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Debit Card Rewards Programs

Ask Savvy: My Airline Miles Rewards Program Is Getting Me Nowhere

Dear Savvy,

I have a debit card with Citibank and I have the rewards program that gives me American Airlines miles. I've had the card for over four years and have about 8,750 miles, except I need at least 20,000 to get a free ticket. I want to get out of it because I don't want to wait another four years before I qualify for a ticket.

My question is, is it worth it to just cancel the program or should I try another rewards program (like their Thank You Points program)? Also if you think I should try another rewards program is there any way the points can transfer?

—Flying Nowhere Fast

To read my answer just


Dear Flying Nowhere,

You've seen first hand that banks award you points for not only swiping their card but for how much money you spend. Citibank's website says that customers enrolled in the Basic plan earn one AAdvantage mile for every $2 spent. Taking into account the 2,000 points they give you when you initially enrolled, the math says you've spent $3,375 using this account over the past four years.

Rewards programs are only beneficial to the card holder if you're actually getting the rewards, and the key is finding a program that suits your lifestyle. Right now you're paying $25 a year in maintenance fees, so that's $100 over four years for points that you won't be able to redeem at the rate you're going. Assuming the maintenance fee doesn't go up, you'll pay $200 before you're eligible for a ticket at which point that "free" ticket doesn't seem so free anymore.

If it's unrealistic that you can increase your debit card usage enough to make the AAdvantage miles worthwhile for the fee that you're paying, you may want to consider their ThankYou Network. There's no fee and the website says that your points can be redeemed for rewards that include cash. You need to check with Citibank to see if your points will transfer from the other program, but it may not work out since the two programs calculate their points differently (the ThankYou Network gives you one point for every $3 you spend on a debit transaction.)


Join The Conversation
mcreverie mcreverie 9 years
i think i have the same card but i love it because every time i fly, i make sure i use AA or its affiiliates so i get the miles I flew converted to pts (this is such a faster way to accumulte pts than just charging on day-to-day things). the bottom line is if you don't travel at least 3 times a year or so (or maybe 1 long international flight is ok), i don't see why you would get an airlines credit card b/c you'll never have it work out for you in the long run. i suggest getting a card with a lot of differnet uses for its pts...i don't know specifics, but i heard most Amex cards do this
CoconutPie CoconutPie 9 years
I agree with cubadog. It's almost useless if you don't actually fly with the airline once in a while. I have Aeroplan and the CIBC Aero Visa and there's no way I'd get a free ticket with my Visa only. But with the miles I got from going to Europe on Lufthansa, I now have a free ticket to any destination in North America.
DreaAST DreaAST 9 years
I just got an email from these people today about their program. No Thanks!! I never buy into any of this stuff!
cubadog cubadog 9 years
The Citibank debit card with American worked great for me because I actually flew a lot when I lived in NYC. If your trying to get a ticket on shopping alone that ain't gonna happen. You need to use American airlines or one of their partners to earn the miles so you get a free ticket sooner. It only really benefits people that travel a lot.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
If you don't want to use your credit card so much but still want to get points, check to see if your bank debit card is a visa and if you can sign up to visa extras. I don't like to use my credit card like that, so having point on my bank account is pretty awesome. I would ask citi if you can change your points over to their cashback plan, or something similar. I stopped using citi card though and only use my BOA card (whatever it was before BOA)
gooniette gooniette 9 years
Both Citibank and Discover have cash back rewards cards.
anaisethenry anaisethenry 9 years
You also get more points if - you use it as a credit card instead of a debit card... - you have a savings account or loan with citibank
nycactres nycactres 9 years
I used my Thank you points and got two $50 Starbucks gift cards after less than a year. YOu get points for direct deposit each month.
anaisethenry anaisethenry 9 years
I just checked my thank you network points, I have enough for a $100 gift card and I've only had the account for a little over a year.. It's decent considering that the past six months I've been also using the other credit car.
anaisethenry anaisethenry 9 years
I have the citibank debit card with the thank you points... I don't think it's a great plan either, so I stopped using my debit card. Now I have the Macy's credit card with "cash back" which simply means they give me checks I can only spend at macy's why is ok, since I do shop there once in a while. But in my opinion, cash back credit cards are best, plus most don't have an annual fee, especially if you have good credit. The thing is I also try to pay for everything using my credit or debit card whether I have cash on me or not. This works well if you know your limits. I know many people who only use cash for the simple reason that it limits their weekly spending... Using your debit/credit card for everything can however make it easier to see what you are spending your money on, since it will all be consolidated on your statement. I've been thinking about getting a new credit card (cash back rewards)... any pointers on which are the best?
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I have Aeroplane and Airmiles and just use it whenever I can. Hopefully some day when I REALLY need a vacation, but cna't afford it these babies will come into play. I make sure to ALWAYS use them when I fill my gas up! You can get so many from that! It can really add up fast too.
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