Citi Prestige credit card review

4d ago

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Citi Prestige® Card Overview

Despite the devaluations this card underwent in 2019, it’s still a strong contender in the premium travel credit card market. With its valuable earning rates, solid sign-up bonus, numerous perks and lower-than-normal annual fee (compared to other top-tier travel cards), the Citi Prestige remains a great travel credit card. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

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.

Citi’s credit card lineup went through massive changes in 2019. New cards were added, existing ones were devalued and many card benefits were changed. The Citi Prestige® Card, the issuer’s most premium travel credit card, was not immune to these changes. The card got expanded bonus-category earning early last year, but 2019 also brought massive devaluations in the form of a raised annual fee, stripped protections and caps on benefit usage.

Despite all of that, I still believe the Citi Prestige is worth considering. For the right traveler, the benefits that still exist continue to outweigh the cost of the annual fee — especially as other premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve increase their annual fees.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

Frequent travelers will get the most out of the Citi Prestige earning rates and benefits. With a high $495 annual fee, this card is only worth it if you know you’ll take full advantage of its benefits — which include two Fourth Night Free awards each year, up to $250 travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership and the Global Entry fee credit. If you don’t travel often enough to utilize what the Prestige offers, you’d be better off with a mid-tier travel card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express® Green Card. And those who are looking for top-tier luxury benefits should also consider The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The Citi Prestige is built for travelers who are traveling often enough to warrant a premium card.

Something else to think about is whether or not Citi ThankYou points are the best bang for your buck. With the Citi Prestige, you can transfer points to 15 airline partners, some of which overlap with Amex and Chase’s lists and others that are unique to Citi. Families take note — you can also use ThankYou points for a points-fueled trip to Disney, unlike with Chase Ultimate Rewards. We’ll walk through specific transfer partner options later on, but you’ll want to make sure your travel plans and habits align with the available redemption options and transfer partners offered by Citi.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Finally, make sure you are eligible for this card’s sign-up bonus before you apply. According to Citi’s website, “Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+℠, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige®, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.” If you can’t earn the bonus, you’re likely better off looking at other cards.

Welcome bonus

Right now, you’ll earn 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 with the card within the first three months. TPG values this bonus at $850. That’s not the best bonus on the market, but it is solid. Some mid-tier cards have higher bonuses or have bonuses with a higher value. For example, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum also come out ahead in terms of bonus value. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 50,000-point bonus (after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months) is worth $1,000 according to TPG valuations, and The Platinum Card® from American Express is offering a 60,000-point bonus (after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months) that we value at $1,200.

Still, you can get some very nice redemptions out of 50,000 ThankYou points, especially if you know your way around Citi’s transfer-partner programs. For example, you can book excellent Delta redemptions using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. We’ve seen Delta One Suites from Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) for just 60,000 Flying Club miles, which is totally doable between the bonus itself and the points you could earn while hitting the spending requirement.

Delta One (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)
Delta One Suites (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Overall, the sign-up bonus completely wipes out the first year’s annual fee (almost twice over). I would say this bonus deserves a solid B as a grade.

Main perks and benefits

Citi eliminated most of its travel and shopping protections and devalued certain perks this past year, but there is still quite a bit to love about the card’s offerings.

4th Night Free: This has long been considered the most valuable perk of the Prestige card, and 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. The rate is based on your average nightly rate and doesn’t include taxes and fees. Keep in mind that since bookings must be made through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, you generally won’t earn hotel loyalty points or receive guaranteed elite benefits.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)
Even though it’s been devalued, the Citi 4th Night Free award that comes with the Prestige can be quite lucrative. (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Up to $250 travel credit: Citi will reimburse you up to $250 every calendar year for travel-related purchases. 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 to $245, since everyone with the Prestige card should be able to use the travel credit pretty easily. Additionally, some card holders will be able to receive the credit twice in their first year as a cardmember since the credit resets every calendar year. Depending on what time of year you sign up, you’d be able to receive a $250 credit before Dec. 31, 2020, and another $250 on Jan. 1, 2021.

At that point, you’ll actually be coming out on top with $500 in free travel in the first year of holding the card.

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 enrolled in either of the two programs, you can use the credit for a family member or friend’s application.

Priority Pass lounge access: With the Prestige, you’ll also get access to the Priority Pass lounge network, which includes more than 1,200 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 that you can take advantage of with this benefit. Additionally, unlike with Amex-issued Priority Pass memberships, Citi-issued memberships still convey the Priority Pass restaurant benefit.

Cellphone protection: Citi added cellphone protection to the Citi Prestige in 2019. You’ll be covered for up to $1,500 per year in total benefits for up to five phones if you pay your monthly bill with your card. Although the City Prestige doesn’t offer bonus rewards for cellphone services like some other credit cards, the card’s protection may still be worth having — even if you’re only earning 1x on your monthly bill.

Related reading: Even though the Citi Prestige has lost a lot of benefits, I’m still keeping mine (for now); Here’s why

Earning points

An important part of evaluating a card is how easily you can earn points with your spend. Earning is an area where the Prestige actually increased in value last year. 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. Citi’s help section for earning points with the Prestige also lists travel agencies as part of the 5x earning categories, which includes travel information and booking services — including travel aggregators and tour operators.

Based on TPG’s valuation of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, you’ll get an 8.5% return on airfare and restaurant purchases.

Related reading: Citi Prestige 5x earnings: How to get the most out of ‘dining’ and ‘airfare’ categories, and beyond

Redeeming points

You can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to 15 airline partners:

Yes, some of the transfer partners overlap with Amex, Chase and Marriott — but the Prestige lets you rack up points toward your next redemption quickly with its 5x and 3x bonus categories.

Fly Star Alliance partners, such as Lufthansa, when booking with Avianca miles (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
Fly Star Alliance partners, such as Lufthansa, when booking with Avianca miles (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

You can also use your ThankYou points to redeem for airfare and hotels through Citi’s travel portal. This won’t always make the most sense, but there are times (like when visiting Disney) when it might be the best course of action.

Related reading: Redeeming Citi ThankYou points for maximum value 

What cards compete with the Citi Prestige

The most direct competitors to the Citi Prestige are two other premium travel cards: the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum. The Chase Sapphire Reserve charges a $550 annual fee in exchange for a 50,000-point welcome bonus (worth $1,000 according to our valuations), 3x on dining and travel, excellent travel protections and a nice set of benefits that includes a $300 flexible travel credit, Global Entry application fee credit, Priority Pass Select membership, DoorDash food delivery perks and Lyft Pink membership.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review  

The Amex Platinum also charges a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). It offers a 60,000-point welcome offer (worth $1,200 according to our valuations) and a suite of luxury benefits — unparalleled lounge access, up to $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 in Uber credits, a $100 Saks credit, Global Entry application fee credit, elite status with Marriott and Hilton and more.

Related reading: The king of luxury benefits: The Platinum Card from American Express review

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Prestige’s earning categories are effectively a compromise between the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. You’re getting more broad categories than the Platinum and some higher earning rates than the Reserve. The range of benefits, earning structure and annual fee all place the Prestige in the premium cards category, but it still sits just a half step below the Reserve and Platinum.

So which of the three is right for you? It all comes down to what perks you’ll use and how much you’re willing to pay for the annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum both offer more in the sheer volume of their benefits, but that doesn’t really matter if those cards come with benefits you won’t use — especially since both cards now offer a high $550 annual fee.

Related reading: Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?

Of course, if you don’t travel enough to utilize the travel perks across any of those cards, mid-tier options such as the Citi Premier Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Green Card and American Express® Gold Card might be better choices. With annual fees on those cards ranging from $95 to $250, these cards all offer a more manageable yearly cost. And they all come with their own set of appropriate benefits.

The information for the Citi Premier 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 reading: Battle of the premium travel rewards cards

Bottom line

With so many options out there, is the Prestige worth such a high annual fee? For those who will use the full lineup of the Prestige’s benefits, it most certainly can be worth the cost. The 4th Night Free benefit is still easily worth hundreds of dollars when used strategically, especially on luxury properties that may not belong to a larger hotel brand like Hilton or Marriott. That, on top of the $250 annual travel credit, more than wipes out the annual fee for strategic card users. And that’s not even including the sign-up bonus and potential bonus category earnings.

Even with the devaluation of the 4th Night Free benefit, the Prestige retains a spot in my wallet. If you stay at a hotel twice a year for four consecutive nights or more at room rates of $150+  and use the $250 annual travel credit, you’re going to come out ahead even if you ignore the earning and other benefits provided by the Prestige.

Featured image by The Points Guy. 

For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.