Requiem for a Credit Card

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I have a soft spot for the Citi Prestige card, because it was the first card that I applied for without ever intending to put daily spending on it. When you get a card without intending to use it for everyday purchases, you’ve crossed the line. You’re a churner. It was also my first $450/year card. You don’t forget your first.

I blame Lucky at One Mile At A Time, which is one of the blogs I had started to read while researching what cards Caroline and I wanted to switch our mishmash of United, AA, and Amex cards to for daily spending. At the time, in early 2016, I concluded the right answer was Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Ink Plus would give us a single pool of points that had most bang for our spending buck.

Anyway, there was some expiring signup bonus on the Prestige — I think 50,000 FuckYou ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in three months, or something. But what was really sweet about the card was its perks: 4th night free at any hotel; AA lounge access when flying AA; ability to purchase AA tickets at 1.6 cents per FuckYou ThankYou point (at the time, Chase only offered 1.25); trip delay compensation if a flight is delayed more than three hours. (Plus free golf, but if I had to choose one single thing I do not care about, it might be golf.)

The $450/year signup bonus seemed steep, but the card gave you back $250 towards flights, and apparently the annual fee could be $350 if you were a CitiGold banking customer. Which I was! Don’t fuck with me. There was also some buzz that it might be $350 if you applied in branch, and I have one practically at my doorstep. So the card really appeared to be about $100/year.

I applied, was approved, and I was pleased with it, because, for all of its Amex Platinum wannabe-ness, it actually offered cool shit I didn’t have before and you couldn’t get elsewhere. We used 4th night free a couple of times; I used the points to buy AA tickets; I used the AA lounge many times. It was also my first Priority Pass membership. I loved it.

Since then, perk by perk, Citi has been hacking away at the value of the card. First to go, about a year after I got it, was the AA lounge, and the points purchases were reduced to a pedestrian (compared to the subsequently-released Chase Sapphire Reserve, and “enhanced” Amex Business Platinum) 1.25 cents per point. (Golf also went, but…golf.)

So, that left 4th night free, and travel delay protection, and when the second year renewal came around, I decided that it was still worth it. I’ve never actually *used* the trip delay protection, but it was nice knowing it existed, and I made the Prestige my go to card for taxes and fees on award tickets, which is are the biggest chunk of my flying.

The third year anniversary is coming up soon, and I’ve learned, thanks to my travel genius friend Nancy, that the trip delay protection will soon only cover delays of six hours — which I already get from my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The Prestige is still only $100 per year after the airfare credit. But is it really? If I’m at a point where I never pay for airfare because I have enough points not to, then I’m really paying $250/year towards airfare that I otherwise wouldn’t be. Now the card seems like $350/year, again.

There’s certainly a chance I’ll want to use 4th night free in the future, because we might want to stay at non-chain hotels, and furthermore I’m running out of SPG/Marriott points without an immediate plan for replenishing them. But even then, I might want to book hotels with Chase points, because 1.5 cents per point is not terrible for that.

As for Priority Pass, I’ve got a few of those now.

If I let the Prestige go, then if I ever want the card again, I worry I’ll have to pay the full $450, as I’ve been downgraded to Citi Priority banking, and I don’t know if that works as CitiGold did, or if in person applications still work to get the $350 annual fee.

Citi has clearly decided they don’t want to be in the Chase/Amex rewards war, and now they’ve reduced the card to the prestige, if you will, offering for underinformed Citi banking customers. 

Anyway, whether I keep it or drop it — probably the latter — I want to say goodbye to what was once a great and unique card. You never forget your first.

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