Citi’s ThankYou Travel Let Me Down in a Big Way & What You Need to Know to Avoid the Same Thing!

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Citi ThankYou Travel Problems

As many of you know, I am currently on vacation and will be returning to full time duty tomorrow. Last night was my family’s last in Europe with us flying BCN-LHR-LAS today. It was supposed to be a simple journey home, but today, like so many days of this trip has been full of delays. (That is a story for another day.)

Since I booked our tickets as part of the BA Business Class sale last year, I had to lock in the routing. At the time of booking I chose to fly to Barcelona since it is a beautiful city with plenty to do. My wife and I ultimately decided that we wanted to go to Paris as well, so we stayed a couple of nights in Barcelona before going up to Paris for a few days and returning to Barcelona for the last night.

Me and my beautiful family in Paris. Taken from the Miles to Memories Instagram.
Me and my beautiful family in Paris. Taken from the Miles to Memories Instagram.

Booking Last Minute with ThankYou

I had left the hotel booking for the last night open, since I had noticed that prices dropped in Barcelona for close-in bookings and I wasn’t sure what area of the city we would want to stay in. This is something I often do and I blame it on my backpacker roots. I have no anxiety with making last minute bookings, although I realize that approach isn’t for everyone.

The night before we arrived in Barcelona I decided to book the room finally! To do this I decided to check the ThankYou travel search engine. I have been earning so many ThankYou points from online shopping with my AT&T Access More card, so I don’t mind redeeming them at 1.25 cents each for hotels. (I also have a ThankYou Premier card which makes that redemption value possible.)

Thankfully I found an apartment close to the center for about 10,000 points or $125 per night. I thought that was a great deal and booked it immediately. Well, unfortunately things didn’t go so well. When we arrived at the “apartment hotel”, the very very nice man who runs it explained that the agency Citi uses shouldn’t have booked us into that room since there wasn’t availability. He was full.

No Notice or Contact

He also explained that he had contacted the agency which Citi used (the room was actually booked by an agency through Expedia according to him), but they were closed. Since he wasn’t able to reach anyone, I was never contacted about the cancellation. This is a serious problem in my opinion. Luckily we arrived at around 2pm, so finding another room wasn’t a hassle. What if it had been a late arrival?

Our new hotel was full of "retro" goodies in all of the public areas and the rooms. It was cool!
Our new hotel was full of “retro” goodies in all of the public areas and the rooms. It was cool!

Once I found out about the cancellation, I pulled up Hotel Tonight on my phone and found a really cool boutique hotel with a retro theme that had rooms for less than $70 per night. Since there are four of us, I did have to book two rooms, but the final price wasn’t terrible and the rooms were of a very high quality. The Retrome Barcelona is definitely recommended if you are ever in the area.

Where It Stands Now

Since this just happened and I am flying home, I haven’t been able to contact Citi, but as of now I have not been contacted by Citi nor the agency and the ThankYou points have not been refunded. I can only hope that Citi will refund the points easily, but I have learned with Citi that things aren’t always quite as easy as you think they should be.

Takeaways

I want to make it very clear that I am not upset with this. Maybe I should be, but I am not. With that said, I now know when to use and not to use ThankYou points to book travel. Last minutes bookings are out in my opinion. I will only book far out where everything can be confirmed ahead of time. Also, I am a little disappointed that no one is there to help when a problem arises. I’m hoping it was due to the holiday, but it does feel a bit wrong. (To be fair, I didn’t call Citi directly since I resolved the problem, but the hotel should have someone to contact with any issues.)

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Paella and Sangria in Barcelona. Taken from the Miles to Memories Instagram.

Conclusion

In the end, we had a great last night in Barcelona. We ate some Paella, visited Sagrada Familia and enjoyed the beautiful city. What could have been a disaster wasn’t and I am thankful for that. From now on I’ll be very mindful of booking through Citi and I’ll let you guys know how the process of getting my points back goes. Let’s hope it is painless!


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11 COMMENTS

  1. Good luck with Citi customer service. I personally haven’t had the best experiences with them in the past, (points not being put back in my account after they said they would because of a screw up on their part, fraudulent charges not being refunded to me, etc) all of this stuff got resolved eventually, just a pain, but they were very nice about it during the whole time though! I hope it works out better for you though!

  2. I’ve had the same issue with UR. Booked online. Showed up at the hotel and told that there was no reservation made. I now call the hotel and confirm.

  3. I, too, have had a good bit of frustration w/ the Citi Booking platform recently. They have my ticketed as John Doe Doe for a flight next week (my name is, for example, John Henry Doe)……everybody keeps pointing the finger at someone else (i.e., citi and united, united and Brussels air….)…..frustrating to say the least. Not sure what will come of it.

  4. […] Citi’s ThankYou Travel Let Me Down in a Big Way & What You Need to Know to Avoid the Same Thin… by Miles to Memories. I’ve run into the same issues with last minute bookings on OTA’s before, so it’s not just a Citi issue (actually in this case it looks to be an Expedia issue). Hopefully Citi does the right thing and refunds the points quickly. I’d push for some form of compensation as well since it’s a pain to have to run around looking for a place last minute. […]

  5. Call 1-800-ThankYou and once you get a rep on the phone briefly explain the situation and ask to speak to their supervisor. Once the supervisor is on the phone briefly explain the situation again and ask to speak to their supervisor. You will now be at the escalation level of someone that can actually do something.

    I know this rigmorale well. For some reason flights to some places I like to travel to (mostly the Caribbean) price out around 50% higher on the ThankYou portal than they actually cost. For example, on my trip earlier this month to St Lucia ThankYou/Conexions priced 2 first class tickets at $3614 total. I paid the 225,875 TYPs it cost as a Prestige cardholder. Once I got the record locator I looked up the receipt on AA.com and sure enough it says those tickets actually cost $2350 total. Once again I jumped through the hoops I described above and got a call back a day or two later saying a check for $1264 would be at my house within a few days. They also always give me 5K or 10k TYP for the trouble. This was the 6th time I’ve had to do this. It’s a pain in the ass but the upside is I am cashing out TYP directly to cash at a rate of 1.6 cents each. A check or a statement credit is also likely how Citi will reimburse you. I’d push for a big TYP credit as well though for your trouble.

  6. Will be in Barcelona in a couple of weeks. Where did you eat paella? Would your recommend the restaurant?

    • That was just a local place since we didn’t want to stray far from the hotel with the baby. It was good, but the best paella restaurants in Barcelona seem to be by the ocean.

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