I received an email today from Citi detailing the changes coming to the Citi Prestige card. These changes weren’t a secret as it was less than three weeks ago when I wrote about the five reasons I was happy I kept my Citi Prestige Card when I first heard about the changes. If the changes I knew about were going to be the only ones, I was OK with that. However, thanks to some sleuthing from One Mile At A Time, there was one more change to the Fourth Night Free benefit that wasn’t announced, and it makes a huge difference.
History of the Fourth Night Free
Originally with the Prestige card, to make a fourth night booking you needed to contact the Citi Concierge. They would take your information, look up the hotel and book the room. You were able to take advantage of all your benefits, like earning hotel loyalty points, complimentary upgrades and all the amenities that status with a hotel provides. You were also able to book AAA rates and special rates (as long as you didn’t have to log into an account to see them, so no member-only rates allowed). While hotels don’t allow you to get any perks when staying on a rate booked through a third party site, the Citi Concierge wasn’t considered a third party site but more like a corporate booking agent.
Online Bookings Available
In the summer of 2017, Citi started to allow you to make the fourth night free bookings directly on the ThankYou.com booking site. This added convenience, as the price of the free night was deducted immediately (instead of having to wait for a reimbursement as before). You were also now able to make fourth night free bookings and pay for them with your Thank You Points, cash or a combination of both.
The drawbacks were that you could only book the rates seen on ThankYou.com’s website, which were often higher than the prices on the hotel website. One more problem was that the ThankYou.com portal is seen by the hotels as a Third Party booking site so any reservations made there did not earn you any stay credits and hotel points and you also weren’t eligible for any of the perks you might get by having status with the hotel.
Fortunately, you are still able to make bookings through the Citi Concierge. That is, you were able to make bookings with the Citi Concierge. Past tense.
Online (or phone) Bookings Only – Starting Late 2019
Only accessible by clicking on a link in the email and then scrolling to the bottom of the fine print, you’ll find this nugget of information.
Beginning 09/01/19, Citi Prestige Concierge will no longer be available for Fourth Night bookings and bookings must be made either online at ThankYou.com or by phone at 1-800-ThankYou in order to be eligible for the Fourth Night benefit.
Given, they’re giving almost ten months notice and that’s only when you’ll no longer be able to make bookings. If you know your travel plans, you’d be able to schedule a fourth night free trip way into 2020 (something I may need to do for our Japan trip).
I’m still mulling this one over on how much it makes a difference for my use of the Prestige’s Fourth Night Free Benefit. Losing the perks of loyalty benefits doesn’t matter much, ’cause we don’t have status (except our current Marriott Platinum). Other hotels, like our Candlewood Suites in New Braunfels, don’t have any extra perks for being an IHG Platinum member.
I’ll miss out on earning points but I’d rather save 20% on a hotel room than earn a 5-10% return back in points. Some of the hotels where we’ve used the benefit have been independent places, like the Candy Cane Inn, near Disneyland, that don’t even have loyalty programs. However if those hotels don’t show up on the ThankYou.com website, you’ll no longer be able to book them at all.
I think my biggest loss in all of this will be the ability to book a rate I find on the hotel website that’s not showing on ThankYou.com. I looked up a hotel today for a stay early next year and the cheapest rate on ThankYou.com was $734.73 for the four nights (after deducting the fourth night charge). I sent an email (and then called) the Citi Concierge and were able to book a Marriott Member rate costing $586.62 for the four nights. That’s a $148.11 difference.
I’m sure Citi must be saving money but forcing cardholders to book more expensive rooms will only force them to pay more back in the fourth night free benefits than before. Letting me book through the Citi Concierge saves me money and would also save them money. But that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary