Citi Custom Cash℠ Card Review: Earn 5% cash back where you spend the most
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons
- Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent (1% cash back thereafter) - there are no category enrollments to worry about or no need to juggle reward tiers. On everything else you purchase, you’ll get 1% cash back.
- Spend $750 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account and you’ll receive 20,000 ThankYou® Points, worth $200.
- Enjoy 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases (then 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)).
- If you're willing to keep up with rotating bonus categories or you're okay managing a tiered-rewards structure, you may stand to earn more rewards with another card.
Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.
The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is Citi's newest credit card, one with a cash-back option and no annual fee. So what's it like? Is it something you'll want to immediately apply for and put in your wallet? Or would it be better to pass it on by? Let's take a look.
There's a lot to like about the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. For starters:
It has a solid welcome bonus.If you spend $750 on purchases within the first three months, you'll receive 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which you can then redeem for $200 in cash back.
It has an excellent cash back system. You'll earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent and 1% cash back thereafter. On everything else you purchase, you'll get 1% cash back. So you're always getting some cash back. We cover in further details below why this is such a great system.
There is no annual fee. That means this credit card doesn’t come with as many perks as some of the cards that do have annual fees, but when you can find a generous cash-back card that has no annual fee, it’s worth your attention and consideration.
There is a some breathing room for the first 15 months. You’ll get a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable), based on your creditworthiness.
- Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
- Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%
- 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
- 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
- Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
- Terms Apply.
As noted, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card has a generous welcome bonus. Sure, one could take issue with that. The welcome bonus is $200, and you can find plenty of credit cards that will give you a bigger bonus, but at least you can get that $200 pretty easily. You just need to spend $750 within the first three months.
There’s also a wonderful cash-back mechanism in place. You’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
So you’re always earning at least 1% with this credit card but on certain items, 5%.
WHICH CITI CUSTOM CASH℠ CARD CATEGORIES EARN 5% CASH BACK?
Typically, with many rotating cash back categories that come with credit cards, you have to remember to enroll in the category that you want to get a reward in. If you forget, you're out of luck until the next enrollment period.
With this credit card, however, you have 10 categories of spending (see below), and whatever month you happen to spend the most in, that’s where you receive your 5% cash back. If you’re somebody who has trouble remembering what’s the latest deal in a cash-back bonus category, this could be the card for you. You’ll just earn money in whatever category you spend the most money in, automatically.
Even better, the bonus categories are pretty broad too, so unless you pretty much purchase nothing, most people should have more than enough here to be able to maximize the rewards if they are regularly using the card.
Here are the categories of spending the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card offers bonus rewards:
- Grocery stores
- Gas stations
- Select travel
- Select transit
- Select streaming services
- Fitness clubs
- Live entertainment
- Home improvement stores
So as noted above, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card has a welcome bonus. It’s $200. Sure, it’d be nice to get more, but that often entails spending more. All you need to do is spend $750 on items you need to buy regardless, within the first three months of opening your credit card account, and you're suddenly $200 richer.
You’ll receive that $200 in the form of 20,000 ThankYou® Points. ThankYou® Points are worth a penny per point, and while that might not sound like much, they add up to a lot when you get 20,000 of them. What’s really nice, too, is that if you have another Citi credit card that earns ThankYou® Points, you can pool your rewards into one account.
It’s also worth nothing that while it may not be an official welcome offer, you do get that 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. (After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable), based on your creditworthiness.)
You’ll have 15 glorious months of being able to buy stuff, or do a balance transfer, and you can pay it back at your leisure and have no interest charges (just make sure that you do pay it all off before the 15-month period is over; otherwise, you’re sitting on an interest bomb that you don’t want to detonate).
There aren’t a lot of downsides, but you know how it is – we all look at things differently. Here’s what you may or may not feel is problematic.
That APR. Once that 15-month introductory offer is over, you might recoil at the variable APR, which is 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable), based on your creditworthiness. But while the upper end of that range would be a high APR, obviously, the hope is, you’ll never pay it, because you’ll pay everything in full every month.
Maybe you can do better with a different cash back card? Some people may feel that you get more cash back with some other cards that do have rotating categories, or where one category is getting 5% cash back, and another is giving 3% and another is 2% and so on.
There’s a foreign transaction fee. This is an actual true downside (the other two were kind of weak). There’s a 3% foreign transaction fee with the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. On the other hand, if you don’t travel internationally much or have other credit cards that don’t have a foreign transaction fee, this may not bother you in the least.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card vs. Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer offers you 2% cash back on everything you buy – 1% when you buy, and then you get 1% cash back after you pay for the purchases (as long as you at least make the minimum payment on time). The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, as you know by now, offers 1% for just about everything, but the category you spend the most in, you’ll get 5% cash back.
Another feature to consider: The Citi® Double Cash Card 0% interest offer goes a little further with its balance transfers – 18 months (and then 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable), depending on your credit worthiness), but it doesn’t offer that 0% interest deal on new purchases. The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card has a 0% APR offer on both balance transfers and purchases.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a stronger welcome bonus offer– $200 in cash back after spending $500 in the first three months (Citi Custom Cash℠ Card offers $200 after you spend $750). Freedom Unlimited® also offers 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases during the first year (Target and Walmart excluded). It also has a more extensive cash back rewards program: 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, 3% cash back at restaurants including takeout and delivery, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
But plenty of cardholders, especially those who don’t travel a lot, might prefer the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card's more simple approach – get 5% on the categories you spend the most on, and 1% on everything else.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card vs. Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers new cardholders $200 after spending $500 within the first three months of opening an account; pluse, earn 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases during the first year (excludes Target and Walmart). This card also has a much more robust and complex cash giving system: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in rotating quarterly bonus categories; 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases; and 1% unlimited cash back on other purchases.
But as noted, Citi Custom Cash℠ Card makes it easier to just spend and collect (5% on the category you wind up spending the most in; 1% on everything else) without thinking about rotating categories or purchasing travel through a portal.
Similar to Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, The Chase card offers an intro 0% APR on new purchases (but unlike Citi, no balance transfers) for the first 15 months, then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable.
And also similar to Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has no annual fee.
Anybody can apply and feel pretty good about getting the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, but it’s really meant for somebody who wants cash back without having to do much thinking about how to earn it.
And if you think about it, the way the categories are set up, it’s a pretty nice deal. If one month you just go crazy and are eating at restaurants for almost every meal, and your spending outpaces everything else, you’ll get 5% back. If another month, your entire family has head colds, and you’re constantly going to the drugstore, and that’s where you’ve become a big spender, maybe you’ll get 5% on all of that cold medicine. It’s a simple way to earn rewards.