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Caution: You might only save $7 with the Citi Premier's $100 hotel credit

Dec. 11, 2020
8 min read
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The Citi Premier® Card has really stepped up its benefits over the last year. In June, the card began offering 3x points per dollar at supermarkets, a permanent change that competing cards are only adding temporarily. Citi also introduced an annual $100 hotel credit per calendar year, which is pretty unique considering the card only has a $95 annual fee.

But is the $100 hotel credit really that valuable?

For starters, it applies to single-stay hotel bookings of $500 or more, after taxes. That means you won’t always save as much as you'd expect. Additionally, since you have to book your hotel through Citi ThankYou Travel, you won’t earn points or elite night credits through most hotel loyalty programs. The savings might also not be as substantial when you consider that Citi doesn't always offer the lowest rate available.

Let's take a look at some of the obstacles you may encounter when redeeming the $100 Citi Premier hotel credit and how much you can actually save with this benefit.

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How to redeem the Citi Premier hotel credit

Redeeming the Citi Premier’s $100 hotel credit is pretty straightforward. You need to log in to your Citi account and head to the ThankYou Travel site. Then, enter your search parameters and select the hotel you’re interested in booking on the results page.

Once you're on the booking page, you’ll see a checkbox for the Citi Premier Hotel Benefit. Make sure it's selected so you can see your total reflected accurately.

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If you have both the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige® Card, you’ll see checkboxes for both benefits. Choose one and your total will be updated in the payment summary column. You'll also need to enter your Citi Premier card number to finalize the booking.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Citi Premier Card review

How much you can actually save with the Citi Premier hotel credit

While the Citi Premier hotel credit sounds promising, you might save significantly less than $100. Citi doesn't always offer the lowest rates, including member-only discounts offered through Hilton and Hyatt's loyalty programs. The $100 credit also applies after taxes, which cuts further into your total savings.

For example, let’s say you’re looking to redeem the credit on a stay at the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus. The cheapest rate available on the Citi ThankYou Travel site for a twin room for July 19 to July 23, 2021, is $1,009.24. With the $100 Citi Premier hotel credit, this drops to $909.24.

But that same room goes for $944.72 per night on the Hilton website, and Citi ThankYou Travel doesn’t show the Hilton member rate, which is even lower at 758.46 euros ($916.38).

In this case, the Citi Premier hotel credit ends up saving you just $7.14 over the Hilton Honors member rate and $35.48 over the flexible rate. That's a far cry from the $100 savings you probably expected.

Price discrepancies are prevalent across the board and not just at Hilton hotels or properties in Istanbul. I searched hotels in various cities across all major chains and consistently found the Citi ThankYou Travel rates to be higher than both the flexible and member rates offered directly through the hotel. The closest I got to saving $100 was at the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, where the Citi Premier discount amounted to $67 off over the lowest rate on the Marriott website.

That's not to say you can't get substantial savings or that you shouldn't try to use this benefit. Citi does periodically offer discounted rates that are lower than what you'll find on the hotel website. In these scenarios, you can actually save quite a bit — with or without the hotel credit. In any case, it's good to curtail your expectations when redeeming this credit.

Related: How to cancel travel booked through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center

What to do if the hotel you want to book isn’t listed

One major issue I came across when attempting to redeem my $100 hotel credit is availability.

When researching rates at the Doubletree Umraniye a few months back, the hotel simply didn’t show up in the Citi ThankYou search results. I even tried using the “search hotels” tool to look up the property by name.

Even though the hotel auto-populated, I was directed to a page with an error message.

Citi Prestige cardholders who run into this problem while redeeming their fourth-night free benefit can simply call the Citi Concierge to book their reservation. The same accommodation, however, can’t be made for Premier cardholders, since they don't have access to Citi Concierge services.

Fortunately, I found.. If your hotel of choice does not appear in Citi ThankYou Travel search results, head back to the main search page and type the hotel chain into the “Preferred hotel” box.

You’ll get a narrowed down list of search results that include all properties within that hotel chain – even ones that did not previously appear. From there, you can proceed with booking the hotel.

Related: 4 reasons the Citi Premier® Card should be on your short list

Citi Premier hotel credit FAQ

When does my Citi Premier hotel credit expire?

The Citi Premier hotel credit expires on Dec. 31 of every year. You'll get a new credit on Jan. 31.

Can you stack the $100 hotel credit with the fourth-night free benefit from Citi Prestige?

Unfortunately, you can’t stack the $100 Citi Premier hotel credit with the fourth-night free benefit from the Citi Prestige. You’ll have to choose one or the other. The Citi Prestige fourth-night free benefit will generally be more useful since you're not limited to a certain spending threshold. You can use it to book a hotel that goes for $50 per night or $500.

Can you use the Citi Premier $100 hotel credit when you book with points?

You can use the Citi Premier hotel credit to bring down the total cost of a stay, then redeem points for the remaining balance. For example, on a $655.36 booking, you can apply the $100 credit, which brings your total cost down to $365.36.

Is the Citi Premier Card worth it?

Despite the questionable usefulness of the hotel credit, the Citi Premier is worth getting. The sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 spent within the first three months of account opening is pretty substantial. You can use it for $800 worth of travel bookings or get even more value by transferring these points to one of Citi's travel partners.

As an example, you can book four round-trip domestic award tickets by transferring 80,000 ThankYou points to Etihad Guest. That can easily get you over $1,000 in value, depending on when and where you're traveling.

For 21,500 miles each way, you can book a round-trip ticket to Europe by moving your ThankYou points over to Flying Blue. I used my ThankYou points for a trip to Istanbul when round-trip airfare cost almost $1,000. It was nice to shell out just 43,000 Flying Blue miles instead.

Citi ThankYou points are undervalued, in my opinion, and the sign-up bonus from the Citi Premier Card can go quite a long way. But what makes a card truly great is how rewarding it is beyond the welcome bonus. With this card, you'll earn 3x points at supermarkets. Considering what a big spending category this is for most people — and the fact that 3x ThankYou points is one of the highest returns you can get — the Citi Premier is a great long-term addition to your wallet.

Related: Complete guide to Flying Blue Promo Rewards

Bottom line

While the Citi Premier is a great rewards card, the $100 hotel credit may not be as useful as you'd expect. The credit is already fairly limited since it only applies to single hotel stays of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees).

Considering that you won't always get the lowest hotel rates through Citi ThankYou Travel, your savings can end up way below $100. That being said, the card has generous category bonuses and only a $95 annual fee, so I don't think the travel credit's usefulness negates the card's other positive attributes.

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Featured image by Getty Images/Blend Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.