Citi Prestige drops Airport Limo Transfers & Meet & Greet Privileges from January 1, 2020

From an Indian perspective, I’ve always maintained there are three cards that complete the holy troika: American Express Platinum Charge Card, Citi Prestige and HDFC Bank Infinia/Diners Club Black. They have all got their own benefits. Out of these, the oldest torchbearer has been Citi Prestige. I’ve held the card since before its official launch in India. Back in the day when Citi Prestige launched in 2014, the following benefits were offered:

  • 10,000 airmiles per membership year
  • INR 10,000 worth of hotel vouchers for Taj/ITC Hotels per membership year
  • Up to 15% savings on F & J tickets with 7 participating airlines
  • 4th night free at participating hotels
  • Complimentary meet & assist service, and one-way limo transfers twice a year
  • Unlimited Priority Pass
  • Complimentary Golf
  • Up to 20% off at select hotels in India & select spa
  • Complimentary Taj Inner Circle Gold & Epicure Plus Plan
  • Complimentary Etihad Guest Gold Membership & 5000 bonus miles, along with 6000 miles bonus on 20,000 miles conversion
  • Complimentary Upgrade on BAEC Club Membership & 5000 bonus miles
  • Complimentary Discover Sailing with Aquasail
  • Complimentary Overseas Medical Insurance of USD 50000
  • Relationship bonus for CitiGold & Citi Private Client
  • Double Points on International Spend

The benefits have dwindled over the past five years and nothing has been added to replace those benefits.  The first strike came in 2016, where the following benefits were taken away:

  1. Up to 15% savings on F&J tickets with 7 participating airlines
  2. Up to 20% off at Select Hotels in India
  3. Complimentary Etihad Guest Gold Membership & 5000 Bonus Miles, along with 6,000 miles bonus on 20,000 miles conversion.
  4. Complimentary Discover Sailing with Aquasail

Over the years, more benefits went away. For instance, Citi Prestige moved away from the top-shelf Ten Group concierge to another provider, removed Delta as a transfer partner, diluted the Fourth Night Free benefit by moving it from direct bookings to OTA bookings, and making it an average of four nights rather than 4th night itself. It seems after the original team that created the product moved out of Citibank India, the whole product seem to fell apart (some went to Amex no less!)

This year, Citibank has been slamming customers with changes left right and centre, and in no case have we seen this as beneficial for the consumer. Earlier on in the year, Citi Prestige relationship bonus of 30% bonus points was converted from a feature to a promotion. Subsequently, Citi has made changes to CitiGold methodology where people are no longer able to keep their Demat balances and Home loans as a part of the relationship. Not just that, Citi cutaway points for Insurance and Utilities. I have been surprised by the backlash on this last change, given I talk to people on a daily basis for their miles and points. No such hard feelings on the others except for Citi in their hearts for this change.

Citi Prestige Benefits being withdrawn in 2020

Having said that, Citi has now made the mother of all changes for 2019/2020 on the Prestige Cards, which will be valid from January 1, 2020. In the most amusing fashion, this was dropped overnight on Saturday morning, as if Citi never wanted their customers to find out about this change. The best part, the email said that these benefits have been revised to suit our needs:

  • 4th night free at select hotels, only two times a year.
  • Complimentary Airport Transfers & Meet & Assist withdrawn.
  • Complimentary Green fees at select Golf Courses abroad withdrawn.

For context, Citibank had curtailed the 4th-night free benefit in the USA with effect from September 1, 2019, so it was only a matter of time that the 4th-night free benefit got curtailed in India as well. As a direct booker usually, I’ve only used the benefit once myself, and Shipra has used it once or twice as well. But I know of many members who would use this benefit a lot.

The Airport transfers & Meet & Assist benefit were one of my top-rated benefit for the card. I’ve used the Airport Transfers in Sydney, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo, Melbourne, Delhi and Bangalore, and this was a great benefit to have. For context though, it was an expensive and good benefit from the customer perspective, and bad on the pockets of the Bank. Each car transfer in my case (outside India), would have usually run Citi into 10’s of thousands of rupees. I found the Meet & Assist useless mostly in India given they could not expedite much, so hardly ever used that benefit, but after getting the email, I booked it for the heck of it on an upcoming trip.

Citi Prestige also provided complimentary Golf Green fees at many golf courses around the Asia Pacific, for instance, the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, 3-4 Golf Courses in Malaysia and then some more. To many C-level folk and entrepreneurs, this was the reason they kept the card in the pocket. Citi had over the years built many safeguards around the feature, to ensure people used it fairly, such as no incessant bookings, and a minimum time of 7 days between two bookings. Also, Citi curtailed it to just three free rounds over the years.

Unfortunately, all of this is gone. The complimentary Golf in India continues, unlike how some people who don’t have the card have inferred this benefit on the internet. The common thread amongst the three benefits gone is that Citi used to use Visa to negotiate and offer these benefits to their members. So is it Citi killing these benefits or Visa stopping to offer them is something I don’t know.

Bottomline

Needless to say that this is not something Citi Prestige Cardholders such as me like as a benefit. Most of these thinning benefits are taking out the lifestyle out of the Lifestyle Credit Card that Citi launched globally with much fanfare 5 years ago, and just leaves it as a mile earning card. Citi badly needs to add benefits and the glamour back to the product otherwise it will never be able to compete with what I think is a revitalised Amex these days.

What do you make of the Citi Prestige Benefits changes coming on January 1, 2020? Would you keep or cancel the card after this move?

Comments

  1. The old 4th night benefit, which included only Visa collection hotels (compared to all Hotels.com hotels) is available without any cap on uses here — https://visa-hotel-nights.inspiredlifestyles.com . You can book 8 night/12night bookings with 2/3 complimentary nights as well, just like old days. You should be getting loyalty points this way, but Visa says check with hotel.

    The Hotels.com variant of 4th night free (which replaced the usual way for a while) is now restricted to 2 uses per year. This way of booking opened up way more hotel options. But you can only book 4 night bookings at a time, and no loyalty points.

    This is good as we have both options.

  2. This is indeed disappointing news (esp on Insurance/utilities). I have now moved those expenses to HDFC Infinia card. The only benefit of holding this card is that points don’t expire and you get unlimited PP for yourself+5 addon members. Given that HDFC Infinia, Yes First priority provide PP to primary+addon card members as well (and most come in Life time free variant), it will be difficult to justify the 20K+Taxes renewal fee for Citi Prestige card. I had over 250K reward points few weeks back and made some redemption but still left with over 130K points. I still have a few months before the renewal.

  3. My prestige card is up for renewal in Feb. Can’t see myself continuing with it. Managed to use both the airport transfers before 31st Dec. The concierge made an exception and let me use the service on two legs of the same journey, so that was the only upside. Feels sad to let this card go after 4 years of using it extensively.

  4. I see a lot of folks here talk about AMEX as a key card in their wallet. I’m surprised since Amex has a very poor reward rate (1% at best more likely 0.5%). Can anyone point me to the benefits of Amex and why its quite popular? Will be thankful as clearly i’m missing something. (specifically which amex card since the plat charge seems too expensive and impossible to recover at least 2x of fees+gst+interest on fee and the plat reserve comes with virtually no benefits that i can think of leaving only the lesser cards/non premium variety) . Please help! thanks

    • Personally I think from rewards point perspective, Amex gold charge and MRCC are decent upto certain limit spending, like 4x 1000 spends monthly give you 1000 points. (6x 1000 for gold charge). + Amex runs decent promotions from time to time. Recently you could get 50 % extra points on transferring to Bonvoy.

      Amex plat charge IMO is not a rewards card but a lifestyle card specifically designed for people travelling business /first cabins as it gives complimentary upgrades etc and staying in elite hotel chains. It gives complimentary tier status in many hotel chains.

  5. Which would be the best card for accumulating points on star alliance network (only one or two airlines)?

    or for accumalating on etihad/emirates/Qatar?

  6. Disgusting. As someone who mostly books outside of the big hotel chains, the restriction of the fourth-night free benefit is dreadful. I must have used it about 12-15 times so far in the four years I’ve had the card.

  7. I would use the following strategy..
    1. Keep Citi Prestige alive till my membership expires. Surrender after that unless they make some really great positive changes..( Which I doubt)
    2. For Insurance payments use HDFC Diners Black upto 2000 RP limit.
    3. Apply SC Ultimate for all Insurance, Utility, wallet loads etc.
    4. Use Amex Plat for making use of their frequent promotions across different categories.

    Good Bye.. Citi Prestige..RIP

    • i have around 48000 citi prestige points = 1,92,000 miles
      the only good thing about citi is reward points dont expire so far.
      take good care of these miles as after u transfer these points to miles – there would be expiry of these miles ranging from 2 years to 3 years .
      some airlines miles dont expire untill you have valid transactions in the account
      or u have to pay for extended validity of your miles

      Deemat account is not a part of this but mutual fund investment thru their online banking portfolio is part of nrv.

      for insurance payments as well use e-wallets – paytm / mobikwik/ jiomoney etc.

      uber – pay via sc ultimate to get 20% cashback after 60 days provided you have 15,000 transaction limit in that month . promotion is till dec 2020.

      hdfc gives only 2000 RP LIMIT so why to use hdfc bank CC ?
      why not use paytm / mobikwik

      for health insurance / car insurance / home insurance / or any other insurance policies – the companies have made payment links / gateways through razorpay / ccavenue/billdesk etc which supports wallet payment as well so u will get all points for paying insurance premium.

      electricity / govt taxes / uber-ola / govt challans / educational institutions payment [ amex or sc ultimate ]

      mobile and DTH – citi gives points – but to paid via e wallets via AMEX or SC Ultimate

      SC Ultimate points and AMex points [ except amex plat charge ] expire at 3 years

      Any more thoughts r welcome

      • Mutual funds thro their platform will be in Regular schemes not in direct schemes. So every year you will pay over 1% more TER. when compounded you will be surprised to note the difference between Direct Vs regular.

        • Just invest bare minimum for you to maintain the nrv of citigold.
          For example
          Around 10 lakhs in savings + FD combined / 65 lakhs in mutual fund regular plan.

          Citigold is for all total accounts taken altogether for family – not for individual .

          So wife + parents etc can help in growing your NRV.

          Remainig money can be invested in mf in direct plan as suggested correctly.

          So u don’t incur very high losses due to less exposure in regular plan and still maintain citigold status for additional points on prestige

          • When I asked Citi to add my mother’s account to my Citigold relationship they declined and we went with another bank for her. I don’t think Citi will combine family NRV for Citigold status. Where did you get this information from?

  8. I felt they were insulting our intelligence with the email header, “Change is Good”. Nothing in that email even remotely pointed to a positive note for the card holders. This change is only good for Citibank as they cut down a lot of perks.

    This is my first year with the card after many with PMiles, and what made the steep fees worth was the Taj voucher, meet and greet, airport transfer and 4th night along with a being a decent miles accumulator. But now only two of the above remain with no points on utility and insurance expenses!!!. Suddenly the card does not seem special anymore and on par or below the offerings like Amex Platinum Charge/Reserve and HDFC DB/Infinia.

    I will closely watching if they come up with something that “is actually Good” for card holders before my renewal in April.

  9. What should be your strategy Ajay now ? And what should we do now

    Given that most of us have Citi prestige / AMEX plat or play reserve / hdfc Bank infinia or hdfc DCB?

    TIA

  10. Very very disappointing.. I may not cancel the card immediately. But surely would cut down my expenditure by 80% and would use AMex and Diners Black instead. Shame on you Citi!

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