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Is the Citi Prestige Credit Card Still Worth the Annual Fee? I’ll Help You Decide

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Citi Prestige credit card

4th Night Free saved me $159 at Rosen Shingle Creek last month

By now, all of you must be aware that the Citi Prestige credit card will begin making some pretty drastic changes in January 2019. While every blogger out there has commented on the upcoming changes, I believe the TPG was the first. Here is the schedule. Try to guess which changes are good and bad.

January 2019

  • 5x points on dining and air travel.
  • 3x points on cruises.
  • $250 air travel credit gets extended to travel in general (air, hotels, car rental, etc).

Reminder: if you still have unused air travel credit use it about now. Your charges may not post immediately (or even quickly), and if it’s not included in your December statement, you lose your (unused) credit for the year. That’s painful (and I’m saying this from experience). Thanks Biggie F for reminding me. 

May 2019

  • Cellphone protection for damage and theft.

September 2019

  • 4th Night Free benefit goes from unlimited to twice per calendar year.
  • No more 25% bonus for air travel for redeeming points through Citi.
  • 2x points on entertainment gets the axe.
  • Annual fee goes up to $495 (from $450) a year. Presumably, Citigold and Private Bank clients will still pay $350.

How’s my color-coding?

Let me clarify: if you’re getting value from your Citi Prestige credit card despite the high annual fee now — keep it at least for the next 10 months anyway!

Below are my (very subjective) thoughts on all new changes.

5x points on dining

Well, I know this is one benefit that makes everyone salivate. I’ll admit it’s nice, especially since there are no restrictions on U.S. restaurants only (unlike the new American Express Gold’s 4x dining benefit). However, would it be a defining perk for me? No, it would not! I don’t know if it’s my tender age or my Jewish mama’s cooking that makes 99% of my restaurant meals taste disappointing, but, unlike all of you cool cats, I’m not crazy about dining out. I don’t get why people feel they have to — just have to, mind you — waste money every Friday night and then revel in how many points they’ve earned for their trouble. To me, it’s wasting $100, not gaining 500 points. This obsession with restaurants is like a religion, or, I don’t know — a cult even! Alright, I’d better shut up now.

5x points on airfare

I already have 5x on airfare with the American Express Platinum, and I’ve found I haven’t used it once. What for? Friends don’t let friends fly and pay. What are the miles for?

When I do need a very occasional flight that I can’t (or won’t) use miles for, I usually put it on my Citi Prestige anyway to trigger my annual air credit and/or take advantage of the Citi Prestige travel protection benefits (keep in mind, though, that Citi brutally devalued travel protection benefits this summer). However, with the next perk (see below), I might have to get even stingier with cash since I will be able to use my annual credit everywhere.

$250 air travel credit gets extended to travel in general

Now, this is fantastic! Being able to use your annual credit on any eligible travel expense — and Citi is very generous with a definition of “travel” — this becomes as valuable as cash. If you thought that the current Citi annual credit was pretty good for what it covers right now (all airline purchases, including tickets and taxes), wait for January when it gets even better! I wonder if it’s going to cover vacation rentals like Airbnb — I think it will, since Airbnb codes as travel.

Cellphone protection for damage and theft

That’s a great benny, too. I wouldn’t keep a super-premium credit card just for that, but I’ll feel less anxious traveling with a good phone or 2 when I have this perk.

Devaluation of the 4th Night Free benefit

Now this is really not good. This benefit has been very useful to me because, unlike air travel, using hotel points to stay on my terms is getting harder and harder. And sometimes, you simply have to stay at no-points hotels. Last month I stayed at Rosen Shingle Creek for FinCon and the 4th Night Free saved me $159. Well, I guess, technically speaking, you can pay an insane amount of Privileges Points for that hotel, but it’s so not worth it!

Anyway, I actually analyzed my use of the 4th Night Free in the last 2 years and found that:

  • In 2017, I used the 4th Night Free 3 times, saving $470.
  • This year, I’ve used it once so far, having saved $159. I might be able to use it again before the year ends, but I’m not sure.

And with the annual $250 credit covering all travel expenses I might not even need it more than twice a year. Who knows!

No more 25% bonus for air travel for redeeming points through Citi

LOL! Who cares? Never used it this way. Hell, never used my Membership Rewards points this way, even with my American Express Platinum 35% bonus! Seriously, there is only one way to maximize your Citi ThankYou points or any other credit card points — to transfer them to airlines (I have to admit, though, I’ve never had Chase Reserve, otherwise I might’ve felt differently with the 50% redemption bonus).

2x points on entertainment gets the axe

I don’t know. Is that such a great loss? Even the no-annual-fee Citi Preferred has 2x on entertainment — grab it if you feel like it, what do you have to lose?

Annual fee goes up to $495

Now this is a biggie! I only pay $350 a year due to a glitch. In 2016, I tried to open a Citigold account to take advantage of the 50,000-point bonus. I never finished setting it up because a girl in my Citibank was annoying as hell denying the existence of the bonus (that was clearly stated in the ad) and pushing me into a different inferior promo. At the end, I just dropped the whole thing, but, apparently, initiating the Citigold setup somehow triggered the Citi Prestige credit card $100 discount, and I’m now in my third year of cardmembership.

In addition, Citi has been really good to me with the retention bonuses for 2 years in a row. But even if it weren’t, I’d only pay $100 (considering the $250 annual credit) for all other benefits of the card. I’m hoping my account will be grandfathered, because if not — well, the $495 fee means you have to make a hard decision.

If you are going to be eligible for a new card by September 2019, it’ll still be worth it  

Of course, we don’t know what the 2019 Citi Prestige welcome bonus will look like (Citi currently isn’t accepting new applications), but in all probability it won’t be less than 50,000 points (and perhaps more). With that bonus and the annual $250 travel credit, it’s a no-brainer even at $495.

Whether or not you’d want to keep the card — that’s another story. The thing is, there are so many other attractive super expensive cards: the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the AMEX Hilton Aspire, the AMEX SPG Luxury, the AMEX Platinum (that one consistently finds creative ways to scratch the “lifetime language” in their targeted letters). You just can’t have them all. However, if you find a good enough retention offer — you might still get ahead.

Are you planning on keeping the  past September 2019?

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