The Dwindling Appeal of the Citi Prestige Card: Why Other Premium Cards Are Better
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In the early years, the Citi Prestige card was one of the most valuable around, offering perks ranging from the 4th Night Free on all paid hotel bookings and unlimited Admirals Club access to free rounds of golf, industry-leading travel and shopping protections and more. However, it’s gradually lost significant value in the past few years, with many of those perks being either discontinued or significantly devalued.
In January, Citi unveiled a revamped Prestige card, including a cap on the 4th Night Free benefit, raising the annual fee from $450 to $495 starting in September and 5x earning on airfare and dining. But the changes to the card’s shopping and travel protections announced June 24 are undoubtedly all negative no matter how you look at it.
With so many other lucrative options out there and yet another devaluation, is the Citi Prestige card still worth its $495 annual fee? To find out, let’s take a closer look at all of the upcoming changes to the card and see how the card will stack up after they take effect.
What Changes Are Being Made?
Effective Sept. 1, 2019, Citi will implement the following changes to the Citi Prestige:
- 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 or by calling Citi. In doing so you won’t earn any credit toward hotel elite status, any hotel loyalty points or enjoy any elite status benefits. This means you’ll have to weigh the value of elite credits 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. With the elimination of concierge bookings, you’ll also no longer have access to as many rate options, such as AAA 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. 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 affect Citigold and Private Bank clients, who will still pay $350 a year.
Then, on Sept. 22, 2019, Citi will completely discontinue the following perks:
- Worldwide Car Rental Insurance
- Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection
- Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance
- Trip Delay Protection
- Baggage Delay Protection
- Lost Baggage Protection
- Medical Evacuation
- Citi Price Rewind
- 90 Day Return Protection
- Missed Event Ticket Protection
- Roadside Assistance Dispatch Service
- Travel & Emergency Assistance
With the exception of Roadside Assistance Dispatch Service and Travel & Emergency Assistance, coverage for purchases made before that date will continue to be available, and you may continue to file for benefits in accordance with the current benefit terms. The changes will apply to all card holders, including those who were just recently approved.
What Benefits Will Continue to Be Offered?
Although it is being devalued, the card’s most valuable perk, 4th Night Free, is here to stay. Also remaining untouched is the $250 travel credit that can be applied to any purchases made within the travel category, including purchases from airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, cruise lines, online travel agencies, parking garages, bus lines, subways, taxis, limousines, car services and road tolls.
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. The card will also continue to offer perks like a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, Priority Pass membership, cell phone protection, damage and theft purchase protection, extended warranty protection and concierge services.
Why Are Changes Being Made?
In the initial message that Citi sent card holders about the changes, it said that it was making these changes so that it can continue providing the key benefits that its customers use at no additional cost. In reality, that doesn’t seem entirely right, since the card’s annual fee was recently increased and these benefits were still slashed.
How Does the Citi Prestige Stack Up?
The premium travel rewards credit cards segment is a competitive one, with American Express, Chase and Citi all offering credit cards in the $450 to $550 per year price point. The Citi Prestige’s most natural competitors are other premium cards that aren’t tied to a specific brand, like the The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve, though it’s important to not overlook co-branded cards such as the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express and United Club Card either, as they, too, offer valuable everyday perks.
Here’s a side-by-side look at how the top seven premium cards compare:
|Benefit||Amex Platinum||Sapphire Reserve||Citi Prestige||Hilton Amex Aspire||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant||Delta Reserve||United Club|
|Annual Fee||$550 (see rates & fees) plus $175 for up to three additional card holders (see rates & fees)||$550, $75 for each additional card holder||$495 (in September 2019) , plus $75 for each additional card holder||$450 (see rates & fees), $0 for each additional card holder (see rates & fees)||$450 (see rates & fees), $0 for each additional card holder (see rates & fees)||$450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees), $0 for each additional card holder (see rates & fees)||$450, $0 for each additional card holder|
|Welcome Bonus||60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (worth $1,200 based on TPG’s valuations)||50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months (worth $1,000)||50,000 ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months (worth $850)||150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months (worth $900)||75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.(worth $600)||10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months (worth $480, not including the MQMs).||50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months (worth $700)|
|Earning Rates||5x (10% based on TPG’s valuations) on airfare booked directly through the airline or through Amex Travel, 5x on hotels booked through Amex Travel, 2x on other purchases from Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.||3x (6%) on travel and dining; 1 point per dollar on everything else.||5x (8.5%) on air travel and restaurants; 3x (5.1%) at hotels and cruise lines; 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.||14x at Hilton properties; 7x on flights booked directly with the airline or at, car rentals booked directly from select companies and at US restaurants; 3x on everything else.||6x at participating Marriott properties; 3x at US restaurants and on airfare purchased directly with the airline; 2x on everything else.||2x on Delta purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.||2x on United ticket purchases; 1.5x on everything else.|
|Annual Travel Credits||Up to $200 airline fee credit toward incidentals; up to $200 in annual Uber credits||$300 travel credit||$250 travel credit||Up to $250 airline fee credit each calendar year; $250 Hilton resort credit each year of card membership; $100 on-property credit for two-night Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad stays||Up $300 credit for eligible purchases at Marriott properties each year of card membership||None||None|
|Airline Perks||International Airline Program provides discounts on first, business and premium economy tickets||None||None||None||None||Free checked bag on domestic Delta flights; priority boarding; 20% savings on inflight purchases; 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000; another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $60,000; annual companion certificate; free Delta SkyClub membership||Two free checked bags for primary card member and one companion; Premier Access; waived close-in award-booking fees; Premier upgrades on award tickets for elite members; free United Club membership|
|Hotel Perks||American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts||Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection||4th Night Free Benefit||One weekend night per year (plus another after spending $60,000)||One free night award per year (valid for nights up to 50,000 points); Premium in-room internet||None||Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection|
|Hotel Elite Status||Marriott Rewards Gold status and Hilton Honors Gold status||None||None||Hilton Honors Diamond status||Marriott Rewards Gold status; Platinum status after spending $75,000 in a year; 15 Elite Night credits||None||None|
|Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit||One credit every 4 years||One credit every 4 years||One credit every 5 years||None||One credit every 4 years||None||None|
|Other Perks||$100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit||None||None||None||None||None||Hertz President’s Circle status|
Although the Citi Prestige has a slightly higher annual fee than most of its counterparts and falls somewhat short when it comes to the number of perks available, it remains a competitive option due to its 5x (8.5%) return on air travel and restaurants and 3x (5.1%) return at hotels and cruise lines.
However, there’s one important piece missing from that calculation: travel and shopping protections. Rather than just look into the return on spending, it’s important to factor in the various coverages you’ll get in case anything goes wrong. And with the slew of benefits being removed from the Citi Prestige, you’ll get almost no protections.
|Benefit||Amex Platinum||Sapphire Reserve||Citi Prestige||Hilton Amex Aspire||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant||Delta Reserve||United Club|
|Car Rental Coverage||Yes (secondary)||Yes (primary)||No||Yes (secondary)||Yes (secondary)||Yes (secondary)||Yes (primary)|
|Baggage Loss or Damage||Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage)||Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger)||No||Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage)||Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage)||Yes (up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-on bags, limited at $1,250 for all luggage)||Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger)|
|Baggage Delay||No||Yes ($100 per day for up to five days if bags are more than six hours late)||No||No||No||No||Yes (up to $100 per day for three days if bags are more than six hours late)|
|Trip Delay||No||Yes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than 6 hours)||No||No||No||No||Yes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than 12 hours or overnight)|
|Trip Cancellation / Interruption||No||Yes (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip)||No||No||No||No||Yes (up to $10,000 per trip)|
|Travel Accident Insurance||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Emergency Evacuation & Transportation||Yes (up to $100,000 per trip)||Yes (up to $100,000)||No||No||No||No||No|
|Roadside Assistance||Yes (up to four times per year at no cost)||Yes (up to $50 per incident, four times per year)||No||Yes (up to four times per year at no cost)||Yes (up to four times per year at no cost)||No||No|
|Purchase Protection||Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year)||Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)||Yes (within 90 days, up to $10,000 per incident and $50,000 per year)||Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year)||Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year)||Yes (within 90 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)||Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)|
|Extended Warranty||Yes (up to an additional year on warranties of 5 years or less)||Yes (additional year on warranties of 3 years or less)||Yes (additional 2 years, capped at 7 years total)||Yes (up to 2 additional years on warranties of 5 years or less)||Yes (up to 2 additional years on warranties of 5 years or less)||Yes ( additional years on warranties of 5 years or less)||Yes (additional year on warranties of 3 years or less)|
|Return Protection||Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)||Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year)||No||Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)||Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)||Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)||Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 year)|
|Price Protection||No||No||No||No||No||No||Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)|
Aside from the soon-to-be-devalued 4th Night Free perk, the stand-out feature of the Citi Prestige card was its 5x return on air travel and restaurants. Although the 5x return offered by the Citi Prestige was a bit less valuable than that of the Amex Platinum since Membership Rewards points are worth slightly more, the Citi Prestige was still the better choice for airfare purchases as it would reimburse you when your baggage is delayed or when you’re stranded overnight due to a flight delay or cancellation. However, neither of those protections will be offered moving forward.
Points and miles serve as a great insurance policy, but being covered for thousands of dollars when things go wrong, such as when there’s bad weather or your airline goes belly-up, is also worth a lot. So, for many people, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will likely become their go-to card for all travel purchases again. Plus, Chase’s selection of transfer partners is more impressive than Citi’s, which doesn’t offer any hotel partners and takes longer to transfer.
As the only premium card left with price protection, the United Club will be a much better option for everyday purchases. And while earning 5x points at restaurants is great, the 4x return offered by the American Express® Gold Card isn’t that far behind — especially considering that bonus category was recently expanded to include restaurants worldwide. So, with TPG’s valuations in mind, you’re really only looking at a 8.5% vs 8% return since Membership Rewards points are more valuable.
The changes announced to the Citi Prestige card are a lot to digest. Usually when we see major issuers discontinue benefits, they do so one at a time, but on June 24, Citi slashed 12 — not including the changes previously announced. With the rise of auto-generated insurance claims, it’s understandable why Citi decided to do away with some of the coverages, but it would have been nice to see a reduction in the benefits versus slashing them outright.
It goes without saying that the changes announced are all negative and that you’ll likely need to reconsider the cards you use for your travel and everyday spending. The general consensus among our team is that we would not hold on to the card if TPG didn’t reimburse us for credit card annual fees.
That being said, even with these changes, it could still make sense for you to hold on to the card depending how on how much value you get from the 4th Night Free perk. After factoring in the card’s $250 annual travel credit, the annual fee effectively drops to $245, which can be a great deal to get a fourth night free twice per year. However, with the upcoming changes, this is only useful for non-elites or those staying at independent properties, as you’ll no longer earn any credit toward hotel elite status, any hotel loyalty points, or enjoy any elite status benefits.
As a reminder, the two dates to keep in mind are Sept. 1 and Sept. 22 if you want to continue using the soon-to-be-axed benefits. Although Citi said that it plans to announce new card benefits, there’s no indication of what they’ll be.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.
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