PSA: Don’t Cancel Airline Reservations through Citi ThankYou Portal; Cancel Directly with the Airline

Good morning everyone, happy Friday!  A few months ago, I used Citi ThankYou Points to book an Alaska Airlines flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Orange County (SNA) for Mother’s Day Weekend.  Fast forward to Tuesday April 28 when I received this email regarding my airline reservation.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a schedule change to my Alaska Airlines flight.  I knew for the last several weeks that I was not going to fly down to Orange County, but I was hoping Alaska Airlines would cancel the flights and provide a full refund.  In this post, I will show what would happen if I cancelled the airline reservation through the Alaska Airlines website vs. cancelling through the Citi ThankYou Portal (which is what I did) and explain why you SHOULD NOT cancel through the Citi ThankYou Portal.

When I signed into my Alaska Airlines account and went to my airline reservation, there is a Cancel button to cancel the flight.  Further down this post, you will see how big the schedule change was, but for now, that is not important.  The cost of the roundtrip flight was $181.80, but I used Citi ThankYou Points to cover the entire cost.

I went through the cancellation process and was given 2 options:

  • Cancel the airline reservation and have the travel credit saved to my Alaska Airlines wallet.  The funds would expire on July 5, 2021.
  • Cancel the airline reservation and have the travel credit sent to my email.  The funds would expire on July 5, 2021.

Here are the Alaska Airlines refund eligibility terms for my Saver (aka basic economy) reservation:

Instead of cancelling the flight reservation on the Alaska Airlines website, I decided to go to the Citi ThankYou Portal.  I signed into my account and went to the My Trips section.  I then clicked on the View Itinerary button next to the Schedule Change airline reservation.

Here are details of my roundtrip Alaska Airlines reservation.  I was originally booked on the 6:55pm flight on Friday evening, but that was changed to the 2:45pm flight on Friday afternoon (a 4 hour and 10 minute change).  My return flight was originally booked for the 6:45am flight on Tuesday morning, but that was changed to the 5:30pm flight on Tuesday evening (a 10 hour and 45 minute change).  I had the option to Accept New Flight or Check Current Change Options.

The popup option said I could get either a full refund or full credit to rebook, depending on the airline policy.  I figured 2 major schedule changes was enough to justify a full refund (in the form of Citi ThankYou Points), so I decided to go through with the process of cancelling the airline reservation through the Citi ThankYou Portal.

My flight cancellation request was sent, now I just needed to wait to see what happened.

A few minutes later, I received this automated email with my cancellation request.

Within 10 hours, I received a response to my cancellation request.  According to the email, my airline reservation was cancelled and I was issued a travel credit.  To make matters worse, my credit is only valid through February 4, 2021, not the July 5, 2021 date that was shown on the Alaska Airlines website and I need to call the Citi ThankYou Portal to use the credit.

I pulled up the airline reservation on the Citi ThankYou Portal and it showed my reservation was unavailable.

I then tried to pull up the airline reservation on the Alaska Airlines website and it said that my reservation was manually cancelled and could not be displayed online.

My last ditch hope was that somehow the Citi ThankYou Points that I used to book the Alaska Airlines flight was deposited to my Citi ThankYou Points balance, but that didn’t happen either.

Long story short, I need to keep the above email from Citi with details of the cancelled Alaska Airlines reservation.  At the end of the day, having $181.40 in Citi ThankYou Points tied up in an Alaska Airlines travel credit is not terrible.  As soon as it is safe to travel by plane, I can use up the Alaska Airlines travel credit for a future flight.  Learn from my mistake and don’t cancel airlines reservations through the Citi ThankYou Portal – cancel directly on the airline’s website.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great weekend everyone!

10 thoughts on “PSA: Don’t Cancel Airline Reservations through Citi ThankYou Portal; Cancel Directly with the Airline

  1. Pingback: Recap: United Redefines "Cancelled", Citi Airline Tip & More - Doctor Of Credit

  2. Canu Barnes

    The refund eligibility terms would seem to imply you can use their website to cancel only if you bought the ticket directly from Alaska. So are you saying that you can buy the ticket with TY points and still cancel directly with Alaska?

    I am actually planning to cancel my Citi Premier soon and I have some TY points to burn. Could this method be used to convert soon-to-expire TY points into Alaska credits at 1.25 cents per point?

    1. Grant Post author

      That is a great question. From what I can tell, yes, that should work. I purchased an Alaska Airlines saver (aka basic economy) ticket using Citi ThankYou Points and had the option to cancel directly on the Alaska Airlines website and have the travel funds go to my Alaska Airlines wallet. If you go ahead with your plan, make sure you check the dates with Alaska Airlines to make sure your flights are eligible for free cancellation. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Neil

        I wonder if this is correct. I recall last year canceling an American flight booked with TYP – I called American to cancel but later when I called to use my credit (less a change fee) they said changes had to be made via Citi and when I called Citi the fact that I hadn’t canceled directly with them was problematic. Ultimately (after a long time on the phone) they were able to apply the funds (after the change fee) to another AA flight – but I learned the lesson to never cancel a TYP booking with the airline, always cancel it with the TYP customer center.

        In any case facts here may be different if indeed you would have directly received an Alaska wallet travel credit.

        1. Grant Post author

          Hi Neil, thanks for sharing your experience regarding cancelling a flight booked with TYPs. It seems like a Catch 22 where there will be problems regardless of how you cancel and rebook an airline reservation. I do wonder if different airlines have different procedures for handling these situations. I’ll let you know if I experience any issues using my TYP funds for a future Alaska Airlines flight.

  3. JBTx

    Very timely article. I have an AA flight to Hawaii in June that will need to be cancelled. Sounds like you are suggesting a similar course of Action with AA? I would be perfectly OK with AA credit (instead of TY points)

    1. Grant Post author

      You would get an AA travel credit either way, but I would definitely recommend cancelling through the AA website. You will probably get a longer period of time to use the travel credit and you will be able to use the travel credit for a future AA flight booked through the AA website.

  4. Paul S

    Definately go through the airline, not “thank you”. My flight was cancelled when the border was closed last year due to covid. Delta issued me a credit, but then the entire ticket purchase was cancelled / refunded. However, instead of me getting the money, it was a credit to my thank you account. Well, Citi bank then closed my account due to “lack of use” and within 60 days my thank you points (along with my free air ticket I had accumulated) were forfeited. Doesn’t seem right. I earned the free ticket, but who knows if the fine print actually allows them to do such a thing. Anyway, citi is by far the worst bank I have ever used, and I will eventually be closing my other accounts with them.

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Paul, I’m very sorry you had that experience with Citi TYPs. That doesn’t sound right to me either. I appreciate you sharing the story with me.

    2. idarerick

      Hi Paul S,

      I am sure that if you log back into your former Thank You Rewards Account, the credits should still be there. According to their policy, Citi still has those points and they should be valid until December 2021. I believe they will only let you book flights through Delta through the end of 2021.

      The reason I know this is that I canceled my credit card right after booking my flights. So when the pandemic hit I was also very concerned I would no longer be able to book flights, but Citi stores your former account information and your online login should still be active.

      Try that out!


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