AWFUL Citi Prestige Fourth Night Free Change

We’ve known for a few weeks now that major changes are coming to the Citi Prestige Card. Earlier today I posted about how Citi published the official terms and marketing points of the new card.

There are both pros and cons to these changes. For example, the card will offer 5x points on air travel and restaurants, which will be awesome. Unfortunately the card’s annual fee is increasing from $450 to $495, and Citi is also capping the incredible fourth night free benefit offered on the card, which I’ve long called the single most valuable credit card benefit out there.

Earlier I noted one positive development regarding the fourth night free benefit, though I missed a much more significant (and very negative) development.

Citi Prestige fourth night free: the good news

The new cap on only being able to make two fourth night free bookings kicks in as of September 1, 2019. The good news is that bookings made prior to September 1 (even if the stay occurs after that date) don’t count towards the 2019 limit.

So in 2019 you’ll be able to make unlimited fourth night free bookings through the end of August, and then the new limit applies as of September, which is good at least.

Citi Prestige fourth night free: the terrible news

It used to be that Citi only allowed you to make a fourth night free booking through their concierge service.

Then as of summer 2017, they added the option of also making these bookings through their website, at thankyou.com. This was an option, but wasn’t required.

While the convenience of booking online sounds nice, the problem is that bookings made through thankyou.com don’t count as “qualifying” stays with the major hotel chains. So while you receive elite benefits and earn both elite credits and points if booking through the concierge service, you don’t through thankyou.com.

Well, as of September 1, 2019, the only way to make Citi Prestige fourth night free bookings will be through thankyou.com or by calling 1-800-THANKYOU. You’ll no longer be able to make fourth night free bookings through the concierge service. The terms specifically state the following:

Beginning 09/01/2019, cardmembers will be eligible for no more than two complimentary Fourth Night benefits per Card Account per calendar year.

To receive your complimentary Fourth Night, you must 1) book a minimum of a four-consecutive-night hotel stay through thankyou.com and 2) pay for your complete stay with your Citi Prestige Card, a redemption of ThankYou Points, or a combination of ThankYou Points and your Citi Prestige Card.

Booking through the Citi Prestige Concierge (only available through 08/31/19).

What this means

Starting next September you’ll have to choose whether you want a fourth night free, or whether you want to earn elite benefits and points. There are quite a few implications here, because when booking through thankyou.com:

  • You won’t receive elite benefits, earn elite qualifying nights, or earn points, so you’ll have to decide whether you want a fourth night free or benefits
  • You won’t have access to the same selection of hotels; while they have most major hotels, they don’t have access to some of the same specialty properties as the concierge (for example, Amans, best I can tell)
  • You won’t be able to book non-traditional rates (you’ll likely just be able to book the flexible rate or advance purchase rate); right now you can book member exclusive rates, AAA rates, etc., through the concierge, and that’s not possible through thankyou.com


Aman Sveti Stefan, where you’ll no longer be able to use the fourth night free benefit

There are certainly still some circumstances under which this could be worthwhile, like if you’re staying at a hotel without a loyalty program that doesn’t have specialty rates. However, for me personally there are very few circumstances where that’s valuable.

The reduction to two fourth night free perks per year was rough, but to me this is much rougher.

Actually, if they were going to make this change then they wouldn’t have even had to cap it at two redemptions per year, since I doubt I’d be use those two anyway.


I stayed at Mystique Santorini (a Starwood property) using the fourth night free benefit

How badly will you be impacted by this Citi Prestige fourth night free change?

Comments

  1. Losing the points on some of these stays is worth $100 or so, definitely not good. Also if there are problems using the portal, now it’s more of a hassle to call about the website and wait on hold.

  2. That really sucks that you won’t be able to book 4th night free stays through concierge. I remember being blown away when I learned that you could do that in the first place, as I presumed the 4th night free only applied to inflated rates pitched through a specific travel agency. The fact that I could book pretty much any hotel rate at any hotel through the concierge and still get a 4th night free was amazing. The thankyou.com portal is not comprehensive for hotels and rooms.

  3. My annual fee just came up last month. So glad I canceled the card this week. Not worth it for me. They gave me no retention offers to keep the card, too.

  4. It says we can also call 1-800-THANK-YOU to make bookings after Sept. 2019 through Connexions services. Will that be the same as booking through the online portal?

  5. @Debit

    Can you elude to your logic that says is is “awesome”? You did not gained anything new, and just been severely curtailed on what you have now.

  6. Ugh, I didn’t mind the cap at two (that’s the most I’ve used it in a year anyway), but not being able to book through the concierge so we can get normal member benefits kills this card for me. 🙁

  7. This really does suck! I use mine in conjunction with a government rate when I can. I just booked the Park Hyatt in D.C. for $181 a night, down from about $350 and then got the 4th night free on top of that. If this sticks around I don’t think I’ll renew in October.

  8. Wow, that’s a terrible change. I’ll keep it through my 4th nights I book, but I just won’t keep it after that.

    I’ll probably switch longer stays to use Prive when they have a 4th night.

    Not counting towards status is a big deal. Not being able to use other public rates in combination is a dealbreaker.

    Hyatt almost always has 10% member rates (or more), plus corporate rates are frequently good deals. And then to have it not count towards status… it’s a rare combination when I’d use it.

  9. Don’t online travel agencies earn a 20-30% commission from the hotel for making bookings? So if Citi earns 25% in commission and then passes that on to the cardholder in the form of the 4th night free, doesn’t that mean this effectively completely eliminates the costs to Citi from the 4th night free program? I’m not sure if they were earning that commission when we booked through the concierge…

  10. I got an email today with the changes and the terms in the email state:

    “4Cardmembers will enjoy a complimentary fourth night with no black-out dates (“Fourth Night”), when booking at least four consecutive nights at any hotel only through thankyou.com or by phone at 1-800-THANKYOU (powered by Connexions) or the Citi Prestige Concierge (the “Citi Prestige Concierge” is Aspire Lifestyles) and subject to additional requirements stated below. The amount due to you for the Fourth Night benefit will be based on the average nightly rate of your stay (excluding taxes and fees). When booked through the Citi Prestige Concierge, you will receive a statement credit for this amount within two billing cycles. When booked through thankyou.com or 1‑800‑THANKYOU, the complimentary night savings will be provided at the time of booking.”

    Am I missing something where this changes after September 1 re booking method?

  11. @Andrew M – If you click the button “Summary of Changes” you’ll be linked to a page with full details. The email Citi sent out left the part regarding Concierge booking post 9/1/2019 out….I didn’t notice until @MDDCFlyer pointed it out.

  12. Eh, whatevs. Half the times I tried to use the 4th night free, I couldn’t because even the concierge couldn’t book it. I like small, boutique places (and can’t stand chains), and many of them are just not bookable by traditional reservation systems. Apparently that’s a requirement for the concierge to be able to make the booking.

    When I realized I’d rarely be able to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit, I canceled my Prestige card. The new benefits are hardly enough to make me come back.

  13. I feel like this card has really just tanked. And this is what kept me in the Citi ecosystem.
    – used to have AA lounge access
    – points used to be worth 1.6c on AA
    – flight delay used to be 3 hours (and include a lot more cases)
    – more price matching
    – (briefly) Prive + 4th night free

    – I didn’t use it, but golf privileges.

  14. The Thankyou.com booking engine is absolutely awful. Room descriptions rarely match hotel website descriptions, and now with the loss of elite benefits this card is certainly a no-go moving forward. This is the 2nd major devaluation in 3 years and this one will likely make me rethink my entire banking portfolio away from Citi.

  15. @Doug: That’s just it. My understanding is that the Citi Prestige is in part designed to build a moat to retain those higher net worth Citigold and Citi Private Bank clients. These clients have multiple bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts, large mortgages etc. I wouldn’t describe myself as wealthy, but one of the reasons I chose Citi when I moved to the US was because of the card and the Citigold services and because I like to consolidate all my financial services at a single institution. By lowering the value of the Citi Prestige, they weaken the moat for me holding me back from jumping ship to Chase.

  16. Eliminating the ability to book through the concierge is probably a worse change for me than the two-use limit. I don’t use the benefit that often, but the times when I’ve gotten the most value has been booking specialty (AARP or similar) rates and still getting elite benefits. With that eliminated, I can do better with hotels.com (effective 9% rebate through rewards program, 20% discount possible through discounted gift cards, plus cashback portals and minimum 3% credit card rebate on travel category, can easily come out to 30-40% off).

  17. 4th night free was the only thing that was making me want to hold onto Prestige next year. Taking away my elite benefits is a no go for me. Really dumb idea from citi!

  18. Generally the 4th night free outweighs the elite benefits and I often use the benefit at more off-the-beaten-path, non-chain luxury hotels where elite benefits wouldn’t matter.

    Also, whenever I’ve looked on ThankYou.com, it always wanted be to prepay the full amount which is also horrible. Does anyone know if this is always the case or I was just unlucky the few times I searched (but never booked) there?

  19. As @Doug said above, I have decided to move on from Citibank for my banking relationship. They closed all of the branches in my area about 5 years back but the Thankyou points when tied to the Prestige’s increased redemption plus the excellent service I have experienced is what kept me with Citibank. However, with these changes, the Prestige and Thankyou ecosystem are worthless to me because most of their transfer partners just aren’t useful because of the limited availability for when I travel and now I will only earn 1 cent per point. Plus the 4th night free being completely useless since I don’t book through online travel agencies because of the poor service I typically receive at hotels along with the lack of elite recognition & points earnings. Sadly I will be taking my Citi Priority relationship to Chase for their Chase Sapphire Banking. I know I am a small fish in a big pond but all of my other family & friends who held the prestige card have either already cancelled or are planning to cancel.

    Citibank is trying to pull a page out of PNC’s playbook by offering higher earnings potential on the card but then making the points worth less than the competition. It may work initially but many people overtime become disinterested in cards that play these games. Plus, I think it is dishonest of Citi to state they are limiting the 4th night free benefit to 2X per year in an email sent to cardmembers but in the footnote not include that the concierge is disappearing in September 2019 and instead state that bookings can be made through the concierge. Only on the link provided in the email do they further elaborate on these changes.

    It makes me wonder if the online travel agency only changes weren’t supposed to come out yet because they are still evaluating this change or whether the original email forgot to mention the change by accident. While I am not a lawyer nor am I providing legal advice, I was always under the impression that footnotes on bank documents needed to be accurate and clearly the email footnote is not accurate if the link from the email is correct. As such, I think people should file complaints with the CFPB about this because I would think this is a violation of Truth in Advertising regulations.

  20. I only used the 4NF about 2x a year on average so I was ok with that cap. But about 2/3 of the time I have to use the concierge to book because either the hotel I want does not show up in TYP portal or the rate is non-competitive. This change will kill the card for me. I’ll keep through 2019 for my current bookings or possibly 2020 depending on what I can get done before 9/1/19. After that unless they make further positive changes it is not worth me holding this card anymore.

  21. This card went from the best in class to worst in class.

    In the memory of:

    -weird unique design that made it really difficult to find mag stripe.
    -admirals club access for you and 2 guess
    -best in class purchase price protection
    -best in class 3 hour delay trip and luggage insurance.
    -3 x golf rounds in expensive places.
    -4th night free including taxes and fees, bookable on world elite and prive rates (similar to FHR).
    -thankyou points worth 1.6c on AA.

  22. @santastico – It technically would, but Aman doesn’t put inventory OTA’s so Citi wouldn’t have access to the rooms.

    Overall we can’t be surprised this happened. I do commend them for giving plenty of notice, we can make reservations into 2020 if booked before 9/2019.albert

  23. One question you might want to address sometime is whether, when dining in an hotel, one should charge dinner to the room or settle the dining check with a card, and has that changed?

  24. @Lucky where did you get the text that says: “Booking through the Citi Prestige Concierge (only available through 08/31/19).” ?

  25. My AF is due August 2019, I wont be paying the 495 unless I get a crazy retention offer….I loved the fact that I could stack the 4th night benefit with other offers…. this card better bring back the Admirals Club asap otherwise i’m going AMEX PLAT

  26. While the CSR maintains its ‘cruising altitude’, the competition is now undeniably frantic in trying to find a formula that’ll duplicate the CSR’s success. AMEX is failing because it’s too risk-averse to offer truly bold benefits, and CITI’s benefits, while bold, are too disjointed, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ stuff simultaneously offsetting each other, to be irresistibly enticing.

  27. on retention front, i got a $50/month for 7 cycles. i will do as much 4th night as i can on cheap nights locally to hit ~20 nights.

  28. The fine print on citi’s website also says it can be booked at 1-800-Thankyou. Are you 100% sure we will lose the benefits described if it is made by calling this #?? What about aarp and other special group rates?

  29. 5x on Travel/Dining is a hot, easily translated benefit.

    All the other benefits (besides bonus earning) are more nuanced than most users can appreciate enough to make a switch in cards to use.

  30. @lucky Why do you think they made this change? Are they saving money by not having to employee as many concierge staff, or do they somehow save money when people book via the website?

  31. The email I received today from Citi said that bookings can still be made through the Citi Prestige Concierge after 9/19.

  32. Actually when you click in your email about further details, it takes you to a webpage that says after SEPT 2019, booking cannot be done using concierge service. I will cancel it in august when my renewal date is. It was nice while it lasted. I used i 3 times a year for Hilton Waldorf to get benefits but that is out now.

  33. @MDDCFlyer

    Awesome for people that couldn’t use the free night anyway. With the money savings citibank might add other benefits useful to other people.

    In the USA there are two kinds of people. The first that suck at government teats but blame everyone else that tries to do it too. Lets call them white Republican males. And then there are other people that have to defend their sucking because that’s what they are used to doing. Defending themselves even if they might not be getting much out of those teats.

    It’s time white Republican males understood that they are scum. NO BETTER!

    Anyway do you understand the analogy with the Citi prestige?

  34. I did actually warn you all months ago that here in Australia the Citi Prestige Fourth Night Free benefit from the outset had to be booked via an online Travel agent which meant Zero Chain Status Recognition And Zero Chain Earning.

    They have just decided to give American cardholders what we had overseas already with the Citi Prestige card.

    Which means the best benefit is unusable.

  35. Citi Prestige was my go-to card. But eliminating the multiplier on entertainment and the 20% off were crucial perks. I used the fourth-night free benefit four times, and all four times, I had to use the concierge since Connexions couldn’t book the property.

    Connexions’ agents aren’t adequately trained and routinely make errors. They have no idea what airlines or hotels they can book. Twice the representative permitted me to schedule flights on airlines they don’t represent. The card gives the impression that you can get the fourth night free on any hotel but that isn’t accurate.

    I can’t see paying for $495 for a card for perks that you can’t use. For me, the Premier is a better card for less money since I can still use my points to obtain discounted fares on an airline that don’t belong to FF programs.

  36. And Citi still wants my banking business? Sending offers of measly 10k TYP for transferring a boatload of my savings?
    Not very likely

  37. The Prestige Card has been devalued several times in the last two years and yet the annual fee increases. I mourned the loss of the American Airline lounges, but kept the card because as a frequent user of three star overseas hotels, I found great value in the fourth night free. However, the cap of two credits per year means that this card will probably be a break even enterprise once the fee increases to $495.

    I will need to re-evaluate my relationship with this card and compare it to a few others. I possess the Platinum Card from American Express (free to me through a brokerage relationship) so I can use that for Priority Lounges, etc. It may be time to let go of the Citi Prestige Card.

  38. This is sad. Neither Aman properties nor properties like cheval blanc are on thankyou.com and have to book through Concierge. I guess now it’s just four seasons and mandarin oriental left to use this card for. A sad day indeed.

  39. All the changes were great or neutral until this. I’ll be canceling if it doesn’t change. I picked up this card for 4th night free and if I lose my elite benefits and credits, I’m losing the card.

  40. For once, this would result in the Citi Prestige card issued outside of the US (I am based in Hong Kong) having a better value proposition than the same card issued in the US. Generally speaking, the soft benefits associated with credit cards issued in the US are far greater than those that are issued in Hong Kong. Now, fingers crossed that they don’t devalue the HK Citi Prestige Card (they’ve recently upped the annual fee to approximately the same amount as the new US fee).

  41. Why are people still using this card??? I cancelled when they dropped the Admiral Club benefits. Why pay $450 for this when there are so many others available.

  42. Any information on what the annual fee will be for Citigold and Citi Private Banking clients? they got a $100 discount with the old versoin.

  43. @justin, per summary of changes, Citigold & private banking won’t have fee increases, but will only get one more round of relationship bonus (ie discount toward annual fees) to be applied at your next renewal anniversary, starting Jan 4 next year. So bummed. We have these cards (DH & I are both primary card holders) specifically because of the 4th night free – we travel 6-8x per year & get a second room for our kid, so it more than made up for the annual fee. Now, not so much. I think we’ll end up tossing at least one of these and will look into a different card.

  44. Agreed. I can’t see many reasons to keep this card much longer. Maybe if they keep the $350 discounted annual fee I currently have, I will keep it for the $250 travel credit and the 5x dining so that I can transfer points out, because redeeming points at 1:1 ratio is not worth it. They do not have many transfer partners that I would be interested in (notably, I fly a lot on Delta). However, I am saving points for a one-time Singapore redemption and then maybe I will cancel it afterwards, since $300-$250 credit would cost me $50 for absolutely no additional benefits. At $495, however, it’s a “no-brainer” cancellation. Removing the concierge redemption option so that I can earn elite status would be the make-or-break part of the deal. Have you reached out to Citi corporate for an update and clarification to see if they have reconsidered this?

  45. So…CLEARLY…my earlier thoughts of restricting the 4th Night Free benefits to only 2x a year not being such a big deal were (slightly) misguided. I’m still fine with the 2x limitation, as I’ve heretofore never exceeded that limit. But the loss of being able to still accrue benefits/points with the hotel chain…THAT is a different story! That certainly SUCKS!

    On the positive side, I certainly like the 5x on dining and air travel. The $250 air travel credit is something I’ve taken advantage of every year since I’ve had the card, and I’ll continue to do so now that it applies to all travel. And I like the travel protection coverage.

    On the negative side, besides now forcing me into using an OTA, I don’t like the loss of 2x on entertainment either. The loss of the 1.25¢ redemption is not necessarily a bad deal, as I can still transfer the points out — the value now depends upon the redemption, but didn’t it always?

    HOWEVER, I will still be earning 2x on entertainment through the City ThankYou Premier card. I’ll also continue to earn 3x on “travel including gas stations, airfare, hotels, cruises, car rental agencies, travel agencies, railways, public transportation, tolls, taxis, parking and much more.” Certainly airfare goes to the Prestige card (5x) and not here, and cruises are a wash, but the rest???

  46. HEY “Debit ” ; Thanks for your ignorant left winger rant and spew of idiocy. I bet you are a liberal dimocrap that sucks up ALL the freebies other taxpayers pay for.
    Now back to your pig sty.

  47. Ben
    Thank you very much for this highly important clarification that was not fully clear to the current Citi Card membership base self included
    imho this is a lack of full disclosure as to the deeper ramifications to those changes
    Variety of rate plans paying at the hotel and receiveing expected benefits

    As a result of what appears to be 3rd party bookings I will close all my Citibank cards and
    close my Citibank Gold relationship with 250 k in it
    What they did is unforgivable and regrettable
    Here’s to hoping management corrects this oversight and restores the possibility of sustaining their very cardholders who are wise & informed
    Otherwise like the Shark Tank says “I’m Out “
    American Express & Chase in
    I’d also argue the Citi thank you points transfer partners are somewhat weaker making the value proposition weaker then their competitors to begin with

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