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Among the premium travel credit cards, the Citi Prestige has been overlooked recently. After cutting benefits including free rounds of golf and access to the American Airlines Admirals Lounge, Citi has recently introduced some positive changes to the Citi Prestige. This positive “buzz” for the Citi Prestige with an increased sign-up bonus of 75,000 points and a few other changes might make the Citi Prestige worth it for you.
Free Hotel Nights
The Citi Prestige is worth it when you stay at a hotel for at least four nights at a time. This is by far the most valuable perk of owning the Citi Prestige.
When you book a minimum 4-night stay with the Citi Prestige, Citi will give you the fourth night free. All you have to pay is the taxes and fees.
There are no restrictions on how you use Citi’s free hotel night benefit. Even if your fourth night costs more than the $450 annual fee, Citi will give you the entire night for free. Current Citi Prestige cardholders have even used the free night benefit to pay for $9,616 hotel reward night in Singapore. That reward night alone paid the annual fee for the Citi Prestige for the next 21 years!
If you don’t use the Citi Prestige for anything else, it can be worth it alone for the free hotel nights.
Book Reward Nights Online
To redeem your free reward night in the past, you had to call Citi. Now, they will calculate your free night automatically when you book through the Citi ThankYou center. The savings are instant as Citi has eliminated reimbursing your with a statement credit, and being able to book online is simply more convenient and a step into the 21st century.
$250 Air Travel Credit
The annual fee for the Citi Prestige is $450 a year and it effectively drops to $200 each year after you use the $250 air travel credit. Citi’s air travel credit can be used for any flight-related purchase including ticket purchases, checked bags and in-flight purchases.
Being able to use the travel credit for the actual purchase of a ticket is very rewarding as well. It means you can actually use the credit if you already don’t pay baggage fees because you already carry an airline co-branded credit card, have elite status, solely carry-on or fly an airline like Southwest where bags fly free!
In addition to the air travel credit, Citi also reimburses the application fee for Global Entry and TSA Precheck. That’s a savings of $100.
75,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus
The new Citi Prestige sign-up bonus is a mixed bag. At face value, it is one of the most valuable sign-up bonus of the premium travel card bonus because you get 75,000 Citi points worth $750 in award travel. When redeemed for award travel at ThankYou.com for air travel, the points are worth 1.25 cents each and the 75,000 point bonus is now worth $937.
The primary downside with the Citi Prestige bonus is that you must spend $7,500 in three months to get the bonus points. That’s about $3,500 more dollars than the spending requirement for the Sapphire Reserve. It’s $2,500 more than the American Express Platinum bonus spending requirements.
And, the 75,000 points bonus is only for a limited time. It will eventually return to the normal amount of 40,000 points worth $400 and become the lowest valued sign-up bonus once again.
While it’s nice to get the higher bonus amount, it’s not cheap. Budget travelers might not be able to qualify for the bonus.
If you can hit the $7,500 spending requirement, do so, as the normal Prestige bonus is only 40,000 Citi ThankYou is lackluster in comparison.
Citi has maintained the 3-2-1 purchase rewards system as outlined below:
- 3 points per $1 on air travel and hotels
- 2 points per $1 on dining and entertainment
- 1 point per $1 on everything else
The purchase rewards are competitive with the other premium travel credit cards. If you spend on entertainment, you can earn double points instead of only the base rate of 1 point per $1 that most credit cards offer.
Rewards Points Can Be Worth 1.25 Cents Each
Citi also allows their ThankYou points to be worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for air travel on ThankYou.com regardless of the carrier. For some travelers this a positive change as many award tickets were only worth 1 cent each. But, it’s a downgrade for American passengers that used to get tickets for 1.5 cents each.
Rewards points worth 1.25 cents each places Citi points right in the middle of the value chart as Chase points are worth 1.5 cents each for all travel and Amex Platinum points are worth 1-cent each for air travel.
You can also transfer your points to 12 airline carriers and Hilton hotels as well. This can be beneficial if you already are working toward a reward ticket directly from the airline and need a point boost or want to buy a discounted seat using a partner flight.
Pay with Points and Cash
Like the other travel credit cards have begun offering as well, you can use a combination of points and cash to pay for award travel on the Citi travel portal. This added level of flexibility makes it easier to stretch the value of your points and make them last longer.
Airport Lounge Access
The Citi Prestige now only offers access to the Priority Pass Select lounge network. This is the standard airport lounge benefit for the premium travel credit cards. You will need to apply for the Platinum Card from American Express if you want to enjoy complimentary access to the Centurion, International American Express, and Delta Sky Club lounge networks as well.
When is the Citi Prestige Worth It?
The Citi Prestige is most valuable in the following instances:
- Redeem the 4th night free on hotel stays
- Use the 75,000 bonus points for air travel ($937 value)
- $250 Air Travel Credit
- Priority Pass Select Lounge Access
Long-time Citi Prestige cardholders will still see the card as a shadow of its former self. The two most valuable reasons to carry the Prestige is for the air travel credit and free hotel nights.
If you stay at least four nights at a hotel every time you travel, it only makes sense to pay for the stay with the Citi Prestige. You will have a hard time finding a better deal with a hotel credit card, and, you earn three points per $1 on every hotel purchase. These points can then be used for award air travel at 1.25 cents apiece.
Summary on the New Citi Prestige
The is worth it if you can use the air travel credit and 4th hotel night free perks. The additional benefits like Priority Pass airport lounge access and flexible travel redemption options also add value to the card, but, they are standard benefits that other cards also offer. Big spenders will also appreciate the handsome signup bonus, but, the real value of the Citi Prestige comes down to the free hotel nights.
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