Even though the Citi Prestige has lost a lot of benefits, I’m still keeping mine (for now); Here’s why
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, updated with current information. Citi is a TPG advertising partner.
It’s been a roller coaster couple of years for the Citi Prestige® Card.
In the first half of 2019, Citi introduced some very positive changes: The earning rate on airfare and dining increased to 5 points per dollar spent, the card’s annual $250 credit was expanded to include all travel purchases (previously, it only covered airfare) and cellphone insurance was added. Then, in September 2019, Citi stripped the card of most of its signature benefits, including travel and purchase protections — and raised the card’s annual fee to $495.
The information for the Citi Prestige 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.
These changes led many to question whether the Prestige is worth keeping. For me, the answer to that question is yes. Here’s why I won’t be getting rid of this card – at least for now.
Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.
Unmatched return on restaurant spend
Dining is one of my largest spending categories. So, at 5x Citi ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent, the Citi Prestige Card offers the best rewards for restaurant spending of any card on the market. Based on TPG’s valuations, that’s a whopping 8.5% return on restaurant spending. Citi defines restaurants as including “cafes, bars, lounges and fast-food restaurants.” In practice, you’ll usually also get 5x points for food delivery services.
The American Express® Gold Card‘s 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on dining at restaurants worldwide is worth nearly as much (an 8% return, since Membership Rewards are more valuable than ThankYou Points based on TPG’s valuations). But, Mastercard is much more widely accepted than American Express, especially when traveling abroad. For this reason, the Citi Prestige is more attractive to me than the American Express Gold Card ($250 annual fee, see rates and fees).
Other cards that offer bonus points for dining have a much lower rate of return. The next best dining card I have compared to the Citi Prestige is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent in this category.
Despite devaluation, the fourth-night free perk is still valuable
There’s no question that the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit has taken a significant beating:
- It’s gone from unlimited to only two uses per year
- It only applies to the room rate (previously, it also covered taxes and fees for the free night)
- It only applies to reservations made through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. That means you generally won’t earn points or receive elite benefits at the hotel. And, now you also can’t take advantage of special discounts for AAA cardholders, loyalty program members or companies with negotiated rates.
While these changes make the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit significantly less valuable, it’s still a great deal in many cases. There are many independent hotels that don’t offer loyalty programs and many more where a 25% discount on a four-night stay is worth more than the points you might earn from your stay – especially if it’s a hotel chain you’re unlikely to stay with again.
There are also times Citi may offer a better room type or a lower price than other booking options. While you have to do some calculations before deciding that using your fourth-night free perk is the best deal, I’m confident I’ll still be able to get significant value from this benefit twice per year.
5x points at travel agencies, including tours
I make most of my travel bookings directly with the airline or hotel, since that usually guarantees I’m getting the lowest prices and all of my elite benefits. My flight bookings always go on a card that offers trip cancellation and interruption coverage, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, whether I’m booking direct or through a third party.
But if I’m booking an independent hotel or taking advantage of a promotion through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, I can use my Citi Prestige Card to earn 5x points on those purchases. This is also a great way to get 5x points on tours and activities, which you can often book through agencies like Expedia and Viator.
Temporary perks due to coronavirus concerns
Like most people, I haven’t been traveling as much this year. So, the following temporary perks provided to Citi Prestige cardholders have helped me justify keeping the card:
- $250 annual travel credit can be used at supermarkets and restaurants through the end of 2020
- 5x points on online, cable and streaming purchases through Dec. 31, 2020, up to a maximum of 7,500 points
To maximize the temporary 5x points on online, cable and streaming purchases, I’ll strive to spend $1,500 in these categories before the end of 2020. Based on TPG’s valuations, the 7,500 points I’ll earn on these purchases are worth about $127.
Mastercard benefits help tip the scales
While not specific to Citi, benefits introduced by Mastercard for World Elite cards – including the Citi Prestige – help tip the scales in favor of keeping the card.
These benefits include:
- A $10 Lyft credit whenever you take five eligible rides in a calendar month (valid once a month).
- Double VIP+ points on Fandango purchases: For every two tickets purchased, earn enough for a $5 reward toward future movie tickets or at-home purchases
- Free two-day shipping, plus free return shipping, on eligible items at over 100 online retailers with ShopRunner
- Earn 5% Boxed Cash Rewards for future orders on wholesale pantry items, snacks and more
I’m able to use the $10 monthly Lyft credit almost every month, so this perk alone could add about $120 of value each year.
There’s no question that the negative changes Citi has made to the Citi Prestige Card make it much harder to justify keeping in the long term. But for now, since I spend so much on dining (especially internationally, where American Express acceptance is low) and can still get reasonable value from the fourth-night free benefit, this card still has a place in my wallet. That being said, I’ll definitely be looking closely at whether to keep it when it comes time to pay the annual fee again next year.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter.
Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees