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Is It Crazy for an Average Joe to Consider Citi Prestige?

Update: the bonus is currently down to 40K points. See this page for more information.

Recently, several of my readers have inquired about Citi Prestige and whether or not it’s worth getting. The biggest concern, of course, is the annual fee of $450, not waived. I think it’s absolutely reasonable to question value of any card that comes with such a steep fee.

First, here are the specifics of this offer:

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Annual fee of $450, not waived.

This card is in affiliate networks, and does pay me and other bloggers commission. So, of course, as it goes with any paying offer, there is a huge incentive to dress  it up and package it in the most attractive manner possible. This isn’t me being cynical, it’s how selling works. That being said, I think it is a terrific offer.

It’s only logical that when you sell/recommend something, your advice has more credibility if you yourself have bought it, right? Well, both my husband and I got this offer last year, and I have no regrets. We are very much your Average Joes, making average wage and taking only a few trips per year.

Sure, we had to prepay $900 in annual fees, but what we got in exchange was extremely valuable. After all, it allowed us to bring my parents over to US.  So, if you are thinking about Citi Prestige, here are a few points to consider:

1) The annual fee will be covered via airline reimbursement credit.

You get $250 per calendar year and it can be used for revenue flights and even airline gift cards. It’s not a loophole or trick, no lying necessary. Here are the terms: “Airline Fees are defined as purchases made with airlines including Air fares, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases.” As you can see, gift cards or airline tickets are not excluded.

And indeed, when you try to purchase them with your Citi Prestige, the credit posts without an issue. You can read about my experiment buying Southwest gift cards You can sell them or use them to pay taxes on tickets, the choice is yours. Either way, your annual fee should be covered…eventually.

2) While the card has several fancy benefits, the sign-up bonus is worth it even if you don’t take advantage of any of them.

I’m referring to “4th night free” perk, lounge access, evacuation insurance and golf benefit. Those are indeed nice, but  I only took advantage of the lounge entry once. It was OK, but not a big deal. It definitely had no bearing on my decision to get the card. The main reason? The points, of course.

3) Those 50,000 points can be transferred to several  mileage programs, redeemed for revenue flights or gift cards. 

In other words, you are getting real flexible points, similar to Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards. While I don’t consider Citi quite as valuable as the last two programs, it’s pretty close. If you are an American Airlines flyer, you should definitely look into this card. That’s because 50,000 points are worth $800 in flights on American Airlines and its codeshares.

Basically, as long as the flight is marketed by AA, you should get 1.6 cents per point toward your ticket. American has an extensive network and multiple codeshare partners, so it shouldn’t be too hard to snag a decent deal. If you can find a good price on American, chances are, this option will beat using miles.

Let’s say there is a  cheap fare on American Airlines  from Miami to Brazil and it costs only $400 to buy your ticket (happens quite often). Your bonus from just one Citi Prestige card will cover two roundtrip economy tickets plus taxes, and you will even earn miles on your flights. No need to worry about award availability. Don’t have enough points to cover the whole ticket? No problem, you can co-pay with cash. See my post Credit Card Bonuses for American Lovers for more on this subject.

Tickets are super expensive and you have some flexibility? If you are looking to fly on United or Delta to Hawaii/Alaska, you can transfer points to several programs  to help you maximize value on your award redemption. And the list goes on.

4) Even if you don’t plan on redeeming points for a flight on American or its codeshares, the value proposition is still very strong.

I’ve actually redeemed my points for flights on Lufthansa in order to bring my parents for a visit to US, and have no regrets. I was able to get 1.33 cents per point on tickets I would have purchased with cash. So, by that logic, the bonus was worth $665. Read my post for more details.

5) Even if you are not interested in flights, you can still get $500 in value via gift card redemption.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Citi has Walmart as an option anymore, but there are many decent choices on restaurants, stores etc. I don’t believe an average family will have a hard time finding something to their liking.

6) If you happen to have Citi Thank You Premier card, you can transfer points from Citi Prestige and get 1.25 cents toward travel.

I don’t believe there  is a working application for a 40,000 points sign-up bonus on Citi Thank You Premier card at this time. It appears all links are dead, but comment and let me know if you find one. Anyway, if you have already signed up for Premier and plan to redeem your points toward  cruises, car rental or hotel, Citi Prestige bonus can beef up your available balance.

7) There is a decent possibility that this offer won’t be as good in a near future.

I have zero knowledge and Citi wouldn’t tell me anyway, but there are a few indicators that the offer may change at some point. The owner of Outandout blog has written about his survey from Citi and some questions indicate that the bank is aware that this product is a little too generous.

I seriously doubt that the changes will happen within weeks or even months, but it’s something to keep in mind.

8) If you are willing to wait, signing up towards the end of the year will give you the best bang for your buck. 

Well, if you plan on cancelling and getting a prorated annual fee refund. That way, you can get $250 airline credit in November or December of 2016, and then another $250 in January of 2017. Of course, there is no guarantee that this offer will stay the same or that Citi will give you the refund. YMMV

9) If you live near a Citi branch, go there and see if you can get this offer with $350 annual fee instead of $450.

I don’t live near one, but I would for sure  check if I did. Reportedly, some have even been able to get 60,000 points. In general, it never hurts to walk by a branch to see what’s cooking. And no, I don’t get paid commission if you do!

10) If you are just starting out in the miles and points hobby, there are other offers you may want to consider first.

If you can handle $4,000 minimum spending in three months, I would probably start with Chase Sapphire Preferred. The annual fee is waived, and points are extremely valuable since they transfer to Southwest 1:1. Also, right now, it comes with 55,000 points bonus when you add an authorized user. As a new recruit, you don’t yet have to worry about 5/24 rule. Read about the card here

Bottom line

While the annual fee is a concern, if you can afford it, Citi Prestige is  worth considering even for an Average Joe. Of course, it will take some organization to make sure you take advantage of the airline credit and maximize points value, but the deal is definitely lucrative. In short, I don’t believe this card is overhyped. But then again, it’s not like I’m completely unbiased.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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15 thoughts on “Is It Crazy for an Average Joe to Consider Citi Prestige?

  1. This card is absolutely worth it for the average joe. My wife and I both got it in 2015 so we got the $250 airline credit in 2015 and 2016! Global entry is a must and this card offers a statement credit. We have used it 3 times and each time we zip through the mile long line at LAX! I have not used the 4th night free feature. The real question is, is it worth it to renew and pay the annual fee the 2nd year? We will for sure cancel 1 card, but are debating if we should renew 1 card for a second year. Since Sep of 2015 we have traveled more then ever before in one year and have used the lounge access at least 7 times for our family. I don’t even golf, but I used the golf benefit 6 times just because it was free at a cost of $250 each. Our travel plans so far for the rest of 2016 and early 2017 is minimal. I probably wont use the golf benefit again. We would get another $250 airline credit in 2017 making the fee $200. My wife and kid love lounge access, but with our travel plans so light as of right now does it make sense to renew just for lounge access for future travel?

    • Rich, thanks for stopping by! I got a chuckle when I read that you took advantage of the golf benefit even though you don’t golf. High five! 🙂 I would do the same thing, but we live a bit far from the golf courses. For golf fanatics who are based in Florida this card is awesome, but most probably don’t even know it exists. All in all, the perks of this card are just stupidly generous, and I’m certain Citi is losing money on it.

      You know, it’s funny, I was actually thinking about writing a post on whether it’s worth it to renew Citi Prestige for regular folks. I’m really cheap, so my feeling is that it’s not for most normal people.

      I can see it if you are really into golf, maximize “4th night free” perk and hit the lounge five times per year. Otherwise, I just don’t think it’s worth it. Obviously, this one is up to you. Just do a simple math. Take the number of trips you plan on taking, and divide $200 by that amount.

      If it’s four trips, you are paying $50 each time for lounge access. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question. There is no way I would pay it, but then again, I’m cheap. Keep in mind, you can buy certain lounge passes on Ebay for around $15 each.

      One time it would be worth considering is if you have a long layover. My husband’s relatives spent 14 hours in Abu Dhabi and used showers, nap rooms, and got fed like kings. They used it both times to/from South Africa. Citi Prestige was invaluable and saved them a fortune. But for an Average Joe who will spend 2 hours in a lounge, I just don’t see paying $40-$50 each time. I could buy a lot of food for that amount. Also, keep in mind, your travel plans may change, your layover may be short that you won’t have time for lounge access etc. There is no way of knowing for certain if you will be able to take advantage of this benefit, but you won’t get a refund of annual fee from Citi if your plans fall through.

  2. The 4th night is free for every hotel? I may need to consider this card (if it’s still available) next year so that when we go to Aulani we could get a free night. That’s about a $600 value right there.

    • @Nancy I don’t believe Aulani is eligible for this benefit. Sorry! You have to book through Citi travel partner by calling, and select one of the hotels that they have access to. One of the commenters of “One mile at a time” blog has mentioned that you can search on this website http://cwtvacations.com/home.aspx?search=hotels
      Whatever is listed there is what’s eligible for “4th night free” perk. I’m not 100% certain if this info is still valid, and it’s possible that you might be able to book Aulani, but I don’t want you to count on it. I probably wouldn’t get this card solely due to this perk, it would be more of an afterthought.

  3. Leana,
    Fingers crossed I get the card. I also pull the trigger on Amex Delta Gold Business card with your link :). Application pending.
    Thanks again for all the reliable tips for the average Joe OR Jane 🙂
    Tania from NYC

  4. It’s a GREAT card for us “average Joe” people. You did a great job of outlining why.
    I’ve mention this card to friends when the topic of our travels comes up. They go deaf after they hear the annual fee and I think that’s extremely short sighted.
    I used my TY points to buy four 1 way tickets back home from Cabo when I couldn’t find award availability on AA using my avios. Plenty of space there, just none getting back home. I’m thrilled that I found a way to make that trip work!

    • @Lindy Thanks for your comment! I hear you. That $450 fee scares the heck out of people and to be fair, some truly can’t afford it. After all, you have to wait for the second reimbursement, and the credit comes in the form or airfare or gift card. Majority will not bother with the hassle of selling it. This card is most certainly NOT meant for an average Joe.
      But like you said, once you look at the full picture, it’s easy to see why this card is a winner. For someone who does any kind of travel, it can be a goldmine. Especially for a family stuck with having to plan around peak season with no award availability. Honestly, even if you redeem points on gift cards and never take advantage of any perks, it’s still a good deal.

  5. Leana,
    It took 1 week, but 3 out of 3. Amex Delta Gold (Personal and Business) and Citi Prestige. Thanks for all the tips. Hopefully you are getting the commission soon. And now I have to start shopping (7k in 3 months). Just kidding….I can pay my rent and my son’s day care with credit cards using Plastiq. I think the fees are worth the points and miles I am going to earn. Too bad the Citi Prestige is coming in 3 days and I am going to Brazil tomorrow. So no lounge for me and my crazy 3 year old….The business travelers love toddlers roaming around the lounge 🙂
    Thanks again.
    Tania

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