Citi Prestige changes: All you need to know about the nerfs, upgrades and rumors

On July 22, 2017, Citi will make some major changes to its Prestige card. Card issuers tweak their products all the time, so in and of itself, this isn’t surprising. However, the Citi Prestige is a premium credit card with a $450 annual fee and valuable benefits. And that means the stakes are higher — any change could cost you hundreds of dollars and leave you unable to justify the annual fee.

Whether that’s the case for you and the Citi Prestige depends on how you use the card. Read on to learn more about the upcoming changes so you can make an informed decision about whether to keep or cancel.

What’s changing

On July 22, the following changes will go into effect — we’re including some rumored changes on this list, which may not be confirmed until the changes launch:

  • Fourth-night-free benefit adjustments: Citi announced the changes to this benefit a year ago. The Citi Prestige provides the unique benefit of refunding you for the fourth night in any hotel. In the past (and until July 22, 2017), the refund you’d get for the fourth night was based on the actual rate for the fourth night. Now, however, the refund will be based on the average nightly rate of the whole stay, not including taxes. That’s a downgrade for those who booked their stay in such a way that the fourth night would be the most expensive night.

    The good news, however, is that there will be a slight upgrade to this benefit. In the past, if you wanted your fourth night to be free, you’d have to book by phone through the Citi Prestige Concierge. Going forward (as confirmed by The Points Guy), however, you’ll be able to book fourth-night-free stays online. Plus, you’ll get the free night immediately as a discount during check-out — no more waiting several weeks for the refund. Even this upgrade, however, could be considered a downgrade, since you’ll no longer be able to earn rewards points for that fourth night, as it will be refunded as an immediate discount.

  • Ability to use points to pay for the rest of your fourth-night-free reservation: You can now use points (or a mix of cash and points) to cover the rest of your fourth-night-free stay at a value of 1 cent per point. Arguably, you can get a better value for your points with other redemption options, but this is a nice convenience factor to add.
  • No more Admirals Club access: Citi Prestige cardholders used to enjoy access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges, in addition to Priority Pass lounges. The Admirals Club access goes away completely on July 22 (it already went away for new cardholders who applied after Sept. 2016). This was a valuable benefit, as Priority Pass lounges are less common in the U.S.
  • Decrease in value for airfare redemptions: This card used to give increased value for airfare redemptions — 1.6 cents per point for American Airlines redemptions and 1.33 cents per point for other airline redemptions. After July 22, all airline redemptions will go down to 1.25 cents per point.
  • Increase in value for cash-back redemptions: The Prestige card used to offer a sub-par cash-back redemption value of half a cent per point. That’s going up to a 1-cent-per-point redemption value as of July 22 (which is more in line with the rest of the industry).
  • (Rumored) ShopRunner membership: A variety of rewards blogs are listing this as a strongly rumored benefit. If it is indeed included, having the Citi Prestige will get you a ShopRunner membership (worth $79 a year). ShopRunner gets you free two-day shipping and free return shipping with a variety of retailers, including Staples, Neiman Marcus, 1-800 Flowers, Express and Bloomingdales.
  • No more free-golf benefit: Citi Prestige cardholders used to get three complimentary rounds of golf booked through the Citi Prestige portal per calendar year. That is going away July 22.
  • Metal card: No confirmation yet on whether current cardholders will have their plastic card replaced. This may be a perk or something you barely care about, but a metal card puts the Prestige more in line with other premium cards.

Upgrade or nerf?

The Citi Prestige makeover is a mixed bag, with major and minor changes. We think the most important factors to consider are:

  • The lounge benefit changes: If you frequently made use of the Admirals Club access, the card is getting nerfed big-time, especially because Priority Pass still isn’t very common yet in the United States. If you were holding on to the card for this benefit (and don’t get much out of the rewards) it may be time to move on.
  • The fourth-night-free changes: If you didn’t take advantage of this benefit much (because you didn’t want to call the concierge line every time you wanted to book a four-night stay), it’s about to get more accessible, thanks to the ability to book online. The new way Citi will be calculating the discount (based on the average nightly rate) can be considered a slight nerf, but this remains a valuable and unique benefit.
  • Changes in redemption value: You get more value for cash and a decreased value for travel under the new system. So analyze how you usually redeem your rewards to determine whether the card is worth keeping. We’ll never tell you how you *should* redeem your rewards, but, if you’re using a $450 travel card for cash back, consider switching to a no-annual-fee cash-back card.

What to do if you don’t like the changes

Banks can alter benefits at any time, but you don’t have to stick around and continue paying a $450 annual fee if you don’t like what’s happening to the Citi Prestige.

In this case, you have two options:

1. Ask for a product change or downgrade

Citi has other cards with lower or no annual fee. The ThankYou line of cards allows you to earn the same type of rewards that the Prestige does (ThankYou points), which means you won’t have to risk losing your rewards balance by parting ways with the Prestige. So if you’d like to stick with Citi, you can call customer service and ask for a product change. Here’s some advice for doing that.

2. Get a card from another issuer

If, however, you want a premium card along the lines of the Citi Prestige, you may have to switch to such a card from another issuer. Consider the Platinum Card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve. They have similar (high) annual fees and robust travel benefits.

Here’s how the Citi Prestige’s new benefits compare with similar luxury cards:

Comparing high-end credit cards
CardAnnual feeRewardsAnnual travel statement creditLounge accessAbility to transfer to airline/hotel loyalty programs?Other perks
Citi Prestige$4503X on air travel and hotels

2X on dining and entertainment

1X other purchases
$250 (applied automatically for all flight-related expenses, including tickets)Priority PassYES
4th night free on hotel stays; Global Entry application fee credit
Platinum Card from American Express (see Rates & Fees)$5505X on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel

5X on eligible hotels booked with American Express Travel

1X on other purchases
$200 (applied automatically for incidental purchases only for pre-selected airline of choice)

Up to $200 in Uber credits
Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Club, Priority PassYESGlobal entry application fee credit, Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, Hilton Honors Gold status, Boingo
Chase Sapphire Reserve$4503X on travel

3X on dining

1X on other purchases
$300 (applied automatically for all eligible travel purchases)Priority PassYESGlobal entry application fee credit, 50% redemption boost when you redeem for travel via Chase's portal,
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve$4003X on travel

3X on mobile wallet spending

1X rewards on other purchases
$325 (applied automatically for purchases directly from airlines, hotels, car-rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines)Priority PassNOGlobal Entry application fee cridit credit, Gogo, GroundLink/Silvercar benefits
 
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