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Middle Age Miles

Citi Prestige Changes Are Effective Today – 5x TYP Earning on Air Travel & Restaurants

Citi Prestige Mastercard

Today is a big day for holders of the Citi Prestige card. Increased ThankYou Points (TYP) earning goes into effect on several bonus categories, and the annual $250 travel credit is expanded. In this article, we’ll remind you of the positive changes that go into effect today, and also catch you up on other updates and future changes that impact the Citi Prestige card.

Citi also has a good landing page summarizing the current and upcoming changes to the Prestige card – Citi Prestige Card Benefits, Redesigned

Citi Prestige Changes Effective Today (1/4/2019)

The primary changes to the Citi Prestige effective today are:

  • Increased point-earning potential. As of today, the Citi Prestige earns TYPs and has bonus categories as follows (we also include the effective percentage of rebate, using our baseline value of 1.25 cents per TYP):
    • 5x on air travel (new) – (6.25%)
    • 5x on restaurants (new) – (6.25%)
    • 3x on cruise lines (new) – (3.75%)
    • 3x on hotels – (3.75%)
    • 2x on entertainment (through 8/31/19) – (2.50%)
    • 1x on all other purchases – (1.25%)
  • Expanded $250 annual travel credit
    • Previously available only for air fare, the $250 travel credit is now available for a much larger range of travel purchases, including:
      • Air fare
      • Hotels
      • Car rentals
      • Travel agencies & tour operators
      • Commuter transportation, including ferries, railways & subways
      • Taxis, limousines & car services
      • Passenger railways & bus lines
      • Cruise lines
      • Parking
      • Tolls

Thoughts on the New Bonus Categories

In a sense, the new bonus categories are great. Who can complain about 5x points earning on air travel and restaurants, right? But let’s take a closer look:

On air travel, we can also earn 5x Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points by using our personal Platinum card. At 1.5 cents per MR point, using the Amex Platinum card returns 7.5%, which beats 6.25% on the Prestige.

But … (1) the Prestige comes with travel delay coverage whereas the Amex Platinum does not; and (2) if you use your TYPs and MRs by transferring them to airline partners (rather than by booking “paid” flights through the Citi & Amex travel portals, as we most often do), you may value TYPs and MRs equally.

For us, we’ll probably strike the balance by using our Amex Platinum card for domestic non-stop travel and the Citi Prestige card for any connecting and/or international flights.

On US restaurants, do 5x TYPs (6.25%) beat 4x MR points (6.0%) on our Amex Gold card? Probably so for most people, especially considering that there have been some issues with restaurant purchases on the Amex Gold not always coding at 4x (we are considering a future article about this). However, for us, we are currently earning more like 1.7 cents per MR point for “paid” flights (given that we hold both the personal (5x on airfare) and business (35% pay-with-points rebate) versions of the Amex Platinum cards). Using that value for MR points, 4x on the Amex Gold comes out to 6.8%, beating 5x on the Citi Prestige at 6.25%.

For international restaurants, 5x TYPs with no foreign transaction fees (6.25%) becomes best-in-class, beating out the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x UR points; 4.5%).

We don’t have any cruise line travel in our plans, but if we did, the Sapphire Reserve (3x UR; 4.5%) would beat the Prestige (3x TYP; 3.75%).

Same with hotels – the Sapphire Reserve (3x UR; 4.5%) beats out the Prestige (3x TYP; 3.75%).

And the Prestige doesn’t beat out the Amex Blue Business Plus (2x MR; 3.0%) for unbonused purchases (1x TYP, 1.25% on the Prestige) or for Entertainment domestically (2x TYP; 2.5%). Perhaps there’s a narrow best-in-class category for the Prestige for international Entertainment, since the Blue Business Plus card has foreign transaction fees.

Reminders about Citi TYPs

The two most valuable redemptions for Citi TYPs are (1) transfer TYPs to one of Citi’s airline partners; or (2) redeem TYPs for air travel by purchasing tickets through the ThankYou travel portal at 1.25 cents per TYP.

TYPs transfer to Citi’s airline transfer partners at a 1:1 rate, and transfers must be in increments of 1,000 TYPs. The exception is JetBlue, which has a transfer ratio of 1,000 TYPs to 800 TrueBlue points.

Citi’s airline transfer partners are:

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific / Cathay Dragon)
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air
  • Flying Blue (Air France & KLM)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (1,000 TYPs to 800 TrueBlue points)
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas
  • Qatar
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

From now through August 31, 2019, your Citi Prestige card will continue to allow you to redeem TYPs for air travel at 1.25 cents per TYP when booked through the ThankYou travel portal. Beginning 9/1/2019, however, you will only be able to redeem TYPs for 1 cent per TYP, for all travel purchases, including air travel.

However, for now, holders of the Citi Premier card continue to have the ability to redeem TYPs for air travel at 1.25 cents per TYP through the ThankYou portal. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this benefit will remain intact for holders of the Premier card.

Upcoming News and Changes to the Citi Prestige Card

New Applications – We had hoped that Citi would re-open the Prestige card for new applications today. However, we’ve learned that Citi does not intend to re-open the Prestige for new applications until sometime later this month. [Hat Tip to The Points Guy for this information.]

Cell Phone Protection – On May 1, 2019, the Prestige is introducing cell phone protection – “support for damage or theft of a cellular phone when you pay your monthly cellular bill with your card”. Citi has not provided further details about cell phone protection at this time.

Additional Changes on September 1, 2019 – There are several negative changes to the Prestige that go into effect on September 1, 2019:

  • 4th-night-free hotel bookings will be limited to 2 times per calendar year
    • Only bookings made on or after 9/1/2019 will count toward the 2019 cap
  • 4th-night-free hotel bookings will only be able to be made through the online ThankYou travel portal or by calling ThankYou at 1-800-ThankYou
  • The annual fee will increase to $495
    • And Citi Priority account holders will no longer receive a discounted annual fee
  • And as previously mentioned:
    • The Citi Prestige will no longer allow TYPs to be redeemed for 1.25 cents per TYP for air travel (although people who also hold the Citi Premier card may continue to receive this benefit); rather, the redemption rate will drop to 1 cent per TYP for all travel purchases through the ThankYou portal
    • The bonus category for Entertainment will go away, so that Entertainment purchases will only earn 1x TYP rather than 2x
Last year, Middle Age Miles used the 4th night free benefit at the Covo Dei Saraceni, Positano (Amalfi Coast), Italy – and the view from our balcony was much better when it was sunny!

More on the 4th-Night-Free Changes – The new Citi landing page contains very specific terms that make it clear that cardholders can no longer make 4th-night-free hotel reservations through the Aspire Concierge after 8/31/2019. From 9/1/2019 forward, reservations can only be made through the ThankYou program (online or by calling). This is a huge devaluation and may render the 4th-night-free benefit almost useless as a practical matter. Currently, booking through the Aspire Concierge allows cardholders to obtain many discounted rates, and reservations made through the Aspire Concierge remain eligible for all elite benefits and stay/night credits. Conversely, ThankYou bookings must be made at the Citi-provided rate (usually higher than what we can otherwise get, and sometimes significantly so), and they are not eligible for elite benefits or stay/night credits. This is a wicked change and may very well move the Prestige from our “obvious keep” bucket to the “cancel-for-sure” bucket.

What do you think of the changes to the Prestige card? How will you use the new bonus categories? What other strategies do you have with respect to the Prestige? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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