Devalued, but still decent: Citi Prestige Card review
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Update: This card is no longer open to new applicants. View the current offers here.
Citi Prestige® Card overview
The Citi Prestige® Card is still a contender in the premium travel credit card market despite its 2019 devaluation. With its valuable earning rates and numerous perks, the Citi Prestige remains a compelling travel rewards credit card for select consumers. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐
*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.
On the positive side, Citi improved the card’s earning rates in early 2019. But massive devaluations hit the Prestige in late 2019 via a raised annual fee, stripped protections and caps on benefit usage. These devaluations weren’t the first for the card, which once offered perks such as unlimited Admirals Club access and free rounds of golf.
However, if you forget what the card once offered and instead look at its current offerings, the Citi Prestige is still worth considering. For select consumers, the Citi Prestige’s benefits will outweigh the cost of the annual fee.
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Who is this card for?
Frequent travelers will be able to get the most out of the earning rates and benefits of the Citi Prestige. With a high $495 annual fee, this card is only worth it if you know you’ll take full advantage of its benefits. The Citi Prestige’s most valuable perks include:
- 5x earnings at restaurants, airlines and travel agencies
- Two fourth-night-free awards a year
- An annual travel credit of up to $250 (which you can use at supermarkets and restaurants through the end of 2021)
- Priority Pass Select membership
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment fee credit every five years
If you don’t travel frequently, you may be better off with a lower-annual-fee mid-tier travel card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or American Express® Green Card. And if you’re looking for different top-tier luxury benefits, you should consider The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Citi Prestige is a valuable option for travelers who want to earn Citi ThankYou points. However, make sure you are eligible for the sign-up bonus before you apply. The Citi Prestige application page states:
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 aren’t currently eligible to earn the bonus, I recommend considering other cards or waiting to apply until you can earn the bonus.
Sign-up bonus: As much as $850 in value
Right now, you’ll earn 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 with the card within the first three months of opening your account.
TPG values this bonus at $850. That’s not the best bonus on the market, but it is solid. However, some mid-tier cards offer bonuses with a higher value. For example, the Citi Prestige’s lower-annual-fee sibling, the Citi Premier® Card, currently offers a more valuable bonus.
Two of the other top travel rewards cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum, also currently offer more valuable welcome offers. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s 50,000-point bonus (after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.) is worth $1,000 according to TPG valuations.
And the Amex Platinum currently offers a 100,000-point welcome offer (after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership) that we value at $2,000. Some new Amex Platinum cardmembers can even get up to 100,000 points with the CardMatch tool (offer is subject to change at any time).
Still, you can get some great redemptions out of 50,000 ThankYou points, especially if you know your way around the Citi ThankYou Rewards program. Even if you redeem your Citi ThankYou points at a rate of one cent each to book travel through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, the sign-up bonus will provide enough value to offset the card’s annual fee for your first year.
Main perks and benefits
Citi eliminated most of its travel and shopping protections and devalued certain perks in 2019. But, there is still a lot to love about the card’s offerings.
Fourth night free
The Citi Prestige fourth night free perk has long been considered the most valuable benefit of the Citi Prestige. Although Citi devalued this perk in 2019, it can still be beneficial if used carefully.
The fourth-night-free benefit currently works like this: Citi will pay for the fourth night of your stay at virtually any hotel when you book through ThankYou.com. However, you can only use this benefit twice each calendar year. And the fourth night free is based on your average nightly rate, excluding taxes and fees.
Keep in mind that because bookings must be made through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, you generally won’t earn hotel loyalty points or receive elite benefits. And be sure to compare prices with several other booking methods, as the fourth-night free perk won’t always provide the best value.
Up to $250 travel credit
Citi Prestige cardholders get a travel credit of up to $250 every calendar year for travel purchases. Specifically, you’ll automatically get a statement credit for the first $250 of travel purchases that you make each year. This credit applies to a wide variety of travel purchases, 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.
Plus, through the end of 2021, Citi Prestige cardholders can use the travel credit for purchases at supermarkets and restaurants.
This credit effectively lowers the $495 annual fee to $245, since everyone with the Citi Prestige card can easily use this credit. Additionally, most new cardholders will receive two travel credits in their first year as cardmembers. After all, your travel credit resets every calendar year. So, if you apply and receive your new card before the end of 2021, you’ll be able to receive a $250 credit in 2021 and 2022.
Global Entry statement credit
I love having Global Entry — it’s saved me from standing in countless hours of TSA security and U.S. Customs lines. Citi Prestige cardmembers get up to a $100 credit every five years that can be applied toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
Several other cards also offer a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry statement credit. But, if you’ve already enrolled in either of the two programs, you can use the credit for a family member or friend’s application.
Priority Pass lounge access
As a Citi Prestige cardholder, you’ll also get access to the Priority Pass lounge network. The Priority Pass network includes more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide.
Citi Prestige cardholders get a Priority Pass Select membership that provides complimentary lounge access for the cardholder and immediate family members or up to two guests. There are some excellent Priority Pass lounges in the U.S., but most of the best Priority Pass lounges are outside the U.S.
Citi added cellphone protection to the Citi Prestige in 2019. When you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your Citi Prestige Card, this protection will cover you against theft and damage for up to five phone lines. You can get up to $1,000 per claim and $1,500 per 12-month period. However, each claim is subject to a $50 deductible.
The Citi Prestige doesn’t offer bonus rewards for cellphone services. But, you may want to pay your monthly cell phone bill with your Citi Prestige, even though you’ll only earn 1x points.
Extended warranty and purchase protection
Although Citi removed shopping and travel protections from most of its cards in 2019, several cards (including the Citi Prestige) kept several shopping protections. Specifically, Citi Prestige cardholders still get extended warranty protection and purchase protection when buying eligible items with their card.
The Citi Prestige’s extended warranty protection is relatively generous. This protection extends the manufacturer’s warranty on eligible purchases for an additional 24 months (although total coverage won’t last more than seven years from the purchase date). With this protection, Citi may repair, replace or reimburse eligible items up to the cost you paid for the item or $10,000, whichever is less.
Meanwhile, the Citi Prestige’s damage and theft purchase protection covers eligible items for 90 days after purchase or delivery. You can get up to $10,000 per incident and up to $50,000 per year.
How to earn points
An essential part of evaluating a card is assessing how easily you can earn points through spending. Luckily, earning is one area where the Citi Prestige improved in 2019. Specifically, now you’ll earn as follows with the Citi Prestige Card:
- 5x Citi ThankYou points at restaurants, airlines and travel agencies (8.5% return based on TPG’s valuations)
- 3x points at hotels and cruise lines (5.1% return)
- 1x points on other purchases (1.7% return)
However, remember that Citi removed travel protections from its cards back in 2019. So, despite the effective 8.5% return on airfare, I usually use a credit card that provides travel insurance when booking flights. And, I typically use a hotel credit card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve when paying for hotel stays. As such, I usually only use my Citi Prestige at restaurants, cafes and bars.
How to redeem points
You can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to 16 airline partners:
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- EVA Air
- Flying Blue
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Some of the Citi ThankYou transfer partners overlap with Amex, Chase and Marriott. But I’ve found it useful to have a variety of transferrable currencies. If you’re not sure which transfer partners are best, here some ideas for redeeming Citi ThankYou points on Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld carriers.
You can also use your Citi ThankYou points to redeem for travel through Citi’s travel portal. Doing so will usually provide less value than transferring to airline partners. But, depending on your travel goals, there may be times when doing so works best for you.
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. However, several mid-tier cards also compete with the Citi Prestige.
Premium travel cards
Let’s start by considering the Citi Prestige’s competitors in the premium travel rewards landscape.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve charges a $550 annual fee in exchange for a 50,000-point sign-up bonus (worth $1,000 according to TPG’s valuations), 3x on dining and travel, excellent travel protections and a nice set of benefits. For example, cardholders get a $300 flexible travel credit (that can be used for purchases at grocery stores and gas stations through 2021), a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years and Priority Pass Select membership. Plus, Sapphire Reserve cardholders get partner perks with brands such as Lyft, Doordash and Peloton.
The Amex Platinum also charges a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). It offers a 100,000-point welcome offer (worth $2,000 according to TPG’s valuations) and a suite of luxury benefits. For example, Amex Platinum cardmembers get unparalleled lounge access, an airline fee credit of up to $200, U.S. Uber credits of up to $200, Saks credits of up to $100, elite status with Marriott and Hilton and more. However, you should also check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point Amex Platinum welcome offer (offers are subject to change at any time).
The Citi Prestige’s earning categories are effectively a compromise between the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. After all, you get broader categories than the Amex Platinum and higher earning rates than the Sapphire Reserve. The range of benefits, earning structure and annual fee all place the Citi Prestige in the premium cards category. But many consumers will find the Citi Prestige sits a step below the Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum.
So which of the three is right for you? It all comes down to what perks you’ll use. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum offer more in the sheer volume of their benefits, but volume doesn’t matter if those cards come with benefits you won’t use.
Of course, if you don’t travel enough to maximize the perks on a premium travel rewards card, you may prefer a mid-tier card. For example, the Citi Premier® Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Green Card and American Express® Gold Card might be better choices. Each of these cards offers a lower annual fee and a selection of perks that may provide more value to you.
With so many options out there, is the Citi Prestige worth adding to your wallet?
For those who will use most of the Citi Prestige’s benefits, the card can certainly be worth the cost. The fourth-night-free benefit can still provide hundreds of dollars in value when used strategically. And the $250 annual travel credit is easy to use, especially now that you can use it at supermarkets and restaurants. Plus the card’s 5x earnings and shopping protections can provide significant value.
Even with the devaluation of the fourth-night-free benefit, the Prestige retains a spot in my wallet. But, the Citi Prestige isn’t a clear-cut choice for everyone. As such, it’s worth carefully considering how much value you’ll get from the Citi Prestige Card before applying.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter.
For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
Featured image by The Points Guy.
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