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The Citi Prestige® Card is an exclusive, extremely generous travel rewards credit card that requires excellent credit and charges a $450 annual fee (rising to $495 later in 2019). With an impressive rewards program, a host of travel-related benefits, and a variety of luxurious (and practical) perks that aren’t available to folks who use lesser cards, Prestige lives up to its name – if you can meet its stringent credit requirements and afford its hefty annual fee.
Citi Prestige is comparable to other high-end cards, including the American Express Platinum Card ($550 annual fee), the United MileagePlus Club Card ($450 annual fee), and the American Express Delta Reserve Credit Card ($450 annual fee).
It bears repeating that Citi Prestige is an exclusive credit card. In fact, it’s appropriate for only a small fraction of all U.S. cardholders. If you don’t qualify for this card, consider a less exclusive Citi rewards card such as the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card or Citi ThankYou Premier Card.
Earning ThankYou Rewards
This card earns an unlimited 5 ThankYou points per $1 spent on air travel and restaurant purchases; an unlimited 3 ThankYou points per $1 spent on hotel and cruise line purchases; an unlimited 2 ThankYou points per $1 spent on entertainment purchases (through September 2019); and an unlimited 1 ThankYou point per $1 spent on everything else.
Redeeming ThankYou Rewards
As Citi puts it, “You can redeem ThankYou points for almost anything” offered at Citi’s ThankYou portal. Common redemption options include gift cards, cash, general merchandise, direct purchases at Amazon and other online retail partners, and travel (with no blackout dates).
Redemption minimums and point values vary by redemption method – for instance, gift cards generally value points at $0.01 apiece and start at 2,500 points ($25 value), general merchandise redemptions value points between $0.005 and $0.01 and start at 1,000 points (but usually require more), and cash redemptions value points at $0.005 each and start at 10,000 points ($50 value).
For Prestige, air travel redemptions offer the best value, with a 25% value boost on points redeemed at Citi’s in-house travel portal (roughly valuing each point at $0.0125). If you don’t have enough points to cover the cost of an entire travel purchase, you can use your card to pay the difference. This 25% bonus is good through September 2019, after which points are worth $0.01 apiece when redeemed at Citi’s in-house travel portal.
Airport Lounge Access
This card comes with unlimited, complimentary access to approximately 1,000 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass™ Select – a $399 annual value. This benefit includes complimentary access for the cardholder, any authorized users, and up to two traveling companions, provided they’re accompanied by the cardholder.
Annual Travel Credit
Citi Prestige cardholders get a $250 travel credit each year. This credit is good a range of local and long-distance travel purchases, including airfare, hotels, ground transportation, and purchases made through travel agents.
Complimentary Trip Extension (Fourth Night Free)
Citi Prestige cardholders enjoy the fourth night free on eligible hotel bookings of four nights or longer. Through September 2019, this benefit can be claimed as many times as you wish, with no restrictions as to the hotel brand, location, or room night cost. Beginning in September 2019, you can invoke this benefit twice per calendar year.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit
As a Prestige cardholder, you’re entitled to a fee credit against Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee that entirely offsets the cost – up to $100. The programs come with expedited passage through customs checkpoints at major U.S. airports and may confer reciprocal benefits in other countries, so this credit saves both time and money.
Transfer Points to Travel Partners
Prestige cardholders can transfer their accumulated ThankYou points to approximately ten frequent traveler programs, including Virgin America Elevate and Hilton Honors. Transfers usually occur in multiples of 1,000 ThankYou points and at 1-to-1 ratios. Hilton Honors transfers offer the best value, as you get 1,500 Honors points for 1,000 ThankYou points. Transfer partners and point requirements are subject to change.
Prestige cardholders enjoy special access to more than 2,000 golf courses around the world, including private courses not open to the general public.
Additional Travel Benefits
Citi Prestige has a host of other travel benefits, including:
- 24/7 concierge service for assistance with reservation booking and management
- Medical evacuation coverage (up to $100,000) for critically ill or injured travelers abroad
- Lost/damaged baggage coverage, up to $3,000 per item
Cell Phone Protection
Beginning in May 2019, Prestige comes with complimentary cell phone protection (covering theft and damage) when you pay your cell phone bill with your card.
This card’s non-travel benefits include:
- Citi Price Rewind, which refunds up to $300 per item when Citi finds a lower price within 60 days of purchase
- Missed Event Ticket Protection, which reimburses you (up to $500 per ticket) when you miss a show, sporting event, or other qualifying event due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances
- Return protection (up to $500 per item) on returned items not accepted by the original merchant within 90 days of purchase
Through September 2019, this card’s annual fee is $450, with a $50 annual charge for each additional authorized user. After September 2019, the annual fee rises to $495, and the authorized user fee jumps to $75.
There is no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount, while cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Late and returned payments both cost $35.
This card requires excellent credit, not to mention adequate resources to handle a high spending limit. If you have any blemishes on your credit report, you’re unlikely to qualify for it.
- Generous Airport Lounge Benefit. This card offers complimentary access to approximately 1,000 airport lounges for the cardholder, authorized users, and up to two companions. If your travels primarily take you through major airports in North America, Europe, and Asia, you’re more likely than not to encounter at least one participating lounge wherever you go. The same can’t be said for the airport lounge benefits offered by United Mileage Plus Club and American Express Delta Reserve, both of which have fewer than 150 airport lounges in their networks.
- Trip Extension Benefit Can Be Incredibly Valuable. This card’s complimentary fourth night on hotel or resort stays of four nights or longer has the potential to be extremely valuable, not least because it’s good at any hotel or resort property worldwide. While some branded hotel credit cards offer similar trip-extension benefits, it’s rare for non-branded cards such as Citi Prestige to do so.
- Rapid ThankYou Point Earnings on Air Travel and Restaurant Purchases. Citi ThankYou Prestige earns an unlimited 5 points per $1 spent on air travel and restaurant purchases. That’s a far better rate of return – 5% on spending – than most competing travel cards.
- Awesome Points Transfer Ratios. You can transfer ThankYou points to participating frequent traveler programs at very attractive ratios – occasionally better than 1-to-1. That’s fairly rare in the travel rewards niche, where it’s common to see ratios of 5-to-1, 10-to-1, and even higher.
- Large, Flexible Travel Credit. Citi Prestige comes with a $250 annual travel credit. The credit applies to virtually all local and long-distance travel purchases, including ground transportation.
- Hefty Annual Fee. This card’s $450 annual fee ($495 after September 2019) pays for a lot of luxury benefits, so it’s probably worthwhile for frequent travelers who like to move in style. However, even by the standards of directly comparable cards, it’s on the high side, and may, therefore, turn off some cost-conscious cardholders.
- Confusing Redemption System. Citi Prestige uses a variation of the ThankYou Rewards program, which is one of the more complicated and expansive credit card rewards programs around. Redemption minimums and point values vary widely depending on how you redeem: different merchandise and cash equivalent categories (such as gift cards and regular cash) all have different minimums, values, and special considerations. And, while the best redemption options undoubtedly involve travel, the ThankYou travel booking portal has limitations. Unless you’re already familiar with ThankYou Rewards, it’s likely to take you a few hours to get familiar with the program, read all the fine print, and learn the best ways to maximize the value of your points.
- No Companion Airfare. Citi Prestige doesn’t come with a complimentary companion airfare benefit, a potentially powerful perk that can save you hundreds (and potentially thousands) of dollars per year. You can use your annual air travel credit to cover the cost of a companion’s ticket, but using your credit in this fashion interferes with your ability to use it on other worthy purchases, such as baggage fees and in-flight meals. By contrast, American Express Delta Reserve gives you one free companion airfare voucher every time you renew your card.
- Requires Fantastic Credit. This card requires excellent credit. Only a relative handful of potential applicants are likely to qualify. If you’re not confident that you can qualify, it’s probably better to avoid disappointment (and a credit pull) and forgo applying altogether.
- Has a Preset Spending Limit. As a credit card, Citi Prestige has a preset spending limit that restricts your ability to make multiple large purchases in short succession. This is a drawback for international travelers who regularly purchase expensive overseas flights and hotel rooms, as well as people who need to make large non-travel purchases (perhaps for DIY home improvement projects). Some direct competitors, including American Express Platinum, are charge cards without preset spending limits. These cards boost your spending power, as long as you can pay off your balances in full each month.
The Citi Prestige® Card isn’t for everyone. Actually, it’s not for most people. And that’s okay. Most people don’t travel often enough, spend enough time in airport lounges, or take advantage of enough exclusive, members-only events to make this card’s hefty annual fee worthwhile.
However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a lifestyle that aligns with this card’s perks, or you aspire to attain such a lifestyle, it’s hard to do better than Citi Prestige. As a bona fide jet-setter, or perhaps a frequent business traveler who’s reliably reimbursed for travel purchased with a private credit card, you can easily get your money’s worth – and then some – out of this card.