Concert with crowd cheering
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As a credit card holder, it’s only natural for your expectations to rise with the passage of time. Your credit history improves, your financial obligations inflate; it’s logical to seek credit cards that reward you in proportion.

For some, it’s all about what the card can offer you on a strictly financial basis ­— favorable interest rates, cash back and waived fees are common favorites. For others, it’s all more about rewards programs that open the door to experiences — dining, adventures and entertainment often top the list.

In recent years, Citi® Private Pass® has become something of a torch bearer for the “experiences” camp. Fashioned for the Citi cardholders with a certain zest for life, Citi Private Pass is all about getting its customers to places, events and experiences that might otherwise pass them by. Citi describes Private Pass this way:

“Citi customers get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events annually, including presale tickets and VIP packages to the year’s hottest concerts, sporting events, dining experiences plus complimentary movie screenings and more …”

Why take the plunge with Private Pass?

Private Pass is a Citi cardholder favorite for more reasons than one. The biggest? With hardly anything to venture, you’ve still got everything to gain.

All it takes to qualify for Citi Private Pass is an eligible Citi credit card. And just about every Citi card qualifies (including every one of our top picks). As long as it carries the Visa, Mastercard or American Express logo, you’re in. Fun fact: Even Citi debit cards qualify for the program. So whether Citi is your full-service bank or another card in your wallet, Private Pass is right at your disposal.

Next comes the obvious: Citi Private Pass is your personal concierge, cruise director and tour guide all bundled up into one. One peek at the homepage and you’ll see a variety of presale tickets for exclusive experiences available in your locale. Even non-cardholders can preview the sorts of events available, so go ahead and take a look for yourself. Just punch your nearest city into the search bar to see what’s happening now.

Another reason that customers love Private Pass? It’s kid-friendly. It stands to reason that most rewards programs focus their energies on nightlife, travel and dining — adults are 100% of their customer base, after all. But Citi breaks the mold with a number of family events and performances.

What’s missing from Citi Private Pass?

There isn’t much to critique about Private Pass. The signup is simple, the events are plentiful and hard-to-get reservations come at no added cost.

But if there’s anything to be mindful of, it’s that a good deal of the competitors have either caught up or forged ahead in the same space. The credit card industry is no stranger to event marketing, one of the most popular ways to promote brand awareness at broader scales. Mastercard’s Priceless™ Cities program, for example, tracks down tickets to some of the most high-end seating options at big-time sporting events.

The same goes for Inside Access by Chase, a program that allows cardholders to transfer United Airlines miles for out-of-the-ordinary experiences like pro cooking classes and tasting sessions with master sommeliers.

Point being, your Citi card can take you far. But plenty of others could potentially take you as far. Dig into the actual financial benefits of any credit card before you assess the premium experiences that come with them.

How to maximize Citi Private Pass

The beauty of Citi Private Pass rests in its simplicity. One Citi card = one Citi Private Pass membership. And one Citi Private Pass membership = any number of indelible experiences you wouldn’t easily find in the wild.

That said, there’s a little more to know about the program to help you get the most from it. Here’s what we’ve learned along the way:

  1. Email subscribers are almost always the line leaders. Citi offers its customers the chance to opt into semi-regular events emails that loop you into the latest attractions. We know it’s not easy to opt into yet another subscription when your inbox is already flooded, but this one is almost certainly worth your while. Exclusive access is only as exclusive as availability permits, and getting there first means letting your emails guide the way.
  2. Look for the term “VIP Package” while browsing for tickets or reservations. VIP Packages hardly differ from any experience you’ll find on Citi Private Pass, but each includes a kicker beyond your standard presale or reservation — merchandise, a meet-and-greet or even backstage access. Keep an eye out for what’s included. It could sweeten the pot quite a bit.
  3. Private Pass organizes its site into four categories: Music, Sports, Dining and Theater & More. That’s plenty to keep track of. Since most tickets are a race against the clock, we’d recommend you monitor two of the four and give yourself to permission to take the rest as they come. Promise yourself the world, and anything short is sure to disappoint.
  4. “Theater & More” puts the emphasis on & More. While you’ll see a fair share of Broadway shows pop up on the Private Pass homepage, you’ll also see scores of comedy acts, movie screenings, festivals and, well, a whole lot more.
  5. “Presale” can be a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get early access to every single seat in the building. Presale tickets are often released just 2-3 days in advance for select sections, rows or seats — that means you’ll still have to move quickly. The max number of purchasable tickets you may also vary show to show, so bear that in mind as you search.