Full Review of Citi Prestige Credit Card
Generous, flexible travel rewards
Offers premium benefits
Steep annual fee
Most redemption options are ho-hum
- Generous, Flexible Travel Rewards: This card provides 5 Citi points (known as ThankYou points) per dollar on air travel and restaurants, 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Those points can be redeemed at 1 cent per point for travel or gift cards through Citi's ThankYou Travel Center as well as for cash and merchandise at lower redemption rates. They can also be redeemed at the cent-per-point rate to pay Citi mortgages or student loans. When redeeming your rewards for travel, you don't have to worry about blackout dates or award restrictions when you use Citi’s online booking tool. If you want more flexibility—and potentially more value—you can transfer your points to one of Citi’s 16 airline partners, a list that’s mostly made up of international airlines.
- Offers Premium Benefits: As expensive as this card is, the benefits it provides help justify the sting of its annual fee a little. Its extras include:
- A $250 annual travel credit
- A complimentary fourth award night twice a year when booking through Citi
- Complimentary access to Priority Pass airport lounges
- An application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
If you travel regularly, and especially if your vacation plans include long hotel stays, it’s possible to more than justify the annual fee—and that's not even considering the bonus and rewards program.
- Steep Annual Fee: The card's $495 annual fee is enough to give most people pause. Also, both the card's benefits and rewards rates favor cardholders who travel often, so if you don't, you could end up with a gap between the card's cost and its benefits. One thing to note for affluent cardholders: If you're a Citigold banking client, which requires maintaining a balance of $200,000 or more, you’ll receive a $145 statement credit each year, which can further justify the annual fee. For each authorized user, you'll get an additional $25 credit.
- Beyond Travel, Most Redemption Options are Ho-Hum: The cent-per-point redemptions for travel, gift cards, and certain Citi payments aside, points value is at best middling. Exchanged for either cash or a statement credit, points are worth a mere half-cent. They’re worth about eight-tenth of a cent with most other redemption options, including paying your card bill or buying merchandise from Amazon or Best Buy.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
The Citi Prestige is for frequent travelers who aren't intimidated by the prospect of a card with a large annual fee. It's most worth considering, then, if you travel at least monthly and want to do so with your travel habits allow you to maximize the value of the travel credit, free night benefit, and airport lounge access.
Citi Prestige Credit Card Bonus
When you first get the card, you'll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. If you redeem those points for travel, gift cards or student loan or mortgage payments to Citi, they’re worth $500, giving you a 12.5% return on the minimum spending requirement.
Just keep in mind that other redemption options will net you less value, and you could potentially squeeze more value out of your rewards by transferring them to one of Citi's airline partners.
Also, note that compared with other premium credit cards, the value of this card's bonus is a bit low.
Rewards Earning Details
The Citi Prestige credit card offers 5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurants, 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Because the card's bonus categories are mostly geared toward travel, with the exception of restaurants, most people would earn just 1 point per dollar on the majority of their purchases.
The good news is that there's no cap on how much you can earn with any category. So if you do spend a lot on flights, hotels or cruise lines, you could rack up a lot of rewards fast. There is also no expiration date on your points.
Rewards Redemption Details
With Citi ThankYou Rewards, you’ll have several options to redeem your points. Unfortunately, not all of them will give you the industry standard of 1 cent per point in value. Here’s a quick summary of your options and the conversion rates:
- Travel: 1 cent per point
- Gift cards: 1 cent per point
- Student loan or mortgage payments to Citi: 1 cent per point
- Merchandise: 0.83 cents per point
- Shop with points with select retailers: 0.8 cents per point
- Statement credit for select purchases: 0.75 cents per point
- General statement credit: 0.5 cents per point
- Cash back: 1 cent per point
Note that there are two different rates for statement credit redemptions. The higher rate only applies to certain purchase categories, including dining, clothing, department stores, entertainment, utilities, gas, groceries and drugstores.
Instead of redeeming your rewards directly with Citi, you also have the option to transfer them to one of the following frequent flyer programs, all at a 1:1 ratio in 1,000-point increments:
- AeroMexico Club Premier
- Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Etihad Guest
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
- Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Airways Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Because frequent flyer miles don’t have a set value, there’s potential for getting far more than a 1 cent redemption rate if you redeem your ThankYou Rewards points this way.
You can also transfer your points to Shop Your Way at a 1:12 ratio, which you can then use for qualifying in-store and online purchases with Sears and Kmart. Shop Your Way points are worth 0.1 cents each, so you’re effectively getting 1.2 cents worth of Shop Your Way points for every 1 cent worth of ThankYou points you transfer.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Since this card's bonus is relatively generous, be confident before you apply that you can meet the hefty minimum spending required to receive it—which is at least $1,334 a month for the first three months you own the card.
After that, be sure to use the card whenever you’re buying air tickets or eating out, both of which earn 5 points per dollar spent, or staying at hotels or booking a cruise, both of which earn 3 points per dollar.
Most people may not want to deal with the complexity of transferring points to airline partners, especially for international flights. If you’re looking for simplicity over maximizing value, remember that you’ll get the most value (1 cent per point) by redeeming your rewards for travel through Citi, gift cards, or payments on your Citi student loans or mortgage.
If you're feeling a little ambitious, you could transfer your points to JetBlue for free flights. The program may be the simplest option of all the airline transfer partners because it directly offers both domestic and international flights—although the carrier's international footprint is limited.
Based on our research, we value TrueBlue points at 1.3 cents apiece, which provides you with a third more value than if you were to use your points to book a flight through Citi.
If you're savvy with travel rewards or want to be, transferring your points to one of the program’s international airline partners is another good bet. The only drawback is that you may need to spend a lot of time researching routes and itineraries to find the best redemption rate.
Citi Prestige Credit Card's Outstanding Benefits
- $250 annual travel credit: The credit applies to all eligible travel purchases automatically. That includes airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies, travel aggregators, tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis, limousines, car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots, garages, and bus lines.
- Complimentary fourth night stay: When you use your card to book at least four consecutive nights in a hotel through Citi, you’ll get the fourth night free. The benefit comes in the form of a statement credit based on the average nightly rate and doesn't include taxes and fees. Also, you're limited to two free nights each year.
- Complimentary airport lounge access: You'll have complimentary access to more than 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide, and can bring two guests and immediate family members for free. All other guests will be charged $27 per person.
- Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: You'll get a statement credit every five years for your application fee for either program. The fee is $100 for Global Entry and $85 for TSA PreCheck.
- Cell phone protection: If you use the card to pay your phone bill, you’ll get up to $1,000 per claim if your cell phone is damaged or stolen. The benefit applies to up to five phones on your bill but limits the value to $1,500 per 12-month period.
- Trip protections: The card offers various travel insurance benefits that don’t come standard with most travel credit cards. Examples include medical evacuation coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay protection and lost luggage protection.
- Worldwide rental car insurance
- Roadside assistance
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty coverage
- Return protection
Citi ranks sixth among national credit card issuers in the J.D. Power 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study, with an overall rating that’s slightly below the average.
The bank provides cardholders with complimentary FICO score access, which is standard among most major card issuers and is helpful for credit monitoring.
Citi's customer service team is available by phone 24/7, which is typical for the credit card industry. But unlike with many national card issuers, you can also chat with someone through your online account. You can manage your account online or through Citi’s mobile app.
If you misplace your card or it's been stolen, you can lock the account through the Citi mobile app. If you end up finding it, you can unlock it and start using it immediately. Although many other major credit card issuers offer this feature, it’s not a guarantee.
The Citi Prestige credit card is also a contactless credit card, which means you can just tap your card to a contactless card reader instead of swiping or inserting it. The process is faster than using the card's chip but just as secure. Contactless credit cards are becoming more common, but it’s not a given with every card issuer.
Fees to Watch Out For
Other than the card's high annual fee, which is typical for premium credit cards but not for travel cards as a whole, the card's fees are mostly on par with other travel credit cards. Be sure to note the annual fee for authorized users as well, in case you're thinking of adding anyone to your account.
The Citi Prestige credit card packs a punch with its rewards program and travel benefits, but most people are unlikely to travel enough to rationalize the card's annual fee. True, you can justify half of its $495 fee back in the form of annual travel credit of $250. But you’d need to spend another $5,000 a year on flights or dining out to justify the remaining amount of the fee in terms of value, or about $8,500 on hotels and cruises.
If you are that kind of traveler, or perhaps foodie, you'll get a host of luxe extras with this card, from free airport lounges to credits against the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck status to help speed you through security lines. But such perks are the norm with premium travel cards like this one, take some time to compare it to such competitors as the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
If top-flight perks are not a priority for you, consider travel credit cards with more moderate annual fees, many of which still provide such niceties as security-program credits.
Should you choose the Citi Prestige nonetheless, consider pairing it with another card that offers a better rate on everyday purchases than its rate, of 1-cent-per-dollar earned. It's fairly easy to find cards that pay 1.5% in cash back, and sometimes more, on all purchases, and some may also offer different categories with higher rewards than those with the Citi Prestige. And you of course have more flexibility with what you do with cash than you do with earned points.