For some time now I’ve believed the Citi Prestige Card to be the best general spend card available in Singapore. In an attempt to verify this belief, I decided to take a closer look at the benefits it offers.
The Citi Prestige Card was the winner of Aaron’s $120k credit card showdown last year, but the hyper-rational among us might still feel that humbler general spend cards (with annual fees that are more easily waived) such as the DBS Altitude Visa or Citibank PremierMiles Visa more than suffice for the job.
That’s true enough (what value does a shiny silver Mastercard World Elite logo have, really?), but the Citi Prestige Card comes with so many benefits, I suspect most travel hackers would easily be able to get their money’s worth from paying the annual fee.
Benefits at a glance
The $535 annual fee can’t be waived (there’re rumoured exceptions, but even those are linked to incorrectly-published info on a third party site), so what exactly do you get in return for this fee?
The card website lists its many benefits, but here’s a quick summary of the key benefits I find noteworthy:
- 1.3mpd local spend / 2.0mpd foreign spend
- (Up to) 0.12mpd bonus depending on banking relationship
- Wide range of airline transfer partners
- 25,000 miles with annual fee payment
- Unlimited Priority Pass (including up to one guest)
- Complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi
- 4th night free offer for hotel bookings
- Complimentary airport limousine transfers
- Complimentary travel and purchase insurance
- Discounted dining and entertainment event invitations
(The card actually accrues points in the form of Citi Dollars, but I’ve listed the mile equivalent for easy comparison.)
I’ll go into more detail below.
Good (general spend) mileage earn rate
The Citi Prestige Card earns 1.3mpd on local spend and 2.0mpd on foreign currency spend. That’s not the best out there, but it’s marginally better than the industry standard of 1.2mpd / 2.0mpd for general spend cards.
In fact, many of the other cards boasting higher earn rates also come with a list of sneaky terms and conditions that put me off using them:
|HSBC Visa Infinite||1.25mpd / 2.25mpd||These rates are only available from the second year onwards, requiring you to spend $50,000 on the card in the preceding year – otherwise, it’s merely 1mpd / 2.0mpd. Miles expire after ~3 years.|
|Standard Chartered Visa Infinite||1.4mpd / 3.0mpd||The rates are only available if you spend at least $2,000 on the card during the month – otherwise, it’s merely 1.0mpd. Higher foreign exchange fees of 3.5%, as compared to industry standard of 2.8%.|
|UOB PRVI Miles AMEX / Mastercard / Visa||1.4mpd / 2.4mpd||Miles awarded per block of $5 and expire after 2 years. Reports of sneaky miles deductions in lieu of annual fee payment.|
Thanks, but no thanks. In comparison, I rather like Citi’s straightforward per-dollar mileage earning system, its rather average 2.8% foreign exchange fee and reward points that don’t expire.
Bonus miles based on relationship status
Before we begin waxing lyrical on the how transparent Citibank is, let’s talk about the Relationship Bonus Points that the card earns.
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen people excitedly pointing at these figures and talking about how wonderful it is for a veteran Citigold member to earn 1.69mpd (1.3mpd with 30% bonus) on general local spend, and that 1.365mpd (5% bonus) isn’t too bad for a fresh customer, either. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
As it turns out, the percentage is applied to the dollar spend amount (e.g. 5% bonus means you’ll be awarded 0.05 Citi Dollars for each dollar spent, or 0.02mpd). Quite frankly I consider this to be sheer sophistry, but if you know what you’re getting into, the true effective bonus rate (applicable to both local and foreign spend) isn’t totally insignificant:
It’s much more significant if you’ve been with the bank for more than 10 years and hold at least Citigold status (min. AUM: $250k); if you’re new to the bank and don’t have any status, your Citi Prestige Card will effectively be earning 1.32mpd / 2.02mpd.
Wide range of airline transfer partners
Of all the local card issuers, Citibank has probably the most extensive range of airline transfer partners (American Express being another with more than the typical KrisFlyer / Asia Miles options). This gives you a much greater variety of programmes to play with – although I’d exclusively redeemed on KrisFlyer when starting out in the miles game, over the years I’ve come to really value the flexibility.
- KrisFlyer (Singapore Airlines)
- Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
- Qantas Frequent Flyer (Qantas)
- Privilege Club (Qatar Airways)
- Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
- Etihad Guest (Etihad)
- Royal Orchid Plus (Thai Airways)
- Executive Club (British Airways)
- Enrich (Malaysia Airlines)
- Infinity MileageLands (EVA Air)
- GarudaMiles (Garuda Indonesia)
- Miles&Smiles (Turkish Airways)
(Plus, how’d we have briefly gotten the chance to get a 60% discount for Miles&Smiles if not for Citibank’s generosity? ?)
25,000 miles with annual fee payment
At this point in time, we can start addressing the whole annual fee thing. The annual fee for the Citi Prestige card is not insignificant at $535; it also can’t be waived. Thankfully, unlike some other cards, you do get something in return.
I’m currently entering my fifth year as a cardmember now so I’ve long stopped considering the tablet as an option – it’s usually the cheapest (non-mini) iPad model; I’ve heard that you could request for an electronics store voucher instead and use it to subsidise something else that you might prefer. I’ve also heard that you can request for the tablet when renewing; assuming you can liquidate it at 10% below retail price (i.e. ~$450) you’ll still be out $85.
The default option for renewal would be 25,000 miles – that’s not too bad, but somewhat expensive at 2.14¢ per mile. You can get better rates elsewhere. Assuming you value miles at 2¢ per mile, you’ll be out $35.
To me, what this means is that the effective annual fee isn’t really all that high; even using the larger figure above, I’d just need to wring out $85 worth of additional benefits for the card to be worthwhile.
Unlimited Priority Pass (cardholder & guest)
Aaron has previously listed out cards with complimentary Priority Pass access, and you can see that the Citi Prestige Card’s unlimited Priority Pass access (for main cardholder + one guest) is comparatively very generous.
The HSBC Visa Infinite provides a different approach by providing unlimited visits to each cardholder (including supplementary cardholders), allowing the benefits to be used even when not travelling together. That might be preferable for some, but I prefer the Citi Prestige Card’s implementation, which allows the main cardholder to guest people in other than the supplementary cardholder(s).
Complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi
It’s not that well-advertised, but World Elite Mastercard holders can register for a complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi account. This essentially gives you complimentary unlimited Wi-Fi access at Boingo hotspots worldwide – based on my experience thus far, I’ve found it most useful when travelling in the USA, especially at their airports. On some airlines, you can gain access to their in-flight Wi-Fi as well.
Cardholders can register for an account via this site.
4th night free for hotel bookings
This is often seen as the killer feature of the card – even if you don’t particularly value the other benefits listed thus far (though others might feel they already justify the annual fee), it’s not hard to imagine how using this feature even once could help to tip the scales in your favour, as far as value proposition goes.
The full terms and conditions of this programme can be viewed here, but in short – when you make a reservation of 4+ nights at a hotel via the Citi Prestige Concierge, you’ll get the cost of one night (averaged out, minus taxes) credited to your card account.
Based on experience, the concierge is able to book via OTA (I’ve been quoted rates from Expedia before) or directly with hotels (so you gain full stay/point credit) – essentially, any publicly available rate should work.
It’s also rather easy to get done – I usually just drop them an email (or call if it’s urgent) with what I want and they’ll get it booked (if it’s for a specific rate I usually include a screenshot) and they’ll reply with booking confirmation and a note on the statement credit to be awarded.
Two points I’d like to highlight regarding the statement credit given by the bank, which is usually credited 1-2 months after the actual charge is made:
- The statement credit is essentially invisible to the hotel, so you’ll get full points credited to your hotel loyalty programme (e.g. Hilton Honors)
- The statement credit will likely appear on a separate statement, something worth taking note of if you’re claiming expenses for the stay(s).
This is best maximised by booking stays of exactly four nights, combined with ongoing sales – remember, the concierge is able to book any publicly available rate, so with some strategising you can net some really good deals like snagging Conrad Tokyo at about S$220 per night…
Airport limousine transfers
There are other cards that offer complimentary airport transfers (which Aaron has previously already written about), but in my opinion the Citi Prestige Card’s offering is among the most attractive. Extracted from the post: