Update 7/28/16: The Prestige’s offer has been improved to 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Many of the other great benefits remain.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

Full article on improved offer: New Prestige Offer: Citi Prestige 40,000 ThankYou Points, $250 Airfare Credit, Worldwide Lounge Access

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The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 30,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $2,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

It’s clearly an intriguing card that requires a lot of analysis because of its unique perks and high annual fee. I’ll tackle the benefits and drawbacks one by one, so you can see whether the Citi Prestige® Card makes sense for you.

  • Sign Up Bonus: 30,000 ThankYou Points after $2,000 in spending
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on air travel and hotels, 2x on restaurants and entertainment
  • Air travel fee credit:  $250 annual credit ($500 first year of cardmembership)
  • Lounge access: Admirals Clubs lounges and Priority Pass lounges worldwide
  • Free hotel nights: Get your 4th night free on all paid hotel stays (no blackout dates)
  • Global Entry: $100 application fee credit
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $450 not waived, well worth it for some

Sign Up Bonus

The headline sign up bonus is 30,000 ThankYou Points after spending $2,000 in the first three months on the card. That’s solid, but it is frankly not the selling point of this card, which is more about the benefits of cardmembership.

Those 30,000 points are worth over $500 to me because I am very high on ThankYou Points, which transfer to 12 airlines and Hilton.

I recently transferred ThankYou Points to Singapore Airlines miles to fly from Colombia to Argentina in Business Class for half the price it would have been with United miles. Singapore miles are also the only way to fly Singapore Suites, cheaper than United miles to book United flights to Hawaii, and offer an amazing deal to Central and South America.

I also love Air France Flying Blue as a transfer partner because of its cheap awards to Europe, Israel, Hawaii and South America.

Beyond transferring ThankYou Points, you can also redeem them directly for cash flights at a fixed rate. When you do this, the airline sees your ticket as a cash ticket, so you earn miles on the flights.

ThankYou Points are redeemable for 1.6 cents each toward American Airlines or US Airways tickets, and 1.33 cents each toward tickets on any other airline.

Category Bonuses

  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment

Notice that these are similar to the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. My review of ThankYou Premier.

This card very clearly offers the biggest benefits to frequent travelers, since a number of its benefits like free hotel nights and lounge access will be most used by travelers. The category bonuses are no exception. If you buy a lot of airline tickets and hotel stays, and if you dine out while traveling, you will rack up a ton of extra points from these category bonuses.

Note that the 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels is worth at least 4.8% back toward travel on American Airlines and US Airways, since points are worth 1.6 cents each toward those flights. That’s an incredible return.

Air Travel Credit

Every calendar year, you get a $250 air travel credit to offset airline fees. “Airline Fees are defined as purchases made with airlines including Air fares, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases.” (Emphasis mine.)

That means that you can buy airline tickets with this card, and the first $250 will be reimbursed each calendar year. Since I’m sure everyone reading this blog spends at least $250 on airfare each year, this is like straight cash to me and would greatly reduce the sting of the annual fee.

In fact, depending on when you get this card, this credit could be more valuable than the annual fee for your first 12 months with the card. This benefit is a calendar year benefit.

“Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.”

If you get the card such that your first 12 statements post in 2015 and 2016, you should be able to use this benefit twice before paying the annual fee for a second time. In that case, you can get $500 in airline fee statement credits for your $450 annual fee. Even without considering the sign up bonus and other benefits, the card would already be a great deal.

Lounge Access

Having the Citi Prestige® Card gets you into any Admirals Club worldwide whenever you’re flying an American Airlines, American Eagle, or American Connection flight. In addition, you can bring in your family (spouse, domestic partner, children under 18) or up to two guests for free.

Citi Prestige® Card holders can also get a free Priority Pass Select membership. Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program. Prestige Card holders get free Priority Pass Select membership, which entitles them to free access to hundreds of lounges worldwide (everything on the list except United Clubs).

I downloaded the app on my phone, so I can search for participating lounges by airport while I travel. I seem to find one or more options at most international airports and tons of domestic airports.

Just like into Admirals Clubs, you can bring in your family (spouse, domestic partner, children under 18) or up to two guests for free.

Lounge access costs about $50 per visit, but I value it at about $20 per visit. Heavy users of this benefit will quickly forget about the annual fee.

4th Night Free on Hotel Stays

From the terms and conditions of the benefits of the Prestige Card:

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You will enjoy a complimentary fourth night with no black-out dates, when you book four consecutive nights at any hotel booked by a personal travel advisor designated by MasterCard (the “designated travel advisor” is Carlson Wagonlit Travel). Bookings made through other methods such as, travel agents, websites or directly with a hotel will not qualify.

To receive your complimentary night (via a statement credit) you must:

  • Make a reservation for a minimum, consecutive four-night stay by contacting the Citi Prestige Concierge, to book directly with a designated travel advisor
  • Fully pay for your stay with a Citi Prestige Card

Receive one complimentary night (room rate for the fourth night and applicable taxes only) for any consecutive four-night hotel stay booked directly with a MasterCard designated travel advisor. Hotel imposed fees and incidental guest charges are the Cardmember’s responsibility. The value of the complimentary night will be the actual rate, as provided by the designated travel advisor, on that fourth night of the reservation, even if the rate is different from the rate on other nights. Cardmember will be charged the total cost of the stay at checkout and will receive a credit to the credit card statement for the cost of the fourth night (and the applicable taxes). If the cardmember books a special “pre-paid” rate this may require upfront payment in full, at time of booking. Payment in full is defined as pre-payment for the total of all four consecutive nights. Only one complimentary night is eligible per room reservation. Rates provided will be equal to or lower than the lowest publicly-available fare at the hotel’s official website. The benefit can only be used by each primary account Cardholder. This benefit is available to all Citi Prestige Cardmembers worldwide.

For any Program related questions contact Citi Prestige customer service at 1-877-288-CITI.

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If you book a lot of paid hotel nights, and the price being offered by Carlson Wagonlit is the same as you can get elsewhere, this will save you a lot of money. Using this benefit means foregoing booking the hotel through the hotel itself and earning andy bonus points and status for that.

I book zero four-night paid hotel stays per year, so this benefit is not for me, but it will be useful for many.

Global Entry Fee Credit

Prestige card holders are entitled to a $100 statement credit when they pay the $100 Global Entry enrollment fee with their Prestige cards.

Having Global Entry allows you to skip the immigrations and customs queues when arriving in the United States. Instead of spending time in line and talking to an agent, you tap a few buttons at a kiosk and get to the curb in a few minutes. Global Entry membership is valid for 5 years, and having Global Entry also lets you skip immigration queues in Australia and New Zealand.

There are two steps involved in obtaining Global entry: an application and an interview.

First, you need to fill out the online application.  To do this as efficiently as possible, make sure you have on hand: Proof of Citizenship documents (I just used my passport); your driver’s license, if you have one; and both your address and work histories for the past five years. The online application process took me about 30 minutes to complete.

If you have never registered with GOES (the Global Online Entry System), you will be prompted to register when you click the online application link above.

Once you are registered with GOES, log in to the system. You will see that you are not a member of any programs. Click “Enroll in a New Program” to begin your Global Entry application.

Select the link that allows you to start the application for the trusted traveler program.

From here, you will have to fill out a variety of personal information. There are 16 categories of information.

Fill out all the sections and submit your application. You will be prompted to pay the $100 application fee–make sure you use your Citi Prestige to pay this in order to have the fee credited back to you!

Once your application is approved, you can use the GOES system to schedule your in-person interview, which will take place at any airport that participates in the Global Entry program.

I would pay the $100 in a heartbeat even if I only traveled abroad once a year. When you can get it for free, it’s a no-brainer. How and Why I Got Global Entry.

Chip and No Foreign Transaction Fees

It shouldn’t surprise that a card very clearly designed for travelers comes with Chip technology for global acceptance and zero foreign transaction fees. The only surprising thing is that not all cards have these basic features.

Annual Fee

The annual fee is $450 and not waived. That should be a dealbreaker if you don’t use the benefits of the card, but it’s a fair price to pay if you are maximizing the card’s perks.

If you apply for the card at a time that allows double use of the airline fee credit before the next annual fee, you can get all of this for the cost of the first annual fee:

  • 30,000 bonus ThankYou Points
  • $500 worth of airline fee credits ($250 per calendar year)
  • $100 credit for applying for Global Entry
  • Lounge access + 2 at Admirals Clubs and Priority Club lounges
  • 4th night free on hotel stays with no blackouts

Those benefits clearly dwarf the $450 annual fee. After testing out the card and seeing how much you actually use the benefits, you’ll have a better idea going forward whether to keep the card for $450 per year in return for:

  • $250 worth of airline fee credits
  • Lounge access + 2 at Admirals Clubs and Priority Club lounges
  • 4th night free on hotel stays with no blackouts
  • 3x ThankYou Points on airfare and hotels; 2x on dining and entertainment

I plan on getting this card in the next few months. I am attracted by the sign up bonus, the $250 annual airline fee credit, the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.6 cents each toward American Airlines and US Airways flights, and lounge access.

If you have a Citi Prestige, share your experiences in the comments.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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