If someone could tell me what Citi is thinking with its plan to remove a ton of benefits from its cards, I’m all ears. While these changes are being implemented across all Citi cards, the fact that it’s removing them from the Citi Prestige seems like a particularly poor decision.
Seriously, Citi has made so many changes to the Citi Prestige in the last couple of years, it’s a wonder anyone knows what it offers these days. With so many benefits changes, why does anyone even keep the card at this point? While Chase has made a couple of changes to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the last few years, its benefits have remained simple and consistent. That’s just one reason it’s so popular.
This latest round of changes has me considering whether it’s worth keeping the Citi Prestige in addition to the Sapphire Reserve. Since I imagine many of you are considering whether you’ll keep the Prestige, let’s take a look at how the card has changed and what it means for you going forward.
What The Citi Prestige Has Already Lost
If you don’t want to feel depressed, just skip this section. We’re going to talk about how the Citi Prestige has evolved over the last few years to give you some context. It should shed some light on why so many people are frustrated with the latest rounds of changes — re. cuts.
American Airlines Perks
Remember when the Citi Prestige provided access to Admirals Clubs when flying American Airlines? If you don’t, we can’t blame you. That lovely perk ended in July 2017. While it comes with a Priority Pass Select membership so do plenty of other cards including the Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card from American Express (Learn More) and The Business Platinum Card from American Express (Learn More). In fact, the Amex Platinum cards also provide Sky Club access when flying Delta.
If that wasn’t enough of a blow to those flying American, the card also used to allow you to use points in the Citi Travel Center to book American flights for 1.66 cents per point. Of course, Citi ditched that too and dropped the rate to 1.25 cents per point. After August 2019, that will drop to 1 cent per point — even though the Citi Premier will still get 1.25 cents per point.
Seriously, what is going on with them?
4th Night Free Hotel Bookings With Status Perks
Probably the premier benefit of the Citi Prestige has been the ability to book a 4-night stay at a hotel via its concierge service and get the 4th night free. A couple of years ago, this benefit was also changed. Rather than getting a statement credit equal to the cost of the 4th night, Citi changed this rebate to the average nightly rate minus taxes/fees.
All in all, this change wasn’t a big deal and it made sense. You could still get a solid rebate AND these bookings were made directly with your chosen hotel. This meant you’d get your elite status perks, earn night credit and redeemable hotel points on your bookings.
Well, that’s going away after August 2019. Soon, you’ll have to book via the Citi Travel Center which is an online travel agency (OTA). That means no elite status perks, no night credit and no redeemable points. On top of that, Citi has restricted your use of the perk to 2 times per year.
Trip Delay Coverage Devaluation
Nearly a year ago, Citi devalued the Prestige’s trip delay coverage. Rather than needing only a delay of more than 3 hours to get coverage, it now requires a delay of more than 6 hours. While this is better than the Amex Platinum cards which don’t offer trip delay, the 6-hour requirement is the same as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
This was enough of a change for me to move my spend on flights to the Sapphire Reserve since both cards earned 3X on flights. Chase had the advantage because Ultimate Rewards not only transfer to airline partners but to Hyatt as well. I love Citi ThankYou Points — probably more than most people — but the having access to Hyatt points put Chase ahead.
Without trip delay kicking in at 3 hours, the Citi Prestige lost its competitive advantage for airfare purchases.
Positive Changes To The Citi Prestige
To be fair, the changes haven’t all been bad. Citi has made some positive moves with the Citi Prestige recently. Specifically, you now earn 5X on flights and dining purchases and 3X on hotels. The 5X instantly made me shift my spend to the Prestige at restaurants and had me booking flights with the card again.
It’s quite simple, really. 5X + trip delay protection is better than 3X + trip delay protection.
Additionally, the annual $250 air travel credit was changed to a $250 travel credit. This simplified the perk as you can now use it on hotels, OTAs, and other transportation in addition to flights.
While the annual fee was bumped from $450 to $495 and the 2X entertainment will come to an end August 31, 2019, the increased earnings in other categories and the better travel credit balanced out these changes.
Citi Guts Travel Protections
Now, we get to the latest changes that go into effect for bookings as of September 22, 2019. That’s right, the new 4th-night free rules haven’t even kicked in yet and Citi has already announced it’s going to gut the travel protections. It’s not just the Citi Prestige card that is losing benefits, but considering the card carries a $495 annual fee, it’s the stunning they would pull these benefits.
Here’s a list of the protections being removed — many are specifically related to travel:
- Trip delay protection
- Trip cancellation and interruption protection
- Bag delay protection
- Lost bag protection
- Car rental coverage
- Travel accident insurance
- Medical evacuation
- Citi Price Rewind
- 90-day return protection
- Missed event ticket protection
- Roadside assistance dispatch service
- Travel and emergency assistance
So much for having an advantage over the Sapphire Reserve when booking flights.
What Does This Mean For You
If you don’t care about having $500 to cover a hotel, food, transportation and other reasonable expenses during extended flight delays, this probably doesn’t bother you too much. You can just continue earning 5X ThankYou Points with the Prestige.
Alternatively, you could earn 5X Membership Rewards points with the Amex Platinum or Business Platinum via Amex Travel. The Amex Platinum also earns 5X when booking flights directly with airlines. Really takes some of the shine off the Prestige when you can earn 5X Membership Rewards too.
Take a look at some of the awesome ways you can use Membership Rewards points.
If you care about travel protections, Citi has pretty much decided to hand you off to Chase. While extended delays, cancellations and delayed or lost baggage might not be a common occurrence for you, is it really worth taking that risk? If it is, best of luck on your adventures. Hopefully, everything shakes out as you hope it will.
My Plan For Future Flight Bookings
Personally, I find this change to be more than a bit frustrating. I’ve been talking about the value of ThankYou Points for a few years and have been trying to give Citi my business to earn more of them. I even gave a talk on the program at last year’s Chicago Seminars since I felt they were too often forgotten — even by many who are old pros using miles and points.
Check out some of our favorite ways to redeem Citi ThankYou Points for max value.
However, with the removal of trip protections, my time with the Citi Prestige might be coming to an end. My annual fee is approaching and $495 instead of $450 without travel protections just isn’t going to cut it. Gutting 4th-night free benefit was already close to pushing me out the door but this change feels a bit like a shove.
Considering the fact that I’ve used trip delay insurance 3 times at JFK alone while heading home and once in Amman, Jordan in the last year, there’s no way I’m passing on coverage.
I still have a couple of months to make a decision on the Prestige, but it’s looking like Citi and I will be speaking about canceling the card soon. Besides, there are plenty of great ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Where does that leave the Citi Prestige?
Well, beyond the 5X on dining — admittedly a big plus for the card, I just don’t see how it’s going to compete. It’s lost too many perks in the last few years and the gutting of 4th-night free and removal of the travel benefits really slashes the value of the card.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has 3X across just about all travel purchases, a $300 travel credit, a Priority Pass Select membership and travel benefits.
The Amex Platinum has 5X on flights, a Priority Pass Select membership, Delta Sky Club access, Centurion Lounges, Escape Lounges and even access to a couple of Lufthansa lounges in Frankfurt and Munich. You also have access to Fine Hotels & Resorts perks with the card.
Hopefully, somehow, Citi realizes that it’s probably about to hand over a nice chunk of business to Chase. If it does and it calls off this change to the travel benefits, at least for the Citi Prestige, perhaps it can salvage what it’s about to lose.