|Rewards Rating:||3.7 / 5|
|Annual Percentage Rate:||3.7|
In a nutshell:
For a $450 annual fee, the Citi Prestige card comes loaded with travel benefits, protections and credits that make it a great value for a hard-core world traveler.
Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
Other Notable Features: $300 annual travel credit; $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit; no foreign transaction fee; complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges; select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; car rental insurance; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage insurance; trip delay insurance; purchase protection; refund price differences; return protection; extended warranty; 24/7 customer service; exclusive events and experiences; zero fraud liability; year-end summary
It’s a fiercely competitive market at the moment for premium travel rewards cards. While many elite cards are clamoring to draw attention to themselves through fancy metal cards, ostentatious packaging and special delivery, and astronomically large sign-up bonuses, the Citi Prestige card lacks the fanfare of some of its competitors.
For one thing, the Citi Prestige card features a modest plastic exterior that doesn’t generate much heft in your wallet or on the credit card tray at dinner. Also, it comes with a comparatively light 40,000-point sign-up bonus. But, for the lack of these embellishments, the card is weighted heavily with all sorts of other features.
The Citi Prestige card grants the main account holder, plus each authorized user and an additional two guests, free admission to the world’s largest network of airport lounges. Also, the card includes $350 in travel credits that compensate for a large part of the annual fee. Furthermore, it comes with the most extensive list of travel protections currently available.
When you factor in the free fourth night that the card offers on hotel stays – every hotel stay purchased through the card, an unlimited number of times per year with no blackout dates – the card more than makes up for its annual fee. If you are an elite world traveler looking for a good value, the Citi Prestige card offers an abundance of it.
Good rewards for frequent diners and travelers
The Citi Prestige comes with a pretty good rewards rate that heaps points on cardholders who spend a large amount on travel, dining and entertainment. Citi Prestige members get three points per dollar on air travel and hotel purchases, two points per dollar on dining and entertainment and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
Note: While this is a reasonable rewards program for the card’s target audience of elite jet setters, it’s far from the best rewards rate you can find and not a good reason in itself to sign up for the card. If your goal is simply to amass rewards points for free travel, you can find cards that match this rate or exceed it for a much lower fee.
Great sign-up bonus
The card rewards new cardholders with 40,000 bonus points if they reach a $4,000 spending threshold in the first three months of card ownership. This is not as grand as an 80,000- or 100,000-point sign-up bonus, but it’s still a very generous offer that adds greatly to the value of the Citi Prestige card. Depending on how you spend the sign-up bonus, those 40,000 points are worth $400 or more – enough for a free plane ticket in your first year of membership.
ThankYou points lack flexibility
The primary weakness of the Citi Prestige card lies in the currency of its rewards program – the ThankYou point. On the surface, the Citi Prestige’s rewards program appears to parallel other premium rewards programs by offering transferrable rewards points. Citi Prestige members have the option to transfer points to a number of hotel and airline partners at a 1:1 ratio in order to get a much better value on their points. Card members also can pool points with other Citi ThankYou cards. Furthermore, cardholders get a large bonus when they redeem their rewards for travel through Citi’s ThankYou portal.
However, Citi has a sparse collection of airline partners. Only two of Citi’s partners – Virgin America (which merged with Alaska Airlines and will no longer be a transfer option as of Jan. 22, 2017) and JetBlue – are located in the United States, and neither of these is a large airline. The remainder of Citi’s partners are smaller carriers based in other countries. So, while the value of point transfers is high, you will have a harder time finding opportunities to transfer them.
Citi Prestige also doesn’t have the option, as some premium travel cards do, of booking travel rewards outside the Citi ThankYou portal. And, though Citi does boast a wide variety of redemption options on its rewards portal – including a very large selection of merchandise and the ability to directly redeem rewards points for Amazon.com merchandise – we don’t think that this is a wise use of ThankYou points. The value of points redeemed for rewards outside of gift cards and travel is less than a penny.
Limited options to pool points
The ability to pool ThankYou points also is not as appealing as it seems. There is too much overlap between the rewards categories on the Citi Prestige card and the categories on other Citi ThankYou cards. All three of Citi’s ThankYou cards – the Prestige, Preferred and Premier cards – offer bonus points on dining and entertainment. The Citi Preferred card also offers the same three points per dollar on travel as the Citi Prestige card. Among the three cards, the only bonus category not covered by the Citi Prestige card is gas stations – the Citi Premier card offers three points per dollar on gas station purchases.
An additional bonus category is not much of an incentive for cardholders hoping to juggle cards to gain extra rewards points. Cardholders who want to pool rewards are better off looking for a rewards program with a greater variety of bonus categories.
Complimentary lounge access
Airport lounge access is one of the primary reasons to shell out the oversized fee for an elite card, and the Citi Prestige card delivers on this benefit. Card members get complimentary access to Priority Pass Select lounges – a large worldwide network of more than 700 lounges. While other cards offer Priority Pass lounge access, the Citi Prestige card surpasses them by granting free access to two additional guests. Plus, if you pay the $50 fee to add an authorized user, that user also gets free lounge access.
Unfortunately, Citi Prestige, which once included free access to Admiral Club lounges in its program, recently eliminated this benefit for new members. This reduces the number of airport lounges accessible to card members in the U.S., and makes the card less valuable to card users who don’t often travel to foreign countries or to the major U.S. hubs, where Priority Pass lounges are.
Great elite travel benefits
The Citi Prestige card is laden with travel credits and benefits that easily make up for the card’s $450 fee. The card awards a $250 travel credit on a yearly basis that applies to a wide variety of travel items – including directly purchased airfare – and is automatically applied to eligible purchases when they are posted to your account. The card also grants you a $100 credit every five years to cover your application for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
One especially appealing benefit is a free hotel night any time you pay for four consecutive nights with your Citi Prestige card. The benefit applies to any brand of hotel, with no blackout dates or limits on how many times you can use it, and is automatically debited to your account. And, though Citi requires you to book your reservation through Carlson Wagonlit Travel to get the hotel credit, you can ask the reservation agent to book your room through an outside website if you happen to find a discounted rate.
Unfortunately, Citi Prestige recently downgraded the hotel benefit so that it no longer covers taxes and only applies to the average cost of the four nights (which means that you can no longer book your reservation so that the hotel credit covers the most expensive night). Still, if you spend a lot of time in hotels, the free nights can really add up.
Besides these standout benefits, the Citi Prestige card includes many other luxury travel benefits, including Private Pass Beyond – which gives you access to highly exclusive experiences, such as private concerts and sporting events – and the World Elite Luxury Hotels and Resorts collection – which pampers its members with perks such as complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades and $100 hotel credits.
Great travel protection
The Citi Prestige card comes with a truly impressive list of travel protections – including unique protections, such as medical evacuation coverage – that should help you rest easier in all sorts of contingencies. Citi’s worldwide travel insurance, which generally applies to both cardholders and other travelers on the same booking, includes the following coverages:
- Three-hour trip delay insurance – Up to $500 for each traveler for eligible expenses, including meals and lodging.
- Medical evacuation coverage – Up to $100,000 to evacuate you to home or hospital, if you are seriously injured while traveling.
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance – Up to $5,000 per covered traveler if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to sickness, injury and severe weather.
- Baggage delay insurance – Up to $500 per covered traveler per trip if bags are delayed three hours or longer.
- Lost baggage insurance – Up to $3,000 per covered traveler per trip if bags are lost, stolen or damaged.
- Roadside assistance – Free towing up to 10 miles, tire changes, locked-out service and more.
- Worldwide car insurance – Up to $100,000 of coverage for theft or damage to your rental car (secondary in the U.S., primary in all other countries).
Citi purchase protections
The card comes with Citi’s usual list of purchase protections, including Citi Price Rewind, purchase protection, return protection and extended warranty. The card also offers event protection – a fairly unique benefit. In case you have to cancel your plans for a baseball game or that concert at the last minute, Citi will refund you up to $500 per ticket, up to $5,000 per calendar year.
Reasons to get it:
- You are a frequent world traveler.
- You want an elite travel card that offers an extensive list of benefits for a great value.
- You want a card that grants you free lounge access.
- You spend a large portion of your budget on dining and entertainment.
How to use it:
- Stick to redeeming your ThankYou points for travel – the rewards value is higher, and you get a 30 percent bonus on your points when you redeem them for travel rewards through Citi’s travel portal.
- Add an authorized user to the card for $50 to grant them the same benefits, including free Priority Pass lounge access.
- Charge your purchases to the card to get access to its long list of travel and purchase protections.
- Charge your travel purchases – including directly purchased airfare – to the card to take advantage of the $250 travel credit.
- Book your hotel stays in four night periods with the card to get a fourth night free.
- Use the card’s roadside assistance when you have a breakdown – the card should cover most of the charges, including towing up to 10 miles.
- You can use the card freely when you are traveling in other countries – there are no foreign transaction fees.
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