Citigroup Inc. is expanding its ThankYou Rewards program by providing customers with virtual account numbers linked to their Citi credit cards and rewards accounts to redeem points at online merchants.

Called Rewards Account Numbers, the incentive program provides temporary virtual credit card numbers for cardholders to use rewards points to pay for purchases made online or over the phone at merchants that accept Visa and MasterCard.

To use the feature, customers login to their account and generate a Rewards Account Number based on the number of points they want to redeem — for example, 10,000 points are worth $75. The virtual card includes an expiration date and security code number, and users provide this information like they would for a normal card account transaction.

Purchases made with the virtual card numbers appear on consumers' card bills like a normal charge would. When points are redeemed using a Rewards Account Number, the transaction appears as a statement credit for the purchase made with the virtual card number.

"We are constantly focused on delivering new ways our members can use their ThankYou points for what is more meaningful to them," says Mary Hines Droesch, head of ThankYou Rewards at Citi, in a Nov. 26 press release.

If the points redeemed do not cover the full cost of the purchase, the balance of the charge remains on the credit card account. The virtual account can be used multiple times at multiple merchants until it expires at 12 a.m. Pacific Time the day it was generated. After the account expires, unused points will remain in the ThankYou account.

Citi has also partnered with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to provide discounts to holiday shoppers. Every Tuesday until Dec. 17, Citi cardholders that spend at least $100 on Walmart.com will receive a $10 digital gift card that can be used on the retailer's website.

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