Citi Shakes It Up With Huge Changes to Prestige Card. Will Chase Strike Back?
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5X points on dining and airfare! Higher $495 annual fee! And a huge reduction on the 4th night free on hotel bookings, from unlimited to twice a year. And that’s just to start.
Citi is planning major changes to the Prestige card, with moves seemingly intended to directly compete with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and “so new it’s still steaming” American Express® Gold Card. This is a lot to take in!
Changes will happen throughout 2019, with some as soon as January.
Color me pleasantly surprised!
Is 5X the New Standard for Bonus Categories – and Did Citi Prestige Just Win?
I’ll say it all day: I love kicking back and watching banks fight for a spot in my wallet. Because when banks compete, YOU win.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I looked at 4X dining categories on the AMEX Gold Card and Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, and pondered if 4X was the new benchmark for dining?
As I asked Chase to compete with their Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card cards, I mentioned Citi wasn’t even in the fight any more.
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
That was until we found out about 5X Citi ThankYou points for dining and airfare with Citi Prestige!
So now I must ask: Is 5X the new benchmark for dining and air travel?
Because The Platinum Card® from American Express already earns 5X points on airfare. Now you can choose between 5 AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1, or 5 Citi ThankYou points per $1.
And the AMEX Gold Card earns 4X points on dining at restaurants. So would you rather earn 4X AMEX Membership Rewards points when you dine or 5X Citi ThankYou points?
I hope Chase will respond. But the answer isn’t simple because you have to consider all the other benefits, too.
The Good and the Bad With Citi Prestige Changes
Citi Prestige will keep its Priority Pass membership, $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and price protection.
This version of the Priority Pass allows you to bring 2 guests or immediate family, whereas The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve limit you to 2 guests. Team member Jasmin travels with her 3 kids, and uses Citi Prestige Priority Pass membership the most so she can bring them in lounges.
I love the new 5X bonus categories. And while it sucks they’re removing 2X for entertainment, it’s not a huge loss (I don’t care about 3X points on cruises, so “meh” to that one). You can still earn 4% cash back on entertainment with the Capital One Savor card.
And changing the travel booking value from 1.25 cents per point to 1 cent is regressive. For a premium card with a big annual fee, points should be worth more, not less. I don’t get why they did that. That said, you can still get 1.25 cents per point through the Citi travel portal with the Citi Premier℠ Card.
They’re also cutting the unlimited 4th night free on hotel stays down to twice per year. And increasing the annual fee to $495. But the $250 airfare credit will soon change to a general travel credit, making it more useful. Still not as good as getting a $300 travel credit with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, though.
And earning 5X points on dining and airfare is huge.
I personally only used the 4th night free once or twice per year anyway. Depending where you stay, this perk alone can still totally cover the annual fee. I’m actually surprised it’s lasted this long. But it’s a huge loss if you were using it more than that.
I suppose a $45 hike in the annual fee isn’t so bad. Because I plan to make out like a bandit these new 5X categories!
Why Hello, Stranger! It’s Been a While
Earning 5X points on dining and airfare is enough to make me consider if I’d rather earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points for dining and airfare, or 5X Citi ThankYou points.
Citi’s travel transfer partners aren’t nearly as useful as Chase’s. And transfer aren’t always instant, which is a huge setback.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each toward travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it still doesn’t beat the return on Citi Prestige, even after reducing value to 1 cent each for travel booked through Citi. That’s because you get a 4.5% return with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3X for travel and dining X 1.5), but a 5% return with Citi Prestige (5X for airfare and dining X 1).
But 5X for airfare is a no-brainer, largely because Citi Prestige travel insurance is almost the same as Chase Sapphire Reserve, so you might as well earn more points.
And The Platinum Card® from American Express doesn’t have travel protection at all – something that’s always baffled me. I hardly spend a dime on this card. Not only is it not “top of wallet,” it’s hardly IN my wallet – except when I want to visit the incredible Centurion Lounges, which still makes the AMEX Platinum cards very compelling.
My only hesitation with spending on the Citi Prestige card is the usefulness of the transfer partners, which include:
- Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
- EVA Air
- Etihad Guest
- Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
- Garuda Indonesia
- Jet Airways
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
There are gems on the list, like Flying Blue and Singapore Airlines. Other partners have limited usefulness – I’m thinking Avianca, Etihad, and JetBlue. And some are plain useless (EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways… or is that just me?).
So while I’ll miss British Airways, Hyatt, and Southwest with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, maybe this is an opportunity to find valuable ways to use Citi ThankYou points. Considering how easy it will be to rack up 5 points per $1 spent in popular bonus categories, I’ll have a lot of points to experiment with!
Should You Get the Refreshed Citi Prestige?
There’s a lot to love about this new iteration of Citi Prestige and 5X points for airfare is incredible. It makes me wonder if I should keep my Chase Sapphire Reserve card another year.
I spend a LOT (too much!) on dining and airfare. I wish Citi Prestige would earn 5X on all travel, not just airfare. And now that the $250 annual statement credit covers all travel (not just airfare), it will be easier to use.
The big question is if you’ll get more than $495 in value from this card every year. But consider:
- 5X Citi ThankYou points on dining and airfare (you’ll get at least 5% back every time)
- The best Priority Pass membership with unlimited visits, and you can bring 2 guests or immediate family
- $250 annual travel credit
- 4th night free on a hotel stay twice a year (starting September 2019)
The $250 travel rebate brings the annual fee down to $245. Using the 4th night free 1 time per year can easily cover that. Then other perks, like lounge access and 5X points earning, are gravy. Really good gravy.
I will be dusting off my Citi Prestige card come January 2019. Citi has built a card with valuable benefits that’s also worth spending on, which is awesome. We don’t know what the sign-up bonus will be, but it will open for new applications early next year.
I’ll still use other cards for gas, groceries, and entertainment. My trusty Chase Sapphire Reserve will have to move over, which is something I did NOT see coming.
While I’m not crazy about all of Citi’s travel transfer partners, I see this as a chance to get to know them better. Hopefully they keep adding new ones – that would be incredible!
Your Call, Chase
So now we have:
- 5X points on dining and airfare with Citi Prestige
- 5X points on airfare with The Platinum Card® from American Express
- 4X points on dining at restaurants, and at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1X) with the AMEX Gold Card
- 4% cash back on dining and entertainment with Capital One Savor card
At this point, I’d love to see Chase beef up their dining bonus categories on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (currently 3X) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (currently 2X), or add a dining bonus to the Ink Business Preferred℠ card to be competitive. That’ll help the Ultimate Rewards program stand up to 5X with other cards.
Nice work, Citi! I’m excited about upcoming changes to Citi Prestige, like 5X Citi ThankYou points on dining and airfare and an expanded $250 annual travel credit.
It’s not all great, though. The annual fee is going up to $495, the 4th night free benefit will get cut to 2 uses per year, the 2X entertainment bonus category is going bye-bye, and points for travel will only be worth 1 cent each.
What’s staying the same are the Priority Pass membership, $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and price protection.
5X points on dining is a new industry best. It’s better than 4X earning on the AMEX Gold Card, which was the best earning rate for 2 whole weeks.
Personally, these changes are enough for me to get back into the Citi ThankYou points program and make it my go-to card. I’ve kept the card for years because the perks have always been worth the annual fee. So I’m pleased it will soon be a card I can use for regular spending.
Your turn, Chase!
What do you think of the Citi Prestige updates?
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