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When deciding whether to open, keep or cancel a credit card I always evaluate two key areas: points and perks.
Points: First I look at the sign-up bonus — how much is it worth and what are the odds of it getting any higher in the near future? Next, I consider the category bonuses: What are the base earning categories/values for spend? Does the card have any points-earning areas that outshine others? And finally, I examine the redemption options: Are there valuable transfer partners? Are the transfer rates good? What are points worth when redeeming for cash back or through a bank’s travel portal?
Perks: I start by assessing total value — is it easy to get more than the annual fee in perks per year? Then, are there any perks that no other card offers? And how often will I actually use them?
The Citi Prestige is strong on both counts, but really excels with perks due to its extraordinarily valuable 4th Night Free benefit.
And as for points, while I’m jealous I’m not eligible for the current 75,000-point Citi Prestige bonus, I’m still able to get more than 1.6 cents per point in value because I leverage transfer partners to book valuable premium-cabin awards.
As I’ll explain below, with just the 4th Night Free perk I’ve saved $8,365 in the last 12 months alone — so for me the Citi Prestige is a no-brainer to keep in my wallet. If you’re thinking about getting it, there’s never been a higher public sign-up bonus and even though the spend requirement is steep at $7,500 within three months (they’re clearly going for a high-end consumer here), if you can make it, in my opinion those 82,500 points — the minimum you’d get after $7,500 in spend (75,000 + 7,500) — can easily get you $2k+ in value.
The Sign-Up Bonus: In my most recent monthly points valuations, I said ThankYou points were worth 1.6 cents apiece. So that means the 75,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $1,200. And once you meet the minimum spend, you’ll actually have at least 82,500 points worth $1,320; that’s virtually equivalent to three years of the annual fee (or even almost six years if you incorporate the $250 airfare credit).
You’ll also get 1.33 cents per point when combining with the 4th Night Free perk, so if you’re trying to book a hotel, you could get nearly $1,000 in value from the sign-up bonus. If you redeem for airfare through Citi’s travel portal, you’ll only get 1.25 cents per point, meaning that 75,000 points will get you about $940 in airfare. But you’ll also earn miles and elite credit, giving you even more value.
Category Bonuses: As I mentioned earlier, an important part of evaluating a card is how easily you can earn points with your spend. Frankly, this is not the strongest category for the Citi Prestige. It’s not as robust as the Sapphire Reserve or the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, for example, in covering travel purchases, but it’s better than the Amex Platinum — and really shines in the entertainment category.
With the Prestige, you’ll earn 3x points on all airfare and hotel purchases, 2x points on all dining and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. I love that when using 4th Night Free and paying cash I still earn 3x points on the hotel purchase. I also appreciate that the 2x points on entertainment purchases includes museums, theaters and sporting events, since none of the other premium cards offer that.
Transfer Partners: You can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to 15 different partners: Asia Miles, Etihad Guest, EVA Air, Flying Blue, Garuda Indonesia, JetBlue (at a ratio of 1 to 0.8), JetPrivilege, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Hilton Honors (at a ratio of 1 to 1.5) and Sears Shop Your Way (at a ratio of 1 to 12). Yes, some of the transfer partners overlap with Amex, Chase and SPG so I use mainly Citi points to transfer to Singapore or Flying Blue. This way I can use my Amex and Chase points for more valuable partners.
You can book a one-way ticket from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) in Singapore Suites, one of the nicest products in the sky, for just 76,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles (and low fuel surcharges). If you transfer your ThankYou points to Flying Blue, you can book a round-trip ticket in economy from New York to Hawaii on Delta for only 30,000 miles — assuming you’re able to find availability, of course.
Hotels: With the 4th Night Free benefit, you’ll be getting 1.33 cents per point in value when redeeming ThankYou points for hotels. This beats Amex at 0.7 cent per point but comes in a bit lower than Chase if you have the Sapphire Reserve, which would get you 1.5 cents per point through the Ultimate Rewards portal. But with Chase you’ll be limited to a subset of hotels and eligible rooms. With the Prestige, you can book essentially any hotel worldwide and it’s great when redeeming for large rooms or suites. Note: ThankYou points can be used when booking through a ThankYou Rewards phone agent, but not through the Concierge.
Cash Back and Airfare: There are two other options for using ThankYou points: to redeem for airfare through Citi’s travel portal and to get cash back. Personally, I avoid these since I’m not maximizing the value of my points this way. But if you want to go down this path, Citi’s rates aren’t too bad. When redeeming for paid airfare, you’ll be getting 1.25 cents per point, similar to what you’d get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Citi actually just raised its cash back rate with the Prestige, which will now give you one cent per point. So the Prestige beats Amex, which only gives .6 cents per point when converting to cash. If you go with cash back, the sign-up bonus is worth $750, whereas you’d be able to get about $940 in flights if you book through Citi’s travel portal.
4th Night Free: This is the most valuable perk of the Prestige card and you can potentially save thousands a year if you use it right. It works like this: Citi will pay for the fourth night of your stay at virtually any hotel when booking through ThankYou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge. The rate is based on your average night stay and doesn’t include taxes and fees.
You can now book with ThankYou Points when using 4th Night Free (online only), giving your points a value of 1.33 cents apiece. So the sign-up bonus alone is worth almost $1,000. And you’ll still be able to earn hotel elite status when using 4th Night Free, making this perk even more valuable.
4th Night Free has saved me thousands of dollars over the last year. I used it when staying at the incredible Nihiwatu, which has been rated as the number one hotel in the world two years in a row, and it saved me $1,331.
I also took advantage of this perk at the Park Hyatt Maldives, where I booked a stunning overwater villa through the Prestige Concierge; 4th Night Fee lowered the bill by $1,560!
Eight members of the TPG team collectively saved more than $20k last year with the 4th Night Free feature.
$250 Air Travel Credit: Citi will reimburse you $250 every year for airline-related purchases. That means that you can apply it to tickets, baggage fees, upgrades, in-flight expenses and more.
This credit effectively lowers the $450 annual fee to $200, since you can easily redeem it for paid airfare. Additionally, you’ll actually be able to receive the airfare credit twice in your first year as a cardmember since the credit resets every calendar year. So if you sign up today you’d be able to receive a $250 credit before December 31, 2017 and another $250 on January 1, 2018 and beyond. At that point, you’ll actually be coming out on top with $500 in free airfare in the first year.
Global Entry: I love having Global Entry — it’s saved me from standing in countless hours of security and customs lines. Citi Prestige cardmembers get a $100 credit (every five years) that can be applied toward purchasing Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. A few other premium cards offer this, but what’s nice is that even if you already have either of the two programs, you can use the credit for a family member or friend’s application.
Priority Pass Lounge: With the Prestige, you’ll also get access to the Priority Pass lounge network, which includes over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. You’ll receive a Priority Pass Select membership that gives complimentary lounge access for the cardholder and immediate family members or up to two guests. The Priority Pass network has some great lounges, like the Air France lounge in JFK. I value this perk at $249, since a Standard Plus membership costs the same.
Trip Coverage: The Citi Prestige includes valuable trip protection insurance. You’ll be eligible for reimbursement for lost or delayed baggage or if your trip is canceled or interrupted. But the most generous of these policies is the trip delay protection; if your flight is delayed for more than three hours, Citi will reimburse you up to $500. With most other cards you’ll only be eligible for reimbursement around the 12-hour mark. Three-hour flight delays are a pretty common occurrence, so it’s great that the benefit kicks in so early.
Purchase Protection: You’ll also get great purchase protection with the card. You’re eligible for reimbursement of up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year for items that are damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase. Items purchased with the card also qualify for an extended warranty of 24 months (the best out of any premium card), plus return and price protection. You can also take advantage of Citi’s awesome Price Rewind program that will automatically track purchases to find a lowered advertised price for items purchased on a Citi card. If it’s successful, Citi will issue you a refund for the difference of the price.
If you stay at a hotel for four consecutive nights or more at $200+ room rate, you’re going to come out ahead with the Prestige (see our FAQ for more details). With the huge sign-up bonus, the airfare credit (that you can get twice in the first cardmember year), Global Entry credit, purchase and trip protection, Priority Pass lounge access and 4th Night Free, the Citi Prestige is an absolute no brainer to get — even with the loss of Admirals Club Lounges and 1.6/1.33 redemptions on airfare. It more than pays for itself and retains a coveted slot in my wallet.