Success: stacking 4th night free for 50% off

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Later this year, the Citi Prestige 4th night free will essentially become dead to me. That’s because starting in September, you will no longer be able to make bookings through the Prestige Concierge but will rather have to book through ThankYou.com (or via the ThankYou portal’s phone number). This is a huge change as it will eliminate opportunities like an experiment I tried last year that I can finally confirm worked automatically — a stack of the 4th night free with a 25% off best rate guarantee that combined to help me save more than 50% off the advertised rate. Both Marriott and Hilton offer similar best rate guarantees. Until September, it should be possible to save a ton with this stack, but this one will be gone with the wind this fall.

Grab this stack before it’s gone.

Marriott and Hilton BRG: Get 25% off the best rate

While Hyatt, IHG, and Choice have each kind of decimated their Best Rate Guarantees with various devaluations and gotchas, Marriott and Hilton keep things pretty simple: find a better rate than what you can book via Marriott.com/Hilton.com and they will beat that rate by 25%. Note that you should still check full terms of their BRG policies as there are some exclusions (for example, Marriott does not honor BRG claims for Design Hotels or most Vacation Club properties).

As with other best rate guarantee policies, you have to book your room directly with the chain in order to make a claim (i.e. you can’t book via Expedia and then make a claim with Marriott for a better rate found at Priceline). Generally, bookings made through third parties, including credit card travel portals like the Chase Travel portal or Citi ThankYou portal, would not qualify for a best rate guarantee claim. Portals like ThankYou.com or the Chase Travel portal are run on the back end by a site like Expedia and thus bookings through those portals are treated as third-party OTA (online travel agency) bookings that do not qualify for loyalty program benefits. However, bookings made over the phone or via email with the Citi Prestige concierge are different; these bookings are treated like traditional travel agent bookings. Prestige Concierge bookings typically qualify for elite credit, earn hotel points, enjoy elite status benefits, and qualify for best rate guarantee claims.

Hilton actually enhanced its best rate policy last year in a unique way (See: Hilton Improves Best Rate Guarantee Policy, Claims Can Now Be Pre-Approved). While most BRG policies require you to first book a room directly with the chain before submitting a claim, Hilton now essentially allows you to get a claim pre-approved. This should theoretically make it easier to make a claim against an advance purchase rate as you will not need to incur the risk of making the prepaid booking before confirming that the BRG claim will be honored.

That said, I rarely book advance purchase rates. For my purposes, the Marriott and Hilton BRG policies are equally good. Furthermore, either should stack the same way for a potential savings of over half off.

Stacking with 4th night free

Last year, I wrote a couple of posts about stacking the Citi Prestige 4th night free with hotel chain best rate guarantees. One of those posts was about a stack I was trying with Hilton (See: Hilton’s new Price Match guarantee & stacking with a 4th night free). When I wrote that, I had 75% of the story. I’m happy to now report that I have 100% of the story and I saved more than 50%.

See that post linked in the previous paragraph for full details, but here is a quick summary of the story:

  • I booked a 4-night stay at the Hilton Honors rate of $219.84 per night through the Citi Prestige concierge for a total price of $1,023.22 with taxes included. (Thus my 4th night free rebate was calculated to be the pre-tax nightly rate of $219.84)
  • Booking.com offered the same hotel/room type/cancellation policy for $959.32
  • After filing a claim here, Hilton beat the Booking.com rate by 25%, lowering my total to $719.48 (a new nightly rate of $154.58).

When I wrote that post last October, I wondered whether/how the 4th night free rebate would work. Would I automatically receive the $219.84 rebate I was originally promised? Would Citi adjust the rebate to the new average nightly rate of $154.58? Would I need to call Citi to get someone to manually process the claim since the charge at the hotel would not match the original total price quoted by the Prestige Concierge? Would Citi deny me any claim at all since Hilton had modified my rate after the fact?

I’m happy to report that I received the full $219 rebate automatically. It took a long time. I stayed last November and I finally received an email just last week that my 4th night free rebate was on its way.

Sure enough, I received the full rebate a few days later — 11 weeks after checking out. That is slow as molasses, but the end result was that I paid ~$500 total — more than 51% off the Hilton Honors rate’s original $1023.22 total (or about 48% off of the Booking.com rate I used for my best rate guarantee). That’s a savings that pays for the annual fee on the card.

Only replicable with bookings made before September 2019

Unfortunately, Citi will begin instituting a limit of two 4th night free claims per year for bookings made beginning in September 2019 (See: Prestige ups fee, slaughters 4th night free for most of us). Furthermore, they will kill this stacking opportunity since they decided to sneak in a new term for bookings made beginning in September 2019:

Beginning 09/01/19, Citi Prestige Concierge will no longer be available for Fourth Night bookings and bookings must be made either online at ThankYou.com or by phone at 1-800-ThankYou in order to be eligible for the Fourth Night benefit

In other words, beginning on 9/1/19, fourth night free bookings will only be made through Citi’s 3rd-party OTA portal and will thus no longer be eligible for elite credit, hotel points, elite status benefits, or best rate guarantee claims.

Until then, it should be possible to stack these two benefits for a large savings. Hilton and Marriott offer the opportunity for the greatest savings since either will beat a better rate by 25%, but the 4th night free + BRG stack should work with other chains as well. I had previously shown it to work on an advance purchase rate with Hyatt (See: Stacking 4th Night Free + BRG for big savings).

Bottom line

The Citi Prestige 4th night free is one of the most generous premium card benefits out there. This year only (for bookings made via the Prestige Concierge before 9/1/19), it should be possible to stack that benefit with the favorable best rate guarantee policies of Marriott and Hilton. I’ve previously completed this stack with Hyatt and now successfully with Hilton. As it looks like I’ll be within reach of 50 nights with Marriott this year, I’ll probably look for an opportunity to make use of a 4th night free + best rate guarantee stack with Marriott next in order to pick up 4 nights of elite credit for the cost of ~2 nights,. Of course, don’t forget to compare the possible savings here against any special corporate rates or shopping portals you have at your disposal to be sure that you don’t have an even better option available to you.

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