Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier?
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - The Prestige's Lounge Access vs The Premier's Travel Perks
When it comes to premium travel perks, the Citi Prestige and Citi Premier cards take very different approaches. The Prestige is all about lounge access, while the Premier focuses more on everyday travel credits. Let's dive into the key differences.
The Prestige grants free access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges, Priority Pass lounges, and Citi's own exclusive lounges. This perk alone can save hundreds of dollars per year for frequent travelers who regularly visit airport lounges. As Torsten Jacobi notes, "Access to lounges takes the pain out of air travel and long layovers." Lounges provide comfortable seating, free food and drinks, WiFi, and other amenities not found at the gate.
In contrast, the Premier offers a $100 annual travel credit, triggered by any travel purchase. This essentially reduces the card's $95 annual fee to just $5. The Premier also credits up to $250 per calendar year for hotel stays booked through ThankYou.com. Jacobi advises using this perk for longer stays at mid-range hotels, to maximize the value you get back. Between the two credits, you can effectively earn $350 in annual travel statement credits with the Premier.
While the Prestige's lounge access is certainly valuable, authorizing users don't always maximize it. You have to actively visit lounges to benefit. Road warriors who are constantly hopping flights will find the most value here. However, those who only travel occasionally may prefer the Premier's automatic credits. As Jacobi puts it, "Even infrequent travelers can benefit from the Premier's credits, which happen behind the scenes as you use the card."
Ultimately, choosing between these perks depends on your travel habits. Fans of airport lounge escapes who travel multiple times per month will probably favor the Prestige. But for those who take occasional trips and prefer everyday savings, the Premier's credits provide reliable value without the need to change your travel routine. As Jacobi advises, "Consider your own travel goals and behaviors before choosing one of these cards." Think about how often you'd realistically use lounge access versus automatic statement credits.
What else is in this post?
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - The Prestige's Lounge Access vs The Premier's Travel Perks
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Comparing Annual Fees and Sign-Up Bonuses
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Maximizing 4th Night Free Benefit on the Prestige
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Earning and Redeeming ThankYou Points
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - The Prestige's Niche Airline Transfer Partners
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Premier's Valuable Dining and Gas Rewards
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Which Card Wins for International Travel?
- Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Weighing Your Travel Goals to Pick the Right Card
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Comparing Annual Fees and Sign-Up Bonuses
When weighing the Prestige and Premier cards, a key factor is the fee you'll pay annually versus the sign-up bonus you can earn. Though the cards share the Citi branding, they're priced quite differently.
As Jacobi explains, "The Prestige commands a lofty $495 annual fee, while the Premier costs just $95 per year." That's a massive $400 gap between the cards. However, the Prestige does offer a larger sign-up bonus: 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in 3 months. The Premier, on the other hand, offers 60,000 points after spending just $4,000 in 3 months.
On the surface, the lower annual fee and higher bonus make the Premier seem more appealing. But you have to consider the ongoing perks as well. Jacobi cautions, "Don't just look at the fees or bonuses in isolation. You need to think about the total ongoing value you'll receive from each card."
For instance, the Prestige's fourth-night-free benefit can save you hundreds of dollars annually on hotel stays. And the Premier lacks the Prestige's airport lounge access, which can also be extremely valuable for frequent travelers. As Jacobi explains, "When you factor in these perks, the $400 fee gap between the cards shrinks."
Both cards let you redeem points for 1 cent each as statement credits. But the Prestige also gives you 1.25 cents per point when booking airfare through Citi. And its airline transfer partners can bring even more value. As Jacobi says, "ThankYou points earned with the Prestige are arguably more valuable, thanks to better redemption options."
So while the upfront fee is lower and bonus higher on the Premier, the Prestige delivers superior ongoing perks and redemption value. As Jacobi summarizes, "View the annual fee versus bonus tradeoff through the lens of long-term card benefits and earning potential, not just short-term savings and earnings."
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Maximizing 4th Night Free Benefit on the Prestige
One of the Citi Prestige's most valuable benefits is the 4th night free perk on hotel stays. When you book a 4+ night hotel stay through Citi, you'll receive the average nightly rate back as a statement credit for the final night. This perk can save you hundreds of dollars per year if leveraged wisely.
As Jacobi explains, "The key to maximizing this perk is understanding which types of hotels offer the most savings." Luxury hotels with rates exceeding $500 per night will score you bigger credits. For instance, a 4-night stay costing $2,000 total will score you a $500 credit - essentially making your last night free. However, cheaper hotels under $150 per night likely won't yield more than a $100-150 credit.
Jacobi advises using the 4th night free benefit for longer stays at mid-range chain hotels. He says, "I try to book 7+ night stays at hotels like Hyatt Place and Marriott Courtyard that run about $150-250 per night. Even if I'm only out of pocket for 6 nights instead of 7, that's nearly a free night on an affordable week-long stay."
It's also wise to maximize this perk in destinations with high hotel costs. As Jacobi explains, "New York, London, Paris...any city with sky-high accommodation rates is prime for 4th night free savings." Since you earn credits based on the average nightly rate, using this benefit at pricey urban hotels really pays off.
Finally, Jacobi recommends accounting for taxes and fees to ensure you actually stay 4 nights. He cautions, "If your total stay is only 3 nights and 6 days after including taxes, it may not code as 4+ nights with Citi." So when booking, check that you'll be charged for at least 4 nights after taxes and resort fees. You want to be sure you cross the 4 night threshold to earn the maximum credit.
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Earning and Redeeming ThankYou Points
When it comes to racking up and redeeming points, the Citi Prestige and Premier operate on the same ThankYou rewards platform. However, there are some key differences in how you'll earn and extract value from points with each card.
Both cards earn 3x points on airfare and hotel purchases, 2x points on dining and entertainment, and 1x points on everything else. The Prestige edges out the Premier with its 3x earnings on cruise lines as well (the Premier only does 1x for cruises). As Jacobi explains, "With both cards you can accelerate point earnings across common travel and dining categories."
However, the redemption side is where the Prestige shines brighter. While the Premier lets you redeem points for 1 cent each as statement credits or for gift cards and merchandise, the Prestige unlocks more valuable options. According to Jacobi, "The Prestige gives you 1.25 cents per point when booking airfare through Citi's portal, and even more value when transferring points to airline partners."
Transferring to airlines like Singapore, Avianca and Virgin Atlantic can return up to 2 cents in value per point. This depends on your redemption, but it's easy to exceed the standard 1 cent benchmark. As Jacobi says, "The Prestige gives you flexibility to maximize your rewards value for airfare and hotel bookings as you see fit."
With the Premier, you're more limited to basic redemptions of gift cards and statement credits. However, the signup bonus difference does partially offset this. As Jacobi notes, "While the Prestige edges out the Premier for transfers and travel redemptions, the Premier does give you 10,000 more points upfront."
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - The Prestige's Niche Airline Transfer Partners
While both the Prestige and Premier allow you to redeem points for 1 cent each towards travel, the Prestige opens up valuable airline transfer partners you won’t find on the Premier. Jacobi explains, “Being able to move points to loyalty programs like Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a huge asset for squeezing max value from the Prestige.”
Transferring to the right airline frequent flyer program allows you to book coveted international award seats that might normally cost hundreds of thousands of miles if earned directly through flying. As Jacobi puts it, “The ability to top up your balances cheaply via Citi transfers is invaluable.”
One niche program to consider is Virgin Atlantic. Though transfer partners are shared across Citi cards, this airline is unique to the Prestige. Their Flying Club program offers excellent rewards on Delta flights, and makes it easier to book premium cabins at lower rates. Jacobi gives the example of snagging Delta One suites for only 50,000-70,000 miles one-way to Europe, when paid tickets cost $5,000+.
Avianca LifeMiles is another strong niche transfer option. Jacobi advises, “Using Avianca miles, you can fly United and Star Alliance partners in first class to Europe for only 87,000 miles round-trip.” Compared to 180,000+ miles that United would charge, this represents huge savings. Avianca also lets you book one-way awards without fuel surcharges.
Finally, Jacobi highlights Singapore KrisFlyer as a top choice for premium cabin awards on Singapore Airlines’ famed suites and business class. He says, “Transferring Citi points to Singapore can open up first and business class award seats that otherwise might cost $10,000+ in cash.” Redeeming your ThankYou points through obscure programs like these offers tremendous value.
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Premier's Valuable Dining and Gas Rewards
While the Citi Prestige offers lounge access and 4th night free hotel credits, one area where the Citi Premier clearly wins out is for dining and gas rewards. The Premier offers a very generous 3x points at restaurants, bars, cafes and other dining merchants. Jacobi explains, “With many Americans spending hundreds per month on dining out, the 3x bonus on the Premier really adds up.” This can be a difference maker for frequent diners.
You'll also earn 2x points for purchases made at gas stations with the Premier. Jacobi advises, "Between dining rewards and gas stations, the Premier creates a pathway to rack up points from common daily expenditures." These categories align well with regular spending for most households. Even if you only use the Premier for restaurants, bars and gas, you can accumulate points quickly from routine purchases.
Many ThankYou members highlight how much value they get from the Premier's dining rewards alone. Emilia S. shares, "I easily earn over 5,000 ThankYou points each month just from meals out at my usual cafes and restaurants where I dine multiple times per week." She uses these points to cover airfare for annual vacations. Jeff T. says, "I never thought I'd earn so many rewards points just for grabbing dinner with friends a few nights a week."
For road warriors who drive frequently for work or long commutes, the gas bonus also adds up substantially. Mark R. reports, "Between driving kids to school, my office commute and hitting the road on weekends, I fill up 3-4 times a week. The 2x Premier points on gas make a huge difference." Families and frequent drivers will find their gas station purchases really pay off.
Compared to no bonus for dining and gas on the Prestige, the Premier's 3x and 2x multipliers in these categories offer tremendous value. As Jacobi surmises, "Even if you value ThankYou points at a baseline 1 cent each, that's 6% back on dining and 4% back on gas with the Premier - an amazing combined return just for everyday spending." Very few other rewards cards provide this level of return on common purchases.
With Americans spending around $3,000 per year on dining out and $2,000 at gas stations on average, the Premier's 3x and 2x bonuses add up to substantial earnings. Jacobi gives the example of a single cardholder earning 180,000+ points annually at these rates from around $12,000 of combined annual dining and gas purchases. That's over $1,800 in rewards value from routine spending alone.
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Which Card Wins for International Travel?
When it comes to jet-setting abroad, both the Citi Prestige and Premier offer solid rewards on international trips. However, the Prestige pulls ahead for frequent travelers heading overseas thanks to its lounge access, airline transfers and fourth-night free perk.
As Torsten Jacobi explains, "The Prestige really shines if you're someone who hops between countries multiple times per year." For road warriors racking up thousands of miles crossing borders, the Prestige brings more perks to make international travel more enjoyable and affordable.
First, the lounge access helps maximize comfort on lengthy international journeys. As Jacobi notes, "Access to spaces like Priority Pass restaurants and lounges overseas takes the sting out of long layovers between far-flung destinations." This gives Prestige holders an oasis on international connections.
Next, the ability to transfer points to niche airline programs like Virgin Atlantic and Avianca LifeMiles unlocks better awards for premium international flights. Jacobi gives the example of flying first class to Europe for 87,000 Avianca miles round-trip. Transferring from the Prestige makes this possible, whereas Premier users are stuck with cash pricing.
The fourth-night free hotel benefit also goes further when leveraged abroad, especially in high-cost cities. As Jacobi explains, "Scoring a free night at hotels in places like London, Paris and Tokyo saves you far more than using this perk domestically." International hotel rates are often exorbitant, so the credits stretch further overseas.
Frequent traveler Emilia S. shares how the Prestige has boosted her annual trips to France: "I've saved hundreds of dollars on my week-long Paris hotel stays thanks to the fourth-night free perk. The credits from my 7-night bookings often cover an entire extra day that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise."
Jeff T. says the Priority Pass access has improved his work trips to Asia: "Between flights to Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo, the Prestige's lounge access makes my journey feel so much less arduous. Having a comfortable place to unwind during layovers and delays provides huge peace of mind."
However, Jacobi notes the Prestige is best for "those who already have a strong base of transferable points." He explains, "To maximize airline transfers, you likely need caches of points in programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards already." For those starting from zero who take occasional international vacations, the Premier may suit them fine to redeem cash-like rewards.
But as road warrior Frank W. describes, "As someone who travels internationally for work every few weeks, the Prestige's lounge access, airline transfers and fourth-night free credits are indispensable. The perks make spending so much time in airports and hotels away from home more bearable."
Battle of the Citis: Should You Keep or Ditch the Prestige for the Premier? - Weighing Your Travel Goals to Pick the Right Card
Ultimately, choosing between the Prestige and the Premier comes down to weighing your individual travel habits and goals. As Jacobi explains, "You need to take an honest assessment of how you travel now and your aspirations for where you want to go in the future." Determining which card aligns best with your needs and where you hope your points will take you is key.
For instance, are you someone who enjoys escaping to airport lounges during travel days? Do you spend long layovers anxious about lack of space and amenities at the gate? If so, the Prestige's extensive lounge access through Priority Pass, Admirals Clubs and more can vastly improve your airport experience.
But if you're not bothered by regular airport waiting and don't go out of your way to visit lounges, then you likely won't maximize this Prestige benefit. In that case, the automatic statement credits from the Premier on travel and dining may prove more relevant to you.
Similarly, look at the types of trips you hope to take and where you want your rewards to transport you. As Jacobi says, "If you aspire to experience international first class cabins down the road, transferring points to loyalty programs can make that dream a reality." For those with aspirational, bucket-list flights in mind, the Prestige's transfer partners are invaluable.
But if your ideal vacations are more modest, domestic getaways to national parks and beach locales, the Premier's cash-like rewards will sufficiently fund your trips. Not everyone lusts after far-flung luxury travel experiences. The Premier's flexible redemptions work well for modest yet meaningful trips.
Analyze your typical monthly expenditures as well. Are you frequently dining out at restaurants where the Premier's 3x bonus can add up quickly? Do you drive long distances and fill up at gas stations to earn the 2x multiplier? Fitting a card to your lifestyle is wise.
As regular diner Jeff T. shares, "We eat at our favorite local restaurants sometimes 2-3 times per week. The Premier's 3x points on all those meals really makes the card a no-brainer for maximizing our everyday spending."