The $450 annual fee recently posted on my Citi Prestige Mastercard. We performed our usual review of the benefits of the card compared to the annual fee and made retention calls to Citi.
- We decided to keep the card and pay the $450 annual fee
- Between the $250 annual travel credit and using the card for 4th-night-free hotel stays for a few more months, we can get value from this card that’s significantly greater than the annual fee, this year
- We did not receive any retention offer
- With the upcoming gutting of the 4th-night-free benefit, paired with the loss of 1.25 cent TYP airfare redemptions and the upcoming annual fee increase to $495, there is almost no chance we’ll retain this card when it comes up for renewal again next year
Previous Recent Articles
The Citi Prestige card has undergone some major changes over the past few months, and we’ve written extensively about the card. This includes a full review of the card’s features and benefits in this article from 2 months ago:
- What Do We Think of the New Citi Prestige Card Offer? Honestly, Citi, We Thought You Would Do Better.
In addition, we published 2 other recent in-depth articles about the Citi Prestige card that are definitely of interest if you’re thinking of applying for the card or coming up for renewal:
- Middle Age Miles article 11/11/2018: UPDATED: Our Take on the Upcoming Changes to the Citi Prestige Card (Changes Formally Announced by Citi, Some Questions Answered)
- Middle Age Miles article 1/4/2019: Citi Prestige Changes Are Effective Today – 5x TYP Earning on Air Travel & Restaurants
We won’t repeat the content of these other articles here since we’ve written so much on the subject recently.
I made 2 retention calls to Citi. Frankly, I was expecting a juicy retention offer. Historically, Citi has been good to us, including retention offers the past 2 years on the AT&T Access More card that were absolutely awesome (2x bonus ThankYou Points (TYPs) per dollar on up to $17.5k spend) (see Did I Get an Awesome Retention Offer on My Citi AT&T Access More Card? Why yes. Yes, I did.) In addition, we had about $25k of spend on the Citi Prestige card during the most recent cardholder year – including a decent amount of spend that we placed on this card with the purpose of helping us get a nice retention offer.
Both calls went about the same. My first call was on Friday 3/22/19, and my second was a week later on Friday 3/29. As usual, I said that the annual fee had posted on my statement, that I was on the fence about whether to keep or cancel the card, and that I wondered whether there were any retention offers available to help incentivize me to keep the account open. Each time, the answer was no.
There were some small points of potential interest that came from these calls:
- The agent on my first call asked about product-change possibilities. He didn’t offer any suggestions, but rather asked me if there were any other cards I was interested in. I didn’t pursue this discussion because I knew I wanted to keep the account open. (Although in hindsight, I probably should have at least asked about a few cards to provide you with the data points!)
- The agent on my first call reminded me that I have up to 60 days from the date my annual fee posted to close the account or product change, and receive a full refund of the annual fee.
- The agent on my second call confirmed what I already understood to be the retention process. When a cardholder calls about potentially closing an account, he presses a button on his computer, and it automatically reviews the account for a potential offer. The system simply tells him whether to refer the cardholder to a retention specialist or tell the cardholder that there are no offers.
Keep-or-Cancel Analysis – Short Version
The Citi Prestige is a premium card with many features, but only a few are really relevant to our keep-or-cancel analysis:
$250 Annual Travel Credit – This runs on a calendar year basis. We’ve already used our $250 annual travel credit for 2019. If we pay the fee and keep the card, though, we can pick up another $250 credit in early 2020 before our annual fee posts.
4th-night-free (4NF) Hotel Benefit – As we’ve written about previously, this benefit is being gutted as of 9/1/19 – after that date, 4NF usage is limited to 2 times per year, and reservations will have to be made through the ThankYou portal or a ThankYou phone agent. The latter limitation means we will no longer be able to use discount codes on 4NF stays, and we won’t be able to earn points or elite night credits and won’t receive elite benefits. With those limitations and our travel patterns, as a practical matter 4NF will no longer be useful to us. (People whose travel patterns include 4-night stays at expensive all-inclusive properties that don’t discount may reach a different result here, but that’s a pretty narrow group.)
But right now, and for much of the next year, we expect to be able to recoup several hundred dollars using 4NF reservations made through the Citi Aspire Concierge. We have one 4NF refund in progress from a stay we’ve already made, and we have another 4NF stay booked during April. It’s also highly likely that we’ll have a few more stays during the rest of 2019 where using 4NF will be our best booking strategy.
Between this and the $250 travel credit for 2020, we will easily receive more value from the card in this cardholder year than we’ll pay in the $450 annual fee.
5x TYP earning on Dining & Airfare – 5x TYP earning on dining is best-in-class or close to it (6.25% points rebate, at our baseline value of 1.25 cents per TYP). In the US, we typically use 4x Membership Rewards (MR) earning on our Amex Gold card instead, as we usually squeeze a bit more value out of 4x MR than 5x TYP (despite our baseline value being a bit less for 4x MR, 6.0% versus the 6.25% for 5x TYP). But for international restaurants and at US restaurants that we’re not sure will code correctly on the Amex Gold (generally, restaurants that use Square or Toast processing systems), the Prestige 5x TYP earning is clearly best-in-class and bumps up the value of the Prestige card a bit further.
As for airfare, 5x MR on the personal Amex Platinum card is clearly better than 5x TYP on the Prestige (to us, at least). But, there are situations where the Prestige card’s travel protections are valuable to us, and thus we put a few airline tickets on the Prestige; thus, it’s another slight bump up in the value of the card.
These factors don’t move the needle by a lot, but they are nice-to-haves that also make us feel better about paying the fee to keep the card for another year.
Looking Ahead to Next Year
When our fee hits again in March 2020, it’ll be an increased fee of $495. The 4NF benefit’s remaining value to us will be gone. At that point, we’ll be looking at value of only the $250 annual travel credit plus some modest benefit flowing from 5x TYP earning on Dining and Airfare. Barring a huge retention offer, some really beneficial change in features between now and then, and/or some nuanced play relating to the Citi 24-month rule on new TY-earning card bonuses, the Prestige card looks to be doomed then.
What do you think about keeping, canceling or product changing the Citi Prestige card given the current state of its benefits package? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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