The Citi Prestige is a nice premium card for international travelers. It is best known for its famous Fourth Night Free perk which can be a big money-saver for hotel dwellers. However, the value of all Citi cards have taken a serious blow when the issuer dropped several benefits from them. Since the Citi Prestige was hit the hardest, there are better premium cards out there.
The Citi Prestige is targeted towards travelers who have high expenses in the most common travel sub-categories. It earns 5x Thank You (TY) points on Dining and Airfare. You also earn 3x TY points on Cruises and Hotels. All other purchases earn only one point. The Prestige’s earning structure makes it one of the highest earning cards for dining, airfare, cruises, and hotels. The caveat is that Citi TY points are the most valuable for international travel.
Moreover, the Citi Prestige currently has a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
And conversely, the Prestige’s annual fee is $495 (NOT waived the first year) for all new card-members. This number sits squarely between the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450) and the American Express Platinum Card ($550) in the premium card market.
Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Citi has multiple options for redemption:
Transfer partners are by far Citi’s most valuable option. They are the reason why so many points and miles enthusiasts love Thank You points so much. Citi’s strength lies in international airlines and travel. If you want to travel outside of the United States, this card is a good one.
Despite the Fourth Night Free benefit, Citi does not have any hotel partners. If you want to transfer your points to hotels, the Citi Prestige is not for you.
All TY points transfer to Citi’s airline partners at a 1:1 ratio:
- Asia Miles
- Eva Air
- KLM Flying Blue / Air France
- Jet Airways
- JetBlue (5 TY points = 4 True Blue Points if you do not have a premium Citi card, otherwise 1:1)
- Malaysia Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP).
The fixed rate for redeeming TY points directly for airfare is only 1 CPP. It used to be 1.25 CPP before September 1, 2019. However, Citi reduced the rate alongside a plethora of negative changes to the Prestige Card.
You can also use TY points to help pay down a mortgage or student loan. This is a unique option for a credit card redemption. Even though points are worth 1 cent apiece using this method, paying down these installment loans can help your finances and credit in other ways.
Gift Cards values range from 2,500 to 10,000 points per card. Like airfare, each point redeemed is worth 1 cent.
Points are worth around 0.8 CPP when redeemed for merchandise and 0.5 CPP for straight cash back. Citi’s Double Cash card is a better option if cash back or merchandise are more attractive than points.
The Citi Prestige is nice because of its balance between perks and points, despite the hefty loss of benefits in September 2019. Nonetheless, the card’s balance between earning and benefits can help cardholders justify its nearly $500 annual fee.
Fourth Night Free
This is the Citi Prestige’s signature perk! If you use your card to book a hotel stay of at least four nights, you will receive a statement credit for your fourth night. The catch is that you must book your stay using Citi’s online portal or via Citi’s concierge.
Unfortunately, this perk is limited to just two uses per year. Bookings made after August 31, 2019 will count towards the 2019 annual limit which resets every calendar year. Despite this limitation, you can recoup the annual fee if you stay in a hotel room that costs enough per night.
Furthermore, bookings using this perk are not bookable via Citi Concierge. That means you will give up the opportunity to earn points and have hotel status if you use the Fourth Night Free perk.
$250 General Travel Credit
General travel credits are favorite perks for many travelers. This credit is a great way to justify most of the Prestige’s $495 annual fee. The credit is no longer restricted to just airfare. It can also be used for hotels, car rentals, local commuter transit, or in-flight incidentals.
Cell Phone Insurance
You will be protected from theft or damage of your phone(s) if you pay your cell phone bill with your Citi Prestige card. The Prestige is a World Elite MasterCard, meaning that its common to all top cards within that network.
Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access
This perk gives you access to over 10,000 Priority Pass airport lounges around the world. The lounges give you a nice space to relax, eat, drink, and get ready before boarding your flight.
Global Entry / Pre-TSA Fee Credits
You will receive a credit once every 4-5 years to waive the fee for either program. I suggest going with Global Entry because Pre-TSA comes with that membership automatically.
No Foreign Exchange Fees
This increasingly common benefit saves you 3% on all purchases made outside of the United States.
Rules & Regulations
Citi has several rules to consider before applying for one of their cards. While these rules are annoying, they serve as a reminder to be certain before applying. However, their main purpose is to dissuade “churners” from getting sign-up bonuses.
The 1/24 Rule states that you cannot receive a sign-up bonus if you opened or closed a card within the same family in 24 months. For the Citi Prestige, you can’t receive a bonus if you opened a Citi Premier, Rewards +, or Thank You Preferred within the last two years.
Also, the 6 Inquiries Rule states that those with more than 5 hard inquiries in 6 months will be automatically denied.
The 1/8 Rule states that only one card can be approved within a rolling 8-day period. Its corollary, the 2/65 Rule, states that only two cards can be approved within a rolling 65-day period.
What if the Citi Prestige is not for you? Here are some alternatives that might be better:
The Citi Premier is the Prestige Card’s “little sibling”. It has a $95 annual fee and is the best alternative for those who want to earn TY points without a nearly $500 annual fee.
The Premier comes with a sign-up bonus that’s worth 60,000 TY points and has a minimum spend threshold of $4,000. That is Citi’s largest sign-up bonus. It’s also better than the Prestige’s because it offers 10,000 more points for the same minimum spend.
Furthermore, the Citi Premier is the better card for those with more varied travel expenses. While the Prestige earns in specific travel sub-categories, the Premier earns 3x TY points on general travel. The Premier’s “General Travel” category includes gas stations, airfare, hotels, travel agencies, tolls, railways, and public transportation. Moreover, the Premier earns 2x points on Dining and Entertainment. Entertainment was removed as a category on the Prestige Card at the end of August 2019. Both cards earn just one point per dollar on non-bonus spend.
The Citi Premier was also a victim of its issuer removing benefits. That means its not the best card for travel insurances and perks. Nonetheless, its a better earner than the Prestige for most travelers, especially those with varied or unusual travel expenses.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase’s premium card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on Dining and Travel purchases. The Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). The Reserve’s earning structure highlights general travel and dining as opposed to specific types of travel (such as airfare). It’s the better card for those with more varied travel expenses.
Chase has a more well-rounded set of travel partners than Citi. Domestic travelers and hotel lovers can benefit from having this card given the partners. But international travelers might like the Prestige more.
This card has a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 UR points. It can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The Prestige has the same exact bonus and minimum spend, but you earn TY points instead of UR points.
American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card is a great alternative to the Citi Prestige, especially for its perks. It earns 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points on airfare booked directly with the airline and travel from amextravel.com. It also earns one point per dollar spent on everything else.
While the Citi Prestige is the better card for earning, the Platinum is unrivaled for perks. The Prestige offers only a few of the benefits that the Platinum offers. The Platinum Card has the potential to earn you thousands in value from perks.
The Platinum card has a $550 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). It also has a public sign-up bonus worth 60,000 MR points. It can be earned after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. However, there are higher targeted bonuses for the same minimum spend.
Even though Citi has taken a different approach towards their premium card than Chase and Amex, it might not be for the better. The bonus categories, fourth night free benefit, and the travel credit are all that’s left value-wise. This is especially true since since Citi dropped most benefits from their entire card lineup.
Therefore, there are much better premium card options out there for most travelers. And to take this notion a step further, I would not be surprised if Citi discontinued the Prestige Card permanently.
Apply Today: Citi Prestige