5X Earning Makes Citi Prestige the Top Card for Airfare and Restaurants

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The first round of major changes to the Citi Prestige card take effect today. Back in October, Citi revealed plans to adjust bonus categories, add cell-phone protection, and change existing benefits like the $250 airfare credit and a 4th night free at hotels.

The updates are scheduled to roll out on three separate dates in 2019, and the overall impact is mixed. However, today’s changes are entirely positive.

Citi Prestige Benefit Changes

New Changes on January 4, 2019

The following bonus categories are improving:

  • Earn 5X points on airfare
  • Earn 5X points on restaurants
  • Earn 3X points on cruise lines

The card will also continue to earn 3X points on hotels. The only planned negative change for bonus categories is the reduction of entertainment purchases from 2X to 1X, but that won’t happen until September, 2019.

AwardWallet has a great tool to help you optimize your spending. You can review transactions for any connected credit card account and see if you’re getting the maximum number points with that merchant.

The other good news today is that the card’s $250 annual credit (which was previously limited to airfare) has expanded to cover all travel purchases. This means the the Citi Prestige card's credit should automatically apply to a much broader list of travel merchants, putting it on more even footing with the $300 travel credit offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Upcoming Benefit Changes

The next benefit to roll out will be the Cell Phone Protection Plan, starting May 1st, which will cover damage or theft of your mobile device when you pay your monthly bill with your card. Full details of the coverage haven’t been published yet, but the benefit is likely to be similar to other cards offering free cell phone insurance.

On September 1, 2019, we’ll see some of the negative changes kick in. The annual fee is increasing from $450 to $495 for existing cardholders on the first anniversary date after September 1st. Those who paid their most recent annual fee in August 2018 or earlier should be able to avoid the fee increase until 2020.

Another significant change is new restrictions on the 4th-night-free benefit. Starting September 1st, Prestige cardholders will be restricted to two bookings per year. Even more problematic, only bookings made through Thankyou.com will be eligible—which means you won’t earn elite benefits for these bookings with many hotel chains.

The final benefit on the chopping block is the 25% bonus when using Citi ThankYou points to purchase airfare through the Citi Travel Portal. This was never a great value compared with transferring ThankYou points to airline partners, but it does eliminate a useful option when award availability is scarce.

Why the Prestige is Back in My Wallet

The enhanced 5X earning on restaurants and airfare is a huge win. With restaurants, the Prestige has moved to the front of the pack, outpacing other cards that earn additional bonus points for dining. The updated American Express® Gold Card is the next best option, earning 4X on dining worldwide (Terms apply).

Although The Platinum Card® from American Express has offered 5X points on airfare since late 2016, the Citi Prestige is my new go-to card for purchasing flights. The reason is the huge advantage the Prestige card offers with travel insurance. The Amex Platinum offers baggage insurance, which only comes in handy if your bags are lost, damaged, or stolen. (Terms apply.)

The Prestige, on the other hand, offers baggage-delay protection that covers up to $500 of expenses if your bags are more than six hours late and trip-delay protection to cover meals, transportation, or a hotel if your flight is delayed by more than six hours.

Our Take

The nine-month delay between the positive changes kicking in today and the negative changes scheduled for September creates an interesting “golden age” for the Prestige card. Current cardholders should consider putting it back in their purses and wallets to take advantage of the new spending categories.

Unfortunately, the card is currently closed to new applicants, but there are rumors that Citi will be relaunching the Prestige Card in early 2019—hopefully with an attractive welcome bonus.

5X Earning Makes Citi Prestige the Top Card for Airfare and Restaurants
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