Citi apparently feels that for their credit card portfolio, less is more. And when I say less, I mean cutting most insurance coverages for all their cards as well as less frequent sign-up bonuses for the American Airlines co-brand cards (now increased from 24 months to 48 months). Citi apparently wasn’t done, as it looks like they’ve now reduced the sign-up bonus on their Citi Rewards+ card.
Change is inevitable. There’s no avoiding it. In the points and miles universe, you have to know that programs will devalue redemptions, sweet spots are going to disappear and some companies will just cease to exist. You just look at what’s left and make the best of it. Maybe the changes will open up some possibilities that weren’t there before. Hopefully, there’s some silver lining to the storm clouds of program “enhancements.”
So when you see an email that says a program is going to announce some changes that their members have been asking for, do you duck and cover, expecting the worst possible scenario? I can understand why, after some programs have seemingly blown up their programs over the years but you need to have hope because it’s possible that not all changes are 100% negative. Before you get all riled up, hear me out.
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):
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:
- You can only use the Fourth Night Free benefit twice a calendar year
- 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.
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.
Back in the day, I had a list of things I needed to do before going on a trip. Among other things, I had to print out the itinerary, pack the travel books and call the banks to let them know I was going to be using my cards in places I usually didn’t. This was especially important if I was traveling outside of the U.S. because the last thing I wanted to do when I was in a foreign country was to pay for a phone call to the bank to unfreeze my account.
Times have changed. I don’t bring a stack of travel books with me on vacation and my entire list of plans for the trip are stored on my iPhone. But do I still need to let the bank know I’ll be traveling? There’s a good chance I already booked the tickets using their card so knowing I’ll be visiting an area should already be in their computer system, right? Not exactly. Here’s what the banks say about informing them of your travels (and Spoiler Alert!: Most of them still want you to alert them about your travels)…