An Elegy for Citi Prestige

The time has come for me to cancel the Citi Prestige credit card due to the massive devaluations that Citi decided to wreak upon this card in 2019. The first devaluations announced for 2019 were bad enough– the fourth night free benefit was reduced from being an unlimited benefit to a twice-yearly benefit. Then, this summer, Citi dropped pretty much all of the card’s travel protections, like reimbursement for delayed flights and even the reimbursement for towing a car within ten miles of a repair shop. I honestly don’t know what Citi is thinking with these devaluations. The card will now cost $495 annually, but without many perks beyond Priority Pass and the now-limited fourth night free benefit.

In light of these devaluations, let’s look back on the golden age of the Citi Prestige Card. When I got this card in 2014, the card was almost magical if you were someone who travelled a lot. To start with, the American Airlines Admirals Club airline lounge benefit provided good lounge coverage beyond Priority Pass lounges. Access to Admirals Club was free and easy, and Citi even incentivized the purchase of flights on American Airlines due to discounts within the Citi travel portal. But the coolest benefit was definitely, obviously the fourth night free benefit. You could travel and pay only three fourths of your hotel expenses as long as you stayed four nights in each place. The fourth night free benefit even covered room taxes, originally, so it was a true fourth night free. Amazing. And then there were side perks like a free golf benefit every year, which I didn’t use, but which always sounded like a valuable thing to use if I were a golfer.

Citi began ratcheting down these benefits so that eventually the fourth night free did not cover taxes, and then to today where you can only use the fourth night free twice a year. At that point it becomes useless to me, since the process of booking the benefit has always been time-consuming and having to navigate it only to be able to save two hotel nights a year (while still having to pay room tax) doesn’t scale.

In some ways I’m glad Citi devalued this card to the point that it makes sense not to keep it. Because even though it had great perks at one point, from a points-earning perspective Citi Prestige was never great. ThankYou points can really only be used efficiently through international flights, and points earning wasn’t very quick in the 2015-2016 era. Citi has ramped up the points earning opportunities since then, but in the end you still only have ThankYou points rather than the more flexible Chase or Amex points. So in sum, while I will always remember the magical days of the benefit-laden Citi Prestige card, I’m going to be happy not to have to justify keeping it in my wallet any longer.

Farewell to Citi Prestige and to all the good times and fourth nights we spent together.

A suite at the Boca Chica Acapulco resort where I enjoyed a fully free fourth night free in 2017, thanks to the old Citi Prestige.

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