Credit card benefit changes are inevitable. Okay, that’s stating the obvious. But benefit changes do seem to be coming at us fast and furiously these days. The Citi Prestige credit card went through changes that started in January 2019. Now, we’re facing the worst change for many of us who use the Citi Prestige 4th night free hotel benefit. There’s new restrictions for the 4th night free benefit starting in September 2019 and want to make sure you don’t miss this critical detail.
I have mixed feelings about ALL the changes we’ve seen on the Prestige card over the past year. Let’s review the Citi Prestige landscape because change can be good, bad, or really bad, as proven by these Citi Prestige changes.
Breaking It Down:
Earning ThankYou Points (The Good)
Credit cards have to be competitive across issuers. Citi has stepped up to the plate making the Prestige card more compelling with their category bonuses:
- 5X ThankYou Points per $1 spent on dining, even on international dining
- 5X ThankYou Points per $1 spent on airfare purchased directly from airlines, as well as purchases through travel agencies
- 3X ThankYou Points per $1 spent on all other travel including hotels and cruise lines
- 2X ThankYou Points per $1 spent on entertainment (this will be reduced to 1X point in September 2019)
Many people who weren’t too keen on the Citi Prestige card before may now be smiling about the 5x points on dining. Recently, I lamented to a friend that depending on personal preference about points currency, it was a toss up between the Prestige and Amex Gold card’s dining benefit. The Gold card offers 4x Membership Reward points for dining.
Dining is a big category spend for most people and 5x points with the Prestige card is as good as it gets.
Other Changes to the Citi Prestige Card (The Good)
Annual $250 AIR travel credit has become a $250 TRAVEL credit and can be used toward any travel purchase, not just airfare. Think hotels, travel agencies, taxis and other travel related purchases.
Cell phone protection in now included as a card benefit as of May 2019.
Travel Portal Redemptions to Decrease in Value (The Bad)
This has been a shrinking benefit for some time now. In the past two years, ThankYou Points redeemed through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center dropped in value from 1.6 cents for American Airlines-operated flights and 1.33 cents for all other flights to 1.25 cents for flights on any airline.
Starting in September 2019, ThankYou Points redeemed through the travel portal will be worth 1 cent each. I did use my ThankYou points for American Airlines flights when I first got this card, and the value of those points were at their peak. It’s likely, going forward, that I’ll not redeem on the portal, if at all. Instead I’ll transfer my ThankYou points to a specific airline and use them for booking award trips.
- Need help booking award tickets to maximize your miles and points? I always leave that part to Juicy Miles!
Annual Fee Increase (The Bad)
The annual fee will go up from $450 to $495. Let’s face it, we never want to see an annual fee going up. “Prestige” in life can often come with a price 🙂
Citi Prestige 4th Night Free Benefit Is Changing (The Really Bad)
I save thousands, yes thousands, of dollars each year using this card benefit. Even though the benefit change doesn’t kick in until September 2019, I went into mourning the minute I heard this news.
Beginning in September 2019, the 4th Night Free will be available for use just twice per year. Unlimited use is over, kaput, R.I.P.
The limit will apply to both the primary cardholder and any authorized users combined……OUCH!
The 4th night free benefit will continue to be based on the average cost of all four nights. This change to dollar amount came about last year. If you travel less than I do and use this benefit only a few times a year, this change won’t affect you. For me, I’m definitely going have to come up with a new hotel stay strategy because I use this benefit on paid hotel stays a lot.
How Much Did I Save With This 4th Night Free Benefit?
I was an early adopter of this credit card. Originally, I thought I’d primarily use it for the free rounds of golf and American Airlines Admirals Club access. And maybe the 4th night free hotel benefit. Turns out, I never used the free rounds of golf (which is no longer a benefit), though I did use the American Airlines Admirals Club access from time to time (no longer a benefit either).
The real surprise for me was how often I used the 4th night free hotel benefit and how much money I saved. I saved on average between $1100 and $2500 a year. For me, it averages out to about $40-$50 a day in savings, which in Buenos Aires pays for a lot of gelato!
We all have different travel styles. Some of us are quick in-and-out-of-a-place travelers, and some of us linger a bit longer. And some of us, even when lingering a bit longer, will switch from one hotel to another, chasing hotel status or to complete hotel bonuses.
I’m in the linger-a-bit-longer camp and I rarely switch hotels in the same city. So four nights in one place to use the 4th night free hotel benefit didn’t make me change my travel patterns.
When I’m booking a hotel stay that will be at least four nights, and it’s at a hotel that I have points for, I always compare whether it pays to use cash and take advantage of the 4th night free benefit. This is especially true now when the 4th night free benefit is only good for two stays per year. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, so it helps to do the math and know what each point is worth to you.
I value my Hyatt points the most. It also helps to know your upcoming travel plans because maybe you’ll need those hotel points in the not too distant future.
Using 4th Night Free Benefit? Pay Attention How You Pay
Often we miss the fine print, and in this case the fine print is what we need to be aware of. I notice something interesting when looking at the differences between using the Concierge and Thankyou.com.
There are two ways to book and receive your 4th Night Free benefit: through the Citi Prestige Concierge or through Thankyou.com. The rules and restrictions have one key difference. Here’s what you need to know.
Booking With Concierge…
When booking through the Concierge, you can choose to pre-pay for your stay or pay when you check-out.
Booking With ThankYou.com…
When booking through Thankyou.com you can pay for your stay with cash, redeem Citi ThankYou Points, or use a combination of ThankYou points and your credit card. HOWEVER, you must pre-pay for your reservation.
I’m not a fan of prepaying reservations and never prepay. For this reason, unless I was using the all points option for my hotel stay, I would never use ThankYou.com to book my 4th Night Free hotel stay.
I still have a few more trips booked before the 4th night free restriction starts where I’ll be using the 4th night free hotel benefit. Even though some of the original benefits of the credit card are gone, the value of Citi ThankYou Points has dropped, and even the rebate on the 4th night isn’t nearly as good as it used to be, the Citi Prestige Credit Card is still useful and saves me plenty of money. Do your own research before choosing whether to book through the portal or the concierge and run the numbers.
The updated Citi Prestige card still seems popular given the bonus category changes and expanded use of the travel credit. I’m sure, though, that I’m not the only one who will be re-thinking how they’ll use their card and looking to maximize the benefit it still offers, even with the limited Citi Prestige 4th night free hotel stay that begins in a few weeks. No matter which booking option you choose, make sure you know the current rules!
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