You DO have to pay with your Prestige card for 4th Night Free. Here’s why I’m surprised.

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UPDATE 6/26/2015 3PM EST: Please see my new results here: You DON’T have to pay with your Prestige card for 4th Night Free.

Among its many other perks, the Citi Prestige card has an interesting one: book a four night hotel stay and get the last night free.  The way it works is that a cardholder must call the Citi Concierge service to book their four night (or longer) stay.  At the end of the stay, the customer pays the full price of the stay.  Then, approximately 4 weeks after the stay, the customer’s Prestige account is credited with the full price of the fourth night.  This can be particularly rewarding when the fourth night is more expensive than the other nights.

It’s been 6 weeks since I inadvertently experimented to see what would happen if I paid for my four night stay with a credit card other than my Prestige card.  I had booked the stay through Citi’s concierge service, and I had held the room with my Prestige card, but I messed up a bit at the hotel itself.  My wife had checked in before I arrived and had given the desk a different credit card.  And, at the end of the stay, I had to leave early, so she was the one who checked out.  The full hotel charge went to her card.  Whoops.

I thought it would work anyway

Sure, Citi says that you must pay for your stay with your Prestige card to get the 4th night rebate, but I didn’t believe it.  Here are my assumptions that made me think it would work:

  1. Citi’s travel service gets a commission from hotels booked through them.
  2. Citi uses the hotel commission to help offset their 4th Night Free cost.
  3. Citi’s receipt of that commission is the trigger that credits the customer’s account with the 4th Night Free rebate.
  4. Citi will receive their commission regardless of the form of payment used at the hotel.

I still think that assumptions 1, 2 and 4, above, are correct, but I now have reason to question assumption #3…

6 weeks later, I’m ready to throw in the towel

I haven’t yet received a penny back from my stay.  Its possible that the 4th Night refund will take longer than 6 weeks to get credited to my account, but I think its unlikely.  In my last experience with this benefit, I received credit almost exactly 4 weeks after my stay.  Of course, if anything changes, I’ll let everyone know, but for now the safe conclusion is that you do have to pay for your stay with your Prestige card.

Questions not yet answered

A question that I’d still like to experiment with is whether the 4th Night Free benefit will work if I were to pay for a stay partly with gift cards and partly with the Prestige card.  I’d guess that it would be necessary to charge the full amount of the fourth night (or more) to the Prestige card for this to work.  I plan to watch for opportunities to test this, but if you’ve done so yourself, please let me know the results.

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