Using the Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit

I’ve recently become a big fan of the Citi Prestige card (see “Citi Prestige vs Premier vs Preferred”).  It may even be the single best travel rewards card currently available, but I’ll defer that topic to a future post.  Today I’ll simply describe my experience with the Prestige card’s 4th night free hotel benefit.  How good is that benefit?

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About the Prestige 4th night free benefit

The benefit is pretty simple:

  • Call the number on the back of your Prestige card to make the hotel booking
  • Book at least 4 nights
  • Pay for the entire stay with your Prestige card
  • Citi will reimburse the full cost of the fourth night

Citi advertises the benefit as follows:

Extend your trip with a complimentary night at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive-night booking. There’s no limit to the number of times you can use this benefit, so go ahead and stay a little bit longer.2

And here are the footer details:

International Complimentary Night Hotels and Resorts Program TERMS AND CONDITIONS
You will enjoy a complimentary fourth night with no black-out dates, when you book four consecutive nights at any hotel booked by a personal travel advisor designated by MasterCard Airport Concierge(the “designated travel advisor” is Carlson Wagonlit Travel). Bookings made through other methods such as travel agents, websites or directly with a hotel will not qualify. Please view the full Terms and Conditions of the program at the Citi Prestige Card Terms and Conditions.

When to use the benefit

Anytime you’re planning a four night hotel stay, it makes sense to at least consider this option since it can mean a 25% or greater discount

First, though, consider a few downsides:

  • You cannot use points to pay for your stay.
  • You cannot make use of other discounts such as discounted hotel gift cards, online travel agency discounts, etc.
  • You cannot earn portal rewards for the booking.
  • You cannot pay with a credit card that might offer better rewards for your stay (although the Prestige card offers 3 points per dollar at hotels, so that’s pretty darn good!).
  • The booking process is a bit cumbersome.

If you’re planning a stay that is more than 4 nights, you could mix and match:

  • Book four nights with this benefit
  • Book the rest of the stay with whatever other method saves you the most money or results in the most rewards.
  • If the hotel has different rates for different nights, then try to pick the four nights that will result in the highest price night being the fourth night.  For example, suppose the hotel you’re interested in raises prices on the weekend.  In that case, an ideal booking would start on Tuesday so that the fourth night (which will be reimbursed) would incur the Friday night rate.

My experience so far

I happen to have an upcoming four night trip to the Orlando area.  I’ve enjoyed staying at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on several recent occasions and so I decided to stay there again. 

I could have used points for the stay, but the cash price wasn’t too bad.  Plus, I had an expiring suite upgrade award I wanted to apply, and those require a cash (or points & cash) stay.  Mostly, though, I just wanted to try out the Prestige card’s fourth night free benefit.

To book the stay, I called the number on the back of my Prestige card.  I had to suffer through several minutes phone menu options, voice recognition misunderstandings, and current balance information before I was able to speak to a human.  When I told the representative what I wanted, she said that she would transfer me to the Concierge.  I asked if there was a way for me to get directly to the Concierge in the future, but she said that the path I took was the only option.  Sigh.

I then talked with the Concierge who had to conference in a travel agent to make the booking.  This is definitely not the most efficient booking process in the world.

The travel agent had no problem finding the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.  At first, though, she quoted a higher rate than I had seen online.  It took a bit of back and forth before we figured out the problem: Since my son is 15, she believed that he would be considered an adult, and so she entered 3 adults into the search request.  While many hotels may consider a 15 year old to be an adult, this particular Hyatt does not.  When she switched the reservation to two adults and one child (15 years old), the rate dropped to the expected amount.

Before completing the booking, I confirmed that the reservation was cancelable.  It was.  Unfortunately, I was told that cancelling would require going through the phone gauntlet again.  I’m not convinced that that is true, though. My bet is that if I cancelled directly with Hyatt, I would get back my deposit and it would be done.  Still, if I need to cancel I’ll play it safe and call.

After making the booking, several hours elapsed before I received email confirmation.  I realized that I had forgotten to add my Hyatt Gold Passport number to the reservation so I logged into my Hyatt account with the intention of finding a way to add in this new reservation.  Somehow, magically, the reservation was already tied to my account.  I suppose Hyatt had automatically matched the reservation to my name and address on file.

With the reservation now booked, I called the Hyatt Diamond desk to apply my suite upgrade.  With no fuss at all, it was done.

My savings: far less than 25%

On the surface, it looks like I’ll save 25% on this hotel booking.  In reality, though, I would have saved quite a bit had I booked the hotel online.  Here’s what I would have done:

  • Book through TopCashBack for 3% cash back
  • Buy Hyatt gift cards at 10% off (via my MilePoint Premium membership)
  • Pay for the gift cards with an Amex business card which automatically earns 5% cash back at Hyatt hotels through the Amex OPEN Savings program.
  • Pay for the room upon check-out with the gift cards

My total savings would have been:

  • 14.5% savings from buying gift cards
  • 3% savings from TopCashBack
  • Total: 17.5% savings

I did better with the Prestige card, but not by a large margin.  With the Prestige card’s 4th night free benefit I stand to save only 7.5% more than I would have saved anyway.

Conclusion

While the phone booking process I endured was far from streamlined, it wasn’t horrible.  Plus, I was happy that the travel agency (Carlson Wagonlit Travel) was able to find the same rate that I had found online.  In most circumstances, when booking a four night stay, people will get a 25% discount from this benefit.  That’s good, but it’s not an amazing discount.  And, in many cases, using this benefit means forgoing other discounts (as in my example above), so your true savings are likely to be considerably less than 25%.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. It may be true that the savings are not quite as good as they seem but you have to jump through a less hoops to get those savings which are still greater than the other method you outlined.

    • True, but sometimes there are simpler discount solutions. For example, I often get an email from travelocity with a code for 10 to 15% off hotels. In those cases, I also go through a portal to Travelocity to make the booking so that I save money and earn portal rewards. The 25% off deal is better, but not by a huge margin.

  2. I was reading through the T&C is this for ANY hotel booked through them? In other words there is not some select list of hotels that you are typically limited to with such programs? I thought it was but I cannot find it.

        • Yep. I went rounds with “concierges” (aka Prestige) and the “travel experts” (aka Carlson Wagonlit). They told me yes, no, and things in between but I did finally get a definitive answer that they’ll book a AAA rate but I won’t get the 4th night free.

          Now, I went ahead and booked a AAA night just to test it, but it takes awhile to see the credit from Prestige so I can’t confirm absolutely that it won’t be credited. But they definitely confirmed for me eventually (twice actually) that it’s not supposed to be credited.

        • By the way, I just checked – despite telling me I wouldn’t receive the rebate for my AAA stay, four weeks later there it was in my account. 🙂 Me so happy!

  3. You used a major chain hotel, for which significant discounts exist. There are thousands of independent hotels that don’t offer discounted gift cards or other non-travel agent discounts.

    My suspicion is that had you booked, for example, the Fontainebleau Miami, you wouldn’t have found a comparable discount.

    The 4th night free would also be great for crazy expensive nights like New Years’ Eve or July 4th in some places (though I haven’t checked for exclusions).

  4. I agree with one of the previous comments. Most non-chain hotels do not have discounts, so this is a really good option.

  5. Btw, you might not get 5% back from Amex Business card when buying gift card. I bought some using my gold business card and didn’t receive the rebate. When I called, the agent told me gc doesn’t qualify. But I hear some people do get the rebate. So I guess it’s just luck of the draw.

      • I had the same experience with Valerie, no automatic 5% Open savings on the gift card purchase (also via Milepoint in my case). I called Amex and was told GCs weren’t eligible but they made a courtesy adjustment and gave me a credit equal to the 5%. So definitely worth a call in, but I suspect it then goes to the discretion of the person you are speaking with (my experience was about a year ago).

  6. Seems like an awful lot of hassle for a benefit that would yield meaningful savings to a frequent traveler maybe once a year.

    I consider myself a very frequent traveler and I only stay at the same hotel for 4 nights maybe once or twice a year. It’s always in connection with some sort of promo: a free night stay, a massive discount, etc. I think years could go by before I took advantage of this deal with this card.

    • I think that the sweet spot for you would be when a hotel chain runs a great promo that encourages nights (over stays). For example, the current Club Carlson promo for 30K points after 3 nights is pretty good. If they had something like 50K points for 4 nights, then this 4th night free benefit would be huge.

  7. I have doubts that Carlson Wagonlit will give the lowest available price. While it did in your example, I quit using them years ago because the rates they quoted were always a little higher than I could find elsewhere. They have to pay employees and overhead for their offices, so they do most of their business as a corporate travel agency. Thanks for the heads up on this feature though.

  8. You can stuck up this benefit with 10k Club Carlson points for 3 nights currently or with BRG that offers first night free. Also, there is a certain hotel in Israel that charges like $70 a night, but for Friday night they are often $350-700.

  9. This seems to have great potential for boutique hotels and spots where you are determined to go but doesn’t have a top tier chain………I can think of using it on an upcoming trip to France in Normandy where I just got a free night as a result of this………

  10. You included the credit card points from buying the gift cards but not the 3% in thank you points from the prestige card. So it’s actually 10.5% better rather than 7.5%

    • I did not include credit card points from buying gift cards: I used the Amex OPEN 5% rebate. I would also earn credit card points on top of that but the value of those points would be determined by which Amex business card I used.

  11. 4th night free is definitely not at all hotels as they claim. I tried to book Hotel Lanai in Lanai City, HI . Wagonlit agent took my info and said they would call me back to confirm. Received call back saying that property does not qualify.

      • I did not try online travel agencies for that hotel.. I know that you cannot finalize a reservation online at the hotel’s website. You can only enter your request and await their reply. Property is definitely a hotel though. I also tried a B & B on Lanai and Wagonlit called me back and said no go on that either. That does not surprise me however since it is not a hotel. I thought it was worth a try though. I think they check with the property and if they do not get a discount from the hotel then you do not get the 4th night free. Not quite what Citi advertises !. I do not have it handy, but I believe it states “4th night free at any hotel” .

  12. Good post, and your reasoning makes sense. But I think you may have the math wrong (or at least you could phrase it better). Using your gift card scheme you would save 17.5%. The Citi Prestige offer saves 25%. So you would save an additional 7.5%. Saying that you save “7.5% more” is ambiguous.

    On a hypothetical $100 stay of $25 per night, Citi Prestige would charge a net amount of $75, while your gift card scheme would cost you $82.50. So Citi Prestige offers $7.50 in savings from a baseline of $82.50, or 9.1%.

    It may still not be worth it to go through the hassle for a 9.1% discount, but it is a larger discount than 7.5% and both plans have their own issues.

  13. Here’s the thing about this for business travelers who are reimbursed by their employer. The fourth night free is credited back on the card statement, later.

    That makes this a great benefit for the traveler who’s paying his own way. But it’s flat out money in the pocket for the business traveler.

  14. Can you book a hotel for someone else through this? Or do you have to be staying? I am thinking of booking and paying for a hotel for a relative as a gift.

  15. Well, it sure was not easy to get that 4th night. I am planning a stay at a small privately owned hotel. Carlson Wagonlit insisted that nothing can be worked out with this small hotel after hours long of back and forth. I called the hotel directly to find out what the issues were, and the hotel said that they were more than willing to cooperate with Carlson Wagonlit, even giving them commission (which that small hotel does not normally do), but CW was not willing to do it. I then called Citi again to share that information, we got on a 4 way call (Citi, Citi concierge, small hotel and I). The concierge booked the reservation, exchange the information with the small hotel, and we booked the AAA rate on the 4 way conference call. Still months away before we can find out how this really plays out…..

    • Yeah, it’s a pain even when everything goes right. Glad you went the extra mile and got them to take care of you. So you got the AAA rate, AND you’re supposed to get the 4th refunded? That’s better than they told me they could do.

      • I saw your comment about AAA rate not qualified for the 4th night free earlier – I asked about the AAA rate towards the end of the 4 way call, the small private hotel gladly gave it to me, I imagine at that point it would be a bit difficult for the concierge to say that AAA rate does not qualify for 4th night free end that 4 way call effort. No one on the call mentioned any restrictions regarding the AAA rate. I certainly hope Citi/Carlson Wagonlit honors the deal, we will see.

  16. I have some extended business travel coming up this spring (in Zurich, which has very expensive hotels), so I’m hoping this benefit works. It’s one of the reasons I recently applied for a Prestige.

  17. Any datapoints on whether the Citi Prestige 4th night free can stack with 3rd/5th night free promos listed on hotel websites?

    For example, Four Seasons frequently runs these kinds of promos:
    http://www.fourseasons[dot]com/globaloffers/globalfreenight.html

    It would seem pretty easy to point a CWT travel agent to the website for valid dates and stack, for example, the 3rd night free from the hotel with the 4th night free from the Citi Prestige making for a very nice deal on some very nice hotel rooms.

    I know Virtuoso travel agents are able to stack their benefits with these offers, so it seems CWT should as well. I can see where you’re going with this being one of the best travel cards out there.

  18. There is a direct number for the prestige concierge. Why the hell the cc service center does not know it is byond me. I ask the cc rep for the number, and just like you they claimed no direct number.

    I then asked the concierge they connected me with, and he happily gave it to me.

    I also was able to use the concierge number provided with my Thankyou premier card. That number asks you to put in the first 6 digits of your account number to sort you out.

  19. I really care about good breakfast so, I often book hotels through virtuoso for the breakfast benefits when rates are $300/night but in that case, I’d rather use points.

    Mid tier hotels are not on virtuoso/amex FHR, so this makes most sense if you book a mid tier chain hotel and you have status with that chain for free breakfast. So best use seems mid tier chain hotels. But then again, given all the tricks you ahve taught us, I don’t spend 4 nights at a time in mid tier chain hotels..

    so I’m struggling to find a good use of the benefit for me. As pointed by another commenter, this seems ideal for a business travel who gets reimbursements.

  20. Do they literally reimburse the fourth night? Or do they just reimburse 25%?

    Seems like it would be a lot of trouble for them to review and confirm the per night rate as opposed to simply giving the simple fraction back.

  21. To the author. I think you forgot to add the 3.45% (3% on motels and the .15% end of year multiplier) on the 3 nights you would pay for, which would enhance the benefit. Still NOT GOOD ENOUGH to justify the $450 annual fee to me. I don’t golf. I hardly fly American. Also the $450 annual fee and I have to suffer through a voice command computer and wait minutes to get a live person it unacceptable to me. It is barely acceptable with ZERO annual fee card. Hence why Discover keeps getting more and more of my business.

    • Well obviously YMMV. I’ve already earned several hundred dollars above and beyond the annual fee. If one doesn’t on a regular basis stay at hotels for at least four days in a row then this card may not be for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for Admiral’s club access plus Priority Pass, that alone might be enough reason to get the card. BTW, Citi Prestige has the best version of PP of any credit card membership. (The free guests benefit.)

  22. Thanks for providing this veyy useful information! In my case, I am attending an event and has got a hotel discount code provided by the event organizer. When booking the hotel, can the Concierge use the discount code to book the hotel for me?

  23. Jerry – no, they can only book publicly available rates. This includes AAA (and probably AARP, etc.) but discount/corporate/etc codes they claim they cannot do. You can always try, of course. I got them to do AAA rates before they admitted they could do them – but don’t know if you’ll see the 4th night credited back.

  24. worth to mention that buying haytt giftcard online usually will just earn points at the basic level so 1 points per dolloar or 1.5 points for amex everyday preferred or 2% for fidelity cash back card etc.

    using the prestige card which you have to earn 3 points per dollar at hotels

  25. Also note to mention that i have been browsing for a long time no blog has provided the phone number to call at all!!

  26. Has anybody else been experiencing ridiculously long wait times to get through? I tried twice and gave up after fifteen minutes both times.

    • @Mike – oh yeah – they are seriously understaffed it seems. However, with the transition to the new concierge service, once you DO get through, the process for booking is much easier.

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