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After closing applications in August, Citi announced some changes to the Citi Prestige Card before reopening sign-ups at the end of January. Some of the changes, like the introduction of 5x earning on airfare and dining, are positive. But others, such as the capped 4th Night Free benefit and increased annual fee, are negative. And some benefits, like excellent shopping protections and great redemption options, remain unchanged.
With these changes, you may be wondering “Should I pay the annual fee or cancel?” or perhaps “Is now the time to finally sign up?” This review discusses the refreshed Prestige card’s perks and benefits so you can answer these questions for yourself.
The Sign-Up Bonus: The card currently offers 50,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards points after $4,000 spend in the first three months. Based on TPG’s valuations, this sign-up bonus is worth $850. Although we’ve seen higher bonuses for the card in the past, this bonus is decent.
Category Bonuses: An important part of evaluating a card is how easily you can earn points with your spend. Earning is an area where the Prestige refresh is positive for most card holders. You’ll earn 5x points on all air travel and restaurant purchases, 3x on hotel and cruise line purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Based on my valuation of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, you’ll get a 8.5% return on airfare and restaurant purchases. And, if you became a card member prior to Sept. 1, 2018, you’ll continue to earn 2x points on select entertainment purchases made through Aug. 31, 2019.
Transfer Partners: You can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to 15 airline partners: Avianca LifeMiles, Air France / KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, Garuda Indonesia Miles, Jet Airways JetPrivilege, JetBlue TrueBlue, Malaysia Enrich, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Qatar Privilege Club, Singapore KrisFlyer, Thai Royal Orchid Plus, Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Yes, some of the transfer partners overlap with Amex, Chase and Marriott — but with 5x earning on airfare and at restaurants, the Prestige lets you rack up points toward your next redemption quickly.
There are many excellent redemption options with Citi ThankYou points. 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 86,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles and a negligible $5.60 in taxes after the recent award chart changes. Or, if you transfer your ThankYou points to Flying Blue, you can take advantage of Flying Blue’s monthly Promo Rewards. For example, for award flights booked in February you can snag economy flights to Europe for just 10,750 miles each way if your schedule is flexible and you can find availability. And, Avianca and Virgin Atlantic provide some appealing redemption options — especially for domestic economy travel.
Airfare: You can use your ThankYou points to redeem for airfare through Citi’s travel portal. When redeeming for paid airfare before September, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point which is similar to what you’d get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. But, starting in September 2019 you’ll only get 1 cent per point. If you book flights through Citi’s travel portal before September, the sign-up bonus is worth $625. But, if you book in September or later it will only be worth $500.
Hotels: You can also use your ThankYou points to redeem for hotels through Citi’s travel portal. 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 hotel nights through the portal you’ll get 1 cent per point. So, if you book hotels though Citi’s travel portal the sign-up bonus is worth $500.
4th Night Free: This has been the most valuable perk of the Prestige card — and although it is being devalued this September, it can still be extremely valuable if used optimally. The 4th Night Free benefit currently 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 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 $665 when used to book a 4th Night Free stay. And if you book through the Citi Prestige Concierge you’ll still be able to earn hotel elite status when using 4th Night Free.
The 4th Night Free perk has saved me thousands of dollars. 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 Concierge; 4th Night Fee lowered the bill by $1,560!
Unfortunately, starting in September the 4th Night Free benefit will be limited to twice per calendar year and you won’t be able to book through the concierge. These devaluations mean you should book any stays that you can before the beginning of September, because after that point you’ll need to consider which two stays to book as 4th Night Free stays each year. You’ll need to not only consider how much money the benefit could save you, but also which stays you’re okay with forgoing elite status benefits, credit toward hotel elite status and earning hotel loyalty points. This is because hotels see Citi travel portal bookings as online travel agency (OTA) bookings, and hotels usually don’t provide benefits for OTA bookings.
$250 Travel Credit: Citi will reimburse you $250 every calendar year for travel-related purchases. That means that you can apply it to any purchases made within the travel category including purchases from airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies, travel aggregators, tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis, limousines, car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots, garages and bus lines.
This credit effectively lowers the $495 annual fee ($450 for card holders who signed up before the refresh until their next account anniversary after Sept. 1, 2019) to $245, since everyone with the Prestige card should be able to easily use the credit. Additionally, most card holders will be able to receive the credit twice in their first year as a card member since the credit resets every calendar year. So, if you sign up today you’d be able to receive a $250 credit before Dec. 31, 2019 and another $250 on Jan. 1, 2020 and beyond. At that point, you’ll actually be coming out on top with $500 in free travel 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 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. You’ll receive a Priority Pass Select membership that gives complimentary lounge access for the card holder and immediate family members or up to two guests. The Priority Pass network has some great lounges, like the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore (SIN) and many restaurant lounges in the US.
Trip Coverage: The Citi Prestige includes valuable trip protection insurance. You’ll be eligible for reimbursement for lost baggage or if your trip is canceled or interrupted. The card includes car rental insurance that provides secondary coverage in the US and primary coverage abroad. But the most generous of the protection policies is the delayed baggage protection; if your baggage is delayed by six hours or more, Citi will reimburse you for up to $500. The trip delay protection offered by the card is pretty solid too; if your flight is delayed for more than six hours, Citi will reimburse you up to $500 for expenses while you wait out the delay.
Shopping Protection: You’ll also get great shopping protections with the card. You’re eligible for purchase protection that provides reimbursement of up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year for items that are damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase. Items purchased with the card also qualify for an extended warranty of 24 months (the best out of any premium card) and return 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.
Between the sign-up bonus, the travel credit (that you can get twice in the first card member year), improved bonus categories, Global Entry credit, purchase and trip protection, Priority Pass lounge access and 4th Night Free benefit, the Citi Prestige more than pays for itself in the first year even if you don’t travel frequently.
Even with the impending devaluation of the 4th Night Free benefit, the Prestige will retain a spot in my wallet. If you stay at a hotel twice a year for four consecutive nights or more at $150+ room rate and use the $250 annual travel credit, you’re going to come out ahead even ignoring the earning and other benefits provided by the Prestige.
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With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards