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Earlier this year, Citi announced many changes to their credit cards, including ending Price Rewind, trip cancellation/interruption protection and more. Even Citi’s most premium card, the Citi Prestige® Card, was hit with these changes.

One of that card’s most unique benefits, the 4th-night-free perk, has been updated as well. Changes to the 4th-night-free perk went into effect on Sept. 1, 2019, so now’s the time to make sure you know about the new version of the benefit and how to use it going forward.

What’s changed?

Before Sept. 1, 2019, you could use the 4th-night-free benefit as often as you wanted to, but now the benefit is limited to two uses per year. Luckily, bookings made prior to Sept. 1, 2019, will not count toward the twice-per-year limit for 2019.

Additionally, while you could previously make 4th-night-free reservations via the Citi Concierge, it’s now only possible to make these bookings through ThankYou.com or via phone. That’s bad news for anyone who has status with a hotel chain and wants to use the 4th-night-free benefit there, as hotels generally do not honor status benefits unless you book directly with the hotel (which the Concierge workaround accommodated).

As always, you must pay with your Citi Prestige® Card in order to get your 4th-night-free benefit. The amount you’ll get back is based on the average nightly rate during your stay excluding taxes and fees, and the discount for your stay will be applied at the time of booking.

What if I need to change a previous booking?

For bookings made before Sept. 1, 2019, you might be in luck. If the Citi Prestige Concierge is able to make a modification without getting a new confirmation number, it’s possible to keep the booking eligible for your 4th-night-free perk.

Based on our information from the Citi Concierge, whether changes are possible can depend on the hotel/hotel chain.

What’s the best strategy now?

Previously, it made sense to take advantage of the 4th-night-free benefit for any cash hotel booking of four or more nights. You could still get your status benefits by booking via the Citi Concierge, and there was no limit to the number of times you could use the 4th-night-free benefit.

Now, you’ll have to weigh whether you have status at the hotel and want it to be honored (most likely yes), in which case it won’t make sense to book through ThankYou.com. You’ll also have to be strategic about using the benefit only two times per year.

If you have a stay at the beginning of the year that is four nights or longer at property that’s not very expensive, you’ll want to consider your travel plans for the rest of the year. If this will be your only trip for the year, by all means, use your 4th-night-free benefit. But if you have other upcoming trips, you’ll want to think about whether you can get more value by saving the benefit for later use.

The bottom line

Overall, these changes to Citi’s 4th-night-free benefit are not great. It’s gone from an unlimited benefit to one with a twice-per-year cap, which means in order to use it strategically you’ll have to plan your entire year’s travel at once. And the benefit has also become virtually useless for people who have status with hotel chains and care about using/maintaining it.

If you’re deciding whether to keep the Citi Prestige® Card, the hit to the 4th-night-free benefit is probably not working in the card’s favor. Before the annual fee comes due for 2020, we suggest taking a serious look at your travel plans for the year to see if keeping this card makes sense.

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