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Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it?

Earn 5% back on top spend categories without opting in

Summary

The Citi Custom Cash Card puts 5% cash back in your pocket based on your spending habits. But does it earn more compared to other cash back credit cards?

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Cash back rewards 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% cash back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent. All other purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back.

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.

Citi Custom Cash details

The Citi Custom Cash Card offers flexibility when it comes to rewards. You can earn rewards on every purchase — whether you earn 5% back or 1% back depends on where you spend the most each month. The good news is, Citi keeps track for you and applies rewards automatically.

  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle up to the first $500 spent, then 1% back thereafter
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Earn an introductory cash back bonus of $200 after you spend $750 in purchases in the first three months
  • Redeem rewards for statement credit, direct deposit, check, gift cards, travel or shop with points at Amazon
  • Variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%
  • No annual fee

The 5% cash back rewards rate applies to restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel and transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. The Citi Custom Cash Card is designed to adapt your rewards to your spending habits.

So, for example, you might earn 5% cash back on groceries one month if that’s where you spend the most money. But the next month, you might earn 5% back on dining out if that’s your highest spend category.

Is the Citi Custom Cash worth it?

The Citi Custom Cash Card could be worth it if you charge $500 or more per billing cycle in any of the eligible 5% cash back categories.

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 on those purchases. That doesn’t include anything you earn at the 1% cash back rewards rate.

You might also consider this card if you’re looking for a cash back option for travel purchases. In terms of what counts as travel for the 5% back rewards rate, the list includes:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Cruise lines
  • Travel agency purchases

You can also earn 5% back on car rentals. And since the card has no annual fee, you don’t have to worry about that eating into the value of your rewards.

On the other hand, you might be able to squeeze more rewards from another cash back card owing to the $500 per billing cycle cap. So it’s important to consider your typical monthly and yearly spend to get an idea of how much you could realistically earn with the Citi Custom Cash Card.

Cash back rewards with the Citi Custom Cash

The Citi Custom Cash Card offers two rewards tiers.

Again, you can earn 5% back on purchases made in your highest eligible expense category per billing cycle. The 5% rewards rate applies to the first $500 in purchases; once you hit that threshold you’ll continue earning 1% back.

For all other purchases, the 1% rewards rate is unlimited. It’s important to note that cash back rewards are technically earned as Citi ThankYou points. So you can earn up to 5X points spent at the 5% rewards tier and 1X points at the 1% tier.

These rewards are applied automatically. There are no bonus categories you have to opt into and you don’t have to tell Citi which expense category you’d like to earn 5% back in.

That’s an advantage if you’re looking for a card that lets you maximize rewards while keeping things as simple as possible.

Citi Custom Cash vs. other cash back cards

How rewarding is the Citi Custom Cash Card?

It depends on how you spend. Comparing the card’s cash back rewards structure with similar cash back cards can put its value in perspective.

For example, let’s say your typical monthly spend looks like this:

  • $500 groceries
  • $200 dining
  • $100 gas
  • $150 general purchases

If you’re charging those purchases to the Citi Custom Cash Card, here’s what you’d earn:

  • $25 on groceries
  • $2 on dining
  • $1 on gas
  • $1.50 on everyday spending

Your grand total cash back for the month would be $29.50. And you’d earn $354 in cash back for the year.

Now, here’s how much cash back you might earn with other rewards cards.

CardEarnings RateAnnual Cash Back Earned
Citi Custom Cash
  • 5% back on up to $500 in the highest eligible spending category, 1% thereafter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
$6,000 ($500 per billing cycle) x 5% back + $5,400 ($450 per billing cycle) x 1% back = $354
Citi® Double Cash1% back on everyday purchases, then 1% back as you pay them off (note: minimum payment due must be paid to earn the second 1% back)$11,400 ($950 per billing cycle) x 2% = $228
Discover it® Cash Back
  • 5% back on up to the first $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in the activated bonus category
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
$6,000 ($500 per billing cycle) x 5% back + $5,400 ($450 per billing cycle) x 1% back = $354

Discover it card rewards are trickier to calculate since the 5% back bonus category changes each quarter. To keep things simple here, we’ll assume that the quarterly bonus categories match the four spending categories mentioned above.

If you were to charge $500 per month in each of those categories in turn during their respective bonus periods, you’d earn the same $25 in rewards at the 5% cash back rate that you would with the Citi Custom Cash Card.

It’s possible, however, that the Discover it card could be less rewarding if the bonus categories don’t match up with how you spend. For example, if the quarterly bonus applies to restaurants but you’re mostly charging groceries or gas, you may not be able to maximize the 5% back rewards rate.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you have to make the minimum payment due to earn the second 1% cash back. If you’re carrying a balance month to month, interest charges may detract from the value of rewards.

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% 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 that pays 1.5% or 2% cash back to use for purchases that aren’t eligible for the 5% 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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