Citi Prestige Card Changes Take Effect Today

Filed Under: Citi, Credit Cards
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I’ve had the Citi Prestige Card for years, thanks primarily to the incredible fourth night free benefit that the card offers, which saves me thousands of dollars per year (unfortunately the benefit is being devalued in 2019).

Historically there hasn’t actually been much value in putting spend on the Citi Prestige, though the card has just undergone some major changes, which kick in as of today, Friday, January 4, 2019.

So if you haven’t been putting much spend on the card, it’s time to take the card out of your wallet and start spending on it again, given its industry leading bonus categories.

As part of this, I’ll be greatly adjusting my credit card spend as of the end of this coming week. Here’s how my strategy is changing:

Citi Prestige for all restaurant purchases

As of today (January 4, 2019), the Citi Prestige offers 5x ThankYou points on all dining purchases globally. This is now my go-to card for all my dining spend. I value ThankYou points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me this is the equivalent of earning an 8.5% return on this spend.

Up until now, I’ve used the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for all my dining spend, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, which I value at a return of 5.1%.

I’ll gladly take an extra 3.4% return on my dining spend.

For a while, I had also considered getting the American Express® Gold Card, which is generous in its own right, as it offers 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants. However, there are lots of reports of some restaurants not being coded correctly, much more so than with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

So the Citi Prestige offering 5x points everywhere on dining is the best, in my opinion.

Citi Prestige for all airfare purchases

As of today (January 4, 2019), the Citi Prestige offers 5x ThankYou points on air travel purchases globally. I value ThankYou points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me this is the equivalent of earning an 8.5% return on this spend.

Up until now, I’ve used one of two cards for airfare purchases:

In this post, I shared my strategy for airfare purchases up until now. Essentially I value the return on the Amex at ~3.4% more, so for expensive tickets I used the Amex Platinum (for the incremental points earning), and for cheap tickets I used the Sapphire Reserve (for the superior travel protection).

Going forward all of my air travel purchases will go on the Citi Prestige, as I’ll earn 5x points on air travel purchases and I’ll receive solid travel protection. I no longer have to choose one or the other!

Other Citi Prestige changes

When it comes to spend on the card, earning 5x points on dining and air travel is the biggest update to me. The card also earns 3x ThankYou points on cruises as of today, though personally I don’t cruise, so it’s not something I find to be that valuable.

Furthermore, the card’s $250 annual airline credit has been expanded to a $250 annual travel credit, so that’s great.

There are other Citi Prestige changes coming later in the year:

  • As of May 1, 2019, the Citi Prestige will offer a new cell phone protection plan
  • As of August 31, 2019, the Citi Prestige will no longer offer 2x ThankYou points on entertainment
  • As of September 1, 2019, the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit will be capped at two bookings per year, and will only be bookable through the ThankYou site or call center (this is a bummer)
  • As of September 1, 2019, the Citi Prestige will no longer let you redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards airfare (but rather only at one cent each)
  • As of September 1, 2019, the Citi Prestige annual fee will be increasing from $450 to $495

Want to apply for the Citi Prestige Card?

In August 2019, Citi stopped accepting applications for the Prestige Card. As you can see, the card is now being relaunched, and Citi has said that they’ll once again be accepting applications as of early this year.

So hopefully they start accepting applications soon, though I don’t have any details of when. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s today or tomorrow (since you’d think they’d want to create buzz around the relaunch), though that’s just speculation on my part.

Justifying the annual fee on the Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige currently has a $450 annual fee, though it will be increasing to $495 as of September 2019. So for now I’m still paying $450 per year. To share my math:

  • The card offers a $250 travel credit; to me that lowers the real “out of pocket” on this card to $200 per year
  • The card offers a Priority Pass membership, though I have that through other cards as well, so don’t value it as an incremental perk
  • The card will offer a cell phone protection benefit starting in May 2019, which could be useful (though I already have that through the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card)
  • The card continues to offer the unrestricted fourth night free benefit until September 2019, so for now that still saves me a ton of money

For those who are hesitant to pay such a high annual fee, you may also want to consider the Citi Premier® Card (review), which has a more reasonable annual fee of only $95, earns ThankYou points, and offers compelling bonus categories for spend such as 3x points on airfare, hotels, dining, supermarkets and gas stations.

So for now I can continue to easily justify the annual fee on the card, given the fourth night free benefit is still unrestricted. However, long term I’m guessing I’ll view this as a $245 per year “out of pocket” card that earns my 5x points in some useful categories. I’ll be crunching the numbers again at that point.

Are you excited about the Citi Prestige changes, and how will they impact your strategy?

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  1. In reality the 4th night free reservation “just” has to be made by September 2019 so theoretically you could make reservations going into the summer of 2020 and still still get 4th night free.

  2. I have had a very rough time booking the Prestige 4th night free — it is very much more restricted than before — and often hard to track down if you actually received it. i have found much more value booking Amex Plat Fine Hotels — (sometimes they offer a third of 4th night free) and the other benefits are great — often a better deal than Prestige 4th night free.

  3. @ Ben — Thanks for reminding me to shift my airfare spend to the Prestige card and close my AMEX Plat, which will become a waste of money next time the annual fee is due.

  4. @Ben hasn’t the Chase Sapphire Reserve effectively become useless at this point with the Citi Prestige offering better bonus categories and the Amex Platinum offering great perks? You’re essentially paying $150 every year for benefits that the other cards can get you – with no real value add:

    Amex Platinum has Marriott gold, Hilton gold, and a range of other excellent benefits
    Citi Prestige has 4th night free (one amazing perk) + best bonus categories in dining+airfare

    Chase has 3X on travel (significantly worse than Amex + Citi and points have fewer transfer partners) and no other massive perks like 4th night free

  5. When are they opening this up to new applications? I really could have used this for upcoming stays.

  6. However, the CSR has better travel protection coverage, particularly for cancellations, which may be a consideration in moving airfare purchases, and a more lucrative total system combined with the Freedom and Ultimate.

  7. I’ve enjoyed the 4th Night Free benefit several times, but I can certainly live with the limit (as of 9/2019) of only 2x/year. Previous cuts, like the golf benefit and others, had very little affect on me. The NEW 5x for all restaurants and airfare will DEFI?NITELY make this my go to card for those categories, so while losing some of the 4th Night Free benefits may be somewhat problematic, overall I’m quite pleased with the changes…

  8. Lucky, I think there is typo in the first bullet of Justifying the fee – the out of pocket is $245, not $200 (it is shown as $245 later in the same section).

  9. Wish they had hotel partners. Right now will probably put the spend in my WoH card for elite night credits and double points or CSP for double UR points. I have more hotel points than I know what to do with.

  10. @Mishas he mentions that the annual fee is $450 for him this year, so $200 out of pocket. Then we he mentions $245 he says that as “long term” which it would be since the AF is going up.

    Understandably slightly confusing, but I think his numbers are right given the context of each example.

  11. It’s really too bad about fourth night free being limited to two bookings per year as I have gotten over 5k of rebates each year in the past two years. All good things must come to an end. Good thing Amex still runs 4th night free sometimes at Aman/ Four seasons etc so that should supplement the loss of unlimited booking with Citi although it’ll just be 1 Amex points vs used to be 3x Citi points.

    Sapphire def will be the stepchild of credit card I use going forward. Most of my none bonus category spendings (ie shopping) will be going onto other credit cards that gives me 2x/ dollar. I’m sure Chase will see drastic fall of spending on their Sapphire card. Maybe they will decide adding back Korean Air will be a good thing?

  12. The best feature of the CSR is the ability to redeem your points towards cash travel purchases at the rate of 1.5 cents per point. This means that I do not have to rely on saver awards being available. I never use my own money on my leisure travel purchases anymore. I paid for a rental car last week with points. That is an extra $150 in my pocket that would not have not been in my pocked if I had the Citi Prestige.

  13. After reading this I am more excited about keeping this card and for the first time wondering what my future is with CSR. 2 other points:
    —sorry to see the 2 pts for entertainment purchases go on the Prestige.
    —the Prestige PRiority Pass has unlimited guests vs the CSR now being limited to 2 (I believe, correct me if I am wrong )

  14. After maxing out ’19 benefits, spouse and I will be getting rid of one Citi Prestige, two MB Amex cards, one CSR, and likely one Amex Bus Plat. They’ve all outlived their usefulness. We’ve been swimming in useless benefits. I can’t wait to lighten the load. But it was a fun ride, and lucrative to boot.

  15. I don’t think anyone knows about sign up bonuses yet. It’s safe to bet there’d be at least a 50k one, since all the premium cards offer at least that. I’m hoping for something along the lines of 70k since they need to draw new people to the product.

  16. The big problem for me with the card is the 4th night free benefit being booked through a 3rd party that only is selling rooms through prepaid booking channels like Expedia
    Or other reseller where you don’t pay directly at the hotels
    Thanks to Lucky/Mr Ben that was something I was caught unaware of

    Essentially no points earned and no stay credit and technically no elite benefits H### no!
    Card will be closed at renewal
    I’m going to Capital One as sad as that may seem and spend more on my CSReserve and Amex cards
    Historically Citibank has always taken an Ax and destroyed every card I have ever been enrolled in .Here we go again

    You would have to spend 10,000 dollars a more a year (unless spending in bonus categories to justify the 200 dollar annual fee (less the travel credit) just to break even or 2000 plus dollars in airline tickets x 5. Then you would start having a return on the investment after that spend.
    Had they continued with the two booking limit with Aspire Travel service booked through direct channels I would have absolutely stayed
    Citibank just doesn’t get it!

  17. I have both the Citi Prestige Mastercard and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa. For years I’ve checked both the Citi and Chase travel portals to book reward travel. Every single time without exception, Chase required fewer Ultimate Rewards points than Citi required ThankYou points for identical flights.

  18. @dwondermeant
    It is great there are fools like you that keep this fourth night free benefit going. I love getting all my perks of elite status and a credit back.

  19. If many follow Lucky’s move to put spend on the Citi Prestige perhaps that may prompt other issuers to up their game as far as spend rewards. Competition is good for consumers.

  20. One if the most no brained things to do is to open a citigold account by depositing 250k with Citibank. U only will pay a $350 AF on the card as long as your citigold. Surely with the amount of spend you do, u can become citigold

  21. @Marty, that’s because chase gives 1.5 cents per point redeemed through their portal and Citi gives 1.25 cents. Citi is actually devaluing this further to just 1 cent. If you redeem your chase points for economy redemptions at 1.5 then chase is the right product for you; I try to redeem my points for J-class so the portal redemption rate devaluation isn’t a big deal.

  22. For the CSR travel means spend on taxi, subway, campground fee, airfare, hotels, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    What does travel mean for the Prestige? Airline tickets and what else?

    For the CSR, dining means pretty anything that one consumes in an establishment that offers sit-down or fast food. What does dining mean for the Prestige?

    Then the problem of “currency dilution” where one puts one’s spend on several vdifferent cards and ends up with a little bit of points in many currencies rather than a lot of points in one currency to make it easy to afford a ‘decent’ redemption.

    Until further notice, the CSR will be the my one card for travel and dining @3x, the Ink Biz Cash for phone, internet charges @5x and the CFU for everything else @1.5x — all in one currency: the Chase UR.

  23. I still think Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards are more flexible currencies

    1) Both MR and UR have domestic legacy airline transfer partners, Citi does not
    2) Both MR and UR have hotel transfer partners, Citi does not
    3) UR can be redeemed for cash at 1.5 cents per point
    4) MR can be redeemed for cash at 1.25 cents per point
    5) MR has frequent transfer bonuses

  24. @Anthony just pointed out other ‘practical’ reasons why sticking with the CSR/UR is still the right call. Better transferability to ‘legacy’ airlines and 50% more money per point when redeemed through Chase…

  25. @DCS – it is not more money per point with CSR, as with CSR you earn 3 points on airline and dining and then redeem those for 1.5 UR in Chase portal for a value of 4.5 cents per dollar, whereas with Citi Prestige you earn 5 points per dollar spent on airlines and dining and although the redemption is “only” 1 cent per point earned you still get 5 cents per dollar (5>4.5) and here you are not restricted to the Citi thankyou portal as you can get those in cash and use them with any online travel agency you wish

  26. The reduced benefit of the fourth night free and the increased annual fee will have me canceling this card this year.

    Most of my airfare is bought with points and being a picky eater my dining out it limited.

    Not really seeing any “improvements” with these changes.

  27. @Anthony – UR cannot be redeemed for cash at 1.5 cents per point. They can be redeemed for 1.5 cents per point only for travel and only via Chase Travel Portal. If you want “hard” cash you will get only 1 cent per point

  28. @dwondermeant is right, the change in booking channels for 4th night free hurts more than the limit on uses per year. And it’s not just the loss of elite benefits and points earning, but also that rates like AAA won’t be bookable. On a typical stay for me, a room may be $100/nt AAA and $120/nt otherwise, so the 4NF vs AAA saves me not $100 or $120 but just $40.

    Taking Marriott as an example, my $400 AAA stay would earn at least 4000 points (more for elites or if bonuses are offered), worth $32 at OMAAT valuation, so now a 4NF saves just $8. For a Platinum Premier elite with 75% earnings bonus, the stay would earn 7000 points worth 456, and now using the 4NF actually costs money.

    If you stay at expensive, independent, overseas properties where other discounts aren’t available, then the 4NF can still offer some nice savings. But for those of us staying mostly in cheaper domestic chain hotels, the 2x/year limit on 4NF doesn’t matter, because the benefit is essentially worthless.

    I haven’t yet decided if earning 5x but less useful points on the bonus categories justifies the fee, of if I will close and just keep the CSR.

  29. @Omer – Correct math, 5 > 4.5, which is not a huge difference and that is where everything else (e.g., the broader definition of ‘travel’ and better transferability) weighs in favor of the CSR. Given that and the downside of ‘currency dilution’ due to putting spending on different cards, sticking with the CSR remains the correct call…until something truly revolutionary — like the CSR was — comes along.

  30. Does anyone have experience booking 4th night free through the ThankYou phone number (not the online portal)? Do the agents have the same rates/inventory as the online portal, or is it more flexible like the current Concierge desk?

  31. You omitted the devaluation of the 1.20% for plane tickets. Can I still use the Prestige points with my Premier card which for now still offers this perk?

    The Citi Rewind benefit up to $1,000 makes this card a keeper since I saved $150 with just my recent camera purchase.

  32. In addition to what Anthony pointed out above, for me, significant factors that still make CSR and Chase UR points more valuable in many ways are:

    1) Ease and speed of transferring and ability to book awards (UA has great availability on partners in business even if you can’t always get the nonstop), and transfers are instant to UA and many other partners

    2) CSR has superior protections, or at least in paying out legitimate claims. Many reports (and I’ve had personal experience) with Citi’s claims administrator doing everything it can to deny claims. Search for the issues with denying claims on their 3 hour delay promise— they were denying even though the first flight was late resulting in a missed connection and an overnight because the first flight was not late by more than 3 hours even though the overall trip was delayed 12+ hours. Benefits guide stated “trip delay” not “flight delay”. Unclear if this was just the administrator maximizing their profits or under direction from Citi.

    Same goes for things like Extended Warranty. Can’t trust Citi’s protection benefits, therefore they are worthless.

    Same for points. More points but overall harder to use, worth less? At best a wash.

  33. The main problem, as others have mentioned, is having to book via the Thank You site rather than Citi Concierge. No elite benefits and having to prepay for the entire reservation. I like to book early and prepaying is out of the question.

  34. KT712, you do have to prepay hotel reservations made through the Citi thank you portal but many reservations are refundable, so you can still cancel and receive a refund.

  35. Really interesting benefit updates. Even for people who pay for a week long hotel stay twice a year, they could easily break-even on the annual fee if the hotel stay averages $250 per night. With 5x for airfare purchases, trip delay insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and 5x on dinning this card becomes extremely competitive with Amex Platinum and the CSR.

  36. @Raymond, I agree that that the Prestige 4th night free benefit would remain valuable if Citi continued to allow 4th night free bookings to be made through the concierge. Unfortunately, 4th night free bookings through the concierge will no longer be allowed after 08/31/19. This change severely dilutes the value of the 4th night free benefit.

  37. Biggest issue with TYP is their transfer partners. Compared to AMEX and Chase, the TYP transfer parents are lacking. I’d rather gain 3x UR for dining than 5x TYP on dining just out of ease of use.

    And not only are the partners better on Chase and Amex, but the transfer times are faster too! Even the same airlines have a delay with Citi that transfer instant with Chase and Amex.

    I enjoy these blogs and know the writer has to make a living by putting out referral links – just be aware the TYP program is lacking.

  38. Lucky, You always review Prestige and leave out hotels at 3 times. That is a huge category you do use.

    I am definitely sad with the devaluation of 4th night. But this does now seem to me to be the best all around luxury card, this is what I would recommend to my friends who are more casual about this. Get a Citi Prestige and something like an AMEX Preferred, maybe one hotel card for your preferred chain… let er rip.

    Last year I moved a ton of points to Air France with a 40% bonus, really looking forward to that over Chase. Chase is just a good way to get Hyatt points; which I know need more from Citi 4th night mostly going away.

    Crazy to think I may cancel my CSR… or at the very least it is swapping places with the Prestige today; CSR will be at the back of my wallet.

  39. could you do an overview of Citi airline transfers – sweet spots, etc.? all these earning options are great, but it’s good to know what we are earning them for. Are they planning to add new airline partners? I wish they could add Emirates, or CSR could add Emirates since it has lost Korean now.

  40. You’re so lucky (pun half intended) to have such great deals over there, nothing like that over this side of the pond.

  41. “you do have to prepay hotel reservations made through the Citi thank you portal but many reservations are refundable, so you can still cancel and receive a refund”

    Yeah, but only if your chosen property is available on the site. The sweet little “boutique” hotel we stayed at last Summer in Florence is not listed there, and without the concierge there is no way to book it. 🙁

  42. @DCS …. Spot on with your first post. Diluting points over many different programs is a real issue. Doing what you do with except that I need to pick up the Ink Business card.

  43. I was waiting to see the sign-up bonus for this Citi Prestige relaunch, but Citi flaked on us. They pushed back the relaunch date to late January 2019 when it was originally January 4, 2019. They had 3 whole months to prepare, and still dropped the ball.

    This sloppy execution on their best travel card says a lot about the company. They are not ready for the Premier travel card market. I’ll stick with the Citi Thankyou Premier.

  44. @ben is there anyway to petition or attempt to sway Citi to keep the concierge booking option for the 2 4th night free bookings? It’s bad enough to limit it to two times a year but to take away the elite benefits and points earning might be a deal breaker for me (and plenty of others I see) with this card!!

  45. @lucky
    does citi let us have both the premier and prestige? Bc the premier have bonus categories that I like and the prestige lacks. If yes, I can see some people use this duo for more points like:
    5x on airfare with prestige
    5x on dining with prestige
    3x on other travel (hotels, cruises, trains, gas, etc) with premier
    2x on entertainment with premier
    1x on everything else

  46. @chub, you can have both cards. I expect that many will keep both cards for the reasons you just described. Additionally, at least for now, the Premier still offers 1.25 cents per point redeemed through the thank you portal.

  47. Given that I have CitiGold Checking, meaning AF on this card would only be $350, seems like a no-brainer to get it. I have lots of dining expenses, so that 5x sounds amazing. Plus I live right by a United hub, so the ability to funnel those points into LifeMiles for short-haul United flights is a huge benefit for me.

  48. The only thing that jastified this crd to me was the 4th night free, saved me a lot of money over the past few years. With this essentially going away I’m going to drop the card. To give worse perks and up the charge, I can’t justify the high cost here. I’ll use my airline credits and drop it, the Amex 4x dining points will be a better buy for me.

  49. Does anyone have any info on when applications for this card will open up? I’ve called Citi twice now and both times have gotten no useful info other than “keep checking.”

    I’ve got a trip coming up in Feb that will probably have me spending a good $2-3K in air travel so I wouldn’t mind giving the Prestige card a shot over CSR. Even a 50-60K signup bonus would be enough for me to justify the card since I had the Premiere card back in 2016 before I downgraded to Double Cash Back and had found good value for TYP in my use.

    In any other situation, I wouldn’t mind waiting it out. But considering that ticket prices will continue to creep up, I don’t have that luxury. I may just have to go with the CSR…

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  50. The big thing for me is the travel insurance, which I see as superior to CSR. On the surface they appear the same and CSR offers additional medical and dental (max $1,500). However, for me the exclusions make a huge difference. The CSR excludes many countries, including most of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, etc.) whereas the Prestige has no exclusions. This is big as I visit SE Asia and need the $100k evac insurance. CSR also excludes injuries from “risky” activity like skydiving and I think SCUBA and more. Prestige has no such exclusions. Prestige also makes it easier to verify domestic partner coverage. So that insurance is worth a lot and is a factor in which I value, though I hate the new $250 fee and doubt I will part with CSR simply bc their net fee is only $150. Citi has been good about retention offers which has made this an easy keep (net cost this yr after retention credit and points was only $25), but if that stops I’ll have to reconsider.

  51. “In August 2019, Citi stopped accepting applications for the Prestige Card. As you can see, the card is now being relaunched, and Citi has said that they’ll once again be accepting applications as of early this year.“

    August 2019. As Steve Miller says, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…” 🙂

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