I like to churn my credit card portfolio. While I am always on the lookout for new cards, I prefer to cancel the ones I do not get any benefit out of. So far, in 2019, I have made one change. Out went the American Express Platinum Credit Card (more on that in another post).
In came Citi Prestige.
Citi Prestige Credit Card
While this may surprise some, Citi Prestige is not the most premium Citi credit card in UAE. The honor goes to Emirates-Citibank Ultima Card which has an annual fee of AED 3,000.
Key details of the Citi Prestige card are
- Annual fee: AED 1,500
- Minimum salary: AED 30,000 (monthly)
- Card type: Mastercard World Elite
- Earnings: 2 ThankYou points for every US$ spent in UAE, 3 ThankYou points for every US$ spent internationally
- Forex mark-up: 3.0%
At first glance, there is nothing spectacular about this card. However, I have held it for 2 months and have grown into loving it. These are the reasons
Annual Fee can be Easily Offset
While the annual fee of AED 1,500 + VAT can sound steep, it can easily be offset. The card offers a sign-on bonus of 30,000 ThankYou points. I value these points at 1.5 cents a piece. So the sign-on bonus is $450 (AED 1,650). This will easily offset the annual fee.
However, there is more. If you spend AED 20,000 in the first 3 months, you get cash back of AED 1,250.
To add both up, you can get sign-on bonus upto 2x the annual fee.
Earn Points on All Transactions Including Utilities
This is the reason I had applied for this credit card. All the cards I owned before Citi Prestige reduce earnings on spends such as electricity bills, telephone bills, fuel, school fee etc. The points offered on these spends can be 10-50% of normal earnings. Let us take some examples:
SPG World Mastercard by Emirates NBD
- Insurance, Car dealership related, Grocery and Supermarkets earn 25% points
- Real estate, Education, Petroleum, Government Services, Bill Payments (including utility and Telecommunication) earn 10% of points
FAB Etihad Guest Infinite Credit Card
Earn 2.5 Etihad Guest miles (usual earning is 4.5 miles) per AED 10 on Supermarket, Fuel, Education, Govt Payments.
Emirates Islamic Skywards Infinite Credit Card
- Government transactions earn 0.15 Skywards miles per USD (normal earning rate is 1 mile per USD)
- Telecom, fuel and real estate earn 0.25 Skywards miles per USD
- Grocery and Supermarket earn 0.5 Skywards miles per USD
As someone who spends a substantial amount every month on the above categories, I was looking for the right card. Citi Prestige fits the bill. The earnings on any category of domestic spend is the same.
Update (August 18, 2019): I saw my most recent statement and the points credited were less than expected. I called up CitiPhone and I was told a couple of things which I did not know before
- Rewards on Utilities spend is capped at 1,000 ThankYou points. In other words, you get full points on utility spends worth $500 in a month but none after that.
- Rewards on Groceries spend is 50% without cap. In other words, you get 1 ThankYou point per US$ spent.
- No restriction on transport, insurance premium etc.
I hate it when credit card companies promise something and then renege on it. I have raised a complaint and I will update the post as soon as it is resolved. I still think Citi Prestige is a solid credit card. My utilities spend do not exceed $500 and I can live with the discounted spend on groceries.
Update (August 25, 2019): I heard back from Citi after raising a complain. They have clarified a few things
- There is no deduction / discount / cap in points on utility and telecom spends unless you use Citi Banking portal to pay
- There is no deduction / discount / cap on points for grocery spend for Citi Prestige (there is one for Citi Skywards Ultima and the call center agent mixed up both cards)
Discovery Black Membership
I had discussed the GHA Discovery hotel loyalty program previously. With over 550 hotels in 75+ countries the complimentary upgrade to Discovery Black membership could be very useful. Usually, this is offered to members who have stayed 30+ nights.
These are the benefits provided at Black status
- Local amenity upon check-in
- One local experience per calendar year
- One local experience when staying at a new DISCOVERY brand for the first time
- Guaranteed room availability at least 24 hours prior to arrival
- Double room upgrade at check-in (subject to availability)
- Late check-out privileges until 6pm (subject to availability)
- Early check-in privileges starting at 9am (subject to availability)
There are some great local experiences, especially in Middle East. It ranges from airport transfers to dinner in a palace.
Further, the double room upgrade for Discovery Black members can be very lucrative. Difference between basic rooms and suits in some of these properties is huge. However, I have never tried it so I am not sure how easy it would be to receive an upgrade.
Oneworld Sapphire Membership
Citi Prestige (as a World Elite Mastercard) also offers complimentary upgrade to Gold membership in Qatar Privilege Club. This is the third tier of Qatar Privilege membership. The benefits are
- 75% bonus miles on Qatar Airways flights
Priority check-in at Hamad International Airport, Doha
- 15 kg excess baggage allowance
Some of the benefits may not be useful to UAE residents. However, it is important to remember that Qatar Airways is part of Oneworld alliance. Gold membership at Qatar Airways matches you to the Oneworld Sapphire membership. This provides you some great benefits which you can use at any airport
- Access to Business class lounge across airports
- Priority check-in
- Prirority baggage
- Extra baggage allowance
To avail these benefits, you can fly on any Oneworld airline regardless of class of travel. To reiterate, these lounges cannot be ordinarily accessed by PriorityPass or LoungeKey. For example, at Dubai airport (DXB), you can access the British Airways Lounge (Terminal 1) and Emirates Business Lounge (Terminal 3) with your Oneworld Sapphire status.
Multiple Reward Partners
There are several ways to redeem your ThankYou points – gift vouchers, statement credit, offset annual fee etc. However, as you would expect, the best value comes from converting ThankYou points to airline or hotel partners. While the UAE list is smaller than the Citi Prestige US list, there are quite a few partners still. You can transfer your ThankYou points to the following on 1:1 ratio
- Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
- British Airways Avios
- Etihad Guest
- Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
- Malaysian Airline
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid
- Turkish Airline Miles&Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic
Etihad Guest is one of the most versatile airline currency to hold. You may read my ultimate guide to redeem Etihad miles – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. At an earning rate of 2 miles per US$ 1 of spend, Citi Prestige is one of the best credit cards to earn Etihad miles. You may see the other credit cards here.
Krisflyer can also provide some great redemption opportunities.
Citi Prestige is a solid credit card. Even though it did not offer a crazy sign-on bonus like I received with FAB Etihad Guest Infinite Card (120,000 Etihad Guest miles). It is a card where the annual fee (at least for the first year) is easy to offset. Also, the redemption options are plenty.
Most importantly, it is one of the few credit cards in UAE which offers the same earning rate for utility spend.
At present, Citi is offering 30,000 Thank You points and AED 1,250 of cash back on sign-up. You can apply through this link if you wish (link).