My everyday travel rewards credit card – Citibank Prestige

The Citibank Prestige MasterCard has been my go-to travel card for a while. Effective July23rd, 2017, there will be a number of changes to the benefits of the card. And, as is usually the case in the points & miles world, those changes add up to a devaluation. But the (rewards) world doesn’t end – the card retains its high points-earning potential (3 points/$ for travel), the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel partners and great perks (free lounge access with PriorityPass) at a reasonable fee! And to soften the blow for new customers, the sign-up bonus was increased to 75,000 points – 50% more than before!

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Who should get this card? The Citibank Prestige is great if you are a frequent (business) traveler (you earn 3 points/$ spend), don’t have status with an airline you are flying (lounge access via PriorityPass) and want to redeem for for international travel on world class airlines (great transfer partners like Singapore, Cathay or Virgin America)!

Here is a quick summary of the Citibank Prestige card:

  • Sign-up bonus of 75,000 points, worth about US$1,275, after spending $3,000 in three months
  • Earn Points for Spend
    You earn 3 ThankYou points per US$ spent on travel, 2 points/$ for dining and entertainment and 1 point/$ for everyting else. The earnings rate in the travel category is great – at 5.1 cents/$ and still good at 1.7cents/$ in the basic category! As a CitiGold customer, you get an annual 15% bonus on points earned, increasing the value to almost 6 cents/$!
  • Redeem ThankYou Points for Flights
    ThankYou points can be redeemed for flights for 1.25 cents/point (cpt) -that’s down from 1.6cpt for American Airlines and 1.33 cpt for any other airlines
  • Redeem ThankYou Points for gift cards, merchandise, cash
    You could previously redeem your ThankYou points for  gift cards, merchandise or pretty much anything else you want, usually at a rate of 1cpt. You can now also redeem your points for cash at that rate, twice the previous rate of 0.5cpt, one of the few improvements among the changes!
  • Transfer ThankYou Points to Airlines & Hotels
    Points earned with a credit card can also be transferred to a number of airline and hotel partners, including some of the best airlines in the market Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Etihad, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic, which can be worth much more than 1.25cents/point when redeemed for premium cabin travel
    You can also transfer your points to other members, making it great for couples, families and friends
  • $250/calendar year in air travel credit, automatically applied to your statement after any spend with an airline
  • $100 Global Entry Fee credit
  • Complimentary PriorityPass Select membership with access for you and two guests, but no more access to Admiral’s Club
  • 4th hotelnight free
    You can now book this perk online and will receive the average value of the 4th night back after checking out! Previously, you had to book through a travel agent, but would receive the value of the 4th night free, which could be great if it was by far the most expensive night.
  • MasterCard World Elite benefits, including car rental elite membership and hotel perks like free breakfast and upgrades
  • $450 annual fee ($350 for Citigold and in-branch applications), no foreign exchange fee, EMV chip
    While the $450 sounds steep, after the automatic $250 airline spend credit, it’s only $100 for Citigold members like me, putting it on par with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Barclays Arrival cards, which offer a lot fewer perks, making it a very good deal for!

What else to know: The Prestige card is issued by Citibank and requires good credit. Citibank is relatively easy to apply for and you can apply for two cards within 18 months. You can find all the details here!

Bali Premier Lounge

I travel a lot on low-cost carriers for short distances and appreciate the PriorityPass lounge benefit. I can bring up to two guests and enjoy a comfortable wait at more than 1,000 lounges worldwide, with free access to food, drink, wifi and entertainment. It makes travel a lot more comfortable and saves money, getting free food and drinks at the airport! In many secondary airports, the contract lounges also serve the premium guests of international airlines and I found the service to be good to great! Find more details here.

Many bloggers criticize the fact that ThankYou points doesn’t have any US airlines as partners – and that’s not a big issue for me: The airlines in the ThankYou program offer much better international flight experiences than the US carriers, especially in premium cabins and I’d take Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic or Etihad over United, Delta or American any day! For US domestic travel, you can buy tickets at 1.25cents/point, which is good value for economy class tickets – and earns you mileage and elite credit to boot! 

SQ First Class Bed

The Prestige card also looses the golf benefit – no value lost for me, but maybe for some. Many bloggers make a big deal of the change to the 4th night award, but unless you are able and willing to plan your entire stay around that 4th night being by bar the most expensive, this makes little difference. Being able to book online works best for independent hotels, as you will most likely not earn points on chain hotels. Continue to book those by phone through the agent, which will ensure that you get corporate or other discount rates AND earn points and status perks!
I also found the customer service to be excellent, comparable to American Express and much better than Chase. The sign up for PriorityPass is automatic, the travel credit is automatic – no action in either case required. Unrelated to these changes, Citibank also implemented a new Fraud Alert process – which unfortunately has worked poorly since introduction and I had a number of transaction declined as potential fraud – including at a hometown restaurant I’ve been to countless times and with Accor Hotels (!!) which I stay frequently add. 
Finally, your new Prestige Card will have a better design, with the chip on the front and the magnetic strip on the back like any other credit card out there, making use a lot less confusing. And it will be made of metal, similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and other premium cards!

Bottomline: The Citibank Prestige is still an excellent travel card that works best for frequent travelers that enjoy the use of airline lounges and want to transfer their points to premium airlines like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or Etihad! It has been great value and I will continue to use it as my primary card (assuming they fix their crazy fraud alert service)! If you don’t have the card, the increased sign-up bonus of 75,000 points makes it a great time to do so!

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