USA: My everyday travel rewards credit card – Citibank Prestige

The Citibank Prestige MasterCard has been my go-to travel card for a while – you earn up to 5x Reward points for travel, can use them to book travel or transfer to airlines for high-value, premium award travel and get great travel perks, like worldwide lounge access. It comes at a steep annual fee of $495 and Citibank eliminated some of the benefits recently. It’s still my primary travel card – read my detailed review to find out if it is the right credit card for you!

If you are new to this site, please read “how we evaluate credit cards”.

Here is a quick summary of the Citibank Prestige card:

  • Sign-up bonus of 50,000 points, worth about US$850, after spending $4,000 in three months
  • Earn Points for Spend
    You earn 5 ThankYou points per US$ spent on air travel and at restaurants, 3 points/$ for hotels and cruises and 1 point/$ for everyting else. The earnings rate for air and dining is great – at 8.5 cents/$ and still good at 1.7cents/$ in the basic category! 
  • Redeem ThankYou Points for Travel
    ThankYou points can be redeemed through the travel portal for flight, hotel and car bookings at a value of 1c/pt
  • 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. 
  • 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 is the best value when redeemed for premium cabin travel and the way I use my ThankYou points!
    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
  • 4th hotelnight free
    When booking a minimum of a 4-night stay through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, you get the 4th night free. Unfortunately, this perk can now only be used twice per year and the online rates are not always the best available through other sites, making it less than a 25% discount, but still a good option, especially for independent hotels!
  • MasterCard World Elite benefits, including car rental elite membership and hotel perks like free breakfast and upgrades
  • $495 annual fee ($350 for Citigold customers, grandfathered), no foreign exchange fee, EMV chip
    While the $495 sounds steep, the automatic $250 airline spend credit reduces it to a more reasonable $245 or for me as Citigold customer, to only $100 – well worth it to me for the PriorityPass lounge membership alone!

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! 

SQ First Class Bed

In the most recent devaluation round for Citi Prestige, the card lost most of it’s travel insurance, including car rental and flight delay, as well as purchase protection. Many bloggers make a big deal of that, but quite frankly, I have never used those benefits and many card holders didn’t even know, they had them. In my opinion, these benefits were (ab)used by a few, resulting in high cost, with little value to the majority of card holders. While I’d prefer to have the benefits for peace of mind, they don’t make much of a difference to me when choosing a credit card.
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 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)!
The American Express Platinum and Chase Saphire Reserve cards are great alternatives, especially if their transfer partners are a better fit for your travel needs.

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