The new Citi Travel Portal is a money-saving booking platform, especially for those who travel off the beaten path
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- The new Citi Travel Portal With Booking.com is now up and running.
- You can do things with this portal that you couldn’t do with Citi’s previous version, such as book hotel stays far into the future.
- Some experimenting proves that the Citi Travel Portal is far from perfect, though it has the potential to save you money.
- Read Insider’s guide to the best Citi credit cards.
The new Citi Travel Portal is up and running, and there are a few clear improvements over Citi’s previous travel booking iteration:
- It’s finally possible to book hotels more than just a few months down the road
- You can book more hotels than ever
- You can now book attractions (though the option to reserve cruises has disappeared)
- Citi is rolling out Hotel and Luxury Collection properties, where you’ll get elite-like freebies during your stay (similar to Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts)
You’ll also find many of the same features. For example, you can still use Citi ThankYou points as a payment option at a rate of 1 cent per point, or split payment between points and your eligible Citi credit card.
The new Citi Travel Portal is partnered with Booking.com — but that does not mean it makes no difference which portal you book through. There are still clear pros and cons to both websites.
Here’s a quick look at what to expect from Citi Travel and compare it to Booking.com. We’ll help you to understand when you should use Citi Travel and when you should skip it.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Citi Premier® Card
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We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
Prices between Citi Travel and Booking.com can differ (a lot)
Citi Premier® Card
Regular Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Whether you’re searching for flights or hotels, you may find a lower price depending on the site you choose. Concerning hotels, the price difference could be in the triple digits.
Here’s a look at the Soneva Kiri, a five-star hotel in Thailand. You’ll pay $1,116.91 for a night in early November 2023.
The same room on the same day when reserved through Booking.com comes to $1,256. That’s $139 more expensive than had the room been booked through the Citi Travel portal.
Because of this, you should never make any online travel agency your one-stop shop. Comparing prices could potentially save you several hundred dollars during a single stay.
Hotel perks favor the Citi Travel Portal
Credit card discounts
Certain Citi credit cards come with hotel discounts when booking through the Citi Travel Portal. This isn’t new, but it’s worth a reminder, as this could again be an opportunity to save hundreds of dollars on your hotel stay.
As an example, the Six Senses Yao Noi charges $2,128.64 for four nights. But Citi Premier® Card cardholders will get $100 off any hotel stay of $500 or more booked through the Citi Travel Portal once per year.
Using this benefit automatically discounts the below stay by $100 — instantly offsetting the card’s $95 annual fee.
Those who hold the Citi Prestige® Card
(not available to new applicants) will get the fourth night free on up to two reservations per year.
When using this benefit on the same reservation, you’ll get a $532.16 discount. Note that taxes and fees are not waived for your free night.
While both of these benefits can be wildly valuable, it’s still wise to check other sites for their rates. The Citi Travel Portal may still be more expensive — even after the Citi Premier® Card $100 discount.
Bonus points (for a limited time)
Through June 2024, Citi cardholders will earn bonus points when booking hotels, rental cars, or eligible attractions through Citi Travel.
Citi Premier® Card and Citi Prestige® Card cardholders will earn 10 points per dollar on hotels. And those with the Citi Rewards+® Card
or the Citi ThankYou Preferred (not available to new applicants) will earn 5 points per dollar.
It’s worth noting that most other travel portals offer similar bonus rewards with their cards — and it’s not a limited-time deal.
Citi Travel can book lots more hotels than most sites
One huge benefit that Booking.com has always had over many other online travel agencies is its willingness to list just about everything; a whopping 1.4 million hotels around the world. Hotels.com, for example, sticks to the more recognizable (or perhaps the more reputable) properties, listing less than 350,000 hotels — but Booking.com will share availability at a dingy shed in the thick jungle of East Java. This is extremely valuable for those who like to travel off the beaten path.
To that point, here is Booking.com’s list of accommodations near Tumpac Sewu, a stunning waterfall in Indonesia. There are five locations on the map near this hyper-rural tourist attraction.
Now let’s take a look at what Hotels.com offers in the same area. There’s nothing.
Citi Travel appears to list the same properties as Booking.com, though they won’t show up on the map unless there is availability for the exact dates you’re looking for. That’s a little inconvenient, but still good to know that you’ll see (nearly) all your options for your specific travel dates.
However, as you can see from the above map, Citi Travel doesn’t list as many available hotels as Booking.com. Booking.com shows three properties available for our specific dates, and Citi Travel shows just one. A perfect segue into the next point.
Citi Travel doesn’t have as much inventory as Booking.com
These sites don’t appear to possess the same hotel availability. Several times, I was able to find rooms on Booking.com that I couldn’t find through the Citi Travel Portal.
It’s worth mentioning that I never encountered a time when Citi Travel had availability that Booking.com didn’t. In other words, if Booking.com doesn’t show available rooms, you’re probably not going to find anything on Citi Travel.
You won’t find some airlines based on which platform you use
Let me first say that you shouldn’t be using Citi credit cards to reserve airlines in the first place. Citi has unapologetically purged its credit cards of any meaningful travel insurance whatsoever. You won’t get things like trip delay insurance, baggage delay insurance, primary car rental insurance, or anything else of value.
Instead, you should be using one of the best credit cards for travel insurance, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (both of which have their own travel portals with which you can use your rewards to book travel).
It’s not difficult to find minor price variants (a few dollars, usually) between the Citi Travel Portal and Booking.com. But the one big thing you should look out for is that they don’t list the same airlines in the search results.
For example, below is a flight between Las Vegas and Sacramento. When searching through Booking.com, you’ll see prices as low as $23.30 with Spirit Airlines.
However, the Citi Travel Portal does not show results for Spirit Airlines. Its cheapest flight is $155.20 with Delta — which, by the way, doesn’t appear via Booking.com.
That’s right: Booking.com doesn’t display Delta flights, and the Citi Travel Portal doesn’t display Spirit Airlines flights. Shop around if you want to know all your options.
Customer service may be improved
Booking.com hasn’t historically been lauded for its customer service. Changing and canceling reservations can be a pain. When booking through Citi Travel, however, you can make these changes through Citi instead of with Booking.com. While Citi Travel is spanking new, and therefore unproven, it’s too early to tell if tweaking your travel plans through Citi instead of Booking.com will be a better experience.
What you need to know about the Citi Travel Portal
The Citi Travel Portal will most benefit those with Citi credit cards that offer cardmember-exclusive perks such as the Citi Premier® Card’s annual $100 hotel discount on reservations costing $500 or more.
However, this site isn’t irreproachable. You might find cheaper prices (and even more availability) when searching on other sites.
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