A New Strategy for Family Airport Lounge Access (Sadly, It Involves Ditching My Favorite Chase Card)

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When Citi recently announced changes (both good and bad) coming to the Citi Prestige, I wasn’t super thrilled with the annual fee increase.  But I planned to keep the card because its airport lounge access, which includes 2 guests or immediate family (spouse / domestic partner and children under 18), would stay intact.

See, I usually travel with my 3 kids.  And other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express, come with Priority Pass Select airport lounge memberships that limit visits to yourself and 2 guests – whether they’re family or not.  That’s a no-go for us.

But now I’m re-thinking my decision to hang on to the Citi Prestige and considering a different strategy.  And it involves – I can’t believe I’m actually uttering these wordsgetting rid of my beloved Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Having a Lounge Membership That Includes All 3 of My Kids Is Essential for Our Family

Don’t worry, there’s a method to my madness.  I’ll explain!

Why I’m Considering Shifting My Airport Lounge Access Strategy

Link:   The Best Credit Cards With Airport Lounge Access

Link:   Citi Prestige Changes

Getting to enjoy free food, drinks, Wi-Fi, and a quiet place to relax has made my family’s travels much more comfortable.  We’ve saved hundreds on expensive airport meals and had an overall more civilized experience thanks to having a card with airport lounge access – in our case, the Citi Prestige (which will be available to new applicants again in January 2019).

But now the Citi Prestige is getting an overhaul.  There are good changes, like improved 5X points earning on dining and airfare, expansion of the annual $250 credit to include all travel purchases (formerly just airfare), and the addition of cell phone insurance.  Team member Harlan shared why these positive tweaks will have him moving the Citi Prestige to the top of his wallet.

Here’s Harlan Enjoying Himself in Portland With His Priority Pass Select Airport Lounge Membership

That said, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  The annual fee is going up to $495 from $450, you’ll no longer be able to redeem Citi ThankYou points for 1.25 cents apiece through the Citi Travel portal, and 4th night free bookings are being throttled back to twice a year and limited to Citi ThankYou portal bookings, which don’t earn hotel points, elite credits, or elite status recognition (in most cases).  My colleague Joseph detailed why these changes are enough to make the card not worth it for him anymore.

My first reaction to the changes was that I’d keep the Citi Prestige, primarily for the ability to take the whole family into lounges.  But the steeper new annual fee is hard to swallow, and I probably won’t get as much use out of the 4th night free perk going forward.  So I’ve come up with a workaround that will save money and still get my family the same benefits.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Is the Answer to My Airport Lounge Conundrum

Apply Here:   Chase Sapphire Reserve

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Right now I’m not eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve because I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  And you can only have one Sapphire card at a time.

I’ve held the Chase Sapphire Preferred for ~6 years – it’s still the #1 card I recommend to friends and family starting out with miles and points.  And I’ve happily paid the $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year) over and over because of its excellent Chase Ultimate Rewards points earning and benefits.

But for my strategy to go forward, I’ll have to downgrade (preferable so I can keep the credit history) or cancel the Chase Sapphire Preferred, wait a couple of months, then apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  I’m eligible for the bonus on the Sapphire Reserve, too, because it’s been more than 48 months since I earned the bonus on the Sapphire Preferred and I’m below 5/24.

You’re probably thinking – wait – the Sapphire Reserve comes with Priority Pass Select airport lounge access that only covers 2 guests – how’s that gonna work with 3 kids?

The solution – and my daughter will likely squeal with glee at this – I’ll add her as an authorized user to the Sapphire Reserve.  It costs $75 a year and comes with its own Priority Pass Select membership, complete with 2 guests.  Between the 2 of us, we’d be able to take 6 people total into airport lounges – more than enough for our family.

And by cancelling the Prestige and making this change, I’ll actually save money.  Here’s why:

Card NameAnnual FeeLess Travel CreditAuthorized User FeeNet Cost
Citi Prestige$450 / $495 starting September 2019$250N/A$200 / $245 starting September 2019
Chase Sapphire Preferred$95N/AN/A$95
TOTAL Net Cost to Keep Both Cards$295 / $340 starting September 2019
VS
Chase Sapphire Reserve$450$300$75$225 ($450-$300, plus $75 for authorized user)
Savings per Year$70 / $115 starting September 2019

So by getting rid of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige in favor of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I’ll get a net savings of $70 per year ($115 starting September 2019 when the Prestige annual fee goes up).

Plus, I’ll earn a new bonus from the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  It’s currently 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.  And the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on travel and dining, compared to 2X in the same categories with the Sapphire Preferred.

Of course, before I downgrade or cancel my Sapphire Preferred, I’ll move my points to my new Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.  I was recently approved for the Ink Business Preferred and am currently just waiting for the welcome bonus (80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months) to post to my account.

Bottom Line

After big changes to the Citi Prestige were announced, I fully intended to keep the card despite the increased annual fee and devaluation of some benefits.  That’s because it comes with airport lounge membership which includes unlimited immediate family (spouse / domestic partner and children under 18) as guests.  Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer memberships with a limit of 2 guests.

But after running some numbers, I realized I could get a better deal on airport lounge access for the whole family by rearranging my card lineup.  I’ll cancel the Prestige, downgrade (or cancel) my trusty old Chase Sapphire Preferred, and replace both with the Sapphire Reserve.

Then by adding my daughter as an authorized user on the Sapphire Reserve, she’ll get her own Priority Pass airport lounge membership with 2 guests.  We’ll be able to get a total of 6 people into the lounge when we travel as a family.

My net savings after all this will be $70 per year ($115 after the Citi Prestige annual fee increase), and that’s including the additional authorized user expense.  And I’ll earn a hefty bonus and more points on travel and dining with the Sapphire Reserve, too.

What about you?  Have you reconsidered your airport lounge strategy given the news about the Citi Prestige?  Or do you have a different workaround for traveling as a larger group?  Please let me know in the comments below!