 2019


Another advantage that the Ultimate Rewards program has is that there are many more Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points than there are Citi ThankYou cards. Most people start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card which allows you to transfer your rewards to airline and hotel partners, or redeem them for 1.25 cents each towards travel reservations. Other options include the Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred. And there are still other cards marketed as cash back Chase products, such as the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited that actually offer Ultimate Rewards points that you can combine with your other accounts. People often think of these cards as being part of a ‘Chase Ecosystem’ that allows you to earn Ultimate Rewards points in many ways.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi’s ThankYou rewards program currently offers 15 airline transfer partners, plus the Sears Shop Your Way program. While this sounds like a lot of options, nearly all of them are foreign carriers, and many of those don’t offer much value. Among the better options are JetBlue, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Air France/KLM, and Turkish.


Related: American Express Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards


The ThankYou rewards program also has many credit cards that allow you to earn rewards. The most common are the Citi Premier Card and Cit Prestige. But also, the Citi® Double Cash Card now allows you to earn up to 2x ThankYou points per dollar spent, which you can transfer to airline miles if you have another card that allows it. You earn one point per dollar spent when you make a purchase, and as second point when you pay for your purchases, for a total of up to 2x points per dollar. The Citi Rewards+℠ Card and the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card also allow you to earn ThankYou points, which you can transfer to airline miles if you have another card that allows it.

Bottom line

These are very strong programs that both have their strengths and weaknesses. The biggest advantage of the Citi ThankYou program is the recent ability to earn up to 2x points per dollar on all purchases by using the Citi Double Cash card. The closest the Chase Ultimate Rewards program comes is using the Freedom Unlimited or Ink Unlimited to earn 1.5x everywhere.

Yet the Chase Ultimate Rewards program has a significant advantage in the quality of the transfer partners, including United, Southwest, and Hyatt. It’s cards like the Sapphire Preferred also have robust benefits, while Citi recently slashed most benefits from most of its cards.

Once you take a close look at the credit cards available from these two programs, and the transfer options offered, you’ll find the one that best meets your needs.

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