It's a very competitive time for travel credit cards these days. There are tons of great perks from travel credits, to lounge access, to airline and hotel transfer partners. However even with all these great perks there is one that still stands out as well and above my favorite and that is the 4th Night Free perk on the Citi Prestige card.
How 4th Night Free Works
The 4th night free perk allows you to receive a credit on your statement for the cost of your hotel room (not taxes) for the average nightly cost of your visit (minimum 4 nights) a statement cycle after your stay. If you stay in a lot of hotels, like I do, this single perk can save you literally $1,000's per year.
The perk is made even better when you realize that to the hotel the 4th night is still a normal paid night. So you still get credits for your nights and points for your room rate like you normally would unlike many other promotional offers for free nights.
There are a few notable restrictions, though. The first is that you must book your hotel stay through Citi's travel concierge. This is a little bit of a pain because it means you need to call them every time you make a hotel booking, but the benefit overall is well worth it. It's also worth noting that I've never run into a markup or issue getting a rate I was able to find online matched through the concierge. They can match AARP, AAA, or even corporate rates in many cases. You can also usually book promotional rates and pre-paid rates with them as well.
They do have an online portal to book stays, but in my experience it’s still easier to call unfortunately. I often can’t find the AAA rate or some promotional rates on the website and in those cases I pretty much always end up calling. The website feels pretty clunky too.
The second restriction worth noting is that it doesn't cover all forms of accommodations. From the terms and conditions it is excluded from “yachts, riverboats, cruises, campgrounds, castles, safaris, villas, apartment rentals”, so when I tried to book my lodge for my South African safari on the card I was politely told it wasn't eligible. It also doesn't cover Airbnb, time shares, or vacation rentals like VRBO. It should cover pretty much any hotel, hostel, or motel, though, and I've never had any problems booking anything in these categories.
The third restriction is that you can't earn the 4th night free credit on two stays back to back at the same hotel. So if you need to stay somewhere for 8 nights, you don't get two 4th night free credits (one on the 4th and one on the 8th) like you might hope - even if you book it as two separate reservations. You can book back to back stays, but you'll need to switch hotels to ensure you get the credit. I often find it's worth it to switch hotels to maximize the benefit, but it all depends on your situation.
It's also worth noting that while the reimbursement covers the room rate it does not include taxes, resort fees, or any incidentals you incur during that time.
The program as a whole has definitely gotten better since it started. The booking and crediting process are vastly improved since the original launch. Now when you call to book hotels you can have them setup a profile for you. This will include all the tedious details that make booking over the phone so painful like your full name, address, credit card details, AAA number, and hotel loyalty numbers. The first couple might be a pain as they build out your profile, but at this point I've got it down to just giving them the following info:
Name and location of the hotel
Number of people staying (and number of rooms)
Dates of the stay
Preferred rate (if any)
With just the above they can fill in the rest and keep my booking relatively fast and simple. I've also had much better luck with hold times in the last few months (usually <5 minutes, often none) than I used to when it first launched and I'd often have to wait 30 minutes or more.
One last tip I have is that on a few occasions I've run into cases where I was able to find availability for a hotel only when I was logged in to my account. It turns out some hotels will only show the last of their availability to members with elite status. At first I wasn't able to book these hotels with the Citi Prestige Travel Concierge, but after a little digging with an above average agent she was able to confirm the booking if she called the hotel with my loyalty number and email. So if you are ever seeing availability that the agent is not, have them try calling the hotel to see if they can still get you the room you're seeing online.
Pending Annual Cap
Starting in Sept 2019 you’ll be limited to only using this perk twice per calendar year. This is a real bummer as I’ve used this card for dozens of stays over the last few years and limited it to twice per year will definitely force me to be much more strategic about how I use it. The one nice thing, though, is that up until the change you can book as many stays as you’d like and still get the credit. So as long as you plan it out in advance you can probably still carry this perk well into 2020.
Even after the changes it will still be an extremely useful perk, it’s just not the amazing deal it has been for the last several years.
This is truly an amazing perk that sounds too good to be true, but actually exists. It's definitely the single perk that has saved me the most money in our travels and has actually completely changed the way I structure our trips. I now often find myself trying to stay in increments of 4 nights to maximize this perk (which admittedly sometimes drives the Mrs crazy) and actually feel bad when I'm staying somewhere for 3 nights and missing out on a free night with this perk. That being said, though, it's also saved me tons of money and opened up new hotels I previously wouldn't have stayed at because of the price. Bringing the price down by 25-30% (if the rate changes) can often mean the difference between staying at the "nicer, but more expensive" place to me or not. We've also gotten some crazy reimbursements out of this perk and it works at such a wide range of locations that it's truly in a class all it's own.