Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it?

Earn 5 percent cash back on your top spending category without the need to opt in

Summary

The Citi Custom Cash Card puts 5 percent cash back in your pocket based on your spending habits. Whether it fits your spending habits determines if this card is worth it for you or not.

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Cash back cards can be a valuable addition to your wallet if you’re interested in earning back some of what you spend. The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card breaks the traditional cash back mold by offering rewards that conform to how you spend.

This card earns 5 percent cash back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 percent cash back.

The good news is, Citi keeps track for you and applies the 5 percent to your top spend category automatically. If you’re in the market for a new cash back rewards card, here’s how to decide if the Citi Custom Cash Card is worth it.

When is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it?

When you want to earn rewards for minimal effort

As previously discussed, the Citi Custom Cash automatically earns 5 percent in the category you spend the most in each billing cycle. Based on your spending, the following are eligible as your top category:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations (excluding gas purchased at warehouse clubs)
  • Grocery stores
  • Select travel (including flights and hotels)
  • Select transit (including car rentals)
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

The Citi Custom Cash Card is a flexible category card, designed to adapt your rewards to your spending habits. For example, you might earn 5 percent cash back on groceries one month, if that’s where you spend the most money, but the next month you could earn 5 percent back on dining.

Let’s assume you charge $500 at the grocery store per month. If that’s consistently your highest spending category, you could earn $25 back each month, for a total of $300 a year in cash back. That also doesn’t include anything you earn at the 1 percent cash back rewards rate.

Either way, you only need to spend $500 a month in one of the eligible categories (easily done for many cardholders) to max out the 5 percent, and since your top category is chosen automatically, you can earn solid rewards without much effort.

When you’d like to earn cash back on transit while traveling

The Citi Custom Cash could still come in handy for domestic travel. The 5 percent rewards rate can apply to select travel, which includes flights, hotels, cruise lines and travel agency purchases.

The card may be even more useful after you’ve arrived at your domestic destination. While exploring San Francisco (or another major American city), you may find yourself spending on ferries, subways, bridge tolls, parking lots, car rentals and more. These all fall under the select transit category, so your Citi Custom Cash could capitalize on all those purchases while you travel. And since the card has no annual fee, you don’t have to worry about that eating into the value of your rewards.

When is the Citi Custom Cash Card not worth it?

When you often travel internationally

The Citi Custom Cash does charge a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, so we’d advise against using this card heavily while vacationing abroad.

The card is technically a cash back card, but it earns rewards as Citi ThankYou points. Like many other credit card rewards programs, you can book travel directly on the Citi ThankYou portal, so you could steadily earn rewards on the Citi Custom Cash to use for travel. However, considering the $500 spending cap and that international travel is usually more expensive, we would recommend you get a card that earns higher rewards and doesn’t limit your spending.

You could consider the Citi Premier® Card, which earns 3X points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels and charges no foreign transaction fees.

When you spend way more than $500 a month

Realistically speaking, after paying for groceries, gas, dining and other miscellaneous purchases (online shopping, streaming subscriptions and such), it’s difficult to only spend $500 a month, even for a single person. In fact, our average estimated spend per year is $15,900 ($1,325 a month), so if your statements from the past six months to a year are around that amount, you should keep shopping.

With that said, if you find the $500 cap on bonus cash back on the Citi Custom Cash restrictive rather than generous, you should go for a different rewards card. There are plenty of other cards out there, with unlimited rewards and no spending caps, that will earn you lucrative cash back on your purchases.

Bottom line

The Citi Custom Cash Card might appeal to you if you want to make the most of cash back rewards with as little fuss as possible. Since this card applies 5 percent rewards based on how you spend, all you really need to do is make purchases as you normally would. Of course, you can still be strategic in what you charge. And you may consider pairing it with a flat-rate cash back rewards card to earn 1.5 percent or more cash back on purchases that aren’t eligible for the 5 percent rewards rate.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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