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After a week of rumors swirling, it looks like there’s finally some clarity about the changes that the Citi Prestige just underwent. There were several changes (some of them quite big) and there’s been a lot of backlash sent Citi’s way, with many people now deciding to cancel their Prestige card. I personally think that, despite these significant changes (set to come into effect in July 2017), the Prestige still has tremendous value for a lot of people and may be worth keeping. Here’s a rundown of the changes and why I think the Prestige may still be worth holding on for some people.
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Loss of Admirals Club access
The first big change we heard about was the loss of Admirals Club access. If you didn’t know, these are the lounges for American Airlines.
While the Prestige didn’t come with full Admiral Club membership (no flagship or arrival lounge entry) and didn’t provide authorized users with Admirals Club access, it still provided anyone flying with American Airlines that day with Admirals Club lounge access, regardless of class being flown. I think that was an exceptional bargain, considering the cumulative value of all of the other benefits offered. But now this benefit will be gone as of July 23, 2017.
This is probably the biggest loss in value with the changes but it certainly doesn’t affect everyone. For people like myself who rarely fly American Airlines, this change affects how I value the card very little. However, for those people who fly American Airlines frequently and relied on the Prestige for Admirals Club access, it’s a major blow and I could see why those frequent flyers would consider dropping the Prestige.
Another reason that this change hurts the Prestige so much is that the Platinum Card from American Express offers Delta SkyClub lounge access when you fly with them and offers Centurion lounge access. Thus, with this key benefit dropped, the lounge access offered by the Platinum Card is much more expansive and may provide the impetus for a mass-exodus of Prestige holders over to the Platinum Card.
No more 1.6 cents redemptions on American Airlines
Another hit for those who fly American Airlines was the drop of the 1.6 cents redemption option. Before, you could redeem Thankyou Points for American Airlines flights at a rate of 1.6 cents per point, making it a great option for those who were trying to obtain status status on American since they earned elite qualifying credits. However, now those redemptions will be limited to 1.25 cents per point.
Again, if you’re like me and hardly ever fly American Airlines then this really doesn’t affect you much. However, if you were regularly flying American then I could definitely see why these first two changes would put a bad taste in your mouth and have you considering leaving the Citi Prestige.
The Golf benefit will be gone
As a Citi Prestige cardholder, you were entitled to three complimentary rounds of golf each calendar year at over 2,000 public and private golf courses all around the world. Courses included tournament level play, as well as spectacular courses throughout the USA, Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Now that benefit will be dropped.
I know that many avid golfers got a lot of value out of this benefit. For some, this benefit alone made up for the annual fee! Now that it’s going to be dropped, obviously a lot of golfers will bid farewell to the Prestige but for non-golfers, such as myself, it’s another lost perk with little to no effect felt.
Changes to the fourth night free benefit
The changes to the fourth night free benefit now state that: 1) taxes will not be included and 2) Citi will now determine the amount of the credit by taking the average of the four nights stayed. The exclusion of taxes will obviously drop the value of this benefit but the average nightly rate calculation may sometimes cut in your favor — it all just depends. The important thing in my opinion is that this benefit is still in existence and can still be one of the most valuable perks offered by any card.
Reduced sign-up bonus
The standard offer was for 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000. Now it looks like the bonus points are going down to 40,000 and the spend is starting at $4,000. Of course, it’s always a bummer to lose out on points, but I don’t consider this a major loss in value for the Prestige. For one, 40,000 points is still a decent amount of points and is on par with the Platinum Card from American Express. Second, this card is more about the benefits and so the sign-up bonus is more of a secondary benefit.
The drop in bonus points bothers me more because I see it as an indication that Citi is continuing its trend of becoming more restrictive with sign-up offers. The Citi Premier is still without a sign-up bonus, so I don’t think this is a good indicator that the great offers (like the 100,000 ThankYou point offer for the Citi Prestige) will be returning any time soon.
There is still tons of value with the Prestige
Despite these changes, there is still a lot of value to be had with the Citi Prestige. I’ve considered it to be the best benefits credit card and even after the changes, I still think it’s a great benefits card for a lot of people (although the Platinum Card from American Express is definitely a more serious contender now). Here’s a refresher on some of the key benefits of the Prestige in case you’ve forgotten.
The Citi Prestige still offers tremendous Priority Pass access by allowing two guests for free. Compare this with the Amex Platinum which requires the guests to pay $27 each time for lounge access (although guest access is free for Amex Centurion lounges). After the recent changes, this is one of the few benefits that Prestige has over the Platinum Card, especially for people who don’t want to pay additional annual fees for authorized users.
$250 annual airline credit
Despite recent rumors circulating, all indications are that the $250 annual airline credit benefit is still intact. This is one of the most broadly defined airline credits available. You can use it on actual airfare tickets and not just on incidentals like other cards limit you to. The $250 credit essentially offsets the annual fee down to $200, which makes the Prestige a steal in my book.
Also, if you have a Citigold account and/or are able to apply for the Citi Prestige in-branch, you can often get the annual fee reduced to $350, meaning that the annual airline credit essentially knocks down your annual fee to just $100!
4th night free
Despite the new changes, this is probably still the most valuable benefit offered by the Citi Prestige, allowing you to have the 4th night free when you book a hotel through the Citi travel portal. Yes, sometimes the rates in the Citi portal aren’t the best (you should always check) and sometimes there may be issues with obtaining elite credits (although hotels like Hyatt honor your elite nights). Those potential issues aside, if you’re able to put this benefit to use a couple of times a year, you can potentially come out ahead of the annual fee with all things considered.
Don’t forget that you can add an unlimited number of authorized users to your Citi Prestige for $50 each. Authorized users for the Prestige aren’t given the 4th night free, Admirals Club access, or the Global Entry Credit, but they do get the Priority Pass membership, which means they’re getting a $400 benefit for only $50!
Bonus Category Spending
Don’t forget that this card earns 3X on hotels and airfare and 2X on dining and entertainment. It’s rare to have great earning rates on a benefits-based card, so the Prestige still stands out for this reason.
The changes to the Citi Prestige certainly were major news to certain travelers. For those who regularly fly American Airlines, the changes brought a huge loss in value with no Admirals Club access and loss of the 1.6 cents per point redemption option. Also, for those avid golfers who got hundreds of dollars worth of value from the Prestige’s golf benefit, these changes completely eliminated a single perk that alone made the card worth holding on to.
However, if you don’t fall into any of these groups, then this card likely hasn’t lost much value for you and I think it should still be at the top of your list for credit cards that offer travel benefits.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.