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Credit Card Review: Citi Prestige Card

Author: Christopher Taylor

If you're willing to spend money on luxury, the Citi Prestige credit card might be right for you. This high-end credit card doesn't skimp on perks, but has a hefty annual fee. Read on to learn more about this card, its rewards program and its other perks.

The Card

The Citi Prestige card awards 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after you spend $3,000 within three months of opening an account, as long as you haven't had a Citi Prestige card in the last 18 months. These points are worth an impressive $800 in airfare on American Airlines or US Airways, $665 on any other airline or $500 in gift cards. This card has a whopping $450 annual fee, though, and it's not waived the first year, so you'll want to figure out if it's worthwhile. (Learn more about earning cash back in Maximize Your Rewards With A Few Credit Cards.)

Besides the sign-on bonus, what are this card's ongoing benefits? You'll get 3 points per $1 spent on airfare and hotels, 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment – that includes live sporting events, live theatrical productions, movie theaters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, record stores and video rental stores – and 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases. You can earn unlimited points, and points don't expire. There are perks such as extended warranty coverage for purchases made with your Prestige card, worldwide car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption protection and more. The card has no foreign transaction fees on purchases, and its EMV chip means you'll actually be able to use your card abroad. So far, it sounds a lot like the much less expensive Citi Premier card.

Fancypants Perks

Here's where things get interesting. With the Prestige card, if you spend four consecutive nights in any hotel of your choosing, Citi will pick up the fifth night by reimbursing you with a statement credit. There are no black-out dates, but you have to book your reservation through the MasterCard Airport Concierge designated travel advisor, which is currently Carlson Wagonlit Travel. You can use this benefit repeatedly; it's not limited to once per year.

If you charge plane tickets, bag fees and other air-travel related expenses, such as baggage fees, to your card, you can get a $250 annual credit for those expenses that will post to your account within one to two billing cycles. You'll also get a $100 credit toward the Global Entry application fee the first year you pay the fee and every five years thereafter if you decide to renew your Global Entry membership. (For more, read Choosing A Trusted Traveler Program.)

If you like airport lounges, you'll be glad to know this card gives you free access to American Airlines lounges and other VIP lounges through Priority Pass Select, a membership program with more than 700 lounges, in 400 cities, in 120 countries. The Priority Pass Select perk lets you take up to two guests and/or immediate family members with you; additional guests cost $27 each. You can use it regardless of what airline you're flying. Without Citi Prestige, you'd pay a $99 annual fee for "standard membership" in this program, plus $27 per person per visit.

If you're flying American or American Eagle, Citi Prestige lets you take advantage of Admirals Club access. Your immediate family or up to two guests who are traveling with you can join you in the Admirals Club at no cost. Just show your Citi Prestige card, your ID and your stand-by ticket or boarding pass. This perk will only be valuable if you fly American regularly and the airports you use have Admirals Club lounges (click here to see if they do). Included with club access are WiFi, personal computer use, coffee, alcoholic beverages, snacks, power outlets, work areas and, in some locations, showers and children's play areas. The cash value of this perk depends on your AAdvantage status, but if you're a new member with no special status, the annual fee is normally $500; a day pass is normally $50. Caveat: This card does not grant you access to the lounge clubs of other airlines that have a relationship with American, such as US Airways.

Then there are the high-end services associated with this card. The Citi Prestige Global Concierge will help you with travel bookings, restaurant reservations and many other tasks. There may be additional fees, depending on the level of service you require. There's also a dedicated airport concierge service to meet you when you arrive at your destination and carry your luggage It sounds great, but it's not free. It's also not unique to the Citi Prestige card; it's a MasterCard perk.

What the card gets you is a 15% discount on the regular price of this service. The cost depends on the airport and number of travelers in your party. A sample quote for meet-and-assist arrival service and a porter for one traveler with one bag at New York's JFK airport was $307.92 before the discount. (Plus you'll need to tip.) Assuming a standard tip of 15% to 20%, this perk costs as much as some economy airline tickets. The 15% discount is probably not enough of an incentive to start paying extra for airport concierge service, but it's a nice perk if you already use it – or if you decide that the convenience is worth the cost.

Finally, if you have a Citigold, Global Client or Private Bank account with Citi, your Prestige card will make you eligible for a relationship bonus worth 15% of your Citi Prestige purchases in the first two categories and 25% for private banking clients. This could be a valuable reward, but there are a lot of variables to consider. What fees will you pay on these bank accounts? What interest rates will you earn? How do the fees and interest rates compare with what you'd experience at another bank? Will you spend enough on your Prestige card for the 15% or 25% bonus to be high enough to make it worthwhile to have one of these bank accounts? There's a lot of math involved here – it's way behind the scope of this article, but you might want to run the numbers for your own situation.

What Your Points Are Worth

Many Citi credit cards offer ThankYou points, but the redemption value of those points depends on which card(s) you have. The Prestige card gets you a higher redemption value – not just from the ThankYou points you earn with your Prestige card, but from the ThankYou points you earn with any other Citi card attached to the same ThankYou points account. Most notably, one ThankYou point is worth 1.6 cents on American Airlines and US Airways and 1.33 cents on other airlines when you redeem your points through the ThankYou travel center. That's why this card's 50,000 point sign-up bonus can get you $800 in airfare on American or $665 in airfare on any other airline. Plus, there are no blackout dates. You can also combine ThankYou points and cash to get a reward ticket, which makes it easy to redeem all of your points.

You can also redeem points for gift cards: 5,000 points will get you a $50 gift card, and 10,000 points will get you a $100 gift card. You can also transfer your points to a few airline and hotel loyalty programs, such as Hilton HHonors, Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic, at a rate of 1 to 1 or better with a 1,000 point minimum, in 1,000 point increments. You won't find other hotel brands or domestic frequent flier programs like Southwest, American or United, however. Other options include statement credits, using points to pay at Amazon or cash – but you'll get more bang for your buck when you redeem for airfare or gift cards.

The Fine Print

The usual credit card details seem almost beside the point for a card with this many bells and whistles, but here they are. The Citi Prestige card does not have a special introductory interest rate. The APR is 15.24% variable, based on the prime rate. You can find better deals elsewhere for balance transfers; this card charges 15.24% for transfers within two months of opening your account and an unknown rate thereafter, plus there's a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee, whichever is higher. (For related reading, see Top Credit Cards For Making Balance Transfers and Alternatives To Balance Transfers.)

If you take out a cash advance with this card (or any credit card), it will cost you. The APR is 25.24% variable and the transaction fee is $10 or 5% of the amount advanced, whichever is greater. Cash advances and balance transfers don't earn ThankYou points, but even if they did, you'd never come out ahead. To avoid the up to 29.99% penalty APR, don't make a late payment.

Adding an authorized user could help you meet the minimum spending requirements for the sign-up bonus and earn more points overall, but you'll have to overcome the annual fee of $50 per authorized user before you'll gain anything.

The Bottom Line

Anyone can come out ahead on the Citi Prestige card's annual fee for the first year thanks to the large sign-up bonus, but $450 is a high hurdle to clear in subsequent years. If you often stay five consecutive nights or more in hotels, the free-hotel-night perk alone could make this card worthwhile. Otherwise, the $250 annual airfare credit gets you a little more than halfway there; you'll then have to get another $200 in value from the card's perks just to break even. That means you'll need to be a frequent traveler – ideally on American Airlines or US Airways since you'll get the most value for your points there – and someone who spends plenty of time in airport lounges.

If you crave luxury, the Citi Prestige card can help you access high-end experiences with less research, less hassle and greater frequency. There are, however, less expensive credit cards, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred, that also let you enjoy luxurious experiences like hotel room and flight upgrades. The average consumer will probably find these and other rewards cards more worthwhile. You should also compare it to the American Express Platinum card (see Using Platinum AmEx Benefits), which has the same annual fee. For more on this subject, see Credit Cards: Should You Ever Pay An Annual Fee? and Credit Cards That Will Get You First Class Flights.

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