Since launching in 2010, the Citi Prestige has overhauled its (many) perks several times. And it just announced another round of changes in July 2016 – including a major change to its lounge-access perks.
The card still comes with a pretty hefty annual fee of $450 — the same as the Platinum card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). So does it still live up to the costs?
What’s changing in the next year
Before we dive into the card’s benefits, here’s a quick run-down of what’s about to change:
- Point value for travel redemptions is being lowered (July 2017)
- Admirals Club access is being dropped (Sept. 2016 for new applicants, July 2017 for current cardholders)
- Reimbursements for the “fourth night free” hotel benefit are being calculated differently (starting July 2017)
- No more “three free rounds of golf” benefit (starting July 2017)
Here’s how many points you’ll earn with the Prestige card:
- 1 point per dollar on regular purchases
- 2x points per dollar on dining and entertainment
- 3x points on air travel and hotels
Citigold customers will receive a 15 percent ThankYou-point bonus (based on that year’s purchases) annually, and Citi Private Bank customers will receive a 25 percent annual bonus.
When it comes to the value of each point, that varies by how you redeem them, and you have many options in the Citi ThankYou program. With gift cards, you can typically expect a value of 1 cent value per point. Your value may increase or decrease when you redeem for other things (such as travel or merchandise). The card also offers various redemption “discounts” when you use your rewards for travel, and that’s one of the things that’s about to change:
- American Airlines redemptions: Points are worth 1.6 cents each toward American Airlines tickets bought through Citi’s Travel Center. That will decrease to 1.25 cents each in July 2017 (Hat tip, The Points Guy).
- Redemptions for other airline tickets: Points are worth 1.33 cents each when you redeem for other airline tickets through Citi’s Travel Center. That will also decrease to 1.25 cents each in July 2017.
Verdict? The bonus categories (dining, travel and entertainment) are a definite plus and certainly nothing to sneeze at (considering the AmEx Platinum doesn’t have similar category offerings). But for a lower annual fee, you can get bonus spending on restaurants and/or travel with other cash-back and travel cards on the market.
The decrease in value for airline redemptions (next year) is something to consider, especially if you frequently took advantage of the 60 percent boost in value for American Airlines bookings. However, if you rarely redeemed via Citi’s travel portal anyway, this reduction of benefits is merely a glancing blow. And you’ll still get a competitive 25 percent boost in value going forward, should you choose to use the portal.
These elite cards aren’t just about the points. The reason you’d pay $450 for the Citi Prestige card is for benefits, right? Here’s what the card gives you …
- Lounge access – This is another benefit that is changing. Starting July 2017, the card will no longer provide complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club for current cardholders. New applicants will have the plug pulled in Sept. 2016. Cardholders will still have access to more than 700 Priority Pass lounges worldwide. Up to two guests or immediate family members also get Priority Pass lounge access when traveling with the cardholder.
- No foreign transaction fees
- Companion Ticket – Effective Oct. 19, 2014, this benefit is no longer offered.
- Points transfer: Via the Citi ThankYou program, you can transfer your points to partner airline and hotel programs. In all cases, you get a 1:1 transfer ratio, or better. The current list of partners has a decidedly international bent, while similar programs from other cards offer more domestic carriers. Currently, you can transfer to: Asia Miles, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Hilton.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement: Every five years, Prestige cardholders are eligible for a statement credit that cancels out the application fee for TSA PreCheck ($85) or Global Entry ($100). Keep in mind that Global Entry includes PreCheck. This perk can save frequent travelers lots of time at the airport.
- Air travel credit – Each year, you get a $250 travel credit, which can be applied to airfares AND incidental fees like lounge access and baggage fees.
- Insurance + similar benefits – Lost luggage, travel accident, extended warranty, price protection, trip delay/cancellation, auto rental coverage (secondary coverage) and more
- Miscellaneous – Phone concierge (available 24 hours a day, in the language of your choice); Citi Private Pass
- Hotel perks – This perk is changing slightly. As before, you get the fourth night free if you book at an eligible property via Citi’s travel concierge. You must book four consecutive nights to receive this benefit. What’s changing is this: Until July 2017, you’ll be reimbursed for the cost of the fourth night at the actual cost of the fourth night. After July 2017, the amount you’ll be reimbursed will be based on the average nightly rate of your entire stay.
- Relationship bonus – For those who bank with Citi, the bonus structure looks this:
Citi used to give annual bonuses to cardmembers who didn’t bank with Citi as well – but it axed that perk in 2014.
A lot just changed with this card, and it’s a mixed bag:
Perhaps the biggest change is the lounge access. The loss of complimentary Admirals Club access is a big one for frequent travelers. To keep it, you’ll need to either get American Airlines’ premium card (and pay $450 per year) or shell out hundreds of dollars per year on an Admirals Club membership.
The recalculation of the fourth-night-free hotel benefit could be a downgrade for people who timed their hotel stays so that the fourth night would be the most expensive night.
Depending on how you redeemed your rewards, the devaluation of airline redemptions could decrease the value of the card for you.
And the unique three-rounds-of-golf benefit might sting for cardmembers who looked forward to using it each year.
And therein lies the rub – while the Prestige still has a lucrative points-earning structure, with these high-annual-fee premium cards, it’s not about the points for many people. It’s about the extras — the kind of extras this card is about to nix. It’s actually rather common for luxury cards to adjust their benefits from time to time; the Platinum Card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) has done the same over the years.
So, if you’re thinking about getting (or keeping) the Prestige, do a cost-benefit analysis. The competitive $250 travel-reimbursement credit, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement and Priority Pass membership might still keep the card in the running.
For a lower annual fee, consider the Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 per year). It offers a lot of the same travel insurance protections and concierge services, and gives 3X points on travel (including gas) and 2X on dining and entertainment. For $95 a year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also lets you earn bonus points on dining and travel and has its own suite of airline transfer partners (including more hotels and domestic carriers).
Or, for similar luxury perks (including some that the Citi Prestige doesn’t have), the American Express Platinum card is an option worth weighing, especially since AmEx is ramping up its lounge game with its swanky Centurion lounges.
Updated August 2016