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Citi Lowers Prestige Sign-Up Bonus, Changes and Removes Some Benefits

July 28, 2016
7 min read
Citi Lowers Prestige Sign-Up Bonus, Changes and Removes Some Benefits
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Last week we learned that the Citi Prestige Card will be dropping Admirals Club access from its list of benefits starting in July 2017. This change has some cardholders reconsidering if it's worth paying the $450 annual fee to keep this card open, though they do have a year's advance notice to decide. However, the end of Admirals Club access isn't the only update in store; as reported last week, the card is launching a new sign-up bonus — and as expected, it's a downgrade from the previously available offer.

The Citi Prestige Card is now offering 40,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. While that's just 10,000 fewer points than the previous sign-up bonus, the kicker is the $4,000 spending requirement, since it used to be just $3,000 in the first three months. Citi will not be decreasing the annual fee either, as many had hoped, so potential cardholders have to consider if it's worth signing up with the new offer and one major benefit being phased out.

Other Changes

Unfortunately, a lower sign-up bonus and the eventual end of Admirals Club access aren't the only updates in store. Here are some other confirmed changes, all of which will go into effect on July 23, 2017:

  • No more 1.6 cents-per-point redemptions on American Airlines, or 1.33 cents-per-point redemptions on other airlines; all airline redemptions will be fixed at 1.25 cents per point.
  • 4th Night Free benefit will be calculated based on the average nightly rate — not the rate for the actual fourth night — and it will no longer include taxes.
  • The annual three rounds of golf benefit is being eliminated.

Additionally, beginning sometime in September, new Prestige cardholders will no longer receive Admirals Club access (effectively immediately), while customers who already have the card at that time will continue to have access until July 23, 2017.

Is it still worth signing up?

The loss of Admirals Club access is a blow, but the Citi Prestige still offers some great travel benefits.

Ouch — there's no denying that these upcoming changes are a disappointment, and if you've been considering this card, you might be dissuaded by the recent news. For one thing, no one likes missing out on a superior sign-up bonus, and based on TPG's valuations, the new 40,000-point offer is worth $160 less than the previous 50,000-point bonus. The fact that you have to spend $4,000 rather than $3,000 to earn them just adds insult to injury. Still, Citi could have dropped the bonus even lower, and those 40,000 Citi ThankYou points are worth a respectable $640. Plus, most people signing up for the Citi Prestige Card are more interested in the travel benefits than the points haul, which makes sense given that this is a $450 premium travel rewards card.

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And then there are the changes to some of the card's benefits. As if eliminating Admirals Club access wasn't bad enough, the card will also no longer offer more valuable redemptions on airline tickets. As of late July next year, your points will no longer get you 1.6 cents in value on American or 1.33 cents in value on all other airlines, effectively bringing the worth of rewards earned with the Citi Prestige down to the same level as those earned with the lower-tier Citi Premier® Card.

While we're happy that Citi's not axing the incredibly lucrative 4th Night Free perk, it is adding some restrictions to this feature. Previously, this perk could be especially valuable when you booked a four-night stay through the Citi travel concierge with an especially high rate on the last night — now, you'll only be reimbursed for the average nightly rate. That's still nothing to sneeze at — and you can still get well over $1,000 off your stay — but it's disappointing nonetheless, especially considering that you'll no longer be reimbursed for taxes, which can quickly add up.

The complimentary three rounds of golf is probably the least crucial perk set to meet its demise, but if you maximized this feature it could definitely be another blow. Overall, Citi's definitely pulling back on what was initially an incredibly generous selection of card benefits.

Here's an overview of the card's perks that aren't currently set to change:

  • $250 air travel credit Each year, you'll receive a $250 credit that can be used toward incidental travel expenses like checked baggage and lounge access, and it's even good for airfare. With the Platinum Card from American Express and most other cards that offer a similar benefit, you can't spend the credit on actual airfare; only incidentals, so the Citi Prestige's offering is especially generous.
  • Bonus categories — This card offers 3x points on air travel and hotels, which equals a 4.8% return on spending. You also get 2x points on dining and entertainment purchases (a 3.2% return) and 1x points on everything else.
  • Priority Pass Select lounge access — Though cardholders will only be able to access Admirals Club locations for another year, the Citi Prestige will continue to offer complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge access for the cardholder and two guests or immediate family members.

While the hugely valuable 4th Night Free benefit is sticking around with most of its value intact, along with the generous bonus categories and the $250 air travel credit, the elimination of Admirals Club access and more valuable airfare redemptions still stings. At least the card isn't dropping lounge access completely, though; you can still enter 900-plus Priority Pass locations around the globe, so you should have at least one option on most of your trips.

If you frequently fly with American and lounge access was the Citi Prestige card's main appeal for you, you might want to consider the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard instead. Not only does it offer full Admirals Club membership — so you can access a lounge even if you aren't flying AA — but it also gets you elite-like benefits including priority check-in and boarding, and if you're working toward elite status, you can earn 10,000 EQMs when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year. The card does have a $450 annual fee, but it could be worth it, especially if you value the ability to catch a bite and get some work done in the lounge before a flight.

Bottom Line

The 4th Night Free benefit is hugely valuable; it can save you over $1,000 at expensive properties like Amanpulo in the Philippines.

A lower sign-up bonus (with a higher minimum spending requirement) and the elimination of some popular benefits are definitely negative — if not unexpected — updates to the Citi Prestige. The card no longer offers more valuable airline redemptions than the Citi Premier® Card, and it's eliminating the nice-to-have perk of three free rounds of golf per year. However, the card's best benefit, a fourth night free on paid hotel stays, is still intact (albeit with an asterisk or two), and other great perks like a $250 annual air travel credit and Priority Pass Select lounge access don't appear to be going anywhere.

If Admirals Club access was your favorite perk, it might be worth closing this card in favor of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. However, if you're still able to maximize the 4th Night Free benefit, that alone could be reason enough to keep this card open — or to sign up even with the lower bonus.

If you don't already hold the Citi Prestige Card, are you still considering signing up?