Citi Premier Vs. Citi Prestige: Crunching The Numbers

Filed Under: Citi, Credit Cards
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I have over two dozen credit cards, and I reassess my strategy every so often based on my spending patterns, and based on how card benefits evolve. For the most part I’m quite happy with my card portfolio, though there’s one thing I keep going back and forth on — I currently have the Citi Prestige Card, but should I downgrade it to the Citi Premier® Card (review)?

Why I want either the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige

The reason I want either the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige has very little to do with either actual card. Rather it’s because the no annual fee Citi® Double Cash Card (review) is my go-to card for everyday spending, and in order to maximize the value I get from the card, I need either of the above cards:

  • The Citi Double Cash offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase
  • If you have the Citi Double Cash in conjunction with either the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, then all rewards can be converted into Citi ThankYou points at a rate of one cent per point, and can then be transfered to airline partners
  • Since I value Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, that increases the value of these rewards by 70%, by my valuation; this makes it the best card for everyday spending, by my valuation

The Citi Double Cash earns me 2x transferable points per dollar spent

Breaking down the Citi Prestige value proposition

I already have the $495 annual fee Citi Prestige, though in many ways the card has become less valuable to me over time. Here’s how I view the breakdown of the card perks:

  • The Citi Prestige offers a $250 annual travel credit, which I value more or less at face value; therefore I consider this card to really cost me somewhere around $245 per year
  • The only money I actually spend on the Citi Prestige is in the dining category, as the card offers 5x ThankYou points on dining spending, which is industry-leading
  • The Citi Prestige offers a Priority Pass membership, which many other people may value; however, I have Priority Pass memberships through many cards, so this isn’t a perk I personally value
  • The Citi Prestige used to offer an incredible fourth night free hotel benefit, which I used to consider to be the single most valuable credit card benefit out there; unfortunately in 2019 this was significantly devalued, and I haven’t used it since

In other words, I’m paying ~$245 per year, and for that I have the ability to maximize the value of the Citi Double Cash, and also earn 5x points on dining purchases.

The Citi Prestige offers 5x points on dining

Breaking down the Citi Premier value proposition

The main reason I’m considering the Citi Premier is because it has an annual fee of only $95, and it would still give me full access to the value of the Citi Double Cash:

  • I’d much rather pay $95 per year than $495 per year, though perhaps it’s really more like $95 per year vs. $245 per year, after factoring in the Citi Prestige’s $250 travel credit
  • The Citi Premier is incredibly well rounded, as it offers 3x points on restaurants, gas, groceries, air travel, and hotels
  • For the average consumer I think the Citi Premier is tough to beat in terms of bonus categories, though I have a lot of cards with great bonus categories, so I’m not sure I’d actually put much spending on the card

The Citi Premier would allow me to still maximize the Citi Double Cash

What the math comes down to for me

This brings me to the math in deciding between these two options, both of which allow me to maximize the Citi Double Cash:

  • I could keep paying the $495 annual fee on the Citi Prestige, which really costs me $245 per year; this allows me to earn 5x ThankYou points on dining, when my next-best option for dining spending is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review), which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points
  • I could downgrade to the Citi Premier, which will save me $400 per year (or really $150 after factoring in the Citi Prestige’s $250 travel credit), but then I won’t actually use the card for spending

For me the math seems to come down to how much I spend on dining. With the Citi Prestige I earn an ~8.5% return on dining spending (based on my valuation of 1.7 cents per ThankYou point), while the next best option is to earn a ~5.1% return on dining spending with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (the card offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each).

That’s an incremental ~3.4% return on dining, so I’d make up the $150 difference in cost between the cards with ~$4,400 of dining spending per year. I easily spend that per year on dining, especially when you consider that it includes takeout and delivery.

Perhaps the math works out differently if I were to get the American Express® Gold Card (review), which offers 4x points on dining. Then I’d only be giving up 1x points per dollar spent, so the breakeven point is more like ~$8,800 per year in dining spending.

The math all comes down to how much I spend on dining

Bottom line

For the average consumer who doesn’t go great lengths to maximize credit card rewards, I think the combination of the Citi Premier and Citi Double Cash is tough to beat, as you earn 2-3x points on all purchases.

I keep considering downgrading the Citi Prestige to the Citi Premier, but I can’t quite make the math work. That’s simply because the 5x points on dining on the Citi Prestige really adds up, and is incrementally worthwhile to me over the Citi Premier.

To others who use the Citi Double Cash for everyday spending, do you complement it with the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige? How does the math work out for you?

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Comments
  1. @Lucky,

    I used to hold the Citi Prestige until Citi started cutting a lot of the benefits. Given the pandemic, I’m glad I did. As you point out, one of the best options for dining is the Amex Gold card. I really think at this point in time (Feb 2021) the Amex Gold is better than the Prestige and the Premier card. The fee is in the middle at $250/year, but given all the credits (airline, grubhub, uber), it’s pretty easy to get the fee down to something quite small or negative (depending on how one value’s the credits). On top of this, the card is 4x on food (dining and up to 25k/year grocery) + 3x airlines. I’m sure you know this since you reviewed the card 10 days ago. I just don’t see how either Citi card can compete. My effective annual fee on the Gold card is negative for me this year.

  2. I think the math on the Citi Prestige checks out, as you say. You mention you haven’t used the Fourth Night Free benefit since 2019–and it’s true that the benefit has been devalued as it’s now usable only twice a year–but I think that’s a huge cherry on top in terms of the value of the card.

    If you use the fourth night free at a place like an Aman or an expensive Four Seasons, you easily get the $245 back and much more. And you can do that twice in a year. I don’t have a Citi Prestige, and I book most of my hotel stays through my Virtuoso/FSPP/etc agent, but I’m sure there are situations where the fourth night free provides more value. For instance, for a stay at a small hotel during a peak period where upgrade chances are slim to non-existent and the room rate far exceeds the Virtuoso credit, booking with Citi Prestige would put you ahead. I’m considering getting a Citi Prestige for this reason (not to mention dining is a huge spend category for me, so the 5x points over the 3x from Chase is very tempting).

  3. I use the Citi Premier all the time, I still have the benefit of 3x on any travel until April, before it loses that.
    Having hotel credit cards for Hyatt and Hilton, Premier for other hotels/dining, and Amex Platinum for airfare and other benefits really means the Citi Prestige does not cover anything else that is worth paying the extra money for for me.
    The only way it makes sense to keep the Prestige is to be able to use the fourth night free regularly (hard due to covid), and also spend $7500 on dining or other spending where you would earn 5x instead of 3x ($245 vs $95, and $7500 dining spend will earn 15,000 more points on prestige to justify the difference in annual fee, of course could be less depending on if you value the points as worth more than 1 cent).

  4. Lucky, can you please address what you would need to do with the points on your Prestige card if you were to downgrade? I have the Premier and the Prestige. Remind me—what happens if I move my Prestige points to the Premier in order to close my account? I need to use the Prestige points (i.e transfer them to an airline program or—shudder—cash them out as a gift card?) within X (90?) days?

  5. The key here is the dining category. As an someone who lives in New York and enjoys going out, dining is a spend category that has been meaningful for me historically (remember it includes bars as well). However I am at the point where my spending in that category should be declining. So hopefully I can be in a position where 3x dining (Chase, Citi Premier, etc) is OK, and I don’t give up too much by giving up 4x dining (Amex Gold) or 4x dining (Citi Prestige). All of Citi Prestige’s travel benefits are easily had elsewhere.

  6. Ben, I think your problem is you have too many credit cards and each card needs a narrow niche. 5x restaurants is a pretty good one.

    5x on air travel comes with this card, but it seems you prefer to use the Amex Plat for its 5x.

    Priority pass, the citi or chase versions are best as you get restaurant access. Here the citi prestige is a pretty good alternative to the chase sapphire reserve. Maybe pair the citi prestige with the Amex green for a catch all in travel plus some lounges you get with Amex that aren’t part of priority pass.

    This should cover most person non bonused categories and you really just need a card for gas and groceries which you don’t spend a lot on. The Amex everyday preferred slots in nicely here.

  7. You don’t mention 5x points on airfare from the Citi Prestige card. While the Amex Platinum personal card also gives 5x points, the net cost of that card is much higher than the Prestige, unless you are active duty military.

    Also, many people pay less than full price for the Prestige annual fee. As someone else noted, Citigold customers pay 350 per year. And calling to convert the Prestige card to a Double Cash card (I already have a Premier) has so far always resulted in an offer of points for renewal-and-spend which makes the decision to keep the Prestige an easy choice.

  8. This article was written from a point of view of someone who has multiple $450+ AF cards and overlapping/redundant spending bonuses/perks. For someone just getting into the game, 2 free 4th nights and Priority Pass is massive.

    Citi Prestige is overwhelmingly better than Citi Premier, it’s not even close.

  9. I am pondering the same issue. I don’t have dining spending anywhere near the level you do, so I am leaning toward downgrading when the renewal is due in April. Figuring out a strategy for existing Thank YOu points accrued on the Prestige is a complicating factor, since they would need to be used/transferred within a short period (60 days I think). Last year I kept the Prestige, figurinig I would use the Thank You points for travel later in the year. Covid interfered with that plan, so now I’m trying to decide whether to gamble on being able to make a valuable use of the points this year.
    I’m also considering just closing the Prestige without downgrading – and then waiting to get a new signup bonus with Premiere at a later date.

  10. Thanks for the reminder. My AF hit last week and I forgot to cancel. The value is no longer there with the Prestige. The 4th night free lost it’s value when the rates are typically inflated.

  11. American Express had regular limited-time offers on the Amex Gold Card, enabling you to earn valuable rewards and cash back at hotels, restaurants, etc.

    Citi rarely, if ever, provides promotional incentives to earn $$$ back on spend.

    Easy decision…..get the Amex Gold Card.

  12. I’m glad that with a citigold relationship this is rather a “do i keep the premier” situation for me as the prestige AF is effectively $100 for a better pp card, 4th night free occasionally, more bonus categories (although I personally still prefer the plat+gold combo), and the fact that MC is more likely being accepted; while the premier is hardly worth itself for $95 once it loses 3x of the entire travel category.

  13. @MZ one of the best features of the Prestige has nothing to do with travel but instead is the 2 years it adds to the warranty for most stuff. When my iPhone crapped out they picked up the tab to replace it and the same for one of my Mac computers.

    Two years extra warranty on pretty much everything you buy for $95/year is pretty much a no brainer making the card worth it even without any of the other benefits.

    I often wonder why people never mention this. Maybe the don’t realize the value or maybe their electronics (or anything else) never crap out.

  14. @Eric, my understanding from my last conversation with a Citi rep is that if you close your Prestige and keep your Premier, the points that were originally earned with the Prestige will expire within the grace period (60 days?). When you redeem points from a combined balance, Citi has a way of drawing the redemption from the “oldest” points (those that were earned earlier than later), so if you are routinely redeeming points, a card closure would put fewer of them at risk.

  15. I like Citibank Customer service for the credit card division,It is vastly superior to American Express and Citi has American Based call centers .When it comes time to a dispute Citi bank is a customers friend .Amex your worst enemy/evil.They may likely throw you under the bus and close your case without notice
    Everyone talks about how much you can earn in miles with a credit card but if the currency isn’t something valuable or relevant to your needs are you really earning more?

    Sadly Citi Prestige is in the toilet.I’ve had mine since inception and I canceled last month
    They need a massive refresh.Happy with Citi Double Cash, Costco Visa and Citi Premier and Chase Sapphire Reserve & Ink business.After decades with Amex I have only two cards with them left from 5 and spend next to nothing on them as they have demonstrated arrogance before and after the pandemic.
    My 50k to 100k a year in annual spending now goes everywhere but Amex

  16. Premier plus DC plus Rewards+ is a great combo. 2.22x on DC and 3.33X on Premier categories after 10% Rewards+ rebate. All transfer partners unlocked. At 1.7 cents per point, that’s 3.77% on DC and 5.66% on Premier categories. All for $95 AF and no large deposit requirement like BOA Cash Rewards Honors. And that $95 can be reduced with Premier’s hotel credit.

    Prestige only makes sense if you are CitiGold and get the AF rebate. Otherwise, Amex Gold at 4x dining with an AF that can be effectively reduced as low as $10 with Uber, Uber Eats and food credits is a better option for nearly all diners.

    One underrated category for both Premier (3x) and Prestige (5x) is Online Travel Agents…

  17. I think you’re just trying to reap benefit from too many redundant cards. It is hard to justify a Prestige on dining spend alone IMO. You would probably get more efficiency out of your spending by focusing a little more narrowly on an ecosystem or two.

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