The Citi Prestige Card has made big waves in the credit card travel rewards space for a few years. The best benefit the card offers is a fourth-night free benefit for stays at any hotel. All you have to do is book a stay at any hotel through Citi and pay with your Prestige card. They would automatically reimburse you for the entire cost of the 4th night of your stay in the form of a statement credit.
Citi stopped accepting applications for their premium travel rewards credit in August of this year and promised they were planning on refreshing and revamping the card with new benefits. On Tuesday, rumored changes to the Citi Prestige card were confirmed and we now have details of what the card will look like going forward.
The card still isn't available for new applications. However, it will be once these new changes rollout in January 2019.
Improvements to the Citi Prestige Card
- Once the card relaunches in January, the Citi Prestige card will earn 5x points per dollar spent on dining and air travel as well as 3x points per dollar on cruise lines (previously earned 3x on travel and 2x on dining).
- The card will offer a $250 travel credit good for any travel expense. This will work similarly to the credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Previously, the $250 credit was good for air travel only.
- In May 2019, the card will introduce a cell phone protection plan for damage and theft. Citi hasn't shared the full details on what this looks like yet and we don't know the specific coverage amount.
Benefits not Changing on the Citi Prestige Card
- The card will continue to offer a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry once every five years.
- The card will continue offering Priority Pass Select membership and will keep the ability to bring up to two guests into the lounges.
Negative Changes Coming to the Citi Prestige Card
- Starting in September 2019, the Citi Prestige card annual fee will be increased from $450 to $495.
- Starting in September 2019, the fourth-night free benefit will be limited to being used 2 times per calendar year.
- The card will no longer offer the ability to book air travel through the Citi ThankYou portal at a 25% bonus. This means ThankYou points will redeem at a rate of one cent per point (previously 1.25 cents per point).
- Starting in September 2019, the card will remove the ability to earn 2x Citi ThankYou points on entertainment charges.
Many current cardholders will likely not be thrilled with the updates coming to the Citi Prestige card. Due in large part of the fourth-night free hotel benefit changes. It is arguably one of the most valuable benefits offered by any credit card. People who often have hotel stays lasting 4 nights or longer have been able to get thousands of dollars of value from this card.
However, I think these cardholders are the exception and not the norm, and I am sure this benefit was costing Citi a lot of money. It is no surprise they are adjusting it.
The annual fee going from $450 to $495 isn't a shocker either. This is typically what allows the banks the ability to improve earning rates and other benefits. With the $250 travel credit now available for all air travel and the ability to earn 5x on travel and dining (previously 3x and 2x respectively) there had to be some give. Typically we see that with annual fee hikes.
The new cell phone protection benefit is interesting and I will be excited to hear more about how exactly that works. This seems like a unique benefit that isn't being offered by any other premium travel rewards cards.
Lastly, I will be curious to see what kind of welcome offer bonus Citi provides. Before they discontinued the Prestige card for new applications in August, they were not offering a welcome bonus on the card for quite some time. There are not many situations where I can see a consumer choosing the Prestige card with no welcome bonus over the American Express Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve card which both offer them.
Citi ThankYou Portal Devaluation
One of the bigger losses on this card is the devaluation of booking flights through the Citi ThankYou portal. Previously you could book any flight through ThankYou.com and points would be worth 1.25 cents each. Starting in September, points will redeem at 1 cent each, representing a 25% devaluation.
Booking flight deals with points is one of the biggest reasons we love the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve credit cards. It allows you to maximize the savings on deals you find here at Thrifty Traveler or through our Thrifty Traveler Premium service.
Citi ThankYou Points
One of the biggest issues I have with Citi's ThankYou program currently is their transfer partner list. While they do have a few great partners like Singapore Airlines, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic, and Avianca, they are missing a mainline domestic carrier. Both the American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve card offer one (Delta and United respectively). While all three programs also offer transfers to jetBlue's TrueBlue program, I don't value this much. jetBlue's program is revenue based and you can often do much better booking flights directly through the Chase travel portal.
Citi has a relationship with American Airlines for their co-branded credit cards, but they are not currently a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou. This is a big detriment to the current program in my opinion. I simply think Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards have a better offering. This is why I would choose to earn these points over Citi ThankYou points all other things equal.
At the end of the day, this card is going to cost you $245 annually. This is after you factor in the $495 annual fee less the improved $250 travel credit. If you can take advantage of the fourth-night free benefit twice, you value the new 5x points earning categories and all of the other premium benefits, it may be worth it for you.
While losing the unlimited fourth-night free benefit is a tough pill to swallow, I think the update is fair. I wouldn't choose this card over some of the other premium cards in the market, but the new bonus categories and updated travel credit offer solid value.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.