What In The World Is Citi Thinking?

Over the past 12 months, Citi has made several major changes to their credit card portfolio. The surprising thing is the inconsistent nature of these changes. While some of them add significant value to the cards, others cut the legs off the cards in regards to their usefulness in any serious traveler’s wallet.

Looking at the timeline of the changes will possibly give you a case of whiplash. Here’s a summary of the changes announced by Citi:

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I’ll Take “Why Did My Hotel Code As Airfare” For 5X Points, Alex

Most of the times I write posts about how to earn the most points possible for purchases, like gas or groceries, or how I saved points when booking an award ticket, like when I booked my dad and his wife on a flight to Southeast Asia using ANA miles. Occasionally I’ll write about how I have to fight to get the benefits I deserve, like when we stayed at the Waldorf=Astoria in Key West. But I’ve never been able to write about a time when I received more miles than I was expecting.

Now, this just could have been a confluence of several factors that led to my good fortune so I’m not sure how repeatable this is but if anyone else wants to give it a shot, here’s what happened.

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Here’s My Citi Card Strategy After The ThankYou Card Devaluations

When there’s a major change in the points and miles environment, it’s a good idea to take a step back and evaluate the new lay of the land. I don’t like to rush into making decisions and I’ve had some time to think about the news that Citi is going to eliminate all of the price & product protections as well as travel insurance benefits from their cards, including the Citi Prestige, as of September 22, 2019.

My gut instinct told me that the Citi Prestige wasn’t going to be worthwhile anymore and I’d cancel it. To make things more interesting, Citi is allowing people to cancel and get a prorated refund until January 1, 2020. I have my time limit where I’d need to make a decision.

If I am going to cancel the card, there are things I need to think about beforehand. I need to have a strategy and be smart about how I proceed.

Here’s my plan (subject to change):

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Is Citi Delaying Prestige Fourth Night Free Credits On Purpose?

One of the best benefits of the Citi Prestige card is its Fourth Night Free benefit for hotel stays. For stays of 4 nights or longer, you’ll receive a credit for the average room rate price during your stay. That is, until September 2019 when two major changes to this benefit take effect:

  1. You can only use the Fourth Night Free benefit twice a calendar year
  2. All bookings must be made on the Citi ThankYou website or by calling 800-THANKYOU. All bookings will be prepaid, either with cash or by using your ThankYou points.

I’m not happy about these changes but I was glad Citi gave almost an entire year notice before the changes took effect. Any bookings made before September 1, 2019, are still under the current rules. That means you can book through the Citi Concierge instead of through the ThankYou portal. Concierge bookings allow you to use any publically available discounts (Loyalty Member Rate, AAA Member), which can save a bunch of money over a four-night stay. Using the concierge also allows you to book a rate where you can pay at the hotel and still receive your loyalty benefits and credit for your stay. ThankYou bookings don’t receive either of those benefits.

So I’m using the Fourth Night Free benefit as much as I can before September and trying to lock in as many reservations I can for next year.

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In February 2019, we completed a stay booked through the Citi Concierge and noticed a big change between how I received my credit now and the last time I used the benefit.

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Citi Prestige Premium Rental Car Benefits

While the American Express Platinum cards are the standard for providing travel benefits, you’re eligible for several of the same perks if you have a premier card from a different bank. Since I canceled my Platinum card, I’ve been looking to keep as many of the benefits I had previously with the cards I still have. The Citi Prestige card provides some of the same benefits and some that AMEX doesn’t.

With the Citi Prestige, you get extra benefits with several rental car companies. Here’s a list of the benefits and how to sign up for them.

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