March 29, 2018
Review: The Citi Prestige Credit Card
Every major bank issues a premium travel credit card, and the Citi Prestige is Citi bank’s heavy hitter. It faces some serious competition going up against the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express. While Citi’s ThankYou points aren’t quite as valuable as Chase or American Express points, if offers one major perk that sets it apart-a complimentary fourth night stay on hotel bookings of four nights or more.
Citi has offered various sign-up bonuses for this card ranging from around 40,000-75,000 ThankYou points. Unfortunately, the bank has since eliminated the sign-up bonus. Hopefully they’ll bring it back, but there is no bonus as of this writing.
The Citi Prestige earns 3x ThankYou points per $1 on airfare and hotels, 2x points per $1 on restaurants and entertainment, and 1x point per $1 on everything else.
There’s two main ways to redeem ThankYou points. First, you can redeem points for airfare purchased through Citi’s Travel Center at a rate of 1.33 cents per point. For example, 50,000 points would get you $665 worth of airfare. You can also redeem points for other travel categories like cruises, hotels, rental cars etc. at a lower rate of 1 cent per point.
A more lucrative option is to transfer the points at a 1:1 ratio to one of Citi’s 14 airline frequent flyer program partners. This includes partners like Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Singapore KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, JetBlue Trueblue, and more. Every frequent flyer program has its own perks and opportunities to extract great value.
Here’s one simple example. You can transfer 62,500 points from Citi to Flying Blue and book a one-way Business Class flight between North America-Europe at the ‘Classic Award’ rate. Those Business flights to Europe typically cost around $2,000 each way (based on a roundtrip ticket). Doing some simple math, that redemption would get you 3.2 cents per point in value.
You’re getting 3.2 cents per point instead of 1.33 cents per point by transferring to an airline partner and redeeming through them instead of directly through Citi. There’s even ways to get 10 cents+ per point through airline partners if you find lucrative First Class redemptions. My point being, it’s almost always better to transfer ThankYou points to a partner than to book a flight directly through Citi.
Fourth Nigh Free
This is the the Prestige’s most valuable perk. You can call the Citi Prestige Concierge or go online to book four consecutive nights at a hotel. The 4th night will be free as long as you pay with the Prestige. There are a couple caveats to this. Citi will calculate the average daily rate of your room stay and credit that amount towards your statement balance, and the benefit excludes hotel taxes.
There’s also a difference between booking over the phone and doing it yourself online. When you book it online, you are refunded the average cost of the fourth night when you check-out. This comes with a major string attached. You won’t earn any elite qualifying stay/night credits or hotel points towards hotel elite status. You also can’t book special discount rates like AAA, member-only rates, promo rates, etc.
It’s much better to call Citi Concierge and have them book it for you. Agents booking over the phone can get you those special AAA, member-only, and promo discounts and you will earn elite qualifying stay/night credits and hotel points towards hotel elite status. The only downside is that it can take up to a few weeks to receive the fourth night stay credit. That’s a small price to pay if you’re trying to earn elite status with a hotel chain though.
There’s no limit to the number of stays you can use this for and there’s no dollar cap. For example, if you book four nights at a hotel costing $1,000 a night, you get a $1,000 statement credit. If you book three trips a year, each lasting four days with an average daily hotel rate of $250, you’d get $750 worth of travel credits. That’s a huge benefit!
Air Travel Credit
Cardholders receive an annual $250 air travel credit. This applies to expenses like airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrade fees, etc.
Priority Pass Lounges
Cardholders receive a complimentary Priority Pass lounge membership. Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of lounges. There’s over 1,000 lounges in 500+ cities around the world and the list keeps growing every year. Best of all, access doesn’t depend on which airline or class of service you’re flying.
Global Entry Credit
Cardholders receive a statement credit of up to $100 for their Global Entry application fee. The credit is available once every four years.
The Citi Prestige has a $450 annual fee and charges no foreign transaction fees.
Should You Get It?
This card is a great option if you take multiple four-day trips per year. To me, the relevant numbers are the $450 annual fee and the $250 annual airfare credit. Your out of pocket cost for this card is really $200 per year (assuming you charge at least $250 in airfare per year). You come out ahead financially if you can get more than $200 in value per year by booking hotel stays of 4+ consecutive nights.
The Prestige has a decent points earning structure but it’s not the best. The identically priced Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points per $1 on all travel purchases, not just airfare. That can make a huge difference. I also don’t like that Citi isn’t offering any sign-up bonus for this card. That’s a major drawback considering every major credit card has large bonuses thee days.
Overall, the fourth night free is the main reason to get the Prestige. That perk alone can save you thousands of dollars and justify the annual if you spend enough nights in hotel rooms.
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