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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Prestige Card

2017 has been an exciting year for Citi-issued credit cards. The first bit of news was the new sign-up bonus and added features on the Citi Prestige Card, a nice shake-up in advance of the benefits that were recently removed from the card. Just a day later, we got news that the Citi ThankYou Premier Card was upping its sign-up bonus as well.

“Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”

Even though you currently can’t earn a sign-up bonus with the Citi Prestige, I’ll go through a detailed comparison of the two cards to help you decide which would be a good fit for your spending and travel lifestyle.

Here’s a table that summarizes the key differences across some important categories:

Benefit Citi Prestige Citi ThankYou Premier
Sign-up Bonus N/A 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months
Earning Rates 3x points at airlines and hotels
2x points on dining and entertainment
1x point everywhere else
3x points on all travel (including gas)
2x points on dining and entertainment
1x point everywhere else
Additional Benefits No foreign transaction fees; $250 air travel credit; 4th Night Free; Priority Pass membership; Global Entry credit No foreign transaction fees
Annual Fee $450 $95 (waived for the first 12 months)

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these to help analyze which card would make a better addition to your wallet.

Sign-Up Bonus

Currently, the Citi Prestige card is not offering a sign-up bonus. However, at the time of original publication it offered the following to new cardholders:

  • Citi Prestige Card: Earn 75,000 points after making $7,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This is worth $1,125 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
  • Citi ThankYou Premier Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This is worth $850 based on TPG’s valuations.

Based on the numbers, it appears that the Citi Prestige has the obvious leg up when it comes to the previously available sign-up bonus. However, there’s a big asterisk that comes along with it: the high level of spending needed to earn it.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember too that the annual fee on the Prestige (see details below) does not count toward this spending threshold and that the clock starts ticking on the day you are approved (not when you use it), so in reality you’re talking about close to $8,000 in spending in the first three months.)

Earning Rates

dolgachov via Getty Images
Both cards offer bonuses at certain merchants, but only the Premier gives you enhanced earning rates on gas purchases. Image courtesy of dolgachov via Getty Images

Another important distinction between the two cards is how you’ll earn points for purchases with various merchants:

  • On the Citi Prestige Card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on air travel and hotels, 2 points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
  • On the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on all travel purchases (including gas stations), 2 points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.

The two cards are equal when it comes to the middle bonus category, as you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants and on entertainment purchases on both of them. You’ll also earn 1 single point per dollar spent on all other purchases with both cards. However, there’s a notable difference in the 3x category.

If you apply (and are approved) for the Prestige card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on purchases at airlines, hotels and travel agencies, which is a relatively narrow slice of the travel industry. However, with the ThankYou Premier, the 3x category extends a great deal wider. According to the card’s application page, here’s what’s included:

“3 ThankYou Points for each $1 spent on purchases at airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, gas stations, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, timeshares, bus lines, motor home/recreational vehicle rentals and boat leases and rentals.”

As you can see, there are a ton of added merchant types included here, making this bonus category comparable to that of the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. However, the ThankYou Premier is even more generous than those two, as it defines purchases at gas stations as travel expenses. If you have a long commute or need to regularly fill up your car, the extra points earned on the ThankYou Premier could be worth it.

Additional Benefits

img_andaz-maui-four-pools
The Prestige’s additional benefits include the 4th Night Free, which I’ve used at hotels like the Andaz Maui.

In this third category, the Citi Prestige Card really shines, as it offers cardholders an array of additional perks to help make their travel more comfortable and rewarding. The only true “additional benefit” on the ThankYou Premier is the fact that it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, which also happens to be a characteristic of the Prestige. Here’s a list of the other added perks that the Prestige offers:

  • $250 air travel credit: Each year, you’ll be able to receive a $250 air travel credit that will be automatically applied whenever you purchase airline-related expenses (including airfare, baggage fees and upgrades). Since this is a calendar year benefit, if you apply now, you can utilize the credit now and then get another one after your December statement closes, giving you two $250 credits in the first year of cardmembership.
  • Priority Pass Select: Another great perk on the card is Priority Pass Select membership, gaining you access to over 1,000 lounges around the world. You can also bring in two guests or your immediate family members at no charge.
  • 4th Night Free: This is possibly the most lucrative benefit on the card. When you pay for a hotel stay of four nights or longer using your Citi Prestige card, you’re eligible to get one night free (calculated based on the average daily rate, not including taxes and fees). The most recent enhancements on the card now enable you to make these reservations online rather than calling the Citi Prestige Concierge. TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig saved almost $1,500 at Amanpulo with this benefit, so it can really pay off.
  • Global Entry credit: Once every five years, you can get a $100 credit on your card to cover the application fee for Global Entry, allowing you to enjoy expedited entry back into the US after traveling abroad (though this may not be as valuable as it once was thanks to the relatively new Mobile Passport option).

If you can utilize even some of these perks on a somewhat regular basis, the Citi Prestige would likely be a better option for you. Of course, these benefits do come with a price…

Annual Fee

The fourth category for comparison is the annual fee, and based on simple numbers, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card is the clear winner, with a $95 fee that’s even waived for the first 12 months. Since the Citi Prestige Card carries a $450 annual fee, you’re looking at a significantly higher out-of-pocket cost, especially in the first year.

However, keep in mind that this doesn’t take into account the credits included on the Citi Prestige. The $250 air travel credit is applicable as soon as you’re approved for the card (and resets on January 1), so that drops it to an effective annual fee of $200. If you can then use the Global Entry credit, that brings it down to $100. Finally, you may want to factor in the 4th Night Free credits, another perk that’s unique to the Prestige. You could easily wipe out that last $100 (and then some) with a single stay of four nights or longer; I actually used this perk for my stays at both the Andaz Maui and Andaz San Diego in the same week last year, saving over $600 in the process!

Coverage

While the above categories of perks are the popular ones to discuss, it’s also important to consider what protections each card provides. Here’s a comparison table:

Benefit Citi Prestige Citi ThankYou Premier
Car Rental Coverage Yes (secondary in US; primary in other countries) Yes (secondary in US; primary in other countries)
Travel Assistance Yes Yes
Baggage Loss or Damage Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger or $10,000 for all passengers) Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger of $10,000 for all passengers)
Baggage Delay Yes (up to $500 per trip if bags are more than 3 hours late) Yes (up to $100 per trip if bags are more than 6 hours late)
Trip Delay Yes (up to $500 per trip for delays of 3+ hours) Yes (up to $500 per trip for delays of 12+ hours)
Trip Cancellation / Interruption Yes (up to $5,000 per trip) Yes (up to $5,000 per trip)
Travel Accident Insurance Yes (up to $1,000,000) Yes (up to $500,000)
Emergency Evacuation & Transportation Yes (up to $100,000) No
Roadside Assistance Yes (at no cost) Yes (for a pre-negotiated price per service call)
Purchase Protection Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year)
Extended Warranty Yes (additional 24 months) Yes (additional 24 months)
Return Protection Yes (up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year) Yes (up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)
Price Protection Yes (within 60 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year) Yes (within 60 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)
Missed Event Ticket Protection Yes (up to $500 per ticket and $5,000 per year) No

As you can see, many of the perks are the same, including the car rental coverage, trip cancellation/interruption and price protection (otherwise known as Citi Price Rewind). However, there are some notable differences:

  • The baggage and trip delay coverage on the Prestige kicks in after just 3 hours; on the Premier, your bags will need to be 6 hours late while your trip will need to be delayed 12 hours to utilize this benefit. In addition, you’ll get up to $500 for baggage delays on the Prestige, while you’re limited to $100 on the Premier.
  • Roadside assistance on the Prestige is included at no cost; you’ll have to pay a pre-negotiated service call fee on the Premier.
  • The Prestige includes emergency evacuation and transportation coverage along with missed event ticket protection, while the Premier does not.

Ideally you’d rarely (or never) need to use these benefits, as they’re all designed for when things go wrong. Nevertheless, they can give you peace of mind with your trips and purchases. Just be sure you understand the full inclusions, exclusions and other restrictions on each. You can access the Citi Prestige Card guide to benefits at this link, while the guide for the Citi ThankYou Premier Card can be accessed here.

So which one should you get?

Citi Prestige Brian New TPG
Unless you spend a ton on travel purchases aside from airfare and hotel stays, the Prestige is likely a better option, especially in the first year.

Given all of these details, which card is better for your wallet? This is a very personal decision, but here are some guidelines:

  • If you frequent airports with Priority Pass lounges, go with the Prestige. While the Priority Pass program only has a handful of locations in the US, it can be quite valuable if you regularly travel out of (or connect through) an airport with a lounge, which could give the Prestige the edge.
  • If you regularly pay for hotel stays of four nights or longer, go with the Prestige. Another element that could push you in the direction of the Prestige card involves hotel stays. If you frequently have paid stays of four nights or longer, you could save a ton of money through the 4th Night Free benefit on the Citi Prestige.
  • If you have significant gas or other travel expenses, go with the Premier. One reason you’d might consider the Premier over the Prestige is if you spend a lot on travel purchases other than airfare and hotel stays (including gas). You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on these expenses on the Premier, compared to just 1 point per dollar spent on the Prestige. With just $300 per month on these purchases, you’d take home an extra 7,200 ThankYou points, worth $108.

If none of these jump out to you, then I’d recommend going for the Citi Prestige Card. While it isn’t currently offering a sign-up bonus, you might be able to snag one depending on when you apply, and if you apply now, you can also earn two $250 air travel credits in the first year of cardmembership (one now and one after your December statement closes). If you can also use the Global Entry credit, you’ll get $600 worth of credits total for a single $450 annual fee. Then, when the card comes up for renewal, you can determine whether or not it makes sense to keep it, cancel it or even downgrade to the Premier Card to take advantage of the higher bonus categories.

Bottom Line

It’s great to see Citi upping its game with two popular credit cards, so if you don’t currently have the Citi Prestige Card or the Citi ThankYou Premier Card (and haven’t opened or closed either one in the last 24 months), now is a great time to add one to your wallet. Since you can no longer get both at the same time, you’ll have a decision to make as to which is a better fit. Hopefully this analysis has highlighted the key differences to help you determine which is best!

Are you planning to get the Citi Prestige or the ThankYou Premier Card?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.