Perks Of Citi Prestige Card

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Contrary to Ben’s advice in July, I recently applied for a Citi Prestige card.

And I did it for mostly the wrong reason.  You see, we have a big trip coming up where we’ll be flying multiple hops on an airline without sufficient credentials to gain lounge access.  The horrors.

So I was keeping my eye out for an inexpensive  (or ideally free!) way to obtain a Priority Pass membership.  Then Frequent Miler pondered that it might be possible to earn $700 in travel credits from the Prestige card in exchange for a $450 annual feeThe revamped Prestige benefits would also include Priority Pass.

Plaza-Premium-Lounge-Vancouver
The Plaza Premium Lounge in Vancouver is a Priority Pass lounge

Now before everyone gets too excited, that particular opportunity is no longer available.  But more importantly, I think he’s being overly optimistic and will likely come away with $450 in credits, rather than $750.  We shall see.  If you’re curious, you can read about his theory in the post.

Anyway, the Prestige benefits recently changed significantly on this card.  This post is intended to share my recent experience with Prestige — and solicit yours — rather than be a full recap of the new card.

Aside from Priority Pass, I was also interested in this card for the following benefits:

  • 30K ThankYou point sign up bonus
  • $200 airline fee reimbursement  (now $250)
  • Companion ticket (no longer a benefit for new cardholders)

The key here is the airline fee reimbursements.  Frequent Miler notes that purchases of gift cards up to $99.99 ($100?) from a variety of airlines are reimbursed automatically and without issue.  It is also important to note that this is an annual benefit, meaning you get to claim it once per calendar year.

I should be able to get $200 in airline fees reimbursed during calendar year 2014 (before December 31, 2014) and then another $250 in fees reimbursed during calendar year 2015 (before my card anniversary date).  By my math, that’s $450 in gift cards which will directly replace cash purchases, and therefore I had now convinced myself that the card would incur no net cost to me during the first year.

As a result, I was getting a year of Priority Pass for free.  Mission accomplished.

Companion Airfare Benefit (not available to new cardholders)

Then I started to explore the other benefits of this card.  The companion airfare intrigued me because I’m almost always flying as a family of four.  But some of these companion ticket offers stink — they either have blackout dates or you’re required to buy a full fare ticket to qualify or some other hook that virtually eliminates all the value.

It turns out that that the companion benefit on Prestige is (or was) pretty good.  It’s also no longer a benefit for new cardholders, so this will only be applicable to those who had the card prior to October 18, 2014.  In fact, information about booking the companion ticket is confusing and a little murky.

The airfare companion benefit is available to those who held the card prior to October 18.  Those cardholders have until their anniversary date to use that benefit.  After October 18 (i.e. now), those cardholders will have to call Citi customer service to book their companion ticket.

Because the T&C’s were ambiguous, there was quite a bit of uncertainty about what would happen to the benefit on October 18.  Since Citi used a company called Spirit Incentives, and since that relationship was supposedly ending, some believed that the benefit might just disappear completely.  Not wanting to miss out, I decided to strike while the iron was hot.

As fun as it is to swing for the fences, sometimes a single will win the game.

Booking via the website

I ended up booking a trip that my family had planned for next spring.  I shopped for my flights using ITA Matrix as usual.  Then I went to the Spirit Incentives website to attempt to book myself and a companion.  You only got to specify the city pairs and dates of your travel — then you click submit, and see what shows up.  Spirit Incentives claims that they can only book the lowest fare available, so it’s sort of airline roulette.

The first time I spun the wheel hit submit, the exact United flights I had in mind came up.  In fact, the only flights offered were United, perhaps six to eight options including non-stop and connections.  They were the lowest in the market, but I was still impressed.

Of course, I was too busy to finish the booking right then.  When I returned a few hours later, I entered the same airports and dates, but this time I saw only American flights.  Perhaps new airfares had just been loaded and American was now a few dollars cheaper?  Now I was annoyed.

I returned the next day and sure enough the original United flights were back.  At least almost.  I wanted a bit longer connection which had been available, but was no longer offered.  Both United.com and ITA confirmed that the longer connection was the same price as the shorter one, but Spirit Incentives was determined that I should run from one terminal to the other.

Booking via the call center

Despite my reluctance to talk on the phone, I was curious as to whether an agent would be able to get me the flights I wanted.  So I called, and after giving her all the information, she advised me that she can only book what her computer shows, no exceptions.  So would her computer show the same options as mine?  No, it did not.  She had the exact itinerary I wanted, while my screen (which I had refreshed) still had only the short connection.

Having learned my lesson about not booking immediately, I told her to book it.  She tried.  She failed.  Her system came back and said it wasn’t actually available.  Lovely.  She read her script advising me that airfares can change at any time and that there must now be a new low fare in that market.  And Spirit Incentives wanted me to get the lowest fare.  Whatever.

I assumed this call was going to end in about 10 seconds but then she offered to speak to her supervisor to see why it would not book.  After a long wait where I was hoping they had manually booked my tickets, she came back and said that her supervisor had suggested that she submit the booking request again.  Really?  I just waited on the phone for eight minutes for that?

But sure, please do try again, what do I have to lose? 

And this time it went through. 

So that’s my experience with Spirit Incentives.  With a little luck, I’ll never speak of them again.

The tale of the tape on my companion benefit looks like this.

  • The tickets retailed for $290 per person.
  • Spirit Incentives requires you to pay the taxes on the second person as well as some mystery fees, so my total for both tickets was $400.
  • I ultimately saved $18o with this benefit.

Was $180 savings the best use of the companion airfare benefit?  Definitely not.  I’m sure I (or you!) could do much better.

But it’s better than $0 which is what I feared it might be if I didn’t book it by Oct 18. Sometimes a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Also note that the benefit only covers base fare so a lot of international tickets (which can be dominated by fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees) will often not result in significant savings.  I imagine that the best value might be achieved by using it for a close-in domestic ticket.  Of course, I don’t book many of those.  So I’m happy with my $180.

15% Airfare Discount (not available to new cardholders)

There is also a 15% airfare discount benefit.  Like the companion ticket, it was handled by Spirit Incentives, but presumably is now booked via Citi for cardholders of record prior to October 18.

From a few quick searches on the Spirit Incentives website, I would say that some savings could be obtained, but given the mysterious fees that Spirit would apply, it wasn’t 15%. 

For the tickets I was looking at, the savings were not much different than what I would achieve from using my united.com Club benefit.  Perhaps the “15%” will be more like 15% now that Citi is doing the booking?

We’ll have to wait and see.  But the fact that it cannot be done online will probably deter me from even trying much of the time.

Bottom line

My experience with Prestige has been positive so far.  At this point, I have saved $180 on an airline ticket and have plans to recover $450 using the airline fee reimbursement benefit.

That’s $630 of value from a $450 annual fee card and we haven’t put a value on the 30K ThankYou points yet. And I’ve got my Priority Pass for free, which is really what this all started with.

Oh, I almost forgot the three free rounds of golf….  I wonder if it covers Putt Putt?  My son would really enjoy that.

Do you have the Citi Prestige?  What has your experience been?  Have you used the companion airfare benefit?  Do you like the new benefits?

Comments

  1. Is this Priority Pass Select, which one can get with the Amex Platinum card, or full Priority Pass? I ask because the Select version charges guests $27, and of course does not include United Clubs.

  2. what’s the point of writing a post about perks we can longer get? bragging? i’ll never get 5 min of my life back…

  3. Your analysis of the airline fee credit is lacking some critical information. The airline reimbursement programs are completely different and because of that I think both reimbursements can be earned this year. The old program was a statement credit for airline fees. This program required enrollment. The $200 reimbursement could be claimed once every MEMBERSHIP year. The new program is an air travel credit and can be used to purchase flights directly. This program does not require enrollment. This benefit can be claimed once every calendar year. (probably a move to mirror amex)

    Please update with the correct information.

  4. There are several other really good benefits you didn’t include. (better even than free golf) The Citi Prestige card gives access to American Airlines Admiral Lounges. There is a $100 global entry credit. And, while not being a full priority pass membership, the priority pass membership for both the primary card holder AND authorized users will allow TWO FREE companions to enter with you. This is an unprecedented benefit.

    Please do better research for your articles.

  5. @Ben H.

    Good point that it is a different program. But there have been reports of CSR’s claiming you can use $200 before 10/18 and then get $50 after. I guess it’ll be a wait and see. It would be great if it turns out to be a douple-dip opportunity.

    Yes, there are many good benefits to this card. Like I said, this wasn’t a full review. Just my experience with some of the perks, and looking for others’ experience. Thanks.

  6. OK, now that is all over might as well spill the beans. Companion pass was really good, especially since authorized users could also get one. For a family of 4 you could easily save $400+. Then you have the 15% discount, comes in handy when your doing mileage runs or when your flying you family to Hawaii, close to $450 in savings. Also, the $100 for Global Entry fee, $200 airline reimbursement. Then there are the flight points, which grow pretty quick, as any ticket you pay gets points, even your aunt’s. The insurance benefit also great, son got sick day before the flight, they reimbursed the cost of the tickets.

    I did not use the golf benefit, the 2 times a year 4 night free at luxury hotels or the lounge access.

    Now, tell me which bloggers had this card on their list of best credit cards?

  7. Right, so at a minimum you should get $500 reimbursed over the two years (not $450) and none of that $500 needs to be gift cards.

    “come away with $450 in credits, rather than $750” This should be $500 and $700.

    Tough I’m not sure why I care about this post because, as Lantean said, these benefits aren’t available anymore.

  8. The question would be, if the authorized users are added after October 18th to a card that was acquired before October 18 (and hence still has a companion pass) would the authorized users also have a companion pass?

  9. I look forward to reading more. I, too, have a family and am beginning to tentatively plan how many miles/points it will take to get us all to Australia and New Zealand in a premium class, at least for the transpacific legs.

  10. I could not make Citi Prestige work for me, and finally cancelled it last week. For the first several months, glitches prevented me from registering this card for online payment. I was in direct contact with their IT people and with a few apathetic customer service representatives, and the issue was never properly resolved. At this day and age, if you are a frequent traveler you need to control and pay your bills from the road, and not depend on paper statements being delivered in the mail. The limit was also not adequate – one international business class ticket often costs me alone 12,000 USD. Therefore, a limit of 9,200 USD may be cute if you only use your card for restaurants, but as a credit card that – as claimed – was designed to support your international business lifestyle, Citi Prestige only talks the talk but does not walk the walk. After all these years, it seems like American Express Platinum continues to be the only serious product in my market segment.

  11. After 2years with the Amex Platinum, I canceled it/ downgraded ( to the Green card) and I applied for the Citi Prestige card. My Approved CL issued to me is $31k….not bad IMHO.
    The Citi Prestige trumps the Amex Platinum in my book. For the non business owner but yet soon to be affluent / middleclass millionaires (my Petroleum Engineering degree or Accounting CPA folks) this card is GREAT. It gives you the perks you want:
    3x points airfare and hotels,
    2x points dining and entertainment
    1x point everything else which makes it a GOOD (EVERY DAY) type of card. Which is exactly what you want when you are paying a HEFTY annual fee. “I want to use my card American Express.”Platinum Cardholders understand the message in the previous statement…lol
    It also gives you the HIGHEND stuff like Priority Pass and Admiral Club, a $250 airfare credit (yearly) which can be used directly for the purchase of ANY type of airline ticket OR expenses. Lastly the FREE NIGHT perk is AMAZING. Pay for 3 nights and get the 4th night free. There’s NO LIMIT to how many times per year you can use this feature/perk. From a “STAYCATION” for me in MIAMI at the (Fountianebleau) to a getaway VACATION in Las Vegas Memorial day weekend (Aria Hotel). You can/should easily be able to recoup the Annual Fee of this card.

    Annual Fee of the Citi Prestige is $450

    Getting the AF$$$ back easily:
    1 vacation trip using perks of the Citi Prestige: (Airfare credit of $250 pays for the entire ticket or helps reduce the cost$$$)+ Free Night on a 4 day getaway(estimate avg cost of a Fri or Sat night at a MID tier hotel $200 or more). You’ve Recouped the AF of $450….YES!

    Bonus (repeat the below example CONTINOUSLY throughout the year with wifey or GF or a significant other….)

    1 STAYCATION examples: 4th of July weekend or Labor Day weekend (Tues-Fri*) or (Wens-Sat*)
    *= the Complimentary Free Night i.e.(most Expensive $$$)night……Recouped Annual Fee yet again!
    Essentially making everything else you get with this card is Truly Free like Priority Pass Select (a slightly better version than Amex Platinum offers), 3Comp. Golfing Rounds, Free late check out and breakfast and Admiral Club Access.

    I try to look for Credit Cards that I don’t mind being stuck with after the sign up bonus is gone. This card is one of them. Plus it looks cool and different.
    Amex has to step up their offerings. Many of us (credit card savvy) people used the AMEX as a BACKUP card due to the poor points accumulation, but keeping it for the Status symbol, Priority Pass Select and the illegally buying of a $200 gift card from our designated Airline, and consumer Protections to justify Amex $450 AF.
    This card offers all the same consumer protections the AMEX Platinum does btw.

    Oh I almost forgot to mention Amex authorized user $175 FOR WIFEY CARD… Citi Prestige is only $50 for a second card. $125 savings right there for me.

    My critiques is the 1:1 transfer partners needs to expand a bit more domestically and
    the card should’ve been made of metal…..vanity request!

    Takeaways:
    1.You don’t have to buy a airline gift cards to redeem the annual $250 credit, you can apply the credit directly towards the purchase of the ticket fare = a free ticket or reduce the cost of a expensive ticket.
    2.Priority Pass Select slightly better than Amex Platinum version.
    3.Pay for 3 nights get the 4th free! (unlimited usage ability) *Room rates are guaranteed to be equal to or lower than the Publicly advertise rate on the hotels website. So no overpricing to get a free night funny business.
    4.Points multiplier 3x air and hotels, 2x dining and entertainment 1x everything else.

  12. Can anyone confirm that the airfare reimbursement is by calendar year (as with Amex Plat) and not by card anniversary (as with Wells Fargo Propel)?

  13. @ weedibix — Yep, it is roughly based on calendar years:
    “This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December.”

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