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I’ve been on the verge of canceling or downgrading my Citi Prestige Card a number of times over the past few years but each time I got close to making the call I either talked myself out of it or Citi put through a genuine enhancement that persuaded me to give the card another go.
Now, with my cardholder year ending in a few months’ time and with Citi having just gutted most of the Prestige Card’s protection benefits, I’m once again wondering if it makes sense to keep the card for another year.
What Does The Citi Prestige Card Offer
- 5x ThankYou points at restaurants worldwide
- 5x ThankYou points on air travel booked directly with an airline
- 3x ThankYou points for spending with cruise lines
- 3x ThankYou points for spending on hotels
- 1x ThankYou points on all other purchases
- $250/year travel credit
- 4th night free when a hotel stay is booked through the ThankYou travel portal (maximum 2x/year)
- Priority Pass Select membership
- Cellphone protection
- $100 credit towards Global Entry/TSA PreCheck every 4 years
- No foreign transaction fees
The Key Issue
A major reason the Citi Prestige Card got a reprieve the last time I was considering the card’s position in my wallet was the fact that Citi boosted the earings on dining and airfare to 5 points/dollar.
The enhanced earnings rate on dining expenditure was a nice bonus but the key differentiator for me was the fact that the Citi Prestige card now offered 5 points/dollar on airfare AND it offered trip delay insurance.
The Platinum Card from American Express also offers 5 points per dollar on airfare but, up until recently, it didn’t offer any meaningful trip protection benefits so the Prestige Card’s offering was superior (note: I value Cit ThankYou Points and AMEX points equally).
All of this has recently been turned on its head as Citi announced that the Prestige Card (along with a whole host of other Citi cards) would be losing most of its protection benefits from 22 September 2019 and as AMEX announced that the Platinum Card would be gaining travel protection benefits from 1 January 2020.
Where previously the Citi Prestige Card was the obvious card on which to put all airfare spending, now the AMEX Platinum has taken over that role.
Why would I choose to earn 5 ThankYou points/dollar and not have my trips protected when I can earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar and have a reasonable amount of coverage?
AMEX Membership Rewards Points transfer over to more loyalty programs than Citi’s ThankYou Points, and although Citi has one or two partner programs that AMEX does not, they’re not programs that are important enough to me that I’d be happy to forgo travel protection benefits in order to earn points that transfer over to them.
Quite simply: If I’m going to be using my Platinum Card to purchase most of my airfares going forward, the Citi Prestige Card will have to find another way to generate value for me.
Can I Find Value In The Citi Prestige Card
There are two important things to bear in mind before I proceed:
- I could easily make use of the $250 annual travel credit that the Prestige Card offers so my net annual fee is $245.
- I also hold the Platinum Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card both of which offer a number of benefits that the Prestige Card offers.
The 4th Night Free Benefit
All bookings made after 1 September 2019 have to be made through the ThankYou portal and booking made through the ThankYou portal are viewed as 3rd party bookings by all the major hotel chains.
When it comes to 3rd party bookings…
- Hotels will not honor any elite benefits that may have been due had the booking been made directly with the hotel/hotel chain.
- Guests will not earn points in the hotel’s loyalty program
- Guests will not earn elite night credits in the hotel’s loyalty program
For stays made at independent boutique hotels these aren’t issues at all, but elite benefits and hotel points all have a value and their absence significantly reduces the value of the 4th free night if a guest is staying at a chain hotel…and I stay at a lot of chain hotels.
My hotel statuses get me complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades and a significant number of loyalty points that I can put towards future stays so missing out on all of these isn’t ideal.
Priority Pass Select Membership
I get Priority Pass Select membership with my Platinum Card and my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and while the version of the membership that the Platinum Card offers doesn’t give a credit for Priority Pass restaurant visits, the membership that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve does….so I’m covered.
The cellphone cover that comes with the Prestige Card is pretty good (more details here) but my home insurance and my American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Red card will both cover my cellphone so the protection the Prestige Card offers isn’t significant to me.
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit
At best this credit would be worth $25/year towards the annual fee as the $100 credit is only valid once every 4 years, but as I get the same credit through my Platinum Card and my Chase Reserve Card I have no need of it from the Prestige Card.
It’s incredibly important not to get irrationally attached to a credit card (which can be surprisingly easy to do) and it’s equally important to be brutally honest when working out just how much value a card will offer. If I’m to do both, I have to admit that I don’t think I’ll use the 4th night free benefit enough times to make the Prestige Card work for me.
I may not even get around to using it at all.
In my heart of hearts, I’m a 3-night-stay person so, while I was happy to book 4-night stays while the Prestige Card still allowed me to enjoy my elite benefits and to earn various hotel currencies, the same is no longer true now that they’re not an option.
As always, everything comes down to the math and I have to work out if the benefits I get from the Citi Prestige Card will cover the $245 annual fee (net of the travel credit) that I’ll be charged when my cardholder year is up.
I can’t assign a positive value to the Global Entry credit, the cellphone protection or the Priority Pass Select membership because these are all benefits I already get elsewhere.
I also cannot, with any real justification, assign a positive value to a benefit that I know I’ll only be using just to make up some of the annual fee, so the 4th night free benefit has to be valued at zero.
I’ve already established that I’m unlikely to use the Prestige card for airfare spending and, as I can use the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to earn 3 points/dollar on all travel spending, I’m also unlikely to need to use the Prestige card to make hotel or cruise bookings…so that just leaves the great earning rate on dining expenditure as a possible reason to keep the card.
Even without doing the math I’m pretty sure that’s this isn’t going to work for me.
I value Citi ThankYou Points at 1.5 cents each which means that the 5 points/dollar I can earn on dining equates to a rebate of 7.5 cents/dollar.
Based on that figure, I’d have to spend approximately $3,267 on dining (in a cardholder year) just to earn enough ThankYou points to cover the $245 net annual fee.
That doesn’t strike me as being a particularly good deal.
I’m a strong believer in credit card portfolio diversification so I’m not about to give up on Citi’s ThankYou points just because the Prestige Card can’t earn a place in my wallet.
While I cannot justify the $245 net annual fee on the Prestige Card I’m more than happy to suck up the $95/year annual fee on the Citi ThankYou Premier Card which offers…
- 3 Points/dollar on Travel including Gas Stations
- 2X Points/dollar at Restaurants and on Entertainment
- 1X Points/dollar on All Other Purchases
…and also doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.
Downgrading the Prestige Card to the Citi ThankYou Premier card would leave me with the following options to cover the loss of the Prestige Card:
- Platinum Card for airfare spending (5 points/dollar and trip protection)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve & Citi ThankYou Premier for all other travel spending (3 points/dollar each)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining expenditure (3 points/dollar)
I’d also have the added benefit of being able to earn 3 ThankYou Points/dollar at gas stations and 2 ThankYou points/dollar on entertainment (courtesy of the Citi ThankYou Premier card).
Yes, I know I’ve said this before and not followed through with it but this time the Citi Prestige Card really has to go (unless Citi pulls out a nice surprise before my cardholder year is up).
I can’t justify the card’s annual fee and if I downgrade to the Premier Card the only loss I’ll be taking is a net loss of 2 points/dollar at restaurants and bars..and that’s a loss I think I can live with.