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The Citi Prestige has earned a lasting place in my credit card lineup thanks to one benefit alone: a 4th Night Free on paid hotel bookings. I’ve used this to save thousands on hotel stays, most recently at the Silo Hotel in Capetown, where I got back $1,216. However, that’s the card’s main wow factor. And given that it hasn’t even been open to new applicants since late August, it’s fallen off the radar for some award travelers.

Changes In Effect Now

But it’s back on the radar now, thanks to some changes that we learned about in late 2018 but that take effect today. Starting now, if you have a Citi Prestige Card, you’ll earn 5x points on dining and air travel, equal to a 8.5% return on spending based on my valuations. You’ll also earn 3x points on cruise lines, which equates to a 5.1% return on spending.

Citi’s also expanding the card’s $250 annual air travel credit to be a $250 credit for travel purchases in general. Current card holders can start using the credit toward all travel purchases, not just air travel, now.

Unfortunately, the card is not yet open for applications, although it was originally announced that the card would relaunch in early January. However, the Citi Prestige will be available for new applications by the end of the month, so stay tuned for updates on that front.

Citi created this landing page with a breakdown of the changes for current Prestige card holders.

Changes in the Coming Months

While the new earning rates and the updated $250 travel credit are available to card holders now, further changes are in store for later in 2019. On May 1, the card will add cellphone protection for damage and theft (Citi hasn’t yet shared details on the specific coverage amount).

And now for the bad news: Starting in September, the Citi Prestige is devaluing some of its perks:

  • 4th Night Free will be limited to twice per calendar year, and this cap includes both the main card member and any authorized users.
  • No more 4th Night Free bookings through the concierge. You’ll only be able to book these stays through thankyou.com or by calling Citi, and in doing so you won’t earn any credit toward hotel elite status or any hotel loyalty points, or enjoy any elite status benefits. This means you’ll have to weigh the value of elite credit and benefits against what you’ll save by booking a 4th Night Free stay on a case-by-case basis, which to be fair you’ll want to do anyway now that you’ll be capped at two stays per year. Plus, with the elimination of concierge bookings you’ll no longer have access to as many rate options, such as AAA rates and other discounted rates.
  • No more 25% bonus for air travel when you redeem points directly through Citi. You’ll now get 1 cent per point on airfare when redeeming through the Citi travel portal.
  • 2x points on entertainment going away. So starting in September you’ll earn just 1 point per dollar on entertainment purchases.
  • Annual fee increasing to $495, from $450. The increased annual fee won’t impact Citigold and Private Bank clients, who will still pay $350 a year.

All other benefits — including 3x points on hotel purchases, Citi Price Rewind, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, trip delay insurance and missed event protection — are staying the same.

While we don’t know what sign-up bonus the Citi Prestige will offer when it opens for applications again later in January, there will be one. If you’ve had the Prestige previously but canceled it, you’ll be eligible to earn another sign-up bonus 24 months from your first Prestige account open date — and remember that opening or closing the Prestige, Citi Premier Card or Citi ThankYou Preferred makes you ineligible for a sign-up bonus on both it and the other two for at least 24 months.

My Thoughts

Overall, these are positive changes, many of which make the card a strong choice for more regular spending, not just the occasional paid hotel booking. While the limit on 4th Night Free usage is a bummer, it’s not a huge surprise — and Citi told me that most card holders use it just once per year. While I (and several others at TPG) use it much more frequently, having the twice-a-year cap starting in September will just force us to be more strategic about using the perk. I’ll save it for my most expensive hotel bookings so I can maximize my return and get more than $1,000 back per booking. And even with just two stays per year, I’ll more than recoup the card’s annual fee.

The elimination of the option to book 4th Night Free stays through the Citi concierge is even more of a bummer.  It means you’ll no longer enjoy hotel elite status perks and elite credits on 4th Night Free stays, so you’ll have to weigh the free fourth night against the elite credit, hotel points and elite benefits you’d enjoy.

I wish Citi was keeping the 2x category for entertainment purchases on the Prestige, but the Citi Premier card still earns 2x on entertainment. And the loss of the 25% points bonus for airfare redemptions through Citi is a small hit, but not a huge one given that Citi’s slowly been devaluing it anyway and that many award travelers transfer their points rather than redeeming directly.

The new bonus categories here are huge — based on my valuations, 5x points on dining and air travel equals an 8.5% return. That’s higher than the American Express® Gold Card with its 4x on US restaurants, and the Prestige’s 5x on dining is available globally. I’ll switch to the Prestige for my dining spending once the 5x category takes effect in January.

5x on airfare is also a game-changer for me, because now that the Prestige will offer a competitive return on air travel, the TPG team can take advantage of Citi’s trip delay reimbursement benefit without sacrificing on the earnings side. While The Platinum Card® from American Express also offers 5x on flights when booked directly through airlines or American Express Travel, it (and all other Amex cards) doesn’t even offer trip delay coverage. With the Prestige, you get up to $500 per ticket for delays of at least 6 hours.

Bottom Line

I’ve really only been using the Citi Prestige for paid hotel stays thanks to the hugely valuable 4th Night Free perk, but with the 5x and 3x bonus categories bring it “top of wallet” for me — and we’ll be moving our company travel bookings to this card to enjoy the 5x along with trip delay insurance. There’s no denying that the limit on 4th Night Free bookings will be a huge downside for some, but there are plenty of positive changes on the earning side.

Know before you go.

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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.

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