My First Time Being Denied The Citi Prestige 4th Night Free Benefit

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The fourth night free on the Citi Prestige Card is my single favorite benefit offered by any credit card. This benefit has saved me thousands of dollars. For example, in my first year of card membership, the benefit saved me over $2,000, and it has saved me even more since then.

While a few different credit cards offer some sort of “free night” hotel benefits, none are as widely useful as the one offered with the Citi Prestige Card. You can book virtually any publicly available rate (AAA, pre-paid, etc.) at virtually any major hotel, and they’ll reimburse the cost of the fourth night. Best of all, the reimbursement happens on the back end, so you still earn points, elite credits, etc., for the cost of the fourth night with your preferred hotel loyalty program.

I’ve had nothing but good experiences with this benefit. Sure, the phone call to take advantage of the benefit can be a bit annoying (though you can also book by email nowadays), but it pales in comparison to the savings that can be had.

A couple of days ago I wrote the introduction to my next trip report, which includes a stay at the Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro. In the introduction I mentioned that I wasn’t able to use the fourth night free benefit on the Prestige Card, even though I wanted to.

Reader Dawson asked the following question regarding this:

Can you provide some more details on the Citi 4th night free credit card authorization form conflict. Possibly worthy of a blog post? I think I might be running into the same sort of issue currently with a hotel in the Maldives, but I’m not positive.

I figured I’d share a bit more about my experience, so others can be aware of this.

I found the publicly available rate on the Aman Sveti Stefan website that I wanted to book, so I phoned up the Citi Prestige concierge. The agent found the rate and the entire booking process worked normally, until he tried to use my credit card to secure the room.

“I’m getting an error message, it’s not accepting payment.”

He put me on hold for an extended period of time, I guess to talk to his support desk, and they guessed that the issue was that for whatever reason it was accidentally coming through as a fraudulent charge. I didn’t have any email from Citi, but the agent suggested he connect me to a Citi representative so that they can see if the charge showed up there, or if they could put a temporary authorization on the card to make sure it goes through.

The problem is that Citi’s concierge is run through a third party, so the agent couldn’t stay on the line. Instead he had to transfer me over, and said that I should just ask to be transferred back over to the concierge when I was done.

The Citi agent confirmed there was no hold-up on Citi’s side, and even added a temporary authorization so that any charge would go through. She then transferred me back over to the concierge service. I got a different agent, and had to go through the whole process again, and she had the same problem, but couldn’t figure out why the error kept occurring. She decided to call the hotel directly, though it was the middle of the night and there seemed to be a communication barrier.

However, she managed to put the room on hold, and promised she’d call me back the next day, which she did. She explained that the issue was that the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit doesn’t work for hotels that require credit card authorization forms, such as this Aman. I wasn’t aware of this policy. I guess I get it on the surface, though I asked if I could maybe contact the hotel directly to get the form filled out, and then Citi could make the booking. After all, she had placed the booking on hold for several days while she tried to work it out.

She said that wasn’t possible, and that this was simply a rule that couldn’t be broken.

While I’ve had a lot of awesome experiences with the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit, this is an issue I wasn’t aware of. This seems like a rather random rule, though I get where they’re coming from. Perhaps the most annoying part was that the Citi agents didn’t seem familiar with it either, because I collectively probably spent about two hours on the phone, just to be told in the end this wasn’t possible.

So it’s something to be aware of, if you are trying to use this benefit at a high end hotel that requires an authorization form.

Have you ever faced this issue with the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit?

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Comments

  1. So did you sign the authorization form when you booked the hotel yourself? What is it for?
    Sorry if it’s a stupid question but I haven’t booked a hotel that requires this before.

  2. I call bullshit, if i were you I’d ask for that shit in writing via email or letter, to say this is their policy.

    I tend not to believe these phone agents.

  3. I’ve been able to book Amans thst use CC authorization forms via Citi… just contact the hotel in advance, ask for the the form and tell them to expect a reservation in the next couple days. It’s not easy but they can do it. It also works easier if Citi contacts the hotel over the phone to perform the booking versus using the web form. Experience at Amanyara, Amanzoe and Amanera

    Fdw

  4. Not a surprise, every interaction I have had with them has been a “How can I not help you?”

  5. The exact same thing happened to me when I tried to book the Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania. I thought it was a clever way for Citi to get out of paying $850+ for my free night. I cancelled the card immediately after that.

  6. Used fourth night free benefit recently where hotel wanted a signed form authorizing the charge and a copy of passport etc. Concierge desk placed the booking, called the hotel and had the hotel email me the forms. I filled out the forms and sent them to the hotel, and then called Concierge back, who then confirmed everything went through ok. This was a prepay and the credit has already posted for me. The hotel was a lowly Holiday Inn in Paris, but it sounds like this should have been refused from your post. Booked hotel on 4/23/2017 and received refund of fourth night on 5/02/2017

  7. @FlyingDoctorWu and everyone else…

    Have you had any luck with hotels that require a deposit via a Paypal payment form at the end of the booking process? Even though there’s an option to submit a credit card without logging into Paypal my Citi Conceirage refused to process the booking and said it wasn’t eligible. The first one I called said I couldn’t do it because “It is an independent owned hotel” so it wasn’t eligible which is obviously complete BS

    This is only for a 4th night benefit of about $100 so it feels pretty petty. That being said, I’ve used the benefit about 5x to save maybe $750 this year and effectively pay only $100/year because of the $250/year travel credit and my reduced $350/yr annul fee.

  8. @Jen

    The Safari destinations are a bit different (having had a similar experience myself in Tanzania). Citi at least updated their terms and conditions to explicitly not allow redemption on Safaris (their logic being that the rates include activities and food , not just a place to sleep). Whether that is fair or not is up to you, but at least its spelled out in the policy.

    For Ben’s problem, I do not think the policy they explained to him is spelled out in the user agreement.

  9. Sounds to me like a deliberate corporate doublespeak excuse for denying you what you are entitled to. Follow the money and you’ll always find your killer.

  10. Yes, I have yet to use this benefit because I don’t tend to stay for 4 nights at the same place (will most likely cancel the card). Was looking forward to finally taking advantage of it for a Sabi Sand safari booking (that would have been savings of around $1.5-2K), but apparently, game lodges do not qualify.

  11. @Mark I can’t comment because I’ve never run into a hotel that asks for deposit via Paypal… but isnt it posible to use a CC via paypal without logging in?

  12. Hmm this policy, if there’s actually one, sounds a bit ridiculous.
    There must be a way to use the 4th night free benefit for this kind of situations…a credit card authorization form should not get in the way.

  13. You should escalate this. Whenever I’ve had issues with Aspire Lifestyles, I get the Citi customer service reps involved and they make certain I get due compensation in some form, be it in cash or Thank you Points.

  14. The overall chaos and confusion you had to go through bests sums up my general experience in any dealing with CITI.

  15. “Have you had any luck with hotels that require a deposit via a Paypal payment form at the end of the booking process? ”

    This was EXACTLY the problem I ran into last year when trying to book a small boutique hotel in Mexico for 4 nights. The hotel absolutely required payment via some 3rd party website (it might have been PayPal, I don’t remember). The hotel refused to accept any other form of payment, including a credit card number over the phone. The concierge said she could book it under those conditions, but I wouldn’t get my 4th night free benefit. I didn’t understand the explanation for why that was – but it had something to do with a requirement that the merchant receiving the payment has to be the hotel itself, not a third party.

  16. Adding a data point here: I was also told 4th Night Free wouldn’t work at an Aman because the rate included breakfast and an activity. In this case, I could appreciate it’s a situation where the policy has a reasonable purpose. After all, including ancillary benefits could get out of hand. “Book this rate and it includes a free car” could potentially result in Citi paying 25% of a new car. But, in this given situation it was silly because the rate with the additional amenities was actually cheaper than the rate without – which Citi said I could use a 4th Night Free on. I was ultimately able to reason with them and show how silly it was and we came up with a fair way to value the extras. But, it was TONS of work getting it.

  17. I had the same experience last year as Adam, i.e., I got the cc authorization form from the hotel, filled it out, e-mailed it back to the hotel, and told them to expect a call from Aspire to do the booking. This took a couple of phone calls and e-mails with the hotels (all of which were in the Caribbean), but it eventually worked out fine and I got the fourth night credit.

  18. I was able to get the 4th night free benefit earlier this year at a Ritz Carlton Residence property.

    Recently, called to book property again and was denied stating “Residence” properties do not qualify anymore. Even though it’s available on Marriott’s website.

    Tried to hang up and call again but seems like my account is noted now.

  19. Why do I get the feeling @Jen cancelled the card simply b/c the card was gotten for the purpose to save the $850? Use the flight credit and TSA/Global fee reimbursement and cancel anyways? I”m pretty sure it was a total savings to Citi in the end. The “so I cancelled” sounds hollow and wasn’t like you were directing large amts of spend to them beyond the amt to get the points in 3 month

  20. @snic If citi allowed “3rd party” for the 4th night free, you’d have every points chaser who was a “business” charging friends $1000/night and getting $1000 back for “4th night” and then scratching the others’ back for another $1000.

    Churn that and you’d hear of ppl making 100’s of thousands from Citi b/c of this loophole.

    So, totally reasonable why they don’t allow 3rd party.

  21. I was able to book twice with Citi Prestige (4th night free) for a hotel that required credit card authorization forms. I did it the same way as Dave. No issues.

  22. @brian – That makes sense.

    Re: activities and meals – I booked a place recently that had breakfast and dinner included (required by the B&B). Agent said 4th night would be reimbursed. Haven’t seen the credit yet, though…

  23. Ive been able to book meal inclusive packages as long as the rate is equal to BAR… I’ve had pushback booking other rates though my buddy has been successful (golf package at Sea Island)

    FDW

  24. I have used the 4th night benefit a number of times without an issue. However, one time had a problem when trying to book a Marriott hotel package which included breakfast and an activity which happened to be lower than the standard rate which would make the rate valid based on their rules. They wouldn’t book but later apologized and acknowledged mistake

  25. I do not understand all the haranguing about this benefit. If holding the card does not save you money, then by all means, cancel it! It’s probably not right for everyone.

    But worst case, this card costs net $200/yr. For many, it probably costs $100/yr (Gold/Priority/In-branch AF) and for some (like me) it $0 net 1st year (after GA rebate).

    In my first year I’ve saved over $2,000 in 4th night rebates. So I’ll be keeping this card as long as they offer this benefit.

    I’m disappointed by the loss of Admiral’s Club access and 1.6x AA flights, but this card still provides value if you actually travel more than once or twice a year.

  26. was this post written by the same kid who says he doesn’t like to stay anywhere for more than 3 days? how does a 4th night benefit help him exactly??

  27. funny how he still markets himself and this blog as a point and miles expert! now that he’s rich he only flies business class paid out of pocket and stays at $1000 a day Aman properties where you can’t use points for! talk about fake advertising!

  28. Thanks Lucky for writing this article. This is very helpful to me as I just got the Citi Prestige card and am angling to reserve several hotel stays in the coming year with 4th night free benefit. The comment section is a trove of amazing information that one can’t get anywhere else such as calling ahead to Aman and filling out forms before hand. You really have some of the most knowledgeable readers/ commentators around! Keep similar articles coming.

  29. Are most hotels getting this 4th night free? I’m asking, because I’m wondering if they just work off a select list of hotels.

    I’m considering cancelling my Prestige since they no longer offer AA lounge benefits. $200 (after the $250 travel credit) is a lot for possibly getting a 4th night free, since usually I stay at Hiltons or SPG hotels where I want to book direct. Or a conference hotel were I have to pay through the conference.

  30. @mike: You’re GENIUS.
    Henceforth, anyone may book my home for 4 nights at the rate of $1 for the first 3 nights and $150k for night 4.
    I’ll give you enough of my loyalty points to redeem for a Tesla S

  31. okay. So it looks like almost any hotel qualifies. I booked my first 4 night stay with the Concierge. And looking forward to getting the credit.

    Almost cancelled this card, but perhaps I can make it work out to save me some money. However, I usually stay 3 nights instead of 4, and often have to book it through some other means. Right now, looks like I’m only $50 in hole… as long as it pays for itself. Or better yet, makes me some money.

  32. Is there anywhere to check if a hotel is included in the 4th-night free program without having the card? I’m considering getting the card, but before I do I like to know if three of the hotels I’m planning on using for my trip are included.

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