The Citi Prestige. No other credit card has gone back and forth between being amazingly valuable to almost worthless as many times as that one.
For a long time, I used the Citi Prestige 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. A short 9 months later, Citi removed almost all of the card’s travel insurance benefits, destroying most of the value it earned earlier that year.
Where does that leave us now? Should you get a Citi Prestige card? Are the benefits worth paying the hefty $495 annual fee?
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. Citi has rules about applying for cards in the same family. Here are the requirements from Citi’s website:
Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi ThankYou Premier/Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months
That last part is unique to Citi as they make you wait 24 months after closing a card to get a bonus for another one. The trick is that if you already have another Citi ThankYou card and it’s been more than 24 months since you received a signup bonus, you need to apply for the new card before closing the old one.
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
The card’s hidden perk 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 and the Citi Premier which offers 3X in this category.
One disadvantage of this card is that after you earn ThankYou points, there’s a bit of a learning curve for Citi’s transfer partners. Citi has recently added several partners but the list is rather eclectic if you’re not really into points and miles.
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- EVA Air
- 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 = 10 SYW points)
You probably noticed that you don’t see many US airlines, like American, Delta or United on that list. You’re right. That’s not to say there isn’t value to be had with 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 a constant 1 cent value for tickets on all airlines.
Citi Prestige Benefits
Here’s a list of the benefits of the Citi Prestige card. This list may not be all-inclusive:
- $250 travel credit – Every calendar year you get $250 of travel charges reimbursed with the card. Travel purchases are defined as purchases made within the travel category, including purchases from airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, and bus lines. Since this is money you would have spent anyway, the card’s effective cost is lowered to $245.
- Fourth Night Free hotel benefit – This used to be the Prestige’s killer benefit 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 thankyou.com 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 use 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, lost almost all of their insurance benefits.
- 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 worldwide. 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 OR your immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age) into the lounge with you. This is another unique offer for the Citi Prestige as other cards limit you to two guests.
- $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 an 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). This covers the primary phone and the first four additional lines on the account.
- Citi Entertainment – 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 for rescheduled dates for Maroon 5, KISS and Guns N’ Roses.
What to think of the Citi Prestige? It’s a great card to earn 5x ThankYou points on dining. I won’t use it for airfare because it provides no travel coverage for delays, cancellations or lost/delayed baggage. It’s a good card to pay for hotels but I get the same amount of points from the less expensive Citi Premier. Essentially it’s a $245 dining card. Unless you can take advantage of the fourth-night free benefit. I was planning to get rid of the card in 2020 but I kept it because I had a trip where I could make way more back by using that benefit. Of course, that trip didn’t happen and now I’m hoping it will happen in 2021.
I really want to like this card more but Citi’s not giving me many reasons to keep it instead of switching to the underappreciated Citi Premier. I just need to find something to do with the points because Citi ThankYou points expire shortly after closing a card, even if you transfer them to a different ThankYou card.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary