When should you book a Prestige 4th night free?

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Less than six months from now, the Citi Prestige 4th night free perk will be all but dead to me. Truth be told, until this last 9 or 10 months, I’d only used it once or maybe twice a year. But now that we’re on the clock, I find myself actively looking for opportunities to use it, which begs the question: When does it make the most sense to make a 4th night free booking? The answer might be more or less than you think.

Why the benefit will be dead to me soon

You can currently make Citi Prestige 4th night free bookings through the thankyou.com portal or through the Prestige concierge via phone or email. In our Citi Prestige 4th night free complete guide, we explain why you don’t want to book these via thankyou.com (in short, your stay won’t qualify for elite credit, elite benefits, hotel points, etc, nor will you have the opportunity for discounted rates through coupon codes / corporate codes, etc). Between the lack of hotel loyalty benefits and inability to use common discounts, you just can’t save much when booking through thankyou.com over booking it yourself.

As a quick example, here’s a look at a 4-night stay at the Kameha Grand Zurich (a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel) booked through ThankYou.com:

As you can see, after the 4th night free benefit is applied, the total would be $744.68.

That same hotel offers a AAA rate that is significantly better. At the time of writing, 1 CHF is worth almost exactly $1, so think of these rates in US dollars.

The Prestige concierge can book the AAA rate, so I’d expect to receive 1/4 of the total cash rate back for a total of about $452.50 after tax. That’s almost three hundred bucks cheaper than booking via thankyou.com.

The Prestige concierge is typically able to apply other coupon codes if you have access to a better discount than AAA and bookings made by phone or via email typically qualify for elite benefits, hotel points, etc.

Unfortunately, after September 1st, you’ll only be able to make 4th night free bookings online via the thankyou.com portal and you’ll be limited to 2 bookings per year (the benefit is uncapped for reservations made before September 1st). In other words, I probably won’t be booking any 4th night free bookings after September 1st, but I’ll likely make a few between now and then.

But with shopping portal rates reaching 10% or higher pretty regularly these days, when does it make sense to book via the concierge and when are you better off booking your stay via a portal?

Times when you should book the Prestige 4th night free

4-night paid stays

For the sake of completeness, this is the obvious scenario. If you’re booking a 4-night paid stay, you’d of course generally want to book it through the Prestige concierge.

3 night stays…or should you?

I’d long worked under the assumption that if I needed a 3-night stay, I should probably book a 4-night stay. Sure, I’d pay the tax on the 4th night, but I’d pick up a night of elite credit and hotel points on the 4th night even though Citi is footing the bill for the extra night.

However, that really depends on room rates for the fourth night. For example, here’s a look at that same Kameha Grand example used above. Again, since 1 CHF is almost $1 at the time of writing, let’s imagine the prices are in US dollars.

As you can see, the total cash rate for 4 nights is $590. After the 4th night free benefit (based on an average nightly rate of $147.50), the total should come to $442.50 + $10 (all-in price = $452.50).

Here’s a look at the same hotel for 3 nights.

The new total for three nights is $418.50. If you’re not making a 4th night free booking, you could alternatively book this through a shopping portal. We’ve recently seen rates hit 10% back on Marriott, Choice, and IHG. Assuming 10% back on the room charge via a portal, the net cost is in the $370’s. The hotel points and elite credit probably aren’t worth the additional ~$80 here.

This will of course vary wildly — sometimes booking that 4th night will qualify you for a better rate on all of your nights, sometimes you run into a special event that jacks prices up. If room rates are constant, it is likely advantageous to book a 4th night free.

When you can stack a Best Rate Guarantee

I’ve written a few times about what a great stack you can pull off with a one-two punch of a Citi Prestige concierge booking and a 4th night free. See these posts:

In short, since Prestige concierge bookings qualify as “direct” bookings, you should be able to file a best rate guarantee claim if you find a better rate than the one you’ve booked (provided it is for the same room, same cancellation policy, filed within the timeline set forth by the hotel chain, etc). Hilton or Marriott will give you 25% off of the better rate, so the savings there could be significant when stacked with the 4th night free benefit as shown in the second post above.

When you can stack conference / corporate code

If you’re making a business trip, it’s worth seeing if the Prestige concierge can book your corporate code or conference code. While I’ve read reports that the Prestige concierge sometimes can’t book special rates like conference rates, we’ve also received reader reports of success in booking such special rates.

Hotels sometimes offer promotion codes on their own websites — for example, you may find that a hotel offers a 4th night free when using a coupon code found on the hotel website. The Prestige concierge can often apply that code for you. Since the Citi benefit is determined by the average nightly rate, these should stack nicely.

Even something as simple as the AAA rate can save you a decent chunk of change, as shown above.

Paid stays of 4-9 nights

It’s not only 3- or 4-night stays that work out well when booking via the Prestige concierge.  You’ll also come out ahead on longer stays in many scenarios (though you can probably do better by booking separately).

Additionally, with the ability to now earn Membership Rewards via Ebates, you may value portal rewards more highly than before. We’ve seen payouts of 10% at Marriott recently, which could alternatively be earned as 10x Membership Rewards points per dollar (see this post for more). Our Reasonable Redemption Value for Membership Rewards is more than 1.8 cents each, so some would value that return as high as 18% — which could of course be more or less in reality depending on how you redeem your points.

The following chart assumes a constantly nightly rate of $100 per night. See the cost per night when paying $100 cash, after 10% back via a shopping portal, after 10x Membership Rewards valued at 1.8c each (18% back), or after a Prestige 4th night free booking. Keep in mind that you will additionally pay taxes — portal and Prestige rebates typically exclude taxes.

Number of nights 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Cost at $100/nt $100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $600 $700 $800 $900 $1000 $1100
Cost after 10% back via portal $90 $180 $270 $360 $450 $540 $630 $720 $810 $900 $990
Net cost if earning 10x Membership Rewards at a value of 1.8c each $82 $176 $264 $352 $440 $528 $616 $704 $792 $880 $968
Cost after 4th night free booked via concierge N/A N/A $300 $300 $400 $500 $600 $700 $800 $900 $1000

As you can see, you can at least theoretically save money by booking through the Prestige concierge on stays of up to 8 nights. You may be better off booking a 9-night or longer stay via a shopping portal if your only two options were booking all 9 nights via a shopping portal or all 9 nights via the Prestige concierge.

Of course, it’s probably not a binary choice. For more stays greater than 4 nights, you’d be better off booking 4 nights via the Prestige concierge and making a separate reservation through a shopping portal for the additional nights needed. For a stay of nine nights or more, you might want to make two separate 4th-night free bookings and split them up with a separate 1-night booking. The front desk can usually combine your reservations when you check in so you can keep the same room throughout your stay.

Bottom line

The Citi Prestige 4th night free is a terrific benefit when used for bookings through the Prestige concierge. While you’ll need to book via ThankYou.com if you want to use your ThankYou points, you will likely have trouble getting good value that way since you will not be able to stack discounts, shopping portals, etc.

If you’re booking a stay of 4-8 nights, the Prestige concierge is likely the way to go if they need to be on a single reservation. Alternatively, book 4 nights through the Prestige concierge and additional nights as needed via a shopping portal to stack maximum savings.

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