Dumping my Citi Prestige card

I signed up for the Citi Prestige card in September, 2014. Back then, it was much easier to get Citigold status and so I locked in a $350 annual fee. Until this month, the fee never increased despite my having let my Citigold status lapse. Today, you need $200,000 invested with Citi in order to be granted Citigold. If you do so, you too can get the Prestige card for only $350. For everyone else, the annual fee is now $495. And Citi has stopped grandfathering me into the Citigold pricing. Late last week the new $495 annual fee appeared on my credit card statement.

Citi has radically changed the Prestige card multiple times since I signed up five years ago.  Earlier this year, they implemented a number of changes, some good, some bad.  On the good side, they added 5X earnings for flights, travel agencies, and restaurants; and they made the $250 travel credit much easier to earn; and they made points easier to cash out at 1 cent each.  On the bad side, they ruined the 4th Night Free hotel benefit, took away increased point value for flights booked with points, and increased the standard annual fee from $450 to $495.  You can read about those changes here.

To me, the card changes were a mixed bag.  I hated losing the 4th Night Free benefit in its previous form, but I loved the ability to earn 5X worldwide for dining and airfare.  Then, in one fell swoop, Citi dropped all of their valuable travel and purchase protections.  Car rental insurance: gone.  Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection: gone.  Travel Accident Insurance: gone.  Trip Delay Protection: gone.  Price Rewind: gone.  90 Day Return Protection: gone. Missed Event Ticket Protection: gone.  You get the picture.

With the end of travel and purchase protections, my subjective value of the Prestige card plummeted.  It had been my go-to card for all flight purchases, but now I’ve reverted to booking travel with my Sapphire Reserve card.  Yes, it means earning 3X Ultimate Rewards instead of 5X ThankYou points, but it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make in order to insure my travel purchases.  The Sapphire Reserve already had better travel protections than the Prestige card, but now of course it’s no contest (see our coverage of Ultra-Premium Travel Insurance here).  A reader pointed out to me that I could have my cake and it it too by buying airline gift cards with the Prestige card to earn 5X and then when booking travel use gift cards plus put a small portion on my Sapphire Reserve.  That would work since the Sapphire Reserve covers you even if you only pay part of your travel with the card, but honestly I’m not likely to go to that much trouble.

Other readers have asked why I care so much about travel protections.  Surely I pay for travel insurance separately anyway, right?  Um, no.  I’ve never paid for travel insurance, or any kind of insurance or extended warranty that wasn’t required by law.  I think of such things as a gamble: the only way to win is for something terrible to happen.  I’d rather not bet on disaster.  Still, I find that I’m willing to “pay” a little bit for travel insurance peace of mind by giving up the Prestige card’s extra 2X points.  If you regularly pay for travel insurance, then of course it makes sense to continue to use the Prestige card to purchase airfare.

Time to break up?

Now that I no longer use the Prestige card for flights and now that I know that I’m no longer grandfathered into the old $350 annual fee, it was time to reassess my 5 year relationship with the card.  I turned to my Ultra Premium Credit Card Value worksheet (see: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers?) to figure it out.

Using the spreadsheet, I estimated that the card was worth paying $350 per year (note: everyone should come up with their own valuations!).  Clearly it’s no longer a keeper for me.  Time to call and cancel…

Retention Offer?

I didn’t really think that I was going to give up my Prestige card.  I figured that I’d get a nice retention offer to made it worth keeping for at least another year.  So, I called Citi, waited until I got a human on the phone, and then said that I wanted to cancel the card (if you tell the computer, there’s the risk that the computer will abruptly cancel the card with no recourse).  As expected, I was transferred to a retention specialist.

I explained that I didn’t want to pay the annual fee due to the loss of travel & purchase protections.  Unfortunately, all the specialist could do was read off the retention offers loaded to my account.  And, sadly, they were awful:

  1. $50 statement credit with $9,000 spend: Spend $3,000 per month for three months in order to get $50 back.
  2. 10K points with $9,000 spend: Spend $3,000 per month for three months in order to get 10,000 bonus points.

Both were awful offers, but 10K points is the less awful of the two since worst case is that 10K points can be cashed out for $100.  Still, that’s a huge amount of spend for such a paltry bonus.  Note that there was some confusion about whether I’d get $50 or 10K points every month for three months or just once.  The agent put me on hold for quite a while and returned to say “just once”.  Was she right?  I don’t know, but I don’t think I would have made a different decision either way.

I said no thank you to both offers and asked to downgrade to a no-fee ThankYou card instead.  That’s the best way to keep points alive when ditching the Prestige or Premier card.  Citi offers two no-fee ThankYou cards: ThankYou Preferred and Rewards+.  The Rewards+ is the much better option if you don’t already have it (see this post for details).  I already have both no-fee cards, so I didn’t have a preference.  The agent suggested the Rewards+ card, so I said OK.

Reassessing other cards

I then went through the spreadsheet to update my valuations of other cards.  This was necessary because some of my valuations were low due to the assumption that I would get 5X for flights and dining from the Prestige card.  The biggest change for me was my valuation of the Amex Gold card.  Previously, I valued the card at $250 per year which happens to be the same as the annual fee.  At that point I was leaning towards cancelling the Gold card since it didn’t offer more benefit than cost.  Now, however, my dining purchases will go on the Gold card and so I assigned value to the card’s 4X dining benefit.  Given that I ditched the Prestige, Amex Gold is now a keeper.

Using my ThankYou points

Citi ThankYou points can be incredibly valuable when transferred to airline programs for high value awards.  For  examples, see: Citi ThankYou points sweet spots. In order to transfer points to airline programs, you need either the $495 Citi Prestige card or $95 Citi Premier card.  Currently I have neither.

I’m currently sitting on over 800,000 points with no direct way to use the points effectively.  But I do have two indirect options:

  1. My wife has a Citi Premier card.  When I’m ready to transfer points to an airline program, I can share my points with her for free and she can transfer those points to airline miles.  The only real downside to this approach is that the miles then end up in her airline loyalty program rather than mine.  And that only matters in cases where I already have miles or where I have elite status and so there may be benefits to booking from my account (such as lower change fees).  In most cases, this option would be fine.  Note though that there is a 100K per year cap on moving points to another person, so this option has that additional limitation (H/T Ray)
  2. I can upgrade one of my no-fee ThankYou cards to the Premier card.  In the past, I’ve often received offers to upgrade my Preferred card to the Premier card.  These offers included the first year free.  Next time I see this offer, I’m inclined to accept it.  Or, if I have immediate need to transfer points to miles in my own account, I should be able to upgrade at any time.

Wrap up

I’m a bit sad to end my five year relationship with the Prestige card.  Is it weird that I get emotionally attached to credit cards?  Wait, don’t answer that.  I know.  Yes, it’s weird.  So, it’s weirdly sad, but at the same time I’m confident that it was the right decision.  Will Citi enhance the Prestige card to make up for the loss of travel and purchase protections?  Perhaps, but then I can always upgrade back to that card if it makes sense.

Coincidentally, dropping the Prestige card came closely on the heels of my decision to cancel my CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card.  In quick succession, two ultra-premium cards are out the window.  I think it’s time for me to do a new “what’s in my wallet?” type of post.  Look for that soon.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

85
Leave a Reply

avatar
24 Comment threads
61 Thread replies
36 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
37 Comment authors
Greg The Frequent MilerBrad CSimonjasonS x Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Jules
Guest
Jules

Great analysis and insightful considerations. When its time to break up with a card, just go for it and don’t look back.

bluecat
Guest
bluecat

Same will selling a stock, IMO: don’t look back

Kathy (will run for miles)
Guest
Kathy (will run for miles)

I am citigold, and even at $350 per year, I don’t think the card has much value left for me. I’ll wait till renewal and see what retention is offered. And, for the record, I also have CCSA – credit card separation anxiety.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I called AF it’s prorated by 12 months so u can get the rest back if u cancel anytime . Last time $450 AF they offered me NUTTHING then TOAD me all the money I saved which was true then but never again now. I’ll look @ this in Jan and cancel if need be but I like the P-lounge and Chase (2 cards) will never give me a card again. Better off saving the fee then get the AMEX card before 5/15 for the sign up and P-Lounge’s in the EU & SYD . IF I downgrade to another card does it count on 5/24 ? I’ll just transfer everything before IF it does ..
Timely post for Me !!!
Thank You !!
CHEERs

Chad
Guest
Chad

Always been confused with downgrading and points retention. If you downgrade, do you eventually lose those points if not spent? I pool my points unfortunately so there is no way for me to figure out what came from where. It’s a mess.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I avoided the Same Citi Mess by transfer to Singapore Al then cancel to keep it Simple ..
CHEERs

Ray
Guest
Ray

In the same boat as you. Just got my AF this past wk. Opened in 2014 as well. But my plan is to pay the $495 this month. Then burn the $250 travel credit next month since it will reset in Dec stmt. Credit should post in Jan2020 stmt and then I will downgrade immediately and get a prorated refund. Any thoughts on this?

Also, I think moving pts to wife to xfer out to partners doesnt really work that well since it is capped at 100k/calendar yr

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I’m sure Greg will Post .But I’m getting the (2) 4th nite free in Dec. then (2) 4th nite and $250 in Jan then cancel before 3/8 post if it clears.
CHEERs

George
Guest
George

I’m in the same position as Ray and others, except that I opened the Prestige card in 9/17 with my SUB being included on my 12/17 statement.

In my case, my Prestige AF posted in 10/19 (and I paid it). Since I will be eligible for a new TY card SUB in late 12/19, I will apply for the Premier card at that time and then meet the 4K spend requirement by mid January 2020. Finally, on the same day that I see the SUB on the statement for the new Premier card, I will call to downgrade the Prestige to the DC card (which will then be used in conjunction with the Premier card).

It’s a bit complex, but I think this will yield the maximal return because I will get the SUB for the Premier, I can use my Prestige $250 travel credit in January, and then I’ll get a prorated Prestige AF refund of ~$300.

Any suggestions about how I might be able to do better?

Jetsfan
Guest
Jetsfan

Would you remind us of how closure or downgrade may impact future applications for Citi Thank You Points cards? Is there a two or four year rule for new apps after opening or closing?

rick b
Guest
rick b

Wait…you NEVER get travel insurance? You realize there’s more to it than travel protection? What if you get seriously sick or injured abroad. You’ll get royally screwed with medical bills. I always get trip insurance, and just set the trip cost to $0 so my only premium is for medical and any theft/ luggage damage.

bluecat
Guest
bluecat

The $0 trip cost is a good trick that I’ve used as well.

jason
Guest
jason

from where do you purchase the insurance when using this trick? whenever i buy a ticket from an airline, the premium is already set with no option to change it.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

Bad decisions. You can always enroll into CitiGold for 4 month for free before your AF hits. Just ask your Citi banker to do that.
Now you can only share 100k points per year with anybody, and you have 800k. You will need to get Premier in order to use your points.

rich
Guest
rich

I think many people get cards just for bragging rights and never look at the numbers. They will tell me hey I’m getting 4X instead of 3X but the annual fee they are paying for to get the 4X won’t be covered by the extra point. Or they get access to a lounge they use 3 times a year.

As far as travel insurance goes, there are various options. I think my issues first deal with how many “gotchas” an insurance has and unless you read the fine print and have a legal background it is hard to figure what is and what isn’t covered. My biggest concern would be medical related and if you needed transportation back home. There are companies out there that you can pay a yearly fee to and will be covered on all trips.

The credit card insurance for delays/cancellations is better than nothing although I think most of us can deal with the cost of emergencies with points or just cash.

If anyone is reading this, do you know the rule for getting a BA credit card after you have canceled it? Is it 24 months?

Thanks for the story and thoughts.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

When u Call the CC company BEFORE ur ME their Doctor TELLS u WHAT to Do and Where to GO !!! .I just read the fine print on one of Greg’s posts on the ME cc ins matter Thank You . It may not be to ur USA Doc or hospital Hmmmm..I just looked @ my last 3 week EU+ trip AIG $185 ..$500k ME ..I think I’ll bring my trip down to ZERO and see what the Diff is compared to adding my Hotels too.
Thank You
rick b
CHEERs

Andy
Guest
Andy

“I’ve never paid for travel insurance, or any kind of insurance or extended warranty that wasn’t required by law. I think of such things as a gamble: the only way to win is for something terrible to happen. I’d rather not bet on disaster.”

Insurance companies adjust their premiums such that they generally make a profit, thus paying for insurance is a losing a game. So never get insurance, right? Well, no, not quite. Insurance is there to protect you against financial ruin, and that’s how you should see it.

If you’re doing the bare minimum as required by law, then you probably do not quite have enough. You do not want to be paying out of pocket for someone else’s medical bills if you injure someone in a car accident, or if someone hurts themselves on your property, assuming you own a home. It is a good idea for anyone with assets to protect to raise their liability limits on their car and homeowner’s insurance, as well as to get umbrella insurance, which will increase your coverage for both policies. Medical liabilities can financially ruin you, and these are things you ought to protect against with insurance. It’s not about betting on disaster — it’s about preventing one from completely ruining your life.

Going back to travel insurance and extended warranties, will your trip being canceled ruin you financially? What about if your new television or appliance breaks? Hopefully not, and here I’ll say what insurance should NOT be for — it should not be for protecting you against inconvenience. I agree with you on not buying these, and on average, you’ll be ahead financially if you don’t buy these insurances and just pay out of pocket whenever these smaller events do happen.

TLDR: I’m going to guess as a successful blog owner, your financial situation is such that you should probably be doing more than the legal minimum regarding insurance, but I do agree about not insuring the small stuff.

JL100
Guest
JL100

For us it was the run around we got on paying the 4th night free from early August. We were promised 1-2 billing cycles and still didn’t pay on 3 billing cycles. After many more calls it finally paid and we cancelled the card. Otherwise I would be keeping it.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I book online now as in included in the price !! I had that before like u did FOUR MONTHS to post and I forgot about it too .All this figures into the card as in Renew or Can like a Tuna (Hassle) .
CHEERs

Rick
Guest
Rick

It does not matter now because you can only use the 4th night free benefit with prepaid portal bookings

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Right I did that before u had to . But they DID bone us both by the wait so do u want to deal with people that do that ?? Then what new BS will they come up with in ur next 12 month fee time .
CHEERs

Zac
Guest
Zac

I am in the same boat and will be canceling my card in the next 2 months (trying to get the $250 as soon as 1/1 strikes, does purchasing airline travel banks still work for that?) eg United’s.
I always expected to redeem my Citi points to pay for flights but ended up not flying too much, and I’m not great with the airline points transfers, I have several hundred thousand points and it would be great to get cash. Is there anything special that has to be done to redeem them for 1 cents per point, I thought I remembered a worse redemption rate than that-

I now have a couple thank you preferred cards (legacy downgrades to free cards) and will probably downgrade the prestige to that as well. Does the money per point redemption go down when that happens? Should I try to spend them all in the next 2 months instead?
Thank you in advance for your help and also for this post!

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Zac
If ur not sure or don’t have time 2 weeks before just transfer ur points to Singapore AL . First set up an account and send a 1k point transfer to see if it works (5 hrs to 3 days) . Then transfer all out I book most of my trips on United by using Singapore AL points easy to do . I meet many people on Flts. that have up to a Million points and don’t know how to use them.. Don’t Loose them !!
CHEERs

Andy
Guest
Andy

I’m almost in the same boat as you (canceled CNB, have been paying $350 AF for the Prestige), except my last hurrah with the 4th night free benefit was to book a 4-night stay at the Fogo Island Inn for next year, so I have a very large reimbursement coming in the future. So if I do get charged $495 this time around, looks like I am going to have to pay it this one time.

Anyone considering canceling their card with an outstanding 4th night free reservation will need to factor that into the equation.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Can u Cancel and book online like I did and Get it Now ?
CHEERs

bluecat
Guest
bluecat

Greg, you downgraded to another instance of a card that you already had. Why? To keep the credit line? To get a partial refund?

Also, do you know if you can switch to a no annual fee card in another family (i.e., non TY)?

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Double Cash seems to be an option. Not sure about other cards. (like AA)

Andy
Guest
Andy

Greg – I am in a similar situation when my $495 fee hits in Dec. I plan to cancel for many of the same reasons you outlined. My question is regarding closing the Prestige and retaining flexibility with my earned TY points. I have a TY Premier and my TY points from both the Prestige and Premier accumulate in one combined account. Can I cancel outright as I will still retain the TY Premier or will the points earned from the Prestige be on an accelerated expiration? Or do I need to downgrade to Rewards+ to keep my TY points earned from the Prestige with extended expiration?. Thanks for the clarity on this issue

S x
Guest
S x

It doesn’t make sense. You compared the additional marginal value of Citi Prestige vs. best of all other cards, while you compared that value to the FULL annual fee of Citi Prestige. Sure, 5X dining is only a little better than Amex Gold’s 4X, but you didn’t get that 4X for Amex Gold for nothing, right?

WR2
Guest
WR2

The key reason to downgrade is to not reset your TYP 24 month clock.

Josh
Guest
Josh

just to clarify as I have been confused by other people’s posts. If I downgrade the Citi Premier to the Rewards+, do I still keep the points? I don’t have to use them all up for the PC?

EDIT: looks you answered this question several times in this thread, so nvm :). THANKS! To anyone else reading, if you downgrade to a true TY point card like the Rewards+, you keep your points. If you downgrade to a DoubleCash card, you have 60 days to use your points. In either case, if you are given a new account number, your 24 month bonus time resets.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Maybe more of a theoretical question. If you have the Rewards+ and you want to use your points but didn’t want to upgrade to a Premier or Prestige, what’s the ‘best’ way? Booking travel with a 1.00 cpp through the portal?

tro
Guest
tro

Do you have access to the options under “More Ways To Redeem” > “Cash & Charity”?

I’ve never used those options because I have the Premier, but the description says you should be able to get a check, mortgage payment, or student loan payment at 1.00cpp. I would do that, or even a gift card cash out, over their travel portal which I dislike.

Josh
Guest
Josh

cashback / statement credit is only .5 cents per point for everything but the prestige (1cpp). You could do a 1cpp to a loan though yes. And most gift cards appear to be 1cpp also

tro
Guest
tro

You are right about the Cash Rewards option! Citi was logging me out (they like to do that randomly as I navigate) and showing me the Prestige rate of 1cpp for Cash Rewards. When I log back in and it sticks I see 0.5cpp.

Anyway, yeah, AFAIK the GCs are no better than 1cpp. I just find the travel portal to be on the glitchy, time-consuming side to use, and you usually lose loyalty benefits, so to cash out quickly at equal value of 1cpp I’d rather have the GC. Just my personal perference these days. If you’re willing to spend time and comparison shop you might get lucky and find a deal with the travel portal; usually their prices are the same or slightly worse than elsewhere, but a couple of times I’ve gotten lucky with an inexplicably better price, like on a last-minute car rental the day before.

james
Guest
james

Darn timely! AF payment due today, Does the 10% rebate for rewards+ redemption only on points redeemed that were earned on that card, or not?

james
Guest
james

Just told it did not, but they said the account number would remain the same…..from Prestige to Rewads Plus…wish I had taped that convo.

Joachim
Guest
Joachim

I’m CitiGold and will be keeping my Prestige. I will put at least one low risk flight on this card to get the $250 credit. I put my T-Mobile bill on this card for the insurance on 4 phones (also have CIC so -4x is painful but I value insurance more than the URs). I’ve used new version of 4th night free benefit once in 2019 already and I’m guessing I’ll use this once per year going forward at a value of around $250. 5x at restaurants is the icing on the cake for me, I put about $2-3k/yr of personal dining on this card which I value at $200-$300 (balance on Amex Gold).

As CG, I’m easily recouping the $350 fee so I see no reason to cancel and I don’t understand other CG that “don’t see the value”. There’s no more outsized value, but we all knew that wasn’t sustainable. At $495, I might even still keep it, because I have the opportunity to put large restaurant bills on the card for an associated business, which generates 80-100K miles/yr with very little work. I understand this is an uncommon situation though.

I also have the Amex Gold but I find that card to be a complete PITA. I don’t always get 4x for restaurants due to merchant coding, and the airline reimbursement is difficult to use since I generally fly United (Gold) or JetBlue (Mosaic) where I don’t have need to pick seats or pay for bags. Having to choose a single airline is too restrictive in this free agent era. I have to force myself to use the $10/mo restaurant credit before end of month. I’ll probably cancel this if I don’t get a good retention offer.

USB
Guest
USB

I really think you’d keep the same card number – it’s a Prestige > Rewards+ downgrade, same family. These frontline CSRs can’t be trusted as we all know. Please update when you actually get the new card

Larry
Guest
Larry

I just downgraded Prestige to R+ in September. Agent said it would be a new number and she was correct. So, likely reset of 24 for me.

Ravi
Guest
Ravi

I know I will hear about it, but I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Reserve to a no annual fee card two months ago and cancelled my Amex Platinum card today. I was approved for the Citibank Prestige card a month ago. Waiting exactly 25 months after I closed it last time. Paying $550 and $350 just stopped making sense even after the credits that I did use. Too many redundancies with the premium cards. The points to airlines transfer bonuses on Virgin Atlantic, Avianca Lifemiles and others are way more valuable to me than travel or purchase protection and insurance that CSR or Amex Plat offered. PS. I am going away next week to two European cities, first class on Lufthansa going out and business class on Swiss Air coming back thanks to the Avianca Lifemiles 25% transfer bonus from Citi and Avianca Lifemiles 15% transfer bonus from American Express.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Ravi
No well done I’m going the other way will drop Prestige then get some other card for the sign up . I just added up my AF $1000 per year not cheap . Perks are nice both doubles so I think I’ll come back to Citi 25 months from the day too . I think I have the right idea.
CHEERs

Simon
Guest
Simon

A counter to the GC workaround is that primarily only US-based airlines have GCs. International itineraries seemingly are more likely to trigger the insurance conditions and travel I’d value the protection more. So unless sufficient amount of travel is domestic / you can accept the booking avenue limitations internationally the workaround produces less incremental value.