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Jul 29

Just How Badly Did Citibank Gut The Prestige Card?

When I first wrote about the Citibank Prestige card, I noted that the benefits that it offered not only offset the annual fee but also represented a massive overreach in terms of what they were offering. In other words, the perks were simply too good. Apparently, they agreed. They haven’t quite gutted the card, but they’ve knocked off a couple of the most valuable ones.

Is it still worth the fee? Probably, but read on. All changes start July 23, 2017, so you have a year to take advantage of it.

Lounge Access

Starting next year, Citi is shooting American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access. Currently, you and two guests, or your immediate family, have access to the lounge when you are flying American.

Impact: Big. Lounge access was one of the key perks on this card.

Redemptions

Currently, each point is worth 1.33 cents toward the cost of a ticket (e.g., you can use 10,000 points to buy a ticket that would cost $133 if you paid cash). If you are buying tickets on American, each point counts for 1.6 cents. That number is changing to 1.25 next year.

Impact: Big. That’s a significant reduction in value if you use Citi points to pay for travel, which is generally their optimal use. 

Other Changes

The three complimentary rounds of golf that the card offers are going away. I always had trouble getting the ball into the clown’s mouth, anyway.

You will still get a fourth night free on any hotel booking, but they are now going to refund the average nightly rate during your stay, rather than the fourth night itself. This change means that you can no longer finagle a trip so that the most expensive night is the fourth. Well, you can, but it won’t do you any good. Potentially more impactful: They’re no longer going to refund taxes on that fourth night.

What Stays

citi

Not everything is going away. The $250 annual travel credit, possibly the most important benefit, remains, as does the free hotel night, albeit in a slightly different format. You also get the $100 statement credit toward Global Entry/TSA Pre, which is worth every penny of the fee in saved time (particularly since the net fee is going to be zero for you).

Do I Still Need The Card?

Two weeks ago, this was my favorite travel card. By a long shot. But the disappearance of the Admirals Club lounge access is big for me, as is the bonus for travel redemptions. So, if you’re looking for a high-end travel card, the American Express Platinum card (40,000 Membership Rewards points to sign up) is once again competitive. It only offers a $200 fee rebate, not flat out $250 credit for any travel like Citi does, but it also offers lounge access to Delta and American Express Centurion lounges. Its version of Priority Pass won’t get your entire family in, either, like Citi’s will. So I still think that Citi Prestige is the preferable card, after accounting for all rebates (Your net annual cost for Citi’s card will still likely be negative), but it’s a lot closer now.

Citi has also changed the sign-up bonus for the card. You’ll get 40,000 points after signing up for the card and spending $4,000 total in the first three months.

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