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Citi Custom Cash Credit Card Review

Get the biggest rewards on your biggest categories

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The Citi Custom Cash credit card automatically picks your highest eligible spending category and applies a 5% equivalent cash back rate on up to $500 of purchases in that category each billing cycle. You can earn a $200 sign up bonus with qualifying spending and earn 1% cash back on all other purchases with this no annual fee credit card.

Key Information

  • Automatically earn 5% cash back in your highest eligible spend category on up to $500 in purchases each billing cycle.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn a $200 sign-up bonus after spending $750 in purchases in the first three months of card membership.
  • There is no annual fee.

Pros and Cons

  • Automatically earn 5% cash back on highest spend category

  • No annual fee

  • Redeem ThankYou Points for cash back at 1 cent per point

  • Sign up bonus

  • Cash back rate on all other purchases is lackluster

  • Higher cash back rate limited to $500 in purchases per month

  • Only one higher cash back category

Pros Explained

  • Automatically Earn 5% Cash Back on Your Highest Spend Category: This card automatically identifies your highest eligible spending category each billing period and applies an equivalent of a 5% cash back rate on qualifying purchases after the billing cycle closes. Some other cards offer similar features with lower cash back rates or the requirement to choose the category in advance.
  • No Annual Fee: This card doesn’t require you to pay an annual fee to access the higher cash back rate or the card’s sign up bonus.
  • Redeem ThankYou Points for Cash Back at 1 Cent Per Point: Some Citi cards allow you to redeem ThankYou Points for cash back at a rate lower than 1 cent per point. This card gives you a full 1 cent per point value, making cash back a reasonable redemption option for this card.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn a sign up bonus worth $200 when you spend $750 in three months from opening your account. Some credit cards do not offer any sign up bonuses, so this bonus is a welcome addition to this no annual fee credit card.

Cons Explained

  • Cash Back Rate on All Other Purchases Is Lackluster: You only earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. Some competing cash back credit cards offer 1.5% to 2% cash back on all purchases.
  • Higher Cash Back Rate Limited to $500 in Purchases Per Month: The 5% cash back category is a hefty cash back rate, but only applies to the first $500 in purchases in the top eligible spend category each billing cycle. You earn 1% cash back on purchases above that cap. Some cards with similar features have higher monthly or equivalent quarterly spending caps.
  • Only One Higher Cash Back Category: While earning 5% cash back is a decent earning rate, you only earn the higher rate in one category each month. Some credit cards offer multiple higher earning rewards categories before moving all other purchases to a lower base earning rate.

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Cash Back Strategist Persona
    Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
    Cash Back Strategist
  • Avatar for Annual Fee Averse Persona
    Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
    Annual Fee Averse

Who This Card Is For

The Citi Custom Cash credit card is a good fit for people who don’t want to have to think about choosing a bonus spending category or activating their cash back each quarter. The card offers automatic 5% cash back in your highest eligible spending category each month on up to $500 in purchases, making the process effort-free on your behalf. People who want to maximize their overall cash back will need to pair this with a credit card that earns a higher cash back rate on all other purchases.

Citi Custom Cash Welcome Bonus

You can earn a $200 welcome bonus after spending $750 on purchases in the first three months from opening your account. Technically, this bonus is awarded as 20,000 ThankYou Points which you can then redeem for $200 cash back or other redemption options. The bonus dollar amount is competitive, but it requires spending more money than other similar credit card offers to earn the bonus.

You only qualify for this bonus if you have not received a bonus for opening a Citi Custom Cash account within the last 48 months. While points usually appear on your account at the end of the billing cycle when you made the purchase, bonus points may take up to two additional billing cycles to show up in your account.

Rewards Earning Details

This credit card earns you cash back at two different rates. However, the cash back is actually issued as ThankYou Rewards points, which can be redeemed for cash back at the rate of a penny each.

You’ll earn 5 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle on up to the first $500 spent in that category per billing cycle. Any spending beyond the $500 limit in the top spending category and all other purchases earn 1 ThankYou Rewards point per dollar spent.

Eligible categories for the higher 5 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent rate include:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Select travel
  • Select transit
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

The higher rewards earning rate in your top spend category is a nice bonus, especially since it is automatically calculated for you. The downside is the spending cap of only $500 that qualifies for the higher earning rate. Unfortunately, the earning rate on all other purchases is lackluster at an effective 1% cash back rate. It’s not uncommon to find cards that offer 1.5% to 2% cash back on all qualifying purchases.

ThankYou Points do not expire as long as your account stays open. However, your points may be taken away if Citi sees evidence of fraud, misuse, abuse, or suspicious activity.

Rewards Redemption Details

Since the Citi Custom Cash card technically earns ThankYou Rewards points, you aren’t limited to redeeming your rewards for cash back. Instead, you can use your rewards for several redemption options, including cash back as a direct deposit, statement credit, or check, gift cards, travel, Shop with Points with Amazon, and more.

Overall, the best redemption option for flexibility and value is generally redeeming your points for cash back. This particular card allows you to redeem points for cash back at a value of 1 cent per point. That said, Citi ThankYou Rewards may run specials on gift cards or other redemption options that may allow you to redeem your points at a higher rate than the 1 cent per point value cash back offers. Avoid using your points to shop at stores like Amazon, which may result in lower redemption rates, such as 0.8 cents per point.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

To maximize your rewards on this card, simply put all of your spending on it. Citi automatically calculates your highest spending category and applies the applicable higher cash back rate to that category. When you redeem points, make sure you get at least 1 cent of value per point while looking out for higher redemption options, such as gift card sales.

If you want to maximize your overall credit card rewards, consider only putting one category of purchases on this card that you know will result in either $500 per month of spending or the highest amount of spending if it is less than $500. Then, use another card that offers a higher cash back rate on all purchases to put your other purchases on.

Standard Perks

You get access to Citi Entertainment which includes access to purchase tickets to music, sports, dining, theater, and more events.

Cardholder Experience

Citi received a score of 801 in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, ranking it below the national issuer segment average of 810 by nine points. The credit card does offer access to a free FICO score monthly through the Citi mobile app or Citi online. You also get 24/7 customer service as a Citi Custom Cash cardholder if you need help with your card or account.

Security Features

The Citi Custom Cash credit card offers a key security feature you may be interested in. You get access to Citi Quick Lock to instantly disable and re-enable your card from making new charges while still allowing recurring payments to go through in case you think you may have misplaced your card.

Our Verdict

The Citi Custom Cash credit card offers 5% cash back in your highest spending category on up to $500 in purchases each billing cycle. You can also earn a $200 sign-up bonus by spending $750 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. 

This card could be ideal for people who prefer to have customized higher earning categories that don’t require choosing a category or activating bonus cash back. When matched with a higher earning cash back card for all other purchases, such as the Citi Double Cash card, it can help you maximize your cash back.

Next Steps
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Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5 points per $1 on purchases in your top eligible spend category up to the first $500 spent, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.