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Do you remember the last time you had no choice but to book a hotel room over the phone? I do! It was just a few weeks ago, when I called the Citi Concierge to confirm a stay at the new Hyatt House in Austin — a hotel I could have easily booked via Hyatt’s website or app, or a multitude of other booking platforms.
But giving the concierge a call saved me $180 on our fourth night at the hotel, thanks to the Citi Prestige Card’s fantastic (and unlimited) 4th Night Free perk, which has gotten me several thousand dollars in statement credits over the past two years. Now, while I’ve called the Citi Concierge many times before, and I’d gladly do it again, that’s no longer necessary — you can also score a 4th Night Free credit when you book online, processed in the form of an instant discount, rather than an account rebate.
Note, however, that this adjustment came along with another significant change: Rather than processing the 4th Night Free credit as the actual cost of the fourth night, you’ll now receive a discount equal to the average nightly rate, and taxes and fees are no longer included. Fortunately, stays booked through the Concierge are still eligible for elite perks and credit, and more complicated rates, such as those for AAA members, can still be booked over the phone as well (note that stays booked online likely will not earn stay credits or grant elite benefits — more on that below). You’ll continue to earn 3x ThankYou points on the cash portion of your stay booked online (or over the phone).
Booking Hotels With the Concierge
For me, the new online booking option doesn’t change much — I’m going to continue making 4th Night Free reservations over the phone. Why would I bother with that? Well, I’ll get into it a bit more later in this post, but as I mentioned above, stays booked online may not be eligible for elite credit and benefits. While casual users won’t be affected, anyone working toward elite status (or eligible for perks such as free breakfast, room upgrades, Wi-Fi and more) will want to continue booking over the phone.
To that end, here’s how it’s done, in four easy steps:
1. Call Aspire Lifestyles (Citi’s concierge service) at 561-922-0158 and provide your first and last name and billing ZIP code.
2. Provide the name of your hotel, dates of your stay, number of guests, room type and the rate you’d like to book.
3. The rep will confirm your details and provide the hotel’s cancellation policy.
4. Provide your credit card and loyalty program number (and ask the rep to keep these on file).
Note that unlike stays booked online (or through the ThankYou Rewards call center), 4th Night Free reservations made through the Concierge will be issued a credit within a few weeks of purchase (for nonrefundable stays) or checkout (for postpaid bookings). I’ve found that Citi has been issuing these credits much more quickly recently — either within a few days of booking a nonrefundable stay, or within a few days of checking out. As always, be sure to present your Citi Prestige Card to the hotel, especially if you haven’t prepaid for your stay.
If you’re strictly opposed to making phone calls (I understand completely), you can also book a stay by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Just as with a phone booking, you’ll need to provide the name of your hotel, dates of your stay, number of guests, room type and the rate you’d like to book, along with the last four digits of your Prestige card and any loyalty program numbers you’d like the agent to add to your reservation.
Depending on how busy the Concierge agents are, you should receive a response within a few hours — however, I prefer the instant satisfaction of securing a room right away (especially if I’ve stumbled upon an especially appealing rate). So I’ve opted to continue booking over the phone, even though it requires a bit more time and effort.
As I mentioned, my preferred method for booking 4th Night Free stays is via the phone, but you don’t have the option of redeeming points through the Citi Concierge. You can, however, use your points to book a stay by speaking with a ThankYou agent, but those stays will most likely not be eligible for elite benefits and stay credits.
Personally, I wouldn’t choose to redeem points in this way. Yes, you can technically get 1.33 cents in value by booking with your points, which is more than the 1.25 cents you’ll get by redeeming directly for flights. However, that 1.33-cent redemption rate only applies to 4th Night Free stays, and doesn’t factor in taxes or fees (which are no longer eligible for 4th Night Free reimbursement). Additionally, the same fourth night credit applies to stays booked with cash, so your hotel redemption is really equivalent to 1 cent per point, after you factor in the credit you’d also receive for a cash stay.
As an alternative, I recommend transferring your ThankYou points to airline partners and booking business or first-class award tickets. As we explain in this post, you can get a whopping 12 cents per point in value by booking a business-class flight to Europe through Air France-KLM Flying Blue — and in some cases, you can do even better than that!
Update 8/28/17: Readers have reported success redeeming points for 4th Night Free stays booked via the Concierge as well. Once a Concierge agent identifies the property and rate you’d like to book, request that they conference in a ThankYou representative to process the redemption.
Earning Points and Elite Benefits
Now, I suggest paying very close attention here…
I often select a hotel specifically because I’m eligible to access elite benefits or earn points/credit for the stay. Despite what we heard initially, many stays booked online through ThankYou.com (either with cash or points) will not be eligible for points earning and elite benefits through the hotel. That said, stays booked over the phone through the Concierge (but not ThankYou Rewards) will continue to be eligible, so that’s almost certainly your best bet if earning points, stay credit and elite benefits is important to you (as it very much is to me).
That said, you could get lucky, so it always makes sense to provide your loyalty program number to the hotel regardless. And even if you won’t earn points and stay credit, an individual hotel may choose to honor your elite member benefits at their discretion. For example, on a recent stay at the Hyatt Union Square (New York) booked through the ThankYou site, TPG was offered access to his Globalist benefits, even though the room did not earn any points or stay credit.
As always, your mileage may vary, but it’s worth a shot. And, if you want the best shot at getting perks and credit, always book through the Concierge via email or over the phone.
Booking Hotels Online
Now, if earning points and elite stay credits, or getting access to hotel program benefits like room upgrades and free breakfast aren’t a priority, you might consider booking online, especially since you’ll be able to take advantage of the 4th Night Free credit right away — it appears as a discount, rather than a statement credit several weeks later.
Since online booking is entirely new (for 4th Night Free stays, at least), I’m going to walk you through the process here — in eight (fairly) easy steps:
1. Enter Dates and Destination
After you log in to your account and select “Hotels” from the “Travel” dropdown menu at the top of the page, you’ll have an opportunity to enter your destination, dates and the number of guests. You might need to get creative when entering a destination — instead of searching for a specific island in the Maldives, for example, I had the best luck by simply entering “Male” into the search field. Results will likely vary significantly depending on where you’re headed.
2. Select a Hotel
The next page should return a list of available properties near your destination, with 25 appearing on each page. You can filter the results by hotel name, star rating and amenities. At this point, you should see a box populate that says “Complimentary 4th Night Eligible” — all of the hotels I’ve seen appear do seem to be eligible for the discount.
Note that since you can only get one 4th Night Free rebate at a time, you’ll likely see the below message when attempting to book a second room or another hotel on the same dates, however back-to-back stays (at two different properties) are eligible for the rebate.
3. Choose Your Room and Rate
Once you select your hotel, you’ll be presented with all of the available rooms (note that a hotel may choose to reserve some of its most exclusive room types for direct telephone bookings).
4. Choose a Mix of Points and Cash
On the next page, you can select the number of points you’d like to redeem, or you can pay for the entire stay in cash. As I mentioned above, cardholders can now apply points to hotel bookings at a rate of 1 cent per point — far below TPG’s current valuation.
On this page, you can also select the “Book and pay full price now” option to confirm pricing with and without your 4th Night Free credit.
5. Review Point/Cash Rate
Next, you’ll have an opportunity to review your cash and points distribution — if you’ve accidentally opted to redeem points, now’s the time to move back a step and update the breakdown.
6. Confirm Personal Details
You can choose to have these fields populate automatically with information in your profile, or you can enter your name, email address and date of birth manually. Note, however, that only the primary cardholder is eligible for a 4th Night Free discount, so you’ll want to confirm that the names match.
7. Enter Billing Details
Just as I’ve done on the phone, you’ll need to provide your Citi Prestige account details during this stage of the checkout process. Interestingly enough, the page appears to accept other credit cards, however you won’t technically be eligible for a rebate if you pay with a non-Prestige account.
8. Review Details and Check Out
Finally, you’ll have one last opportunity to confirm the hotel, your dates and the payment breakdown. Be sure to also confirm that your 4th Night Free discount is being automatically applied.
While the rates available through the Concierge have always matched what I’ve seen when booking directly through the hotel chain, the same does not seem to apply to stays booked through ThankYou.com.
As you can see, SPG’s base rate is far lower than what’s available through Citi’s site — but that’s for a much smaller room, that for one reason or another isn’t accessible to Citi.
For comparison purposes, I selected the larger Island Cottage (the least expensive room available through ThankYou.com) with the standard prepaid rate available to all guests (not just SPG members).
Here’s how the price breaks down:
So, while you don’t have access to the least expensive room, for one reason or another, the Island Cottage rate is far cheaper than what you can get directly through Starwood. Before factoring in the 4th Night Free discount, you’re paying $2,003.04 with Citi, compared to $2,217.93 directly through SPG (the fourth night discount drops the total to just $1,590.68). One item that’s impacting the SPG price is the $136 (per person) boat transfer to the resort. Since I was searching for just one guest, that adds $136 to the total cost — bringing the the direct booking total down to $2,081.93. So you’ll still save a bit through Citi, but not nearly as much at first glance (before factoring in the 4th Night Free, at least).
However, as I noted above, you likely will not receive points and stay credit through the hotel on this third-party booking — if you want to earn credit through the property (and have access to your elite benefits), be sure to book through the Citi Concierge at 561-922-0158, instead.
As always, you’ll want to read the hotel’s cancellation policy very carefully before clicking to confirm. While many airlines allow you to cancel for free within 24 hours of booking, the same does not apply to nonrefundable hotel stays, where the standard cancellation policy kicks in the moment you complete the checkout process.
For example, here’s Citi’s cancellation policy for a refundable rate at the Sheraton Maldives:
If you cancel between Wed, 02 Aug 2017 and 4:00 PM hotel time on Thu, 10 Aug 2017, there will be no forfeiture amount. If you cancel after 4:00 PM hotel time on Thu, 10 Aug 2017, the forfeiture amount will be 100 percent. There may be additional applicable charges and taxes.
So even if you have to cancel within three days of arrival, you’ll at most pay one night plus tax when booked through Citi. However, if you book a refundable rate directly through Starwood, you’ll forfeit the entire amount if canceling within one week of arrival. (Note that the cancellation policy varies from one hotel to the next.)
The Citi Prestige Card’s 4th Night Free discount is hands down my favorite credit card benefit of all time. I’ve received several thousand dollars in rebates during my two years as a cardholder (including a $1,490 credit for Amanpulo, pictured above), and I don’t expect the savings to go away anytime soon. While I’m definitely bummed that taxes are no longer included, and that the credit is no longer calculated based on the actual cost of the fourth night (which has saved me even more — 44% at the Andaz Napa!), the ability to book online (and receive a discount right away) is definitely a plus.
Unfortunately you’re limited to only the most basic rates when booking online — you’ll still need to call in to score your corporate or AAA discounts, for example — but this new option will surely make Citi’s flagship card perk more attractive to some. I’m most appreciative that Citi’s continuing to allow customers to book through the Concierge just as they had before — earning hotel points and stay credit (and accessing elite perks) is a top priority for me, so I’ll continue to phone in my reservations until the online booking engine consistently offers elite-eligible rates.
How much have you saved with Citi 4th Night Free?
Featured image of the St. Regis Maldives.