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Flexible 5% cash-back: A review of the Citi Custom Cash credit card

Dec. 20, 2022
8 min read
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Editor's Note

This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

Citi is a TPG advertising partner.


Citi Custom Cash℠ Card overview

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a solid cash-back card with no annual fee. This card differentiates itself from other options on the market by providing the unique ability to earn up to 5% back on your top spending category each billing cycle on up to the first $500 spent.

Whether you’re a credit card newbie or want a card that will help you maximize purchases that don’t fit into other traditional bonus categories, you’ll want to consider adding this 0% interest card to your wallet. Card rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* Card rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

As cash-back cards became more popular for many consumers throughout the pandemic, Citi released a solid option worth considering: the Citi Custom Cash Card.

The Citi Custom Cash Card has no annual fee but takes a different approach from the issuer’s popular Citi® Double Cash Card (with up to a 2% cash-back rate on all purchases; 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay). With the Citi Custom Cash Card, you’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle, on up to the first $500 spent.

This could potentially be a compelling offer for cardholders who want to maximize their purchases with its up to a terrific 5% cash-back rate.

Let’s review this card and see who it is best for.

Who is this card for?

Many credit cards offer bonus rewards on fixed categories each month such as travel, dining or groceries. While these purchases take up a sizable chunk of most consumers’ budgets, what about purchases that don’t fit under these categories?

That’s where the Citi Custom Cash comes in. This card comes with a unique rewards rate that changes each billing cycle, giving cardholders the flexibility to earn an excellent 5% back on purchases that traditionally wouldn’t fit under the fixed categories offered by other cards.

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This card should be especially enticing for existing Citi cardholders. Even though the Custom Cash is branded as a cash-back card, you’ll earn rewards as Citi ThankYou points. If you already carry one of Citi’s travel rewards cards (such as the Citi Prestige® Card or the Citi Premier® Card), you can combine the points earned on that card with the points earned on the Custom Cash. Note that you can also combine your rewards if you have the Citi Double Cash or the Citi Rewards+® Card for even more cash back.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Finally, this card would also be an excellent pick for your first cash-back card since the Custom Cash offers 5% automatically on your top spending category, taking the guesswork out of earning rewards.

Sign-up bonus

We’re fans of the Citi Custom Cash Card since it comes with an easily attainable sign-up bonus — you’ll earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

This sign-up bonus is comparable to other no-annual-fee, cash-back cards. While it’s certainly not the most outstanding offer, the sign-up bonus is a nice little incentive to apply.

This card is also one of the best 0% interest credit cards. You'll enjoy a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers; after that, the variable APR will be 18.24%-28.24%, based on your creditworthiness.

Main benefits and perks

The Citi Custom Cash is light on other benefits, which isn’t surprising since there’s no annual fee. However, there are a few perks and essential security features:

  • Access to Citi Entertainment, which helps cardholders find and purchase exclusive tickets for concerts, sporting events and more.
  • Contactless payment.
  • A free check of your FICO credit score.
  • Identity theft protection that monitors and alerts cardholders in case of suspicious activity.
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions, which will assist you if you’re experiencing identity fraud or theft.

How to earn

Each billing cycle (roughly every month or so), you’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $500 of purchases in your top spending category from the following list:

*Select travel is defined as airlines, hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies.

**Select transit is defined as 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. It also includes merchants that sell electricity for charging an electric vehicle.

***Select streaming services are defined as cable, satellite and streaming providers such as 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. (Note that AT&T TV NOW has recently rebranded as DirectTV Stream).

This card truly caters to your lifestyle, whether you’re jet-setting one month or cooking it up in the kitchen the next. If you max out the $500 spending limit each billing cycle, you’ll earn $25 in cash-back rewards per month — for a potential maximum of $300 in rewards annually.

How to redeem

To put it in simple terms, 1 ThankYou point equates to 1 cent of cash-back rewards. That means you’ll earn 5% back (or 5 points per dollar) on the first $500 spent on your top eligible spending category.

There’s no minimum balance you need to reach before accessing your rewards — which isn’t the case for many cash-back cards. You can request a statement credit or direct deposit at any time. However, if you’re requesting a check, there is a minimum rewards balance of $5 (or 500 points).

If you’re adding the Citi Custom Cash on top of your Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cards, you can unlock the option to convert your points into miles with Citi’s hotel and airline transfer partners to extract potentially greater value from them.

Which cards compete with the Citi Custom Cash Card?

There are many options on the market today for those who want to avoid paying an annual fee altogether.

The first card to consider would be the Citi Double Cash. This card is excellent for beginners since you’ll earn 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off your bill (for a total of 2% cash back on all your purchases). Plus, you’ll enjoy the uncapped earning potential on the Double Cash if your spending exceeds the $500 limit on the Custom Cash.

JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

Another card with a comparable rewards rate to the Custom Cash is the Chase Freedom Flex. This card also has no annual fee and you’ll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases on rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate — which breaks down to roughly $500 in spending each month.

Chase will set the bonus categories each quarter, but in the past, we’ve seen common vendors such as Amazon, Walmart, home improvement stores and gas stations included in these rotating categories. The Freedom Flex also earns 5% back on Chase Travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1% back on other eligible purchases.

The Custom Cash still has a slight leg up on the Flex since your top spending category changes each billing cycle based on your spending habits. You may find that some of the quarters on the Flex’s rotating calendar and its regular bonus categories may not align with your lifestyle.

Bottom line

You may find that your spending habits change frequently and want a card customized to your lifestyle.

The Citi Custom Cash Card is a terrific choice, as you’ll gain true flexibility to earn rewards depending on your spending habits.

Adding the Custom Cash may also be a good idea for existing Citi cardholders seeking to maximize their rewards through the Citi ThankYou program.

Application link: Citi Custom Cash Card with $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox and Chris Dong.

Featured image by GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees