How Is The Citi Prestige Card Free Night Benefit Calculated?

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I’ve written extensively about the Citi Prestige Card, which I view as the all around most lucrative card out there, between the sign-up bonus, perks, and return on everyday spend.

The card has a $450 annual fee, though has so many benefits which more than justify the annual fee, in my opinion. These include:

The single benefit on this card I’ve gotten the most value out of has been the fourth night free hotel benefit.

I’ve described this benefit in great detail, though it’s still something I get asked clarification questions about from readers all the time. As a starting point, here are the previous posts I’ve written about the benefit:

One interesting aspect of this benefit which I think is worth talking about is how the free night benefit is calculated. For the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit, do they actually refund the average cost of one night over your four night stay, or is the fourth night free?

While it’s a point of confusion for some, the benefit is as straightforward as the name suggests — you are given a statement credit for the cost of the fourth night, including all taxes and fees. It’s not a refund for the average per night cost over four nights.

You can really use this to your advantage. For example, a friend recently messaged me in amazement of this benefit, since he was using it in Las Vegas over a weekend. He’s staying Wednesday through Sunday, and the rate for Wednesday and Thursday night was half the rate of Friday and Saturday night. So if the first and second nights were $100 per night and the third and fourth nights were $200 per night, he’d get a refund of $200. That’s a refund of $200 on a $600 stay, which is a savings of ~33% rather than ~25%.

Of course there are much more extreme examples. Say you want to stay at the Hilton Times Square on New Year’s Eve (I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that, but let’s pretend).

Hilton-Rate-2

The cost for the nights of the 28th, 29th, and 30th is $499 per night, while the cost for the night of the 31st is $1,799.

Hilton-Rate-1

The last night is more expensive than the other three nights combined, meaning your savings would be over 50%.

Again, I’m not suggesting anyone actually book the Hilton Times Square over New Year’s Eve to take advantage of this deal, but it’s just meant for demonstrative purposes. More practical examples would be booking a stay in Las Vegas Wednesday through Sunday (since weekends are considerably more expensive than weekdays), or booking a stay in a major city Saturday through Wednesday (since weekdays are considerably more expensive than weekends).

St-Regis-Bali-Lagoon-Villa - 4
Using the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit at the St. Regis Bali

Bottom line

The Citi Prestige Card is an all around compelling card, and this is hands down the strongest perk of the card. It’s a benefit which in 2015 paid for the annual fee on my card over and over.

The fourth night free hotel benefit might just be too good to be true, though. For example, the Club Carlson Visa Card used to offer every second night on award stays for free, a benefit which was cut eventually.

I’m not suggesting this benefit will be cut on the Citi Prestige Card anytime soon, but I am saying that it’s a disproportionately generous benefit, and I’d get the card for this perk sooner rather than later, because I wouldn’t count on it sticking around in its current form forever.

What has been your experience with the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit?

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Comments

  1. OK, so here’s a variation. I am looking at a 8 night stay at a resort in Hawaii. They have an offer for “Every 4th Night Free”. Can I double dip with the Citi Prestige? I’m guessing that not since they seem much more sophisticated about how they calculate the 4th night. In this case, if my 4th night is free via the hotel, would Citi not give me anything? Or would they just give me my 5th night free?

    Via the hotel, I get two nights free out of eight on this deal. I assume that’s the best I could do, but it would be awesome if I could get four out of eight nights free!

  2. @Erik B brings up a very interesting question. How does Citi know what the hotel charges for each night? The credit card slip just shows a total, not a breakdown of the charges. Do they somehow get a copy of the actual hotel folio?

    Does anyone know?

  3. @ Steve — Because the Carlson Wagonlit employee who books your stay already provides the breakdown of how much the refund will be at the time you book. Since they’re making the booking they know exactly how much each night costs.

  4. @ Erik B — Yeah, two problems there. First of all, the Citi Prestige Card offer isn’t for every fourth night free, so on an eight night stay you’d only get one free night. If you skipped a night between the stays then you could use the benefit twice, but not for back-to-back stays.

    As far as the hotel’s promotion goes, you typically can’t combine the fourth night free benefit with the Citi Prestige Card with a fourth night free benefit available directly through the hotel.

  5. @Steve you book the hotel through their Carlson Wagonlit agents, so they know what the price breakdown is.

    When I used the Citi Prestige for a Sheraton, SPG simply averaged out the nightly rate (when the night-by-night rates varied). It seems that some hotel programs will average out the rate anyway, and the Citi Prestige card will simply follow this.

  6. @ Erik, hotel likely applies ~25% discount to each night’s total when billing, so 4th night will be credited for that calculated amount post discounting. I believe the 4th night is only once per stay. “Only one complimentary night is eligible per each stay.” Also, you have to book via the Citi designated provider, who may not have that offer. You’ll have to ask to see if they can book you per the 4th night hotel offer if their rate they see if higher.

  7. @Luis,

    I just asked this question in Ask Lucky and Tiffany (ever so gently) shot me down. I just booked my first stay (Hyatt Regency Kyoto) and while the process is time-consuming the agent made a point of telling me exactly what the refunded amount would be. Per Ben’s previous posts she had no trouble seeing and booking hotel special rates, either.

  8. Just as an interesting note I may have missed in previous posts:

    I have a stay coming up in Vegas. When the agent quoted rates over the phone, she quoted without the mandatory resort fee. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the confirmation email from Carlson Wagonlit showing I would get a statement credit for the 4th night that included the resort fee.

    However, one small downside – the rate was a bit higher than directly via the hotel website. Just a few bucks, but she couldn’t get the rate from the hotel site exactly. I don’t mean a special player club rate – I mean the public, no promotion rate. Again, it was less than a ten dollar difference total over four nights, so I let it go.

    Anyway, excited to finally use the benefit. Haven’t had a paid stay this long since the benefit began!

  9. You said no back-to-backs. Can you book two back-to-back stays at different hotels with no gap?

    Example: 8 consecutive nights in NYC. First four nights at a Hyatt and the second four nights at a Hilton.

  10. I just booked a hotel in Melbourne and I have the exact opposite experience: they very explicitly say they will refund the average over the 4 nights. In my case the difference between the average and the 4th night is just $10, so I won’t push it. But they were very explicit in telling me that the refund will ba calculated based on the average.

  11. You say that all fees for the fourth night are refunded. I booked a trip at a hotel with a resort fee. They told me they will not refund the resort fee.

  12. @Phone Home

    I had the same experience. CWT’s proposals refund the cost of an average night, not the fourth night. I’ve never seen Lucky’s example of a New Year’s Eve-style refund work, but if anyone can actually prove that they received that kind of benefit then I’ll go away. But I’m pretty confident Lucky’s analysis is completely wrong.

    And, again, anyone who thinks they can simply reserve the rooms with the Prestige is wrong – you have to book through CWT and they have to confirm the rebate.

    My biggest frustration with this benefit is that you can only book a single room – you can’t book two rooms on the same dates and get the fourth night free on both of them.

  13. @ pman — When you got the email confirmation, did the refunded amount written there reflect that or not?

  14. @ Lance Manyon — Haven’t gone so far as to book the New Year’s Eve example, but I’ve personally made a couple of bookings where the third and fourth night were more expensive, and the fourth night was always the one which was refunded.

  15. +1 data point on actually getting the 4th night free and not an average rate. Booking Aman Tokyo for 4 nights, the rates were 80k yen for the first 2 nights, 90k yen for the 3rd night, and then 100k yen for the 4th night. The proposal from CW reflects a refund of 100k yen + taxes.

  16. Yup, I got the actual 4th night free (which was substantially more expensive than the other nights) and it includes a refund of the resort fee for that night.

    I loathe talking on the telephone and will generally go out of my way to do things online, but for this benefit I think it’s worth the phone call. I’ve also found that both the Citi concierge people and the CW agents are competent, friendly, and easy to understand…so that makes it easier.

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