A New Strategy for Family Airport Lounge Access (Sadly, It Involves Ditching My Favorite Chase Card)

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When Citi recently announced changes (both good and bad) coming to the Citi Prestige, I wasn’t super thrilled with the annual fee increase.  But I planned to keep the card because its airport lounge access, which includes 2 guests or immediate family (spouse / domestic partner and children under 18), would stay intact.

See, I usually travel with my 3 kids.  And other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express, come with Priority Pass Select airport lounge memberships that limit visits to yourself and 2 guests – whether they’re family or not.  That’s a no-go for us.

But now I’m re-thinking my decision to hang on to the Citi Prestige and considering a different strategy.  And it involves – I can’t believe I’m actually uttering these wordsgetting rid of my beloved Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Having a Lounge Membership That Includes All 3 of My Kids Is Essential for Our Family

Don’t worry, there’s a method to my madness.  I’ll explain!

Why I’m Considering Shifting My Airport Lounge Access Strategy

Link:   The Best Credit Cards With Airport Lounge Access

Link:   Citi Prestige Changes

Getting to enjoy free food, drinks, Wi-Fi, and a quiet place to relax has made my family’s travels much more comfortable.  We’ve saved hundreds on expensive airport meals and had an overall more civilized experience thanks to having a card with airport lounge access – in our case, the Citi Prestige (which will be available to new applicants again in January 2019).

But now the Citi Prestige is getting an overhaul.  There are good changes, like improved 5X points earning on dining and airfare, expansion of the annual $250 credit to include all travel purchases (formerly just airfare), and the addition of cell phone insurance.  Team member Harlan shared why these positive tweaks will have him moving the Citi Prestige to the top of his wallet.

Here’s Harlan Enjoying Himself in Portland With His Priority Pass Select Airport Lounge Membership

That said, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  The annual fee is going up to $495 from $450, you’ll no longer be able to redeem Citi ThankYou points for 1.25 cents apiece through the Citi Travel portal, and 4th night free bookings are being throttled back to twice a year and limited to Citi ThankYou portal bookings, which don’t earn hotel points, elite credits, or elite status recognition (in most cases).  My colleague Joseph detailed why these changes are enough to make the card not worth it for him anymore.

My first reaction to the changes was that I’d keep the Citi Prestige, primarily for the ability to take the whole family into lounges.  But the steeper new annual fee is hard to swallow, and I probably won’t get as much use out of the 4th night free perk going forward.  So I’ve come up with a workaround that will save money and still get my family the same benefits.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Is the Answer to My Airport Lounge Conundrum

Apply Here:   Chase Sapphire Reserve

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Right now I’m not eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve because I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  And you can only have one Sapphire card at a time.

I’ve held the Chase Sapphire Preferred for ~6 years – it’s still the #1 card I recommend to friends and family starting out with miles and points.  And I’ve happily paid the $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year) over and over because of its excellent Chase Ultimate Rewards points earning and benefits.

But for my strategy to go forward, I’ll have to downgrade (preferable so I can keep the credit history) or cancel the Chase Sapphire Preferred, wait a couple of months, then apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  I’m eligible for the bonus on the Sapphire Reserve, too, because it’s been more than 48 months since I earned the bonus on the Sapphire Preferred and I’m below 5/24.

You’re probably thinking – wait – the Sapphire Reserve comes with Priority Pass Select airport lounge access that only covers 2 guests – how’s that gonna work with 3 kids?

The solution – and my daughter will likely squeal with glee at this – I’ll add her as an authorized user to the Sapphire Reserve.  It costs $75 a year and comes with its own Priority Pass Select membership, complete with 2 guests.  Between the 2 of us, we’d be able to take 6 people total into airport lounges – more than enough for our family.

And by cancelling the Prestige and making this change, I’ll actually save money.  Here’s why:

Card NameAnnual FeeLess Travel CreditAuthorized User FeeNet Cost
Citi Prestige Card$450 / $495 starting September 2019$250N/A$200 / $245 starting September 2019
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card$95N/AN/A$95
TOTAL Net Cost to Keep Both Cards$295 / $340 starting September 2019
VS
Chase Sapphire Reserve$450$300$75$225 ($450-$300, plus $75 for authorized user)
Savings per Year$70 / $115 starting September 2019

So by getting rid of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige in favor of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I’ll get a net savings of $70 per year ($115 starting September 2019 when the Prestige annual fee goes up).

Plus, I’ll earn a new bonus from the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  It’s currently 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.  And the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on travel and dining, compared to 2X in the same categories with the Sapphire Preferred.

Of course, before I downgrade or cancel my Sapphire Preferred, I’ll move my points to my new Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.  I was recently approved for the Ink Business Preferred and am currently just waiting for the welcome bonus (80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months) to post to my account.

Bottom Line

After big changes to the Citi Prestige were announced, I fully intended to keep the card despite the increased annual fee and devaluation of some benefits.  That’s because it comes with airport lounge membership which includes unlimited immediate family (spouse / domestic partner and children under 18) as guests.  Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer memberships with a limit of 2 guests.

But after running some numbers, I realized I could get a better deal on airport lounge access for the whole family by rearranging my card lineup.  I’ll cancel the Prestige, downgrade (or cancel) my trusty old Chase Sapphire Preferred, and replace both with the Sapphire Reserve.

Then by adding my daughter as an authorized user on the Sapphire Reserve, she’ll get her own Priority Pass airport lounge membership with 2 guests.  We’ll be able to get a total of 6 people into the lounge when we travel as a family.

My net savings after all this will be $70 per year ($115 after the Citi Prestige annual fee increase), and that’s including the additional authorized user expense.  And I’ll earn a hefty bonus and more points on travel and dining with the Sapphire Reserve, too.

What about you?  Have you reconsidered your airport lounge strategy given the news about the Citi Prestige?  Or do you have a different workaround for traveling as a larger group?  Please let me know in the comments below!

Jasmin Baron is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Momof2
8 months ago

Thanks for this article! We’ve been floating by on the 12 and under free rule as my son is 11, but The Club just changed that too 2 and under, so I have been looking for new strategies and coming up empty until here! Thanks for all the great options .

Tex
1 year ago

“Having a Lounge Membership … Is Essential”

Talchinsky
1 year ago

And it just hit me – adding your daughter, not your spouse, so that it doesn’t affect his 5/24 status…? Genius! Is there no minimum age for AU?

Talchinsky
Reply to  Jasmin
1 year ago

Sorry for presuming!

Talchinsky
1 year ago

What if you don’t get approved for CSR!? Will you keep Prestige as back up until you have it locked in?

Beef
1 year ago

Kids under 12 are free with your priority pass. It looks like at least 1 of your kids (if not more) fit that bill.

Ed
1 year ago

Priority Pass is available on both Platinum Amex and Sapphire Reserve and both allows 2 guests. I wonder if you can use both for 4 guests?? Anyone ever tried it?

Ajay
1 year ago

Jasmin,

You might want to check the math in your chart, about the post-September 2019 Net Cost of holding the Citi Prestige card. It should be $245.

Bean Counter
1 year ago

I’ve been pondering how to proceed with family lounge access after the Citi Prestige changes. The simple calculation in this post is enlightening! I’m going to wait until the end of the year to review my annual category spending and see if I should keep my Citi Prestige or apply for a CSR plus an authorized user. Then again, I might see my annual fee stay at the old rate because it should be due before the change takes place. In that case I can postpone my decision for another year.

Miguel
1 year ago

Wow. Very impressive. I just got my Sapphire prefer but will definitely be working towards doing this trick next year. Rack the 50000 bonus then switch to the reserve

Henry
1 year ago

I sort of use the lounge to get away from lots of kids running around.

G
Reply to  Henry
1 year ago

The only place you’re entitled to ‘scape’ kids is in the comfort of your own home. You can lounge around there.

G
Reply to  G
1 year ago

*escape

Paul B
1 year ago

My family has either 2, 3, 4 or 6 people traveling 3 to 4 times a year. I am going to get the Hilton Asend CC because it comes with 10 Priority Pass vouchers each year. The cost is only $95.00. Only $20.00 more than the CSR AU fee of $75.00 and I will pick up 125,000 points during the first year. The 10 vouchers should meet my family’s needs

Paul B
Reply to  Jasmin
1 year ago

I fully intended to get the Ascend CC in my wife’s name so she can enter PP lounges when she is not with me.