Citigroup customers who use its ThankYou Rewards program now have the option to use the points they earn to pay bills through the bank's online bill pay system.

Citibank customers can pay part or all of a bill using reward points, the New York company says in a May 8 press release. Customers earn points by spending with a Citi card and for other activities such as setting up direct deposit.

Citi automatically calculates how many points are needed to cover a specific bill. A customer paying a $50 bill would need 7,692 points to cover that amount, Citi says.

In December, Citi expanded the ThankYou Rewards program to allow customers to make online purchases with their points. Customers generated a virtual card account number that can be used for a dollar value equivalent to the number of points being redeemed.

Citi and issuers have long experimented with new methods for spending reward points.
In 2010, Citi began testing a card from Dynamics that allows consumers to spend from their rewards point balance at the point of sale. That product, called the 2G card, never made it out of pilot. Dynamics later launched a card with UMB that lets consumers pick which rewards they want to earn for each swipe.

Citi also lets users shop with points on Amazon.com, which introduced the feature in 2001 for the Amazon.com Visa card issued by JPMorgan Chase. Shoppers see how many points they have when checking out and can choose to apply them to that purchase.

Previously, customers had to request a mailed voucher in increments of 2,500 points. The new system lets customers spend any amount of points once they have been calculated at the end of a billing cycle. Amazon.com soon began supporting the same feature for rewards earned from other issuers' cards.

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