The current offer for the Citi Prestige® Card:

  • Sign Up Bonus: 40,000 ThankYou Points after $4,000 in spending
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on air travel and hotels, 2x on restaurants and entertainment
  • Air travel fee credit:  $250 annual credit toward airfare, bag fees, or award taxes ($500 first year of cardmembership)
  • Lounge access: 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 me

The rest of the post references an old offer.

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Before getting the Citi Prestige® Card, I did 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 why the Citi Prestige® Card made sense for me.

Sign Up Bonus

For a limited time, the headline sign up bonus is 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the card. I got the card with 30,000 bonus points, so I consider this a spectacular offer. 50,000 points equals:

  • $800 toward any flights on American Airlines
  • $665 toward any flights on any other airline
  • $500 in gift cards (please don’t redeem them like this)
  • 50,000 miles with 11 airline transfer partners

I explained the two main ways to use ThankYou points in a post this week:

  1. Like cash toward the purchase of any flight on any airline. ThankYou Points have a special relationship with American Airlines, so the points are worth 1.6 cents each toward any American Airlines fare. Toward other airlines’ flights, ThankYou Points are worth 1.33 cents each. The cool things about using points like this: ease (points work like cash to pay all or part of any fare), availability (any flight on any airline), and you earn miles and status from these flights because the airline sees a paid ticket not an award.
  2. By transferring the points to one 12 airlines or Hilton. Once you transfer, the points are Singapore miles or Flying Blue miles or wherever you transferred and now must be redeemed in accordance with those rules and that award chart. The cool thing about transferring points to miles: miles are the only economical way to book luxury First Class products.

I transfer my ThankYou Points to airline miles.

I recently transferred ThankYou Points to Singapore Airlines miles to fly from Atlanta to Honolulu in a flat bed for 30,000 miles. I’ve also used Singapore 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 Europe, and offer two stopovers in addition to your destination on roundtrip awards.

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

Because of all the valuable uses of ThankYou Points, I value them at 1.8 cents each. That puts this limited-time 50,000 point sign up bonuses among the valuable out there. When you factor in the category bonuses and other benefits of the card, this could be the best current offer on any credit card.

Category Bonuses

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

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.

I’ve been looking at my credit card statements for the last few weeks that I’ve been on the road throughout the Southeast and Hawaii. Almost all my charges are restaurants, flights, and hotels. I would be racking up huge ThankYou Points with the Citi Prestige® Card.

Note that the 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels is worth at least 4.8% back toward travel on American Airlines, 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. Like everyone reading this blog, I spend at least $250 on airfare or award taxes each year, so this is like straight cash to me and will greatly reduce the sting of the annual fee.

In fact, for the first year, I’ll get more value from this benefit than I pay in annual fees. The air travel credit is a calendar year benefit.

I will spend $250 on airfare or award taxes on the card by the end of 2015, and then I will spend $250 on airfare or award taxes on the card by March 2016. In the first 12 months I have the card, that means I will pay one $450 annual fee, but earn $500 in airfare reimbursement.

Even without considering the sign up bonus and other benefits, the card would already be profit me $50 for the first 12 months.

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.

This is a fantastic benefit that I plan to use a few times throughout the year. An Admirals Club Membership normally costs $500 for the first year.

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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, and I tend to use Priority Pass lounges quite a bit more than Admirals Club lounges because I do a lot of international travel.

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.

This benefit didn’t influence my decision because I rarely book four-night paid hotel stays, 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.

Having Global Entry also gets you TSA Precheck, which is such a more pleasant and faster security experience.

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.

My Global Entry is good for another two years, so I plan to use this benefit then.

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.

A lot of my cards never get used while I’m traveling abroad, but this card will continue to be used for purchasing flights, hotels, and at restaurants.

Annual Fee

The annual fee is $450 and not waived. This doesn’t bother me a bit.

During the first annual fee, I will make double use of the $250 airfare credit, so I will get all this for my first $450:

  • 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points, worth $900 to me
  • $500 worth of airline fee credits ($250 per calendar year)
  • Lounge access + 2 at Admirals Clubs and Priority Club lounges, worth $200 to me
  • 3x ThankYou Points on airfare and hotels; 2x on dining and entertainment, worth an extra $150 in points to me
  • 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 I actually use the benefits, I’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
  • $100 credit for applying for Global Entry

So that’s why I got the Citi Prestige® Card.

If you have a Citi Prestige® Card, 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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