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

Nov. 20, 2021
9 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. Citi is a TPG advertising partner.


Citi Custom Cash℠ Card overview

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a 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 pick 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.

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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 do indeed 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 in the form of 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.

Another type of customer who would benefit from this card is someone who wants to lower their debt and take advantage of its introductory APR offer. There’s a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 15 months of account opening and 0% introductory APR for 15 months from the date of your first transfer completed within the first four months of account opening. After that, the variable APR will range from 17.74% - 27.74%, depending on your creditworthiness.

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 out there, the sign-up bonus is a nice little incentive to apply.

Main benefits and perks

The Citi Custom Cash is light on other benefits, which isn’t a total surprise 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 is a card that 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 to choose from 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.

(Photo by John Gribben for 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, as well as 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 Chris Dong.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
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 card for premium perks while traveling
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

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023