For cardholders of the Citi Prestige, one of the great perks of the card is the 4th night free benefit. The short version  is that Citi would reimburse you for the 4th night if you book 4 or more consecutive hotel nights through Citi’s Concierge Service.

Others have done an excellent of summarizing the product, such as this resource from Frequent Flier: Complete Guide to Citi Prestige 4th Night Free. Since I haven’t used the 4th night free benefit, I want to share my experience using this benefit for the first time.

Citi’s Concierge Booking Experience

I called Citi’s Concierge number at (561)-922-0158. The booking process is relatively straightforward. The initial automated message indicated that Citi’s Concierge services are provided by Aspire. A rep asked for my name and zip code and pulled up my profile in the system.

I gave her the hotel name and the desired dates, and I was pleased to find that the rep quoted market rates.  I proceeded with the booking, and the rep gave me a case number. She also let me know that I will get confirmation email which can take up to 1-2 days (!) to arrive.  Fortunately, the email came within 30 minutes.  The email arrived with clear pricing info and the expected reimbursement amount.

There were two things may be of interest to others:

1. If you forget to add your rewards number during the booking process: I forgot to add in my hotel rewards number during my call. I was able to log into my hotel rewards account and link the reservation to my account with the booking confirmation number.

2. Booking the base room rate only: When you book with Citi Concierge, only the base room rate applies — room rate with other packages do not qualify for the 4th day free benefit.  I found out because I was hoping to book a rate that includes breakfast.

The call ended up taking less than 20 minutes.  I had a pleasant experience, so I hope I will be able to make more use of this benefit in the future.

My Theory on Why We Can’t Book Online

It boggles my mind that booking can’t be done online. (Disclaimer: A somewhat geeky talk alert below)

My theory that Citi doesn’t offer an online booking option simply because they don’t have the backend infrastructure for it. Since the Aspire rep can pull up my profile based on some basic info, authentication isn’t an issue.  I suspect that the most complicated part is in the filtering of the base room rates given the numerous ways that hotels could categorize their rooms.

Since Citi isn’t in the the business of building software, they may as well:

1. Leverage existing booking engines
2. Offer a concierge service due to manual intervention, but market the concierge as a “personalized” touch for the premium card.

It’s a win-win for them – and I suspect in overall savings too. Still, I think they could make incremental improvements, like a simplified online intake process from the card management area. User can provide the desired hotel, dates, type of rooms, and the submission would generate a case number. This could streamline the info collection during the call to allow the cardholder to quickly finalize the booking.

Have you used the Citi Concierge to book the 4th free night? What have your experience been like?