Are The Changes To The Citi Prestige Card Good or Bad?

On July 23rd, changes to the Citi Prestige card went into effect. These changes were announced last July and all cardholders, new and existing, would be able to take advantage of the (then-current) benefits until the changes. The extended notice was likely due to Citi being unable to change stated benefits of the card for present cardholders In the end, I feel  they were very up front about the changes that were happening and handled it the best way they could.

So what changed? Here are the changes announced last year:

Previously announced changes (mostly negative)

  1. No more access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs
  2. Thank You points used to pay for flights on American Airlines would no longer get a premium value of 1.6 cents each but would be worth the same as bookings on other airlines
  3. Thank You points used to pay for any airfare will be worth 1.25 cents each, instead of the previous value of 1.33 cents.
  4. No more free rounds of golf (previously three rounds per year)
  5. The value of the fourth night free benefit will be based on the average rate of the entire stay and not the cost of the fourth night. The refund will also not include taxes or hotel fees.

Those changes made a huge difference to those who took huge advantage of them. To buy an Admirals Club membership costs $500 – $550 a year (Renewal or New Member). The free golf benefit was available at many TPC courses and I’ve read of cardholders saving $200-$400 per round of golf (the benefit could be used three times each year), so that’s at least $500 – $1000 of value from the card. The changes also mattered to people who maximized their travel to take advantage of the free fourth night by making sure the fourth night was extremely expensive compared to the other nights (like for major sporting events or weekends in Las Vegas).

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When the changes were getting close to taking effect, Citi announced other changes to the Prestige that were going to happen at almost the same time. These were marketed as “positives” so Citi reps would have something to push to customers wanting to cancel the card because of the other benefits being lost.

Newly announced changes (supposedly positive)

  1. Increased limited time sign up bonus of 75,000 Thank You points to new members who spend $7,500 within three months
  2. The card will be made of metal (Am I the only one who doesn’t think this is any type of improvement?)
  3. You can now book a reservation using the “fourth night free” benefit online, instead of having to book through the Citi Prestige Concierge
  4. You can redeem Thank You points to pay for your fourth night free reservations at 1 cent per point value,
  5. You can redeem Thank You points for cash at a value of 1 cent per point

My thoughts

Citi-Prestige-World-Elite-MC_CardImageWhen I first heard of the changes last year, they did little to alter my value of having the card. Many of the things I like about the card haven’t changed. I don’t plan my stays around the daily rates of hotels so the change in the fourth night free benefit, which I feel is the best part of having the card, didn’t change. I would have made out better with the new policy on our stays because one of the hotels had a discount on the fourth night of the stay and that’s the one I got for free.

I’ve read complaints about booking with the Citi Concierge but I’ve had no problems when I’ve emailed them with my booking requests. I plan on booking this way, instead of online, because I usually take advantage of AAA rates and that can’t be done when using the Citi website. Here’s a complete walk-through of how to make the bookings, written by Frequent Miler.

I did make some hotel bookings ahead of the changes to take advantage of the then-current rules for the fourth night free that included paying for the room taxes and I was able to book a flight on American with my points for the first time (every other time I looked, American’s flights were more expensive than other airlines).

The fantastic protections the card gives when traveling and coverage for concert and theater tickets hasn’t changed. The card still pays a $250 air travel credit good for any airline expense (including airfares). It also pays $100 towards Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check enrollment fees (if you haven’t signed up yet, you should).

This is truly one of the Your Mileage May Vary situations. I barely took advantage of any of the benefits that were removed and valued the ones that remain. If the Prestige was to remove the fourth night free benefit, I’d have to re-evaluate the card and its place in the card portfolio.

If you have the Citi Prestige, how did the changes affect you? Are you planning on keeping the card or getting rid of it?

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