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Citi Prestige card review

Citi Prestige card review

Published: February 13, 2019
Published: February 13, 2019
Ratings Policy
Luxury Rating:
3 rating
3 rating
3 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.1
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.5
3.8
Features: 4.0

In a Nutshell:

Luxury travelers should enjoy the Citi Prestige card’s solid list of benefits, including its robust set of travel protections and a fourth night free on hotel stays up to twice per year.

Rewards Rate

  • 5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50.000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$495

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($75,000 spend)
$1,986

APR
17.99-25.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption

Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • Collect unlimited number of points
  • Many redemption categories: gift cards, merchandise, travel, cash
  • Bonus value on points redeemed through Citi portal for travel rewards
  • Pool points with other Citi cards
  • Transfer points to 13 travel partners at 1:1 rate

Cons:

  • Low value for rewards outside of gift cards and travel
  • Travel must be booked through Citi ThankYou portal
  • Limited number of travel partners, mostly foreign airlines

Other Notable Features: Free Priority Pass lounge access for card member and 2 guests, 4th night free at any hotel up to 2 times per year, $250 travel credit, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, no foreign transaction fees, 24/7 concierge, free roadside assistance, Citi Private Pass BEYOND, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance , lost baggage insurance, baggage delay insurance, medical evacuation insurance, missed event insurance, price protection, return protection, purchase protection, extended warranty

Rewards Rating:
3.6 rating
3.6 rating
3.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.6
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.3
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 3.0
Customer Experience: 3.5

In a Nutshell:

Though the updates to the newly relaunched Citi Prestige card are a mixed bag, the card is still a strong choice for a luxury travel card.

Rewards Rate

  • 5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50.000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Bonus

  • $250 travel credit (applies to most travel purchases)
  • Priority Pass membership
  • $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every 5 years
  • 4th night free on any hotel stay (twice per year starting Sept. 1)

Annual Fee
$495

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$751

APR
17.99-25.99% (variable)

Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • Collect unlimited number of points
  • Many redemption categories: gift cards, merchandise, travel, cash
  • Bonus value on points redeemed through Citi portal for travel rewards
  • Pool points with other Citi cards
  • Transfer points to 13 travel partners at 1:1 rate

Cons:

  • Low value for rewards outside of gift cards and travel
  • Travel must be booked through Citi ThankYou portal
  • Limited number of travel partners, mostly foreign airlines

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: Free Priority Pass lounge access for card member and 2 guests, 4th night free at any hotel up to 2 times per year, $250 travel credit, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, no foreign transaction fees, 24/7 concierge, free roadside assistance, Citi Private Pass BEYOND, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance , lost baggage insurance, baggage delay insurance, medical evacuation insurance, missed event insurance, price protection, return protection, purchase protection, extended warranty

Citi is ringing in the new year with a relaunch of its Citi Prestige card. The updated card, which was closed to applications for several months, has gotten a major overhaul – including some positive and not-so-positive changes.

On the plus side, cardholders now earn a stellar 5 points per dollar on dining and air travel, and the card’s $250 travel credit has expanded to cover any travel purchase, including airline tickets. Also, beginning in May, cardholders who pay their cell phone bill with the Prestige card will be covered under a cell phone protection plan.

On the downside, for new cardholders, the card’s fee has increase to $495, the authorized user fee has increased to $75 and, starting Sept. 1, the fourth night free benefit will be capped at two uses per year. Citi has also eliminated the 25-percent bonus for travel redemption, drastically reducing the value of the card’s points.

Overall, the updates are a mixed bag. While the card’s more flexible travel credit boosts the card’s value and helps offset the high fee, the elimination of the 25-percent travel redemption bonus mostly wipes out the value of the 5X earning rate on dining and air travel. Also, the strict limit on the previously unlimited fourth night free benefit is a major letdown for frequent hotel goers.

Still, the card does come with good features for those with pockets deep enough to cover the card’s costs, including Priority Pass lounge access for the account holder and two additional guests and one of the most extensive lists of travel protections currently available.

Good rewards for frequent diners and travelers

The Citi Prestige card, hands down, wins the race for dining and travel rewards. The card offers 5 points per dollar on dining and air travel purchases – the highest rate of any card. It also offers a high rate of 3 points per dollar on cruises and hotel purchases. The remainder of purchases earn 1 point per dollar.

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.

Good sign-up bonus

The Citi Prestige is currently offering a fair-sized sign-up bonus to new cardholders: You can earn 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the card’s first three months. While it’s not the largest in the card’s history, nor the most valuable bonus currently available, it’s a good incentive to sign up for the card, worth around $500 in travel through Citi’s travel portal (and possibly even more if you transfer your points to one of Citi’s airline partners).

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.

However, Citi has a sparse collection of airline partners. Only one of Citi’s partners –JetBlue – is located in the United States, and it’s a smaller 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.

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 and two additional guests get complimentary access to Priority Pass Select lounges – a large worldwide network of more than 700 lounges. Plus, if you pay a $75 fee to add an authorized user, that user also gets free lounge access.

Great elite travel benefits

The Citi Prestige card is laden with travel credits and benefits that easily make up for the card’s 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 when you pay for four consecutive nights with your Citi Prestige card. The benefit applies to any brand of hotel, with no blackout dates, and is automatically debited to your account.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, Citi is drastically downgrading the fourth night free benefit later this year. Starting Sept. 1, card members will be limited to using the benefit two times per year. Still, if you choose to apply the benefit to a pricier hotel, this can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings.

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 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:

  • 3-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.

How does the Citi Prestige compare to other luxury cards?

All in all, the Citi Prestige card is a solid choice for a luxury travel card. However, you can find better options in the luxury card category, depending on how you intend to use your card.

For a more affordable card that grants airport lounge access, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may be the better value. Though the Reserve doesn’t offer as high a rewards earning rate as the Prestige card, it does offer a 50-percent travel redemption bonus that mostly makes up for the card’s lower earning rate. It also offers a larger $300 travel credit that applies to most travel purchases, including airfare, plus a lower annual fee than the Prestige card. The greatest advantage of the Reserve card is that you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to 13 airline partners, including Southwest and United. For point transfer options, the Reserve card is the best way to go.

Prestige card
Citi Prestige card
Chase Sapphire Reserve card
Chase Sapphire Reserve card
  • 5X points on dining and air travel
  • 3X points on cruise and hotel purchases
  • 1X points on other purchases
  • $495 annual fee
  • $250 travel credit
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • 4th night free at any hotel twice per year
  • Transfer points to 13 airline partners (no major airlines)
  • 3X points on travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1X points on other purchases
  • $450 annual fee
  • $300 travel credit
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • 50% bonus on points redeemed for travel through Chase’s portal
  • Transfer points to 13 airline partners, including Southwest and United

 

If you are searching for the best option for luxury travel perks, The Platinum Card from American Express may be your best bet. Though the Platinum card charges a $550 annual fee, it more than makes up for that fee with its long list of perks and travel discounts and credits. Among its outstanding list of benefits, it boasts up to $200 in Uber credits, up to $100 in luxury hotel credits, a $100 credit for Saks Fifth Avenue and automatic Gold status in the Hilton Honors and Starwood Preferred Guest programs.

Prestige card
Citi Prestige card
Amex Platinum card
Amex Platinum Card
  • 5X points on dining and air travel
  • 3X points on cruise and hotel purchases
  • 1X points on other purchases
  • $495 annual fee
  • $250 travel credit
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • 4th night free at any hotel twice per year
  • Transfer points to 13 airline partners (no major airlines)
  • 5X flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5X eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com
  • 1X other purchases
  • $550 annual fee
  • $200 airline credit (limited to incidentals on one designated airline)
  • Access to the largest network of lounges, including Amex Centurion lounges
  • Transfer points to 17 airline partners, including Delta
  • Tons of luxury perks, including elite status benefits in Starwood and Hilton programs, up to $200 Uber credit and more

 

Why get the Citi Prestige card?

  • You are a frequent world traveler.
  • You want an elite travel card that offers an extensive list of benefits for a good value.
  • You want a card that grants you free lounge access.
  • You spend a large portion of your budget on dining and air travel.

How to use the Citi Prestige card:

  • Stick to redeeming your ThankYou points for travel – the rewards value for other redemption options is poor.
  • Add an authorized user to the card for $75 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.
  • Pay for your fourth night free reservations with your card rather than points to get the most value out of your stays.
  • 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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