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Citi Custom Cash Card review: Earn a $200 bonus and get 5% back in your top monthly spending category

 Citi Custom Cash℠ CardSummary List Placement Review: Is the Citi Custom Cash card the best credit card for you? There are lots of excellent cash-back credit cards on the market, and they all earn rewards in slightly different ways. Some cards earn a flat rate of cash back on all purchases or...

 Citi Custom Cash℠ CardSummary List Placement

Review: Is the Citi Custom Cash card the best credit card for you?

There are lots of excellent cash-back credit cards on the market, and they all earn rewards in slightly different ways. Some cards earn a flat rate of cash back on all purchases or extra rewards in fixed categories, and others have rotating bonus categories that change every quarter.

The new Citi Custom Cash℠ Card takes a different approach. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases in the eligible category they spend the most in each billing cycle (then 1%), and 1% on all other purchases.

The categories that qualify include common expenses that should appeal to just about everyone: restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment.

Read more: The new Citi Custom Cash credit card just launched with a $200 bonus and 5% back in your top spending category

For a card with no annual fee, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card offers a generous welcome bonus: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. Because the card earns cash back in the form of Citi ThankYou points, you’ve got flexibility in how you redeem your rewards. Not only can you redeem Citi ThankYou points for cash back, but also for travel booked through Citi, gift cards, merchandise, and — if you also have the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card — transfers to Citi’s airline partners.

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a good choice if you don’t want to keep track of rotating bonus categories, especially if your highest spending category changes from month to month. It’s also worth considering if you already have a lot of rewards credit cards, but are looking for another card to use on purchases — like home improvement stores or fitness clubs — that don’t typically earn a bonus with other cards.

If you’re in the market for a 5% cash back card, the closest competitors to the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card are the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back, and they’re worth a look as well. These cards earn 5% cash back in categories that rotate every quarter, on up to $1,500 in spending (then 1%) Discover It Cashback rotation.

However, with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back, you’ll need to keep track of these categories, and also register for the bonus before you earn bonus cash back. If that sounds like too much of a hassle, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a better choice for you.

Comparison: Citi Custom Cash vs other Citi cards

 

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi Premier® Card

Annual fee

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi Premier® Card

Rewards rate

5% cash back on up to $500 spent in your top eligible spending category* each billing cycle (then 1%)

1% cash back on all other purchases

1% cash back when you buy, plus 1% cash back when you pay your bill

3x points on air travel, gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels

1 point per dollar on everything else

Welcome bonus

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

N/A

Citi Premier® Card

Card benefits

Access to Citi Entertainment 

Access to Citi Entertainment 

$100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) booked through thankyou.com once per calendar year

Purchase protection

Extended warranty

Access to Citi Entertainment

Introductory 0% APR offer

0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then a Citi Custom Cash℠ Card APR)

0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months, then Citi® Double Cash Card

N/A

Foreign transaction fee

Yes

Yes

No

Review

 

Citi Double Cash credit card review

Citi Premier card review

*eligible 5% cash back categories on the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card are restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment

Comparison: Citi Custom Cash vs other cash-back credit cards

 

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back

Annual fee

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back

Rewards rate

5% cash back on up to $500 spent in your top eligible spending category* each billing cycle (then 1%)

1% cash back on all other purchases

5% cash back (5x points) on travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards

5% cash back (5x points) on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter in rotating bonus categories when you activate

3% cash back (3x points) on dining and drugstore purchases

1% cash back (1x points) on everything else

5% cash back in categories that rotate each quarter on up to $1,500 in combined spending when you activate (then 1%)

Discover It Cashback rotation

1% cash back on all other eligible purchases

Welcome bonus

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Chase Freedom Flex℠

None, but Discover will dollar for dollar match all the cash back you earned after the first 12 months

Card benefits

Access to Citi Entertainment

Cell phone protection

Car rental insurance (secondary in the US, primary otherwise)

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Purchase protection

Extended warranty

Travel and emergency assistance services

Free credit score

Free FICO score

No late payment fee on your first late payment (then up to $40)

Introductory 0% APR offer

0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then a Citi Custom Cash℠ Card APR)

0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months, then a Chase Freedom Flex℠ variable APR

0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months, then a Discover it® Cash Back APR

Foreign transaction fee

Yes

Yes

No

Review

 

Chase Freedom Flex credit card review

Discover it Cash Back card review

*eligible 5% cash back categories on the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card are restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment

How to use rewards from the Citi Custom Cash card

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card doesn’t earn pure cash back in the traditional sense; instead, cardholders earn rewards in the form of Citi ThankYou points. This is the same rewards currency earned by other Citi credit cards, including the Citi Premier® Card, Citi Prestige® Card, and Citi Rewards+® Card.

You can also earn Citi ThankYou points indirectly with the Citi® Double Cash Card, which allows you to convert cash-back rewards into Citi ThankYou points at a rate of 1 cent to 1 point.

Read more: How to earn, redeem, and maximize Citi ThankYou points

Citi ThankYou points are incredibly versatile. With any Citi ThankYou card, you can redeem your points at a rate of 1 cent apiece in a number of ways:

  • Statement credits
  • Cash back in the form of a direct deposit
  • Airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more through the Citi ThankYou travel portal
  • Gift cards
  • Mortgage or student loan payments
  • Charity donations

You can also cash in points for merchandise by using them to pay at checkout with Amazon or PayPal, but you’ll get a relatively poor rate of just 0.8 cents per point when you redeem this way. A better bet would be to use your Citi Custom Cash℠ Card (or other Citi card) to make these purchases directly, then redeem points at 1 cent apiece for a statement credit to offset the charge.

Things get more lucrative if you also have the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, because when you have one of these cards, you can access the full range of Citi transfer partners:

Transferring points to partners to book award flights can get you a much higher value from your Citi ThankYou points, depending on the transfer partner and flight or route you book.

Citi Custom Cash card benefits and features

As you might expect from a no-annual-fee card, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card isn’t packed with benefits, but its rewards system makes up for the lack of flashy perks.

5% cash back in your highest spending category

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card’s most compelling feature is the 5% cash back (5x Citi ThankYou points) it earns on up to $500 in purchases each billing cycle, in the eligible category where you spend the most (then 1%).

That’s a good deal if you tend to change your spending habits from month to month. For example, one month you might do a lot of driving and have high fuel expenses, but the next you may stay closer to home and spend more on groceries. 

In travel, transit, and streaming services categories, only certain types of purchases or merchants are eligible, but most typical spending is included:

  • Select travel includes airline, hotel, cruise line, and travel agency purchases — however, timeshares, boat leases and rentals, campgrounds and trailer parks, and real estate agencies are excluded
  • Select transit includes categories you might normally lump in with travel — car rentals, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, bus lines, and motor home and recreational vehicle rentals are all eligible (bike/scooter rentals, auto clubs and insurance companies are not)
  • Select streaming services span all of the major players, including Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Apple Music, CBS All Access, Disney+, AT&T TV NOW, ESPN+, fuboTV, HBO Max, NBA League Pass, Netflix, Pandora, Showtime, Sling TV, Spotify, Starz, SiriusXM, Vudu, YouTube Red, YouTube TV, and Tidal

If you don’t have any other cards that earn a bonus in any of these categories, using the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card for your regular spending and earning 5x rewards in your top monthly category is the easiest approach. But if you have other cards in your wallet, you can use the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card in categories where you might not otherwise earn a bonus.

Read more: The best travel rewards credit cards

Introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers

If you have some big purchases coming up that you need to pay for over time, or already have credit card debt you want to consolidate, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card could give you some breathing room. New cardholders receive a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then a Citi Custom Cash℠ Card APR).

Read more: Using a 0% APR credit card can save you money on interest, but be sure to avoid these pitfalls that could hurt you in the long run

As long as you’re able to pay off your balance before the introductory APR expires, using a 0% APR credit card can help you save money on interest or get out of debt faster.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Citi Custom Cash card fees and costs

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card doesn’t charge an annual fee, but there are other fees to be aware of. It’s not a good card for international purchases, because it charges foreign transaction fees (3%).

Read more: The best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Like other cards, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card also charges fees for balance transfers, cash advances, and late payments. 

Jasmin Baron is an associate editor at Personal Finance Insider, where she helps readers maximize rewards and find the best credit cards to fit their lifestyles. She has covered credit cards, points and miles, and loyalty programs for over seven years, and she’s a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).

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