When it comes to ultra-premium travel rewards cards, three cards generally come to mind — The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), and the Citi Prestige Card.
In this post I wanted to take an in-depth look at the Citi Prestige Card, since it’s generally the least talked about of the three cards (and for good reason, frankly).
Citi Prestige Card Basics For February 2021
We’ve seen all card issuers make significant changes to their premium cards over the past few years, though arguably no premium card has seen as many changes as the Citi Prestige.
Up until 2019, I would have argued this card was too good to be true, while now I’d argue the card is still good under certain circumstances, but it doesn’t have as wide of an appeal as it used to.
Let’s look at various aspects of the Citi Prestige, from the welcome bonus, to the return on spending that it offers, to the perks.
Sign-Up Bonus Of 50,000 ThankYou Points
The Citi Prestige offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months. That’s roughly in line with what other card issuers are offering on premium cards.
Redeem your ThankYou points for travel in Air France business class
Card Eligibility Restrictions
Every credit card issuer has different policies for approving new cardmembers.
With the Citi Prestige, the welcome bonus isn’t available to those who have received a new cardmember bonus on the Citi Rewards+, ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier, or Prestige, or who have closed any of the above accounts, in the past 24 months.
On top of that, keep in mind that with Citi you can be approved for at most one card every eight days, and at most two cards every 65 days.
$495 Annual Fee + $75 Authorized User Fee
The Citi Prestige has a $495 annual fee, which isn’t waived for the first year.
You can add authorized users to the Citi Prestige for $75 each, and they also get some of the perks, which I’ll talk more about below.
Earning Points With The Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige offers some solid bonus categories, as the card offers up to 5x points per dollar spent. The card has no foreign transaction fees, so this is great for purchases both in the US and abroad. For context, the Citi Prestige earns ThankYou points, which I value at 1.7 cents each (others may value them differently).
5x Points At Restaurants
The Citi Prestige offers 5x points at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) globally, which is fantastic. In my opinion this is the best credit card for dining purchases, and this is one of the main reasons I have the card.
To me the Citi Prestige offers the equivalent of an 8.5% return on eating out.
Earn 5x points at restaurants globally with the Citi Prestige
5x Points On Air Travel
The Citi Prestige also offers 5x points on airfare purchases, and this applies whether you’re booking directly with an airline or through a travel agency. An 8.5% return on airfare spending is great, and makes this one of the best credit cards for airfare purchases.
However, I’ve stopped using the Citi Prestige for airfare purchases because Citi stopped offering valuable travel protection, which I value.
The Citi Prestige offers 5x points on airfare
3x Points On Hotels
The Citi Prestige offers 3x ThankYou points on hotel purchases, which I value at a 5.1% return. That makes this one of the best credit cards for hotel purchases. However, I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for hotel purchases, as it offers 3x points while also offering great travel coverage.
3x Points On Cruises
The Citi Prestige offers 3x ThankYou points on cruises purchases, which I value at a 5.1% return. That’s a pretty great return on cruises.
1x Points On All Other Purchases
For categories not listed above, the Citi Prestige offers 1x ThankYou points per dollar spent, which I value at a return of ~1.7%. I try to do better than that with my everyday spending, so don’t recommend using this card for non-bonused spending.
Redeeming Points With The Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige earns ThankYou points, which can be transferred to select airline loyalty programs.
|Citi ThankYou Transfer Partner||Transfer Ratio|
|Aeroméxico Club Premier||1000 : 1000|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||1000 : 1000|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1000 : 1000|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1000 : 1000|
|Emirates Skywards||1000 : 1000|
|Etihad Guest||1000 : 1000|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||1000 : 1000|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||1000 : 1000|
|Malaysia Airlines Enrich||1000 : 1000|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||1000 : 1000|
|Qatar Privilege Club||1000 : 1000|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1000 : 1000|
|Thai Royal Orchid Plus||1000 : 1000|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||1000 : 1000|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1000 : 1000|
This is the best way to redeem ThankYou points, as you can get outsized value, especially for first and business class redemptions. However, there is some skill required to redeem this way.
Alternatively, you can redeem ThankYou points towards all kinds of purchases, from travel to gift cards, at about one cent each. Personally I tend to think you get a lot more value transferring points to airline partners.
Transfer your Citi Prestige points to Virgin Atlantic
Citi Prestige Card Benefits
The Citi Prestige offers a variety of benefits that will prove worthwhile for many, from lounge access, to a fourth night free hotel benefit, to an annual travel credit, and more.
$250 Annual Travel Credit
To help offset the $495 annual fee, the Citi Prestige offers a $250 annual travel credit. This will be applied automatically to any purchases coded as travel, and is more or less good as cash.
The way I view it, this really lowers the card’s out of pocket cost annually to ~$245, since just about anyone getting this card should be getting a $250 statement credit.
In 2021, the Citi Prestige $250 credit can be used at supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout).
Redeem your travel credit towards a hotel stay
Priority Pass Membership
The Citi Prestige comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you access to the world’s largest collection of independent lounges. Best of all, this membership allows you to take up to two guests with you at no additional cost.
Priority Pass has 1,300+ airport lounges around the world, so access to these lounges will prove useful to just about any traveler.
Priority Pass has even added some non-traditional locations to the network, like restaurants, where you can have a meal and Priority Pass picks up the tab.
If you add authorized users to your Citi Prestige, they’ll also get a Priority Pass membership, so that could be worth it for the $75 additional user fee alone.
Access lounges globally with Priority Pass
Global Entry Or TSA Pre-Check Credit
The Citi Prestige offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every five years. Just charge the $85-100 membership fee to your card, and it will automatically be reimbursed. It doesn’t matter who the fee is being paid for, as long as you charge it to your eligible card.
Fourth Night Free Hotel Benefit
Until 2019, the fourth night free hotel benefit was the single most valuable aspect of the Citi Prestige, as it saved me thousands of dollars per year. Unfortunately it’s not as good as it used to be.
The Citi Prestige offers a complimentary fourth night at a hotel of your choice after a minimum of four consecutive nights when booked through thankyou.com. Cardmembers can use this benefit at most twice per year.
The catches here are that:
- Not all hotels show up on thankyou.com
- For the hotels that do show up on thankyou.com, you’re limited in terms of the type of rates you can book, and often the cheapest publicly available rate won’t be bookable there
- If you’re staying at a hotel with a loyalty program, you generally don’t earn points for these stays, since it’s considered a third party rate
Contrast that to how this benefit used to work, where the Citi Prestige concierge could book virtually any type of rate at virtually any hotel.
The fourth night free benefit isn’t as useful as it used to be
Cell Phone Protection
The Citi Prestige offers cell phone protection at no additional cost:
- This applies if your phone is stolen or suffers certain damage
- You can be reimbursed for the cost of the repair or replacement
- You can get up to $800 per claim, and there’s a $50 deductible per claim
- Coverage includes up to $1,500 in total yearly benefits for up to five phones on your monthly bill
While that’s a nice perk, the downside is that the card offers only 1x points on your cell phone bill, so you’re forgoing quite a few points by choosing to charge your cell phone bill to the card.
Is The Citi Prestige Card Worth It?
I’ve had the Citi Prestige for many years, though unfortunately it’s not what it once was. Before the fourth night free benefit was changed, it was the single most valuable credit card for me. That’s not the case anymore.
Here’s how I’ve justified the card up until now, though I’m increasingly considering dropping it:
- The way I view it, the Citi Prestige costs me $245 per year ($495 annual fee, minus the $250 travel credit)
- I spend a lot on restaurants (in the past dining out, nowadays mostly takeout and delivery), and earning 5x ThankYou points on that proves quite valuable for me
- Having the Citi Prestige allows me to maximize the value I get out of the Citi Double Cash, which I’ll talk more about below
- Others may value the Priority Pass membership, though I don’t, since I also have the Sapphire Reserve
- I haven’t used the fourth night free benefit since the rules changed
Below I wanted to cover a couple of other points I think are worth making.
Why The Citi Premier Might Be A Better Option
- The Citi Premier has a better welcome bonus
- The Citi Premier has an annual fee of only $95
- The Citi Premier has more well-rounded bonus categories, as it offers 3x points on dining, gas, groceries, airfare, and hotels
Frankly for a vast majority of people I think the Citi Premier is probably a better option nowadays.
Tip: Get The Citi Double Cash As Well
Why? The card 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 the Citi Prestige, then rewards can be converted into ThankYou points at a ratio of one cent per ThankYou point.
In other words, this card can earn you 2x ThankYou points per dollar spent, which is the best personal card out there for everyday spending. This way you can complement the Citi Double Cash with the bonus categories of the Citi Prestige.
The Citi Prestige & Citi Double Cash are a great combo
How Does The Chase Sapphire Reserve Compare?
Arguably the biggest competitor to the Citi Prestige is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Personally I have both of the cards, though if I could choose just one, I do think the Sapphire Reserve is more well rounded:
- The Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, but offers a $300 annual travel credit that can be used towards any travel purchase
- The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on dining and travel, so the card also has great bonus categories
- The Sapphire Reserve offers a Priority Pass membership, much like the Citi Prestige
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers excellent travel protection and car rental coverage, a DoorDash credit, a Lyft Pink membership, a Peloton credit, and more
- Points earned on the Sapphire Reserve are easier to redeem; not only are there the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, but you can also redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase, and for a limited time towards everyday expenses
- Chase has a more well rounded card ecosystem, as there are about half a dozen cards you can use to maximize your Ultimate Rewards points
Citi Prestige Card Bottom Line
The Citi Prestige is a card that I personally have, though it’s not as useful as it used to be, and I’m increasingly questioning whether it’s worth keeping.
The card does offer some useful perks, like a $250 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, 5x points on dining, and more.
At this point I view the Citi Prestige as a card that costs me $245 per year (after subtracting the $250 credit). For that I get 5x points on dining, and that also allows me to maximize the Citi Double Cash, and earn 2x ThankYou points for my everyday spending. However, I could also do that if I simply had the Citi Premier.
I do think the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a more well-rounded premium card, for those who just want to pick up one card.
Do you see value in the Citi Prestige nowadays?