For cardholders of the Citi Prestige, one of the great perks of the card is the 4th night free benefit. The short version of this benefit is that if you book 4 consecutive hotel nights through Citi’s Concierge Service, Citi would reimburse you back for the last night and credit you back the amount in 1-2 billing cycles.
Others have done an excellent of summarizing the product, such as this resource from Frequent Flier: Complete Guide to Citi Prestige 4th Night Free, so I won’t focus on the “what”. Since I haven’t used the 4th night free benefit until now, I want to share my booking experience using this benefit for the first time.
Citi’s Concierge Booking Experience:
To start, I called Citi’s Concierge number at (561)-922-0158. The booking process is relatively straightforward. The initial automated message indicated that Citi’s Concierge services are provided by Aspire. A nice rep came on the phone and asked for my name and zip code, and she was able to pull up my profile in the system. I gave her the hotel I want to book and the dates. There was a minor hiccup in finding the hotel because she misheard the name I gave her. Once that was resolved, she let me know the available room types and the nightly rates.
I had done my research on booking sites (specifically, Expedia) prior to the call, so I had a good idea of the rates. I was pleased to find that the rates the rep gave me matched the market rates, and not some inflated numbers to offset the perk. I proceeded with the booking, and the rep gave me a case number and let me know that I will receive a confirmation which can take up to 1-2 days to arrive (the email came within 30 minutes). The email arrived with clear pricing info and the expected 4th free night reimbursement amount.
There were two things may be of interest to others:
1. If you forget to add your rewards number during the booking process: I forgot to add in my hotel rewards number during my call. I was able to log into my hotel rewards account and link the reservation to my account with the booking confirmation number.
2. Booking the base room rate only: When you book with Citi Concierge, you can book for the base room rate only. In other words, if you are on a booking site and see a room rate with breakfast option, or other bundled package, be aware that those options do not qualify for the 4th day free benefit. I only found out because I was hoping to book a rate that includes breakfast, but the rep explained only base room rate is covered, and anything else would make it ineligible for the 4th night free benefit.
The whole booking took less than 20 minutes. I had a pleasant talk with the rep and a good experience, so I hope I can make more use of it in the future.
My Theory on Why We Can’t Book Online:
As as aside, it really boggles my mind that booking the hotel can’t be done online. (Disclaimer: A somewhat geeky talk alert below)
My theory that Citi doesn’t offer an online booking option simply because they don’t have the backend infrastructure for it. Since the Aspire rep can pull up my profile based on some basic info, authentication isn’t an issue. While Citi could get hotel information easily (i.e. they could partner with booking sites), I suspect that the most complicated part is in the filtering of the base room rates. Given the numerous ways that hotels could categorize their rooms and base rate, this can get complicated.
Since Citi isn’t in the the business of building software, they may as well:
1. Leverage existing booking engines
2. Offer a concierge service because the booking requires manual intervention, but market the concierge service as a “personalized” touch for the premium card.
It’s a win-win for them – and I suspect in overall savings too. Still, I think they could make incremental improvements, like a simplified online intake process from the card management area. User can provide the desired hotel, dates, type of rooms, and the submission would generate a case number. This could streamline some of the info collection process during the call, and the cardholder can call in and refer to the case number to more quickly finalize the booking.
Have you used the Citi Concierge to book the 4th free night? What have your experience been like?
Source: Travel Gadget Reviews