Is The Citi Prestige Fourth Night Free Hotel Benefit A Gimmick?

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I’ve written extensively about the Citi Prestige Card, which is one of the hottest credit card sign-up bonuses out there at the moment. Not only does the card have a great sign-up bonus, but it comes with a bunch of perks which make it more than worth keeping long term, in my opinion.

These include:

  • A sign-up bonus of 40,000 ThankYou Rewards points after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months — those points can be transferred to one of their airline transfer partners, or redeemed towards revenue flights on any airline
    A $250 annual airline credit (with your first year’s annual fee you actually get two of those — that’s $500 of airline credits with your first year’s $450 annual fee)
    A fourth night free hotel benefit
    The most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card
    A $100 Global Entry fee credit

When it came to placing a value to the Citi Prestige Card sign-up bonus, one of the things I had the hardest time valuing was the fourth night free hotel benefit. At first I assumed it was a gimmick, though since giving it a try I’ve found it to be immensely useful.

Citi-Prestige-Card-Hotel-Benefit

Reader Russell left the following comment on the “Ask Lucky” forum, which I think is a good starting point to talking more about the benefit:

I’ve had the Citi Prestige card for two months and hoped that the “fourth night free” benefit would be worthwhile. So at the time I made a request for a hotel in St. Remy. It took two days to answer and finally came back as gibberish English explaining that they couldn’t help. I tried once again yesterday for a hotel in Vienna in November and, not surprisingly, just received a message that they need more time. I had been of the impression that Citi’s travel agency was a competent operation, but I’m now thinkIng that this is a bogus benefit that’s really nothing more than a come-on. Very disappointing!

The process of booking Citi Prestige fourth night free

The first time I used the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit, I was equally frustrated. I don’t want to have to submit a request via an agent, and then have to wait 1-2 days for them to get back to me with a quote, especially with how quickly inventory can change nowadays.

But as I’ve explained, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Here’s the process you want to go through to take advantage of the fourth night free benefit:

  • Find the hotel you want to stay at, and the publicly available rate you want. This includes the best available rate, prepaid rate, AAA rate, senior rate, etc. This doesn’t include corporate rates, or promotional package rates, as a general rule of thumb.
  • When you know exactly which hotel you want, call up the number on the back of your Citi Prestige Card, and follow the prompts to be connected to a Citi Prestige travel concierge.
  • Once you have them on the phone, explain you’d like to take advantage of the fourth night free hotel benefit. Furthermore, explain you know exactly the rate and hotel you want, and would like to book right away.
  • The agent will take down your basic information (arrival and departure date, preferred rate and room type, etc.). And then they’ll conference in a Carlson Wagonlit Travel travel advisor, who does the actual booking. The Citi Prestige travel concierge will stay on the phone the entire time, as they’ll be the ones to email you your confirmation.
  • It’s not the fastest process, but within 15 minutes or so you should be confirmed. If you’re staying at a chain hotel, you can also give them your loyalty program number, so that your stay will immediately show up on your loyalty program’s reservations page.

Citi-Confirmation

If any of the above steps don’t go as planned, hang up and call again. But the key is that you want to explain that you know exactly what you want to book, and want to be connected to a Carlson Wagonlit Travel travel advisor right away.

Russell is correct, however, that not all hotels can be booked using this benefit. The hotel has to be part of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel network to be eligible. This includes virtually any major chain hotel, but won’t include some bed & breakfasts, motels, independent hotels, etc.

So it’s not the easiest process, and it would be nice if they made the benefit bookable through the website, but I doubt that will happen. Still, spending 15 minutes on the phone to save quite a bit of money is totally worth it.

Westin-Frankfurt-1
Suite at Westin Grand Frankfurt using Citi fourth night free benefit

How valuable has the benefit been to me?

When I first got the Citi Prestige Card I was trying to decide how much the fourth night free benefit was worth to me. Since I live in hotels you’d think I could get lots of value out of it. However, I also wasn’t sure:

  • How often I’d stay in four night increments
  • How often that “published” rate with the fourth night free would be cheaper than other promotional rates

In the month of June alone I’ve already used this benefit four times:

  • I used it twice at the Andaz West Hollywood, for a stay of a total of eight nights (I spent one night at another hotel inbetween to “break up” the stay, since it’s not valid for back-to-back stays)
  • I used it once at the Westin Grand Frankfurt, when I was traveling with my family
  • I used it once at the Sheraton Offenbach (near Frankfurt), when I was traveling with my family

Sheraton-Offenbach
My groovy suite at the Sheraton Offenbach

Those are stays I’ve already made, and that’s just over a single month. And that doesn’t account for the future stays I’ve already booked using this benefit.

Suffice to say this perk has proven to be by far the single most valuable one on the card. It has already saved me almost $1,000, and that’s just for stays I’ve taken so far.

Who is really paying for the fourth night?

This is a question, and not something I have an answer to. But I’m very curious about how this benefit works on the back end.

These hotel stays are booked through Carlson Wagonlit Travel. As a general rule of thumb, travel agents receive a 10% commission on hotel bookings. So presumably there’s something on the back end whereby that revenue is shared to offset the loss, or something. But I’d be very curious about the exact arrangement.

Like most benefits, presumably this is sustainable because a vast majority of people won’t take advantage of it at all, while others will take advantage of it once or twice. But if you stay in hotels a lot, you can get tremendous value out of the benefit.

Bottom line

I totally get Russell’s frustration, though once you figure out how the benefit works, I think it’s outrageously valuable. This is an incredible value, and hands down my favorite hotel perk offered by any credit card.

The Citi Prestige Card has a ton of useful perks, but this is one which can pay for the annual fee over and over and over again.

Have you used the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit yet? What was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. Ben, does the agency in any way publish the list of hotels they work with for the benefit? I’d be interested in knowing if they offer the fourth night free benefit at chains like Four Seasons, Mandarin and Aman. If so, I’d sign up in a heartbeat. Also, are there any ‘capacity controls’ or room category restrictions? Or is it just any published rate that is available?

  2. Hi Lucky, i’m sure you’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but for those numerous times you’ve utilized the 4th free night benefit, how soon after were you reimbursed on your statement? Was the length of time to get reimbursed rather consistent? thx

  3. This is a great benefit to have but I don’t think too many people are going to be using it multiple times a month. If you a road warrior, you generally don’t pay out of pocket for the hotel anyway. And leisure travelers only take a few trips a year.

    Still, hard to complain 🙂

  4. Who is really paying for the fourth night?

    I find it hard to believe that it is no one other than us in general (guests in general), but as this offer is “locked” to fixed rates, and a typical CC spending pattern, I would believe that the CC-charges (hotels vs. merchant) is probably waived on certain spendings.
    In Europe that can typically be from AMEX (3,45%) and MC/VISA (+/- 2,0%).

    But again, this is probably cheap marketing filling up your estate? After 3+ nights you will most probably end up using other facilities of the house (laundry, restaurants or other services).

  5. Just made a reservation using this benefit a couple of weeks ago. They did not proactively offer to conference in the CWT agent – was told I’d hear back by email. I pushed back a bit and then they conferenced in CWT. That person disconnected for some reason (with Citi still on the line) so I had to start all over again. All told it took talking to four different people to get this sorted, which seems a bit ridiculous in this day and age.

  6. I also wonder if it’s easier for them to provide this bigger discount because it’s a longer-term stay. I used to assume that was how LuxuryLink (RIP) offered such great auction deals. One night stays have to be brutal on margins.

  7. @liam – I’ve priced rates with four Seasons and Mandarin. Pretty sure it will work with Aman too. Btw Amex FHR has 4th night free sale going on with a few Amans in SE Asia right now.

    @Ivan – if you’re a road warrior, imagine getting a statement credit for the 4th night of your stay every week – that’s exactly who this would benefit most.

    @lucky – I’m struggling with using this with a prepaid rate at Grand Hyatt HKG. I want to lock in a DSU, but won’t be able to until after the reservation is made – which is non-refundable. Any tips on how to secure at booking? Maybe conference Diamond line in with Carlson Wagonlit and Citi?!?

  8. Russell is spot on!
    Valuable benefit but horrible typically crap sub par customer service
    I won’t wait 2 days for these idiots to call me back when the price could easily go up
    I read them the riot act and make them book now!~
    They make American Express look like world class professionals

  9. EricB (how’s Rakim??) your comment flags an interesting point about the road warrior consultants. Would it even be wrong for them to submit the 4 night-bill for reimbursement from their employer AND get a credit for night 4 from Citibank? After all, it’s a private benefit between them and Citi that they pay $3-450/yr for.

  10. I booked a 4 night stay in October using this method. It felt pretty easy to me. Called the number on the back of the Citi Prestige card and was connected right away. Told the CSR I already have my dates and hotel in mind so they connected me to a CWT agent right away and was able to secure a 50% off per night promotion since it was directly advertised on the hotel’s website. Received a confirmation email from Citi the next day and its the same format that Lucky posted an image of in this post. What is also included below where Ben;s image cuts off is text that actually says the amount to be refunded upon the conclusion of my stay as long as the correct terms are met – staying 4 nights and paying with the Prestige card.

    A few weeks later the same room I booked was being offered at 55% off the daily rate, per night. Called Citi, connect with CWT agent and received a new confirmation the next day with the updated, lower per night rate.

    I don’t travel much but I found the process pretty simple and straight forward. I’ve basically recuperated the $450 annual fee and then some. Thanks Lucky!

  11. I tried to use this benefit, booking on the phone immediately with Carson Wagonlit as described. But after 2 cc statements since it was billed, no credit had appeared. My guess is that the C.W. person entered a date incorrectly somewhere on the Citi end of things (not with the actual hotel), because on my cc statement it listed incorrect checkin and checkout dates for a 2 night stay instead of the 5 night stay I successfully completed.

    I called Citi, was transferred to Concierge, transferred to C.W., and then told to write and mail a physical letter to Citi customer service. What century is this? Needless to say, it has not been a satisfying experience, and I am not pleased with Carson Wagonlit’s/Prestige Concierge’s apparent level of competence or ability to fix problems.

  12. @Stannis – definitely an interesting ethical question. The frequent flier miles / hotel points are yours to keep, why not the statement credit? Doesn’t cost your employer anything more either…

  13. I’m also curious to see how long it took the credit to post and how it shows up on the card statement. It’d be great if you could provide a screen shot!

  14. Ben,
    Thanks for the thorough response. Judging by my initial efforts, it is now clear that specific requests and insistence upon immediate connection to the appropriate travel rep are essential to taking advantage of this benefit. I wrote to Citi about this and got a silly response talking about their hopes of providing a world-class experience. My limited experience suggests that Amex Platinum does what Citi is light-years away from doing. With few exceptions, the Citi reps are woefully in need of training, polish, and clear communications.
    No doubt, the benefits of Citi Prestige are very appealing, but one would hope that their staff could be brought up to a more professional level.

  15. Like Amex FHR, do you receive stay credit and points for stays with the hotel chain’s loyalty program?

  16. For me, the best use of the benefit would be at expensive properties where it’s hard to finagle a discount especially in conjunction with a 3rd or 5th night free rate like those sometimes available at Four Seasons properties. I *do* see such rates in Carlson Wagonlit inventory when I search (my company uses them as a travel agency) but I don’t have the Citi Prestige card [yet] so I don’t know whether it would be possible to stack.

    If it’s *not* possible to stack I’d find myself torn between booking with Virtuoso/FHR benefits -or- getting the 4th night free. You *can* stack Virtuoso with Four Seasons free night rates. But it would be great to stack Virtuoso with a hotel free night -and- Citi Prestige free 4th night.

    Another good use would be Disney hotels like Aulani. Unfortunately I don’t see Disney properties in CWT’s inventory.

    So all in all, it’s hard to verify what will work without getting the card and experimenting. And it sounds like that process can be painful. So yeah – it might not be a gimmick but it sure could be more straightforward.

    I wish they’d just auto-credit a 4th night free at any hotel without the runaround.

  17. You can check out which hotels work with the deal by going to cwtvacations.com and clicking on hotels then picking your city. Not all cities or hotels but plenty of options including some smaller, local places. Worked fine for me with upcoming trip bouncing around Europe. I always get my hotel off the CWT site then get conferenced in with CWT for the rez. Saved hundreds on one trip.

  18. This may be the same as EricB’s 3rd q. I’d like to book 4 nights at a Hyatt, and then apply a suite cert. I have been able to apply them later to existing reservations before, but this makes me nervous. I don’t want to risk NOT being able to use the suite cert. Any advice, Lucky? (BTW, applied for and was instantly approved for both Delta Plat and Citi Prestige, both via your links, today. So, please toss me a bone and share your wisdom. Thanks ; )

  19. I tried to use this benefit last week. I called on Thursday and didn’t hear them back on Friday. I called again on Friday and finally receive the quote on Saturday. I called back two hours after I received the quote, only to be told the hotel was sold out. I checked that hotel on Sunday morning, and found it is available again. So I made another call to Citi and request to speak with a travel agent. I was told because it is Sunday, they can only follow the procedure. After one and a half hours, the travel agent called and gave me the quote. In the end, she told me she will go book this hotel for me. If it is booked out again, I will receive a call from them. Finally, I booked the hotel. It took me three days, four or five calls to book this hotel, and the procedure is just not working.

  20. per VRHunter: “But it would be great to stack Virtuoso with a hotel free night -and- Citi Prestige free 4th night.”

    Carlson Wagonlit is not a Virtuoso agency and thus cannot book Virtuoso (or FS Preferred Partner, etc.) rates.

    Perhaps hotels make the math work by *not* providing Virtuoso-type amenities (breakfast, hotel credits, etc.), but it’s still not clear *who* reimburses the 4th night.

  21. Cool,,I just booked the Westin @ Frankfurt this morning. Did the hotel honor your SPG Platinum status for the stays? Room upgrade,breakfast,,etc?

    Also,, did SPG count the stays/nights(even 4th free night) towards re-earning Platinum status for the following year?

  22. Has anyone had success using this for an Aman property? Having difficultly booking the newish Aman Tokyo.

  23. @ Rob — Yes, absolutely. You get full elite benefits, and you get all four nights as qualifying, given that you pay the hotel in full, and then Citi gives you a statement credit for the cost of the fourth night.

  24. @ szy — Ouch! I guess the moral of the story is to try and book during business hours and be connected to an agent right away.

  25. @ mbh — Hah, thanks for the support! You’ll absolutely be fine. This counts as a standard published rate, so you can use a Hyatt DSU on the stay. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  26. @ David W — Credit hasn’t posted to my account for any of my stays yet, as it apparently consistently takes roughly a month.

  27. @ David W — Thanks for the data point, and happy to hear you’ve found the process easy.

  28. @ Stannis — Seems reasonable to me, and potentially makes this benefit outrageously lucrative.

  29. @ EricB — In theory you could try to conference them in, but at that point it’s basically a four way call, since the Citi agent will also be on the phone. If it were me, I’d just have them book over the phone and be sure there’s suite upgrade space, and then immediately call Hyatt. Seems like a pretty safe bet to me.

  30. @ Gene — None have posted, as all stays have been in recent weeks. Apparently it consistently takes about a month.

  31. @ Nathan — None have posted yet, as it apparently pretty consistently takes about a month for the credit to post.

  32. @ liam — According to the above, seems like cwtvacations.com may list all the eligible hotels.

  33. Relais and Chateau? Seems easier just to use a Barclay CB card for high end reservations like this?

  34. @Stannis, To answer the ethical question you have, you can answer yourself by answering the following: Is this something I would want everyone to know I did (including my employer). If the answer to this is yes, then you have no moral dilemma.
    @Meow, Drink some milk. It will cheer you up.

  35. Who’s paying for the 4th night? IMO, no one! Or we are!

    Bear in mind this is not an outright free stay, but free after you paid for 3 nights already. It is very rare for hotels to be fully occupied so there will almost always have 1-2 rooms vacant. If it remains vacant, the running cost will still be there (you still pay for the maids, electricity…etc) and will go wasted. But if you lure people to pay for 3 nights, by then the hotel probably has already made a profit to cover for the 4th night, which would have otherwise remain vacant.

    Also, not everyone will have a schedule that needs exactly 4 nights! If you go 5-7 nights, you only get 1 night free so it evens out the cost. Most people are not like Ben who lives in a hotel and can change hotel just for 1 night in order to take more benefit out of this 4th night free. In my case I have 2 young kids and it’s impossible to move in and out of hotels just like that.

    I personally have also saved hundreds already this year from this benefit and I agree it’s very useful. But I don’t think anyone is losing money here. It’s a win win situation.

  36. As a data point, I travel for work and out of the 6 weeks (of 4 night stays), I’ve have only received 1 credit for the 4th night. I made a payment about 2 weeks ago and about 2 days after a credit posted. I testing to see if:

    1. they only credit 1 4th night / billing cycle (as technically the fine print says VACATION
    2. the payment triggers a check to see if a 4th night credit is due. To this end, I made another payment Wed morning. We’ll see if anything hits by Saturday, nothing as of yet this AM

  37. Citi is in the Stone Age when compared to Amex regarding concierge services. I use Amex FHR quite often and most of their deals offer the 4th night free. I would say that 90% of the times I am able to book it all online and get a confirmation within seconds in my inbox. For more complicated reservations I called them and so far I had 100% of success and satisfaction in booking my stays. Also, it is amazing that when you get to the hotel they have a full package waiting for you explaining all the benefits included such as free breakfast, late check out, $100 spa or food credit, etc… In my opinion, if the hotel you are looking for is available on Amex FHR with the 3rd or 4th night free it is a no-brainer to book with them and ignore the perk from Citi.

  38. @ Ben — Please let us know if/when your rebates post. I’ve read what seems like mostly negative reports on Flyertalk, but of course complaining is a sport on FT, so those results are likely biased.

  39. As much attention the 4th night free is getting lately I predict this will be recalled or adjusted pretty soon. Just like discover just stopped the double cash back for current members.

  40. @rouven69 Agree 100%. I think bets should be placed as to when it’s changed. I am not sure it’ll be completely taken away, but it will be severely restricted / monitored in the next 6 months….or however long it takes them to write the code to account for tracking the transactions…

  41. A followup to my previous comment about having to mail a letter over the 4th night credit not happening properly: Citi eventually resolved the “dispute with X hotel” in my favor and awarded the credit. Even though my problem wasn’t with the hotel at all—I hope they didn’t get dinged for it.

  42. In reply to David Ourisman’s self-interested statement — since he books luxury vacations for others — that Virtuoso rates do not qualify as CWT is not a Virtuoso member, I say that is a COMPLETE FALSEHOOD.

    See: http://www.travel.carlsonwagonlit.com/virtuoso.asp

    So folks, consider the source who is opining when making these bald announcements, as they may have an ulterior motive for stating that Virtuoso rates will not qualify.

    Now, it may be that such rates will not qualify, but not because CWT is not a member of Virtutoso — rather because the rate might be considered a promotional rate and therefore not qualify — but not for the reason that David Ourisman put forth, rather because it may be considered a non-standard rate not available to the general public and therefore, not permissible.

    Lucky, I would think that a 3rd or 4th night free rate that is found on the hotel’s website would be permissible to receive the 4th night free credit, though, as that is a publicly available rate and not a promotional rate that can only be obtained by a special code, etc.

    Finally, I am happy that AAA and AARP and apparently military discounted rates would qualify, but then don’t see the reason to disallow — if they truly are disallowed — government rates.

  43. As a Starwood Plat member– if I book a Starwood hotel through this perk, I will receive eligible credits through starwood program and receive platinum benefits — IN ADDITION to the 4th night free?

    I’m skeptical that I’d receive starpoints for money spent through an agent.

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