Citi is a TPG advertising partner.
The new Citi travel portal launched on March 19. It came with promises of an improved user experience, increased numbers of hotels and a feature not available in the old Citi ThankYou Travel Center: the ability to book activities and attractions in the portal.
The new site, Citi Travel with Booking.com, is powered by Rocket Travel by Agoda and leverages the features and booking availability across Booking.com’s family of brands.
But do these new features work as promised? Are there any downsides to using this portal? And who has access to this booking engine?
Today, let’s walk through the new Citi travel portal to explain its features, the booking process and how to pay with your ThankYou points.
Why use the Citi travel portal?
There are four main selling points for using Citi Travel with Booking.com.
First, it provides a one-stop shop for travel that you can pay for with your Citi ThankYou points while booking multiple elements of a trip simultaneously. This can be simpler than transferring points to separate airline or hotel partners and booking your trip piece by piece — and you can even use as many or as few points as you want. The downside is that you might achieve less value from your points to gain simplicity.
Second, the portal allows you to use points to pay for travel beyond flights and hotels, such as guided tours and theme park tickets. You can’t do this with Citi’s list of transfer partners, and you may achieve better value paying for travel with points in Citi’s portal than you would by cashing out your points.
Third, certain card benefits require using the Citi travel portal. This is true of hotel benefits built into the Citi Prestige® Card (no longer open to new applicants) or Citi Premier® Card. We’ll explore those below.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Lastly, if you’re paying for travel (and not using points), you may be interested in the bonus points available when using Citi Travel with Booking.com. Competitors like the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, American Express Travel and Capital One Travel offer higher earn rates (rates depend on which credit cards you have) when booking your travel in the bank’s portal rather than directly.
Through June 30, 2024, Citi cardholders can earn bonus points as follows:
- 10 points per dollar on reservations for hotels, rental cars and eligible attractions with the Citi Prestige® Card (no longer open to new applicants) and the Citi Premier® Card.
- 5 points per dollar on these same bookings with the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card (no longer open to new applicants) and the Citi Rewards+® Card.
Unfortunately, flights are not included in the bonus-earning rates. Citi will provide updated earning rates for bookings in the travel portal once this promotion ends.
The information for the Citi ThankYou Preferred card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards
The fact that Citi’s portal provides a one-stop shop for your vacation is its main strength. The ability to book hotels, rental cars and even entrance tickets to tourist attractions in one place (and even pay for these with your points) provides great simplicity.
How to access the Citi travel portal
Citi’s portal sets itself apart from competitors by being available to anyone with a credit card earning Citi ThankYou points. For comparison, some travel portals reserve their best features for cardholders with expensive premium credit cards. Thus, you can access the portal with the $495-a-year Citi Prestige Card and the no-annual-fee Citi Rewards+ Card. And Citi’s portal should be available through the Citi mobile app soon.
You can access Citi Travel with Booking.com by clicking on this link or logging into your Citi account and scrolling down to your points balance. Then, click on “Redeem Points.”
On the next page, you’ll see options for using your points. Click on “Book Travel.”
When you access the portal, you can choose which of your Citi credit cards you want to use for booking travel. The associated benefits are listed as well.
From here, you’re ready to start booking travel. The portal defaults to the “Flights” tab, but you also can book hotels, car rentals and attractions. Let’s look at how to book each of those in turn.
How to book flights
Booking flights in Citi’s portal functions similarly to other portals. You’ll choose whether this is a one-way or round-trip flight and provide the route, number of passengers, dates and class of travel. Unfortunately, multicity itineraries aren’t bookable.
In this example, numerous flights between Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are available. The default is for the cheapest flights to appear first.
However, there are numerous filters and sorting options available. You can filter the results by price, duration, departure and arrival times, number of connections and even preferred airline. It’s also possible to sort the results with these same options while not removing any options (which would happen when using filters).
To sort your results differently, click on the “Price per person” drop-down menu on the right side, above the price for the first result.
Once you’ve chosen a flight, you’ll be prompted to provide the passenger information, including name, date of birth, frequent flyer number and known traveler number for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (if applicable).
Before paying, you’ll also see options for traveling in a higher class, if available.
On the final page, you’ll choose how you want to pay (with your points, credit card or a mix of the two) and complete your purchase. The redemption rate is 1 cent per point.
How to book hotels
Booking hotels will feel familiar to those who have used other portals.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that you should choose your Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card before beginning your hotel search if you intend to use those cards’ benefits. Premier cardholders can use a $100 hotel credit annually on bookings of $500 or more, while Prestige cardholders get a fourth night free on hotel bookings in the portal, available twice annually.
After entering your destination, dates and the number of guests, you’ll see the results sorted by “Best match” by default, but you can change it to sort by price, distance from specified points or reviews.
From here, multiple filters can help you reduce your results, such as by price, neighborhood, guest rating and nearby attractions.
As you scroll through the options, you may be able to choose only family-friendly properties.
Once you pick a property, you’ll see details on its amenities and features.
Then comes the room types.
An interesting offer for some properties is “Room Assigned on Arrival.” This is not the cheapest room available at this property, but it includes complimentary breakfast for two people and two extra days for the cancellation policy, so it’s worth considering this option.
After choosing a room type, you can choose to pay with points at checkout. Again, each point is worth 1 cent.
You’ll also have the option to view the cancellation policy before paying. Since policies can vary, ensure you know whether it’s possible to change or cancel your booking before you make the final payment.
Hotel Collection and Luxury Collection properties
Citi launched two new hotel programs to coincide with its revamped portal: the Hotel Collection and the Luxury Collection. These programs offer similar benefits to other credit card luxury hotel programs.
Related: A comparison of luxury hotel programs from credit card issuers: Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi
There are no minimum stay requirements for reservations in the Hotel Collection or Luxury Collection. However, you’ll only have access to the latter program if you have a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card.
You’ll get daily breakfast for two people and complimentary Wi-Fi as guaranteed perks in the Hotel Collection. The Luxury Collection offers those benefits plus an on-property credit of $100, the use of which can vary by hotel. Both programs offer additional perks when available, such as early check-in and late checkout, and LC bookings also include room upgrades when available at check-in.
Frustratingly, you can’t filter for these properties in your search results. To find HC and LC properties, look for a tag in the property description in your search results.
While you should be able to find Luxury Collection properties if you have the Premier or Prestige card, you currently can’t see these properties if you also have a no-annual-fee Citi credit card in your account. This is a known issue; we will update this section when Citi resolves it.
How to book rental cars
Searching for rental cars feels familiar and works quickly. It’s interesting to note that the default option for the driver’s age is 30 or above. Many rental car booking sites use 25 and above as the default, so make sure to choose your correct age. From limited testing, choosing 25 or 30 as the driver’s age didn’t alter the prices we saw.
After providing your location, dates, times and age, click “Search.” From the available results, you can use the following filters:
- Vehicle type.
- Rental company.
- Free cancellation option availability.
After choosing a car, you can see the full details and cancellation policy on the next page.
As with other items in Citi Travel with Booking.com, you can add your rental car to the shopping cart (if booking multiple travel elements) or go straight to check out to pay and reserve. Again, you can pay with points at a rate of 1 cent apiece.
How to book activities and attractions
Booking attractions together with your hotels, flights and rental cars is the most unique aspect of Citi’s travel portal. Being able to pay for all of this in one transaction — and use points to do so — makes things simple.
You should find “Attractions” in the main search bar.
However, depending on where you are in the portal, you may need to click on “More” in the drop-down menu and then choose “Attractions.”
Once you search for a destination, you’ll see all available options. These range from entrance tickets for tourist sites to guided tours. For example, you can book a guided walking tour to the Hollywood Sign.
When you see an activity or tickets you want to purchase, click on “See options.” This will take you to a page with details about this particular offering and cancellation policies.
One noteworthy option is Chicago CityPASS tickets, including access to the Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago and three additional attractions of your choice from six options. Click on “Check availability” in the top right corner to choose your preferred date to find pricing and availability.
You could buy Disney theme park tickets with your points in Citi’s old travel portal; unfortunately, that’s not possible now. However, you can book tickets to Universal theme parks.
After clicking on Universal theme park tickets, the next page will show available options. After using “Check availability” to choose a date, you’ll see options for single-day and multiday tickets and their costs.
Click on the “Choose” button to select a preferred ticket type. A pop-up window will ask for the number of adults and children in your group. Then, click “Book now,” or use “Add to cart” to book additional items.
As with other elements of Citi’s portal, you can pay for attraction bookings using ThankYou points with a value of 1 cent apiece.
Things to know about the Citi travel portal
Do the math
There’s no guarantee that Citi Travel with Booking.com will provide the best price for your upcoming trip. You should compare any prices you see to prices available when booking directly (with the hotel, airline, rental car company or tour provider).
Additionally, if you’re paying with points, see if you can get more value by using fewer points with Citi’s transfer partners. For example, you may be able to transfer points to Wyndham Rewards to make a reservation.
Avoid booking hotels or car rentals here if you have (or are seeking) elite status
Most hotel and rental car loyalty programs have a clause that says they don’t need to recognize your elite status or provide credit toward earning status if you didn’t book directly with their company. Thus, consider how much this means to you if you have or are working on elite status. Booking with Citi’s travel portal may mean forfeiting hotel room upgrades or “skip the line” privileges when picking up a rental car.
What are you trading these benefits for? Consider whether it’s worth it to you.
Related: 9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly
Use your Prestige and Premier benefits
The Citi Premier and Citi Prestige both have benefits that only can be used within Citi’s travel portal.
Premier cardholders can get $100 off a hotel stay of $500 or more, available once per year. Prestige cardholders can get a fourth night free on hotel stays of four nights or more, available twice per year.
Those with the Premier or Prestige card will see these benefits highlighted when logging into Citi Travel with Booking.com.
If you’re making an eligible hotel reservation, you’ll see the option to use your available benefit on the payment screen.
The image above shows the terms and ability to redeem for Premier cardholders. Here’s what it looks like for Prestige cardholders.
If you have one of these cards, you’ll see the benefit(s) highlighted on the hotel search page as well. This includes information on how many more times your benefit can be used.
If you don’t see these benefits, check the top right corner of the portal and ensure your Premier or Prestige card is the active card for your searches.
There are no prediction tools
Citi’s portal doesn’t have built-in alerts to help you find a cheaper price. For example, there’s no calendar view; instead, you’ll have to search one day at a time to compare prices.
Moreover, you won’t receive advice on booking now versus paying later, based on travel trends. You also can’t set alerts or save searches to let you know when prices drop.
Not finding these in Citi Travel with Booking.com is unfortunate since they’re important when hunting for a good deal on travel. Compare this to Capital One Travel, which has these tools and price drop protection.
Citi’s revamped travel portal is live. Additional hotels are being added on a rolling basis, but the search functions and your ability to make travel reservations are already available. You can book travel up to a year in advance and pay with your available Citi ThankYou points or cash.
Standout features include booking attractions like theme park tickets and guided tours through the portal and using your hotel benefits on the Premier and Prestige cards.
It’s worth remembering that the convenience offered by this one-stop shop may come with other tradeoffs. Consider your elite status with hotel or rental car companies and whether you could get better value for your points by booking your travel through another channel. If not, or if convenience is your deciding factor, this is an easy-to-use portal, and it returns a wealth of results when you’re ready to book your upcoming vacation.