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TPG reader Abhinav sent me a message on Facebook to ask about a credit card benefit:

“Is the Citi Prestige airline credit available immediately after I get the card, or do I have to wait an entire calendar year before I use it? Also, does it ever expire?”

Some travel rewards cards offer benefits that don’t kick in until the end of your first year as a cardholder. Those benefits (like free hotel nights or bonus points) may justify the annual fee, but you don’t get full value from the card initially since you can’t use them right away. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Citi Prestige Card.

The Citi Prestige annual $250 Air Travel Credit is the best benefit of its kind. Unlike the airline fee credit on The Platinum Card from American Express (which is only designed to cover incidentals like checked bag fees or in-flight purchases), the Prestige benefit can be used to cover airfare itself. You also don’t have to designate a specific carrier to redeem your benefit, which means you can use it as soon as you receive your card. So long as your account is open and in good standing, you should receive a credit for any qualifying purchases.

The air travel credit is offered annually, but it’s based on your December billing statement, so it doesn’t align perfectly with the calendar year. Qualifying charges made after that will count toward the following year’s credit, and any unused portion of the credit will disappear at that point. To maximize the benefit, make sure you use up the full $250 before your December statement closes.

If you have credit left over but don’t have any immediate travel plans, gift card purchases should be eligible so long as they’re made directly from the airline and not from a third party.

Make sure
Make sure to use the full $250 Citi Prestige air travel credit before your December statement closes. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Since the air travel credit renews each year, you can actually use it twice during your first year as a cardmember — once in the year your account is opened, and again the following year. That means you can effectively get $500 of credit in the first 12 months. I think this card is well worth the annual fee thanks to other valuable features like the 4th Night Free hotel benefit. However, if you’re not sure, you can at least try it out for a year and get your money’s worth in airfare.

For more on Citi Prestige and other cards with airline credits, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.