I’ve had the Citi Prestige since it was first launched in 2014, and it has been in my wallet ever since thanks to many of the card’s compelling benefits, including a $250 yearly airline credit, 4th night free on paid hotel bookings (which has easily saved my family over $1,000 per year), and arguably the best trip cancellation/interruption coverage on the market.
Personal Experiences with Citi Trip Interruption Protection
What I like about the Citi Prestige’s insurance benefits is that the process is seamless, and they are quick to reimburse. A few years ago, I had an incident where United lost and damaged my double stroller. Since I paid for a portion of the airfare with my Citi Prestige, the coverage reimbursed me $599.94 for the total cost of a new stroller. I’ve had a few instances where I had to cancel a trip, and Citi pulled through and covered the cancellation fees as well.
The Citi Prestige recently changed its trip delay protection from 3 hours to 6 hours for tickets purchased after July 29, 2018 and limited the coverage to just family members.
Just this past summer, my family took a trip to Europe. I redeemed Aeroplan miles for 4 tickets in United business class from Newark to Frankfurt with a layover in Brussels. Even though I used miles for the trip, I paid the nominal taxes and fees associated with the tickets with my Citi Prestige card.
Unfortunately, we had a huge mechanical delay on the outbound flight that resulted in us not only misconnecting, but also arriving into our final destination over 7 hours later. Our delay caused us to have a long 4-hour layover in Brussels without any of our checked bags, so I purchased necessities and snacks for the kids at the airport.
Though the benefit is very generous, allowing reimbursement up to $500 per traveler, I only spent a total of $157.99. After all, this was sort of an experiment for me, and I didn’t want to be SOL.
When I returned home from the trip, I calculated all of the charges made in Brussels during our layover and called to initiate a claim if $157.99. I had to submit over supporting documentation, including the charges as they appeared on my statement, the associated flight booking charges from my statement, and proof of the delay. Within a few days, I saw a statement credit for the full amount of my claim.
Long History of Citi Prestige Changes
Of course, while the Citi Prestige is a staple travel card for me, let’s not forget that the card has devalued plenty since first launching.
Benefits no more include: American Airlines Admirals Club access, elimination of the golf benefit, a change to how the 4th night free hotel benefit is calculated, loss of 1.6x for American Airlines airfare redemptions using ThankYou points, and many downgrades to protection.
Changes to protection include:
- Trip Delay Coverage: Protection now kicks in at a 6 hour delay and limited to just family members when it was previously 3 hours and offered protection to all traveling companions.
- Damage & Theft Purchase Protection: Coverage was previously 120-days and primary (except in New York). Now it’s 90-days and secondary, and with new exclusions.
- Price Rewind: Coverage was previously up to $500 per incident and $2,500 per year. Now it’s $200 per incident and $1,000 per year, and with all new exclusions.
- 90-Day Return Protection: Coverage was previously $500 per item and $2,500 per year. Now it’s capped at $1,500 per year, and with all new exclusions including appliances.
Even with a history of continuous devaluations, I still held on to the card because I find it worth it to continue paying the annual fee each year for the other travel benefits.
More Changes Ahead for 2019
Another round of changes is scheduled to take place beginning January 4, 2019 (and the card will finally be open for new applications again since August 2018).
The revamped Citi Prestige will offer 5x on dining and air travel, 3x on cruise lines, and a broader use of the $250 airline credit, which will cover travel purchases in general. Additionally, the card will offer cellphone protection for damage and theft in May 2019, though there aren’t comprehensive details about this benefit yet.
However, with those positive enhancements, there are certainly some devaluations to add to the list beginning in September 2019:
- The annual fee will be increasing to from $450 to $495 yearly
- The 4th night free hotel benefit will be limited to only twice per calendar year
- Goodbye to 2x on entertainment purchases as it will be replaced with a new earnings rate of 1x
- The 25% bonus for air travel redemptions made directly through the Citi travel portal will be going away.
The rest of the card’s benefits remain unchanged, including 3x on hotel purchases, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit, missed event protection, Priority Pass membership that allows 2 guests, Citi Price Rewind, and the trip cancellation/delay insurance.
What’s a Girl to Do?
Of course I hate devaluations just as much as the next person, but I’m not rushing to close my card just yet. My membership renews in February 2019, so I won’t be slapped with a $495 annual fee until February 2020. Between now and then I’ll be able to collect a total of $500 in travel credits ($250 per calendar year), a value that would exceed what I’d pay in an annual fee.
In terms of the changes and limits to the 4th night free hotel bookings, that obviously stings the most. To add salt to the wound, there’s language in the changes indicating that direct bookings can no longer be made through the Citi Prestige Concierge, which means that the 4th night free bookings would not earn points, allow you to book using specific rates, or allow elite benefits during the stay. This is an absolute deal breaker for me.
The terms specifically state:
Beginning 09/01/2019, cardmembers will be eligible for no more than two complimentary Fourth Night benefits per Card Account per calendar year.
To receive your complimentary Fourth Night, you must 1) book a minimum of a four-consecutive-night hotel stay through thankyou.com and 2) pay for your complete stay with your Citi Prestige Card, a redemption of ThankYou Points, or a combination of ThankYou Points and your Citi Prestige Card.
Booking through the Citi Prestige Concierge (only available through 08/31/19)
The optimistic side of me is grateful that I still have more than 9 months to enjoy the 4th night free benefit as it stands. I will certainly make use of it during that time, while also enjoying 5x on dining and airfare purchases, both which are positive and generous changes that go hand in hand with the regular spending I put on the card anyway.
What are your thoughts about the Citi Prestige and the changes ahead? Will you keep or cancel?