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The best way to earn airline rewards from your credit card is to use one that gives you points that can be transferred to miles with multiple airlines. This strategy offers you the flexibility to choose the right miles for the award you need. Since each frequent flyer program has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, being able to move your rewards to multiple programs offers you access to the best features from each.

Let’s take a closer look at these programs and see which one might be best for your needs.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express’s Membership Rewards program has been around much longer than Citi’s ThankYou program, and both card issuers have worked hard to keep their rewards competitive. Membership Rewards currently allows you to transfer your points to miles with 19 different frequent flyer programs, including Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Delta, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Qantas, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic. You can also transfer your rewards to points with Marriott, Hilton, and Choice Hotels.

What’s great about the Membership Rewards program is that it regularly offers transfer bonuses that can allow you to receive more than one frequent flyer mile per point redeemed. You can also choose from numerous Amex cards that give you Membership Rewards points for your spending. For example, the American Express® Gold Card offers you an amazing 4x points on up to $25,000 spent each year at US supermarkets (then 1x), and 4x points at restaurants worldwide.  For small business owners, the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express features 2x points on your first $50,000 spent each year (1 point thereafter). . And the famous Platinum Card® from American Express offers you 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.

The downsides of this program include relatively few domestic airline transfer partners and the fact that you only get a minimal one cent per point when redeeming your points for most travel reservations. Exceptions include getting 35% of your points back when you use your Business Platinum® Card to book flights from a qualifying airline, and 25% of your points back when you use your Business Gold Card to do the same.


Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi’s ThankYou rewards program currently offers 15 airline transfer partners, plus the Sears Shop Your Way program. However, nearly all of these airlines 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.

The ThankYou rewards program also has many credit cards that allow you to earn rewards. The most common are the Citi Premier Card and Citi Prestige Card. 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

American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards are both great programs for earning and redeeming travel rewards. To find the right one for your needs, you should closely examine the cards that offer these points, as well as the airline and hotel partners where these rewards can be transfered. And keep in mind that in many cases, award travel enthusiasts choose to earn points with more than one program.

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