Editors note: This post was originally published on Nov. 4, 2019.
September wasnt a good month for Citi Prestige Card holders. On Sept. 1, Citi devalued the fourth night free benefit, removed the 25% air travel bonus when you book through the ThankYou portal, removed 2x earnings on entertainment and increased the annual fee. Then, on Sept. 22, Citi discontinued almost all shopping and travel protections on the Citi Prestige and other cards. Its no wonder many cardholders are abandoning their Citi Prestige Card when their annual fee comes due.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
But, there are still some compelling aspects to the card. One of the most compelling benefits is 5x earning on purchases in select categories. So, in this guide well consider all of the categories that earn 5 ThankYou points per dollar spent on the Citi Prestige Card. TPGs valuations peg the value of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, which means youll get about a 8.5% return on your spending in these 5x categories.
5x earning categories
The Citi Prestige advertises 5x earning on airfare and dining.
But, if you read the additional information about the card, youll see that you actually earn 5x points on purchases at airlines and travel agencies as well as on purchases at restaurants. To determine how Citi defines these categories for the Citi Prestige Card, I checked out Citi ThankYous help section for earning points. Heres what I found:
- Airlines are defined as businesses that provide air travel.
- Travel agencies are defined as merchants that provide travel information and booking services. Travel aggregators and tour operators are included.
- Restaurants range from fast food restaurants to fine dining establishments. They fall into the restaurant category if they primarily prepare food and drinks for immediate consumption on the premises or takeout. Restaurant merchants include bars, cocktail lounges, nightclubs, taverns and fast food restaurants. However, some merchants that sell food and drink but are located within larger establishments that sell other goods and services may not be included in the restaurant category. Likewise, purchases made at bakeries, caterers and through online dining delivery services are explicitly excluded from the restaurant category.
3x earning categories
While I was reading the Citi ThankYou help section for earning points, I also found the following definitions for the Prestiges 3x earning categories:
- Hotels are defined as businesses that provide sleeping or meeting room accommodations. Some goods and services that appear on a hotel bill are included. Often restaurants in hotels are categorized as a hotel purchase.
- Cruise lines are defined as businesses that provide cruise line travel
So, if you pay for a hotel room or cruise directly with the hotel or cruise line, youll earn 3x points. But, if you pay for a hotel room or cruise though a travel agent, youll earn 5x points. If course, booking through a travel agent may mean that you forfeit elite earnings and benefits, so for some trips it may not be worth the additional points.
Whats the break-even point?
The Citi Prestige provides a $250 travel credit each calendar year, so your effective annual fee drops from $495 to $245 assuming youll spend at least $250 on travel each year. Qualifying Citigold account holders are also eligible for a $145 statement credit each year that can bring their effective annual fee down to $100. However, for the purposes of this article, lets assume you arent an eligible Citigold account holder.
To offset the effective $245 annual fee, lets consider how much youd need to spend in categories that earn 5x points, which all depends on how you plan to use your points. If youll transfer your points to airline partners for award flights, we can use TPGs valuation of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each. At this valuation, youd need to spend $2,883 per year or about $240 per month in categories that earn 5x points to earn $245 worth of Citi ThankYou points.
If you plan to redeem your points toward travel booked through the Citi ThankYou portal, your points will be worth 1 cent each. At this valuation, youd need to spend $4,900 per year or about $409 per month in categories that earn 5x points to earn $245 worth of Citi ThankYou points.
However, these calculations assume that you wouldnt be earning any points or cash back on the Prestiges 5x categories if you didnt have the Citi Prestige Card, which isnt necessarily a fair assumption. If youre considering a different card, here are a few guides to help you compare:
- Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?
- So close, yet so far: Comparing the Platinum Card from American Express and the Citi Prestige Card
- Should Citi Prestige card holders also sign up for Citi Premier?
- Citi Prestige vs. Citi Premier
The Citi Prestiges 5x earning categories are broader than just airfare and dining, which may be news to some cardholders. But, with most of the Citi Prestiges benefits devalued, its a hard sell for many cardholders to continue to see value in this $495 annual fee card. But, if you are a high spender or can get significant value out of the fourth night free benefit which isnt a given, but is possible at mid-tier and luxury hotels it may make sense to keep the Citi Prestige in your wallet.
Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.