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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Prestige Card
It’s not always easy to book hotels with points. Many hotel chain loyalty programs aren’t particularly lucrative or generous — with a few exceptions such as Starwood Preferred Guest — and hotel rates are often cheap enough that it doesn’t make sense to burn flexible bank points on a transfer or even a direct redemption. So when it comes to hotel reservations, sometimes it makes more sense to just pay cash and earn points on the purchase.
But when you start getting into expensive rooms and luxury properties, then you’re talking about a lot of cash. That’s why if there’s one card that’s most useful for these sorts of luxury hotel or suite bookings, it’s the Citi Prestige Card. Not only can you save a substantial amount of money, but you can also access certain hotels and rates that aren’t available with any other points or discounts.
Here are five reasons the Citi Prestige is the best card to use for booking luxury hotels and expensive suites.
1. Some luxury hotels don’t have loyalty programs.
For two years running, Travel + Leisure has named Nihi Sumba Island (formerly called Nihiwatu) in Indonesia as the #1 hotel in the world. It’s a gorgeous property, but as you might expect, the best hotel in the world doesn’t feel the need to offer a loyalty program. And staying at Nihi Sumba Island isn’t cheap — you can easily expect a nightly rate of $1,000 or more. Even if you wanted to book your stay with valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points in conjunction with having a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’d spend over a quarter million points on a four-night stay at $1,000 per night.
But if you’re going to spend cash on a hotel like this, it’s a great opportunity to use the 4th Night Free perk of the Citi Prestige. That’s what TPG himself did when he stayed at Nihi Sumba Island earlier this year — by booking the stay as a 4th Night Free reservation, he saved over $1,300 on his stay (and even got upgraded to a better room). There’s really no other way to save that kind of money on a hotel without a points program.
2. Suites aren’t always available with points.
One of the top remote luxury destinations is the Maldives, and many folks who make this extra-special trip to a place that’s difficult to reach want to stay in an overwater bungalow. But at the Park Hyatt Maldives, you can’t book an overwater villa with points — only the standard Park Villa room, which you then have to pay cash to upgrade. And even the standard room has to be available with points, which it wasn’t when TPG visited there earlier this year.
That’s why TPG booked his stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives with the Citi Prestige and was able to get the room he wanted on the dates he wanted. He saved $1,560 by using the 4th Night Free benefit and still earned Hyatt points and elite credit for the stay, which amounted to over 30,000 extra World of Hyatt points worth another $540 in value based on his most recent point valuations. Booking the standard room with Hyatt points wouldn’t have earned any extra points at all, and he wouldn’t have gotten the room he really wanted.
3. You can stack the 4th Night Free benefit with special rates.
There are a lot of intriguing room rates out there — AAA, AARP, “member only” rates, even romantic getaway packages. Many of these rates are only bookable through the hotel website itself, which means they won’t appear on Orbitz or Expedia or via online bank travel portals.
But these rates are accessible for the Citi Concierge, which means you can use them to book a 4th Night Free reservation if you call or email instead of booking via thankyou.com. For instance, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig stayed at the very expensive Amanpulo in the Philippines last year and booked a special rate via the Citi Concierge that included breakfast, lunch and dinner for two. On top of those perks, he ended up with a rebate of $1,490 using the 4th Night Free discount on his stay. So even at luxury hotels, you can find special rates that discount or enhance your stay.
4. You can combine ThankYou points and cash.
One of the new features of the Citi Prestige is the ability to book 4th Night Free stays online via the Citi ThankYou Travel Center. While you won’t be able to access special rates that way — you’ll need to book those with the Citi Concierge — if you want to book a standard rate at a luxury hotel, you can do it online and use any mix of ThankYou points and cash you’d like.
That gives you some decent ways to save some cash, even on a luxury hotel reservation. For instance, if you’re booking a suite that costs $400 per night, you’ll pay $1,200 in cash with the 4th Night Free benefit for a four-night stay. But if you add in the 75,000 ThankYou points that you can earn as a sign-up bonus right now for a limited time on the Citi Prestige, that $1,200 drops to just $450 in cash, an impressively low number for a $1,600 room.
5. You’ll still earn bonus points on 4th Night Free bookings.
If you’ve decided to spend a large sum of money on a fancy hotel or suite, you certainly want to earn as many points as possible for the purchase. Fortunately, the Citi Prestige earns 3 points per dollar spent on all airline, hotel and travel agency purchases, and yes, a 4th Night Free reservation still earns those 3x points, both when booked online and via the Citi Concierge. Note that if you pay partially with Citi ThankYou points when booking a 4th Night Free reservation online, you’ll only get 3x points for the portion paid with cash.
As an example, one of the Top 10 4th Night Free redemptions last year was a Citi Prestige cardholder who got $3,684 back for a one bedroom pool suite booking at Jumby Bay in St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda. That means he earned at least 33,000 ThankYou points for the cash portion of his booking, which based on TPG’s valuations are worth $495 in future travel redemptions.
We’ve admittedly written a lot about the 4th Night Free benefit of the Citi Prestige, and undoubtedly we book more luxury hotels than the average person. But the TPG staff has collectively saved over $20,000 in 4th Night Free travel credits, which is an enormous number. So even if you’re likely to only take one special trip this year, if you can’t or prefer not to pay with points, the Citi Prestige is likely your best bet to save money on a luxury hotel purchase.
Featured image of the Conrad, Koh Samui courtesy of the hotel.