Like I’ve parroted enough in the past, the Citibank Prestige is one of the best lifestyle credit cards in the market today, and this product is the current ambition of Citibank to be a worldwide competitor to American Express Platinum. One of the benefits on the card is a 4th night free benefit.
When Citibank launched this product in India, the 4th night free benefit was flawlessly offered, however over the past few months, I’ve seen nothing but heartburn in the way this has been handled. To give you an example, I wanted to book a base category room the Park Hyatt Goa for later this year. I called Citibank’s concierge line on the 12th of February 2015 to make a request, and I did not hear anything back anything till 16th of February 2015.
Mishandling 1: No rooms on offer
Eventually, the concierge desk came back to me with a response from Citibank’s supplier, stating there were no rooms available at the hotel for the nights I requested. I called the hotel and they confirmed they had the hotel wide open for the dates in question, as also on the GDS systems (the computer networks travel agents use to book flights and hotels for clients). I further checked with another travel agent who was able to spot the hotel on at least 3 different GDS platforms for the nights in question.
Confident that someone was lying through their teeth, I escalated this as a complaint along with screenshots of availability to Citibank. Initially, the response from Citibank was exactly the same, that there were no rooms available, since their yet unnamed travel vendor said so. However, I pushed them to give me a rate.
Mishandling 2: Wrong rates sent through and benefit not applied properly
About ten days later, and after many to and fro between myself and Citibank’s vendor, who was now directed to be truthful, I got the first set of rates. However, these were not the rates I asked for, and were instead a package rate that included a room, a buffet breakfast, 4 hours of sight seeing and so on. So, I went back to them to remind them that I had originally requested for a base category room, on a room only basis.
The worst part however was that their vendor did not stick to their T&C. There were 2 different rates stated for different nights in the reservation, and the T&C states that the value of complimentary nights is based on an average of all room rates. However, this supplier, trying to be clever, wrote that only the lower priced night would be complimentary.
Mishandling 3: No postpaid rates without breakfast
Yawn, it was really getting on my nerves now that 14-15 days later, they did not have a room booked for me. Imagine trying to use the 4th night free benefit on a trip coming 2-3 days down the line then. Here is what I heard back this time around, another lie:
The supplier mentioned that unfortunately they are unable to provide post-paid rates without breakfast as their system won’t show results for the same. Only the pre-paid rates are given without breakfast
Mishandling 4: Can’t extend benefit if you book 2 rooms or more as different primary cardholders
I heard back on March 2, 2015 about the exact room rate I was looking for, and I asked them to immediately confirm two rooms on both my Citi Prestige Credit Cards (I hold two of them). This is as per the T&C of the card which states:
Only one complimentary night is allowed per Citibank Prestige primary cardmember per room per booking. Complimentary night has no refund value.
They went ahead to book one room, while I went back to Citibank to tell them the mess that was this room booking request. However, Citi assured me that they’d be able to get another room organised as well.
Mishandling 5: Hyatt & Citi screw up another existing booking
Instead of booking a new room for me, Citi’s supplier sent me a reservation confirmation which had an existing reservation number for me. Essentially, an existing room reservation of mine was modified and this room request was made on this. On 4 days of investigation, it turned out Park Hyatt’s team was at fault here since they assumed something without confirmation about my arrival date. I had to get on the line with Hyatt’s team to get this sorted out.
Eventually, on 12th of March 2015, I finally got the reservation request completely sorted out. And guess what, just a couple of hours before I got the request, Park Hyatt dropped their rates by about INR 2000 per night on a post-paid basis.
As for the second Prestige card I held, they started the reservation process with me by getting me new rates, and sent me rates for the Grand Hyatt Goa rates while I made a reservation request for the Park Hyatt Goa.
This reservation made me see the mess that lies behind Citi India’s reservation process for a Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit. So, things you should look out for if you are making a reservation via Citi India:
- Rates are as per your request and not other random rates
- Benefit price, passed as a cashback after the stay has been completed, should be computed correctly (it is only room only basis)
- Rates are for the exact hotel you asked for…
Did any one else have a similar botched up experience claiming the Citi 4th night free benefit?
P.S. I just cancelled these 4th nights after the Hyatt 50% off sale since it no longer made sense!