Credit Card Review: Citi Prestige

For a long time, the Citi Prestige wasn’t a card I used for everyday purchases but instead spent time as a “special teams player,” wherein I’d pull it out of the drawer to make specific purchases for the benefits it provided, such as concert ticket protection or travel insurance coverage.

On January 4, 2019 the Citi Prestige earned a spot in my wallet. The bonus categories improved significantly and it became a card I could use all the time. Ever since then, Citi has chipped away at the value of the card to the point where I question the card’s place in my wallet or even in my sock drawer. What a difference 9 months makes.

The Citi Prestige is one of the premium credit cards on the market and you need to have good credit to be approved for one. It also carries a hefty $495 annual fee. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to you. 

Sign Up Bonus

The Citi Prestige card is currently offering 50,000 Thank You points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months after opening your account with this link.  Like most premium cards, the annual fee of $495 is not waived for the first year.

ThankYou Points

The Citi Prestige earns ThankYou points, which are a type of flexible (transferrable) point. These are the earning categories for the card:

  • 5X points for Air Travel
  • 5X points for Restaurants
  • 3X points for Hotels
  • 3X points for Cruise Lines
  • 1X points for all other purchases

A hidden perk of the card is that it earns 5X points from travel agencies, including OTAs like Priceline and hotel booking sites like Rocketmiles.

This is a great mix of bonus categories for someone who travels frequently. 5X points for air travel is the highest multiplier for this category, matching the American Express Platinum. 5X for dining is also the best available, the closest competitor is the American Express Gold card which offers 4x points and the Chase Sapphire Reserve which offers 3X on this category.

I try and make our points and miles collecting as easy as I can for Sharon (edit by Sharon: because Sharon doesn’t want to have to keep track of 17 credit cards at once and when to use which one, thank-you very much) and the Citi Prestige is the card I give to her to use when we travel. Most of our spending is for dining and we get 5X points in that category.  I’m OK with her using it for the other random purchases that we will only get 1X on in exchange for the simplicity of being able to use the same card for all purchases (edit by Sharon: I am willing to use 1 card. 2 if it’s some wonderful deal. Choose wisely.).

One disadvantage of this card is that after you earn ThankYou points, they are the most difficult of the transferrable points to use. Citi has tried to make these points more valuable by increasing the number of travel partners:

  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Eva Air
  • Guarda Indonesia
  • JetBlue (fixed value program)
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Sears Shop Your Way (1 point = 12 SYW points)

But you probably noticed that you don’t see many airlines that you know, like American, Delta or United on that list. You’re right. Now, that’s not to say there isn’t value to be had with some of these partners; you just really need to know what you’re doing to book the flights you want and get a good return. Here are some examples of how you can book flights in the U.S. with the available transfer partners:

  • United Airlines flights can be booked with Singapore, Turkish and Avianca miles
  • Delta Airlines flights can be booked with Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic miles

What about flights on American Airlines? While it’s true that you can not transfer points to American’s frequent flyer program, you can use your ThankYou points to pay for flights when you use the Citi Travel Center, you’ll get at constant 1 cent value for tickets on all airlines. This lowers the value of ThankYou points a bit, even when compared to their own Citi Premier card that gets 1.25 cents per point value when booking through the Citi portal.

Citi Prestige Benefits

Here’s a list of the benefits of the Citi Prestige card. This list may not be all-inclusive:

  • $250 airline credit – Every calendar year you get $250 of airline charges reimbursed with the card. This is for any airline charges, including airline tickets and if you travel at all, you should be able to get this money back. Since this is money you would have spent anyway, the effective cost of the card is lowered to $295.
  • Fourth Night Free hotel benefit – This used to be the killer benefit of the Prestige, until Citi cut the legs out from under it as of September 1, 2019. In the current structure, if you’re staying at a hotel for 4 nights (or more) and book through the Citi ThankYou website or by calling 800-THANKYOU Concierge, you save the average cost of the four nights. You can pay for the stay with your Citi Prestige card or by using your ThankYou points but all of the stays must be prepaid. You are limited to use this benefit twice each calendar year.
  • Travel Protection – The Citi Prestige used to offer the best travel protection of any credit card. That’s until September 22, 2019, when Citi cards, including the Prestige, will lose almost all of their insurance benefits.
    • Effective September 22, 2019, Worldwide Car Rental Insurance, Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection, Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance, Trip Delay Protection, Baggage Delay Protection, Lost Baggage Protection, Medical Evacuation, Citi® Price Rewind, 90 Day Return Protection, and Missed Event Ticket Protection will be discontinued and will no longer be provided for purchases made on or after that date. Coverage for purchases made before that date will continue to be available, and you may continue to file for benefits in accordance with the current benefit terms. Roadside Assistance Dispatch Service and Travel & Emergency Assistance will be discontinued and will not be available on or after September 22, 2019
  • Priority Pass Membership (with guesting privileges) – We are past the stage of planning to get to the airport early just so that we can go to an airport lounge. However, there are times when you happen to get to the airport really early or have a long layover, and sitting in a lounge is a nice perk. Priority Pass has relationships with lounges around the world and we’ve used this benefit to get us into lounges from Heathrow Airport in London to Miami Airport while waiting for our flight to Cuba. The best part of the Citi Prestige membership to Priority Pass is that you get to bring 2 guests into the lounge with you.

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  • $100 Global Entry credit – If you travel internationally (or even plan on doing so in the next 5 years), you should have Global Entry. This is a program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows you to skip the line when re-entering the U.S. There is a very extensive application to be filled out and a mandatory interview to be approved, but it is totally worth it. If approved, you also have a great chance of being cleared for the TSA Pre✓® lanes when going through x-ray before your flights. I’ve not used this credit with this card as we applied for the Global Entry program before I had the card but I can use it to pay for my renewal fee (or you can be nice and pay for someone else’s application if you aren’t going to apply yourself).
  • Cell Phone Protection – Provides Reimbursement for Damage or Theft when the monthly cellular bill is paid using the card. The maximum value of the benefit is $1,000 per claim, not to exceed $1,500 per 12 month period (with a $50 deductible for each phone).
  • Citi Private Pass Events – While you can usually access these with any Citi Card,  you get early access and/or preferred seating to concerts and sporting events. The Prestige card will also have access to some private events not for any other cardmembers. I’ve used this perk to score tickets to Hootie and the Blowfish and Train. Right now the website is showing tickets to Madonna, Thomas Rhett and The Black Keys.

Final Thoughts

In the course of a year, the Citi Prestige went from a card I was happy to keep for its niche uses like the 4th night free or the better insurance coverage to a card I kept in my wallet all of the time because of the great bonus categories and now I’m seriously considering canceling it when my next annual fee is due. While Citi has added cell phone coverage to the card, they destroyed the travel insurance coverages and gutted the value of the 4th night benefit by making you redeem it through Citi ThankYou. I’ve already noted as this simple change can cost hundreds of dollars extra on a single booking.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

12 thoughts on “Credit Card Review: Citi Prestige”

  1. Under the new benefits guide the travel benefits apply so long as you use your Prestige card to pay for any portion on the travel expense.

  2. The Prestige was my favorite card till they gutted the benefits. The only benefit left for me is the 5X for Restaurants and Airfare, but NOT for $245 a year. The Chase Reserve at $150/year and all its other benefits is worth it for me. I was going to cancel the Reserve and keep the Prestige, but the mass annihilation of the benefits killed the Prestige for me and I will keep the Reserve instead.

    1. I’m in the same boat. I was very happy to keep the card for the insurance benefits alone but now it’s not even close to being a keeper. I’ll get an AMEX Gold for dining or maybe try my luck at a Capital One application (but I’m not holding my breath). If neither, I’ll take the 3x with my Reserve.

  3. I just talked to a Citi benefits rep today. I booked 2 land tours in April 2020 and paid the deposit with my Prestige card, but have not paid in full. He assured me that I will still have the insurance as I bought the trips in part before the travel insurance benefit is taken away, even though I won’t pay the rest of the tour prices until February.

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