The credit card industry has been more competitive than ever the last few years, leading card issuers like Chase, American Express, and Citi to come up with new offerings and spice up old ones. The goal, as always, is to increase their market share and their profits, which none of us can blame them for.
While the Citi Prestige® Credit Card was inexplicably not available to new applicants for a good part of 2018, it’s now back on the market with a new range of perks and benefits that are easier to access. A lucrative signup bonus, exceptional earning categories, and a flexible travel credit also sweeten the pot.
Should you sign up for the new Citi Prestige® Credit Card? Keep reading to learn about this card’s new set of benefits and how it stacks up to competing cards.
Citi Prestige® Credit Card: Key Takeaways
- Earn points quickly. The new version of this card offers exceptional bonus categories that can make earning points a breeze. Obviously, earning 5x points on air travel and dining is huge.
- The signup bonus is back. Currently, you can earn a healthy 50,000 points after you sign up and spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening.
- Get a flexible travel credit. Where the old version of this card offered an annual credit just for certain airfare expenses, this new version extends the $250 credit to any type of travel. That makes it more competitive with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Move Over, Chase Sapphire Reserve®! A New Travel Credit Card Is Ready to Compete
When the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (currently unavailable through this site) hit the scene a few years ago, it was hard to imagine another card keeping up. After all, the Reserve came out of the gate with a big signup bonus, a flexible travel credit you could use for any travel expense, a Priority Pass Select membership, and 3x points on all travel and dining purchases.
While the Citi Prestige® went dormant for new signups for part of 2018, the new features it was released with in early 2019 make it a real contender as the top travel credit card available today. For some consumers, this card could help them earn considerably more points over time, leading to — you guessed it — more free travel in the end.
It all starts with the Citi Prestige® 5x bonus categories, which include air travel and restaurants. You also get 3 points per $1 spent on hotels and cruises and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. It’s easy to see how someone who spends a lot on travel and dining out could benefit, and that doesn’t even take into account the initial signup bonus you can earn right away.
We also love that the $250 annual travel credit on this card has been extended to cover any travel purchase. With the old version of the card, you could only use it for airfare purchases. That made it much less flexible and valuable for the average consumer, but pretty much anyone can use an annual $250 credit that’s good for any type of travel.
Other benefits include a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, and a fourth-night-free hotel benefit. Keep in mind, however, that the fourth-night-free benefit can only be used twice per year starting Sept. 1, 2019.
But the real power in premier travel credit cards like this one is in their flexibility. Like other premier travel credit cards, Citi ThankYou Rewards cards like the Citi Prestige® let you transfer points to airline and hotel partners. Current Citi transfer partners include:
- Turkish Airlines
- Asia Miles
- Etihad Guest
- Eva Air
- Air France/Flying Blue
- Garuda Indonesia
- Jet Privilege
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Royal Orchid
- Virgin Atlantic
You also have the option of redeeming Citi ThankYou points directly through the Citi travel portal. This portal lets you book airfare, hotels, activities, cruises, and more using your points or a combination of points and cash. Also note that you can cash in Citi ThankYou points for merchandise and gift cards, although you’ll get less than one cent in value per point if you do.
In summary, the new Citi Prestige® has a lot to offer consumers — but particularly ones who spend a lot on travel or dining, or use Citi transfer partners frequently. There are also plenty of travel perks you can take advantage of each year, giving this card a boost in value over all.
Citi Prestige®: Where It Falls Flat
Almost anyone could benefit from the Citi Prestige®, but it’s still important to note that it comes with a hefty $495 annual fee that is not waived the first year. Regardless of the perks and how lucrative they are, there are plenty of people who won’t pay $495 per year to keep a credit card, no matter what.
In addition to the elevated annual fee letting people down, some Citi Prestige® enthusiasts were also disappointed to find out that the new version of this card limits the fourth-night-free benefit to just twice per year. This makes the card a lot less valuable for those who took advantage of that perk frequently.
Another downside of the Citi Prestige® is in their transfer partners. While some of their programs, like JetBlue and Flying Blue, are widely used by American travelers, most of their transfer partners are fairly obscure and far from popular with the American market.
One final nail in the coffin for this card is the fact that, after September 2019, Citi ThankYou points redeemed for air travel through the Citi portal are only worth one cent each (instead of their current value of 1.25 cents apiece when redeeming for airfare). You also get just 1 cent per point in value when you redeem for hotels and other travel through the portal. This puts the Citi Prestige® at a distinct advantage when compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which lets you redeem points for travel for 1.5 cents each in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Who This Card Is Good For:
- Consumers who can use Citi transfer partners with ease.
- Anyone spends a lot on air travel and dining and wants to earn 5x points for each dollar they spend.
- Frequent travelers who could benefit from an annual travel credit or Priority Pass Select membership.
Who Should Pass:
- Consumers who want to earn rewards without a large annual fee.
- Frequent travelers who don’t like Citi’s selection of airline partners.
- Anyone who won’t use the perks this card offers.
How Does It Compare to Other Travel Credit Cards?
We’ve already mentioned how the Citi Prestige® is similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, but we wanted to break down all the features further in a chart. We also threw in a comparison to the — a popular Chase travel credit card that offers a less robust selection of perks for a lower annual fee.
The chart below shows how each of these cards compares in terms of their fees, earning structure, and benefits:
||Chase Sapphire Reserve®
||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
||$450; each authorized user: $75 per year.
||$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
|Annual Travel Credit
||5x points on air travel and restaurants; 3x points on hotels and cruises; 1x points on all other purchases
||3x points on travel and dining; 1x points on all other purchases
||2x points on travel and dining; 1x points on all other purchases worldwide
|How to Redeem for Travel
||Book travel through the Citi portal for one cent per point after September 2019 (1.25 cents per point on airfare until then); transfer 1:1 to Citi transfer partners
||Book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for 50% more value, or transfer points to travel programs at 1:1
||Book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for 25% more value, or transfer points to travel programs at 1:1
|Airport Lounge Access
As you can see, all three cards offer unique and lucrative earning structures. However, the does come with a much lower annual fee in exchange for a less enticing package of benefits.
Want Another Option? Consider This Card
If the idea of earning different levels of points on different purchases scares you off, you might want to look into a card that maintains the same earning and redemption structure no matter what. The is a solid option since it lets you earn 2x miles on everything you buy. On the redemption side of the equation, you can cash in your miles for any type of travel for one cent each.
Also note that, as of 2018, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card added 14 new transfer partners with either a 2:1 or 2:1.5 transfer ratio. With that in mind, you can transfer points with this card to the following airlines if you don’t want to redeem them the old-fashioned way.
2:1 Transfer Ratio:
- Singapore Airlines
2:1.5 Transfer Ratio:
- Air Canada (Aeroplan)
- Air France & KLM (Flying Blue)
- Cathay Pacific
- EVA Air
- Hainan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
The Bottom Line
If you’re in the market for a new travel credit card, it’s smart to compare a few options to see which ones fit your needs and spending style. You may find that a premier travel credit card with a big annual fee gives you the most value, but it’s also possible a standard travel credit card or a cash-back credit card could leave you better off.
The refreshed Citi Prestige® is better than ever, but it’s mostly suited to frequent travelers who can get superior value out of its earning structure and redemption options.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
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