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Citi Custom Cash Card Review – No Annual Fee & 5% Cash-Back

At a Glance
Citi Bank Custom Cash Card
4.3 / 5
Rating

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  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn $200 bonus cash back (20,000 bonus ThankYou points) after spending $750 in eligible purchases during the first three months after opening your account
  • Rewards: Earn 5% cash back (5 ThankYou points per $1 spent) on purchases in your top eligible spending category each month, up to $500 in monthly spending; earn 1% cash back (1 ThankYou point per $1 spent) on all other eligible purchases, including top eligible spending category purchases above the $500 monthly cap
  • Fees: 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: 0% APR for 15 months from account opening for purchases and 15 months from transfer date for balance transfers completed within four months of account opening; then, variable regular APR applies
  • Credit Limits: Medium to high
  • Credit Required: Good to excellent

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The new Citi Custom Cash Card is a cash-back credit card with no annual fee and a generous rewards program that favors everyday spending. With no quarterly rotating categories or cash back activation required, it’s a notable improvement on traditional category-based cash back credit cards like Chase Freedom Flex.

The Citi Custom Cash Card shines on two other fronts as well. It has one of the best sign-up bonuses of any no-annual-fee credit card on the market, and it boasts a very long 0% APR introductory promotion that applies to both purchases and balance transfers. Although its foreign transaction fee is a downer for jet-setting cardholders, there’s not much to complain about here otherwise.

Thinking about upgrading your current cash-back card to a new model? Intrigued by what you’ve learned so far about the Citi Custom Cash Card, a Mastercard from one of the most popular credit card issuers around? Keep reading for more about this card’s features, benefits, and overall suitability for consumers like you.

Key Features

The Citi Custom Cash Card has a generous sign-up bonus, a solid ongoing cash back rewards program, and an impressive 0% APR introductory promotion. Cash back arrives as ThankYou points, Citi’s loyalty currency — worth $0.01 per point when redeemed for cash equivalents like statement credits and bank account deposits.

Sign-Up Bonus

Earn $200 bonus cash, fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou points, after spending $750 in eligible purchases during the first three months your account is open. This bonus offer is worth $200 when redeemed for statement credits or direct deposits to an eligible bank account.

Earning Cash-Back Rewards

Citi Custom Cash has a two-tiered rewards program.

First, all eligible purchases in the cardholder’s top monthly spending category (of the eight permanently eligible categories) earn 5% cash back (5 Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent), up to $500 in monthly spending in that category. The spending categories eligible for bonus cash back are:

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

There’s no limit to how frequently the cardholder’s top monthly spending category can change. But bear in mind that the $500 monthly spending cap effectively limits bonus cash-back earnings to $25 per month or $300 per year.

Second, all other eligible purchases earn 1% cash back (1 ThankYou point per $1 spent), with no caps or restrictions on earning potential. This category includes purchases in the top monthly spending category above the $500 monthly spending cap.

Redeeming Cash-Back Rewards

ThankYou points can be redeemed for virtually anything in the Citi ThankYou Rewards portal. Optimal redemptions include statement credits or bank account deposits, both of which value points at $0.01 apiece. Cardholders may also redeem for Amazon purchases, gift cards, merchandise, and other items.

Introductory APR

Enjoy 0% APR for 15 months after account opening on purchases and for 15 months from the date of transfer for balance transfers. Thereafter, regular variable APR applies, depending on your creditworthiness and prevailing interest rates.

Qualifying balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening. A balance transfer fee applies.

Important Fees

The Citi Custom Cash Card has no annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 3% of the total transaction amount. Other fees may apply.

Credit Required

Citi Custom Cash requires a good to excellent credit score. Applicants with limited, poor, or fair credit are unlikely to qualify for this rewards credit card.


Advantages

The Citi Custom Cash Card has a lot of advantages over flat-rate cash-back credit cards and traditional quarterly rotating category cards as well. Plus, with a generous sign-up bonus and intro APR promotion, it offers a lot for new account holders to like.

1. No Annual Fee

The Citi Custom Cash Card has no annual fee. Cardholders who don’t plan to use it as their primary credit card can rest assured that it won’t burn a hole in their pockets between uses.

2. Strong Sign-up Bonus

Citi Custom Cash has a strong sign-up bonus with a relatively low spending requirement and no spend categories to worry about.

3. Lots of Opportunities to Earn 5% Cash Back

Unlike the original crop of cash-back credit cards with 5% bonus cash back categories, Citi Custom Cash offers a permanent array of bonus categories and automatically rewards cardholders for using their favorite.

To be specific, Custom Cash has eight fairly broad spending categories eligible for bonus earnings: restaurants, gas stations, select travel, select streaming services, select transit, drugstores, home improvement stores, and live entertainment. You’ll automatically receive 5% cash back in whichever of these categories you spend the most in each month (up to $500 in monthly spending).

4. Very Long 0% APR Introductory Promotion on Purchases and Balance Transfers

Citi Custom Cash has one of the longest 0% APR introductory promotions of any cash-back card on the market, exceeded only by a handful of cards at any given time — including by its stablemate, the Citi Double Cash Card, which has an even longer balance transfer promotion.

Citi Custom Cash’s 0% APR promotion is notable for covering both purchases and balance transfers, rather than only one or the other as is often the case. All in all, this is one of the best credit cards around for applicants looking to avoid interest charges early on.

5. Lots of Cash-Back Redemption Options

Citi Custom Cash cardholders earn ThankYou points redeemable for cash equivalents (statement credits, bank account deposits) and for gift cards, general merchandise, and more. Needless to say, it’s a nice loyalty currency for cardholders who like keeping their options open, and an advantage over straight cash-back cards like Citi Double Cash.

6. No Quarterly Rotating Cash-Back Categories to Worry About

Unlike Chase Freedom Flex and other credit cards with rotating categories, Citi Custom Cash doesn’t ask cardholders to keep track of categories that change by the month or quarter. Neither does it require cardholders to manually activate bonus cash back in those categories, a perennial drawback of Flex and its ilk. Here, bonus earnings are all automatic, all the time.


Disadvantages

The Citi Custom Cash Card isn’t perfect. Its drawbacks include a relatively low baseline cash-back rate and a foreign transaction fee that’s less than ideal for cardholders who regularly venture outside the U.S. or purchase goods from international vendors.

1. Low Baseline Cash-Back Rate

Citi Custom Cash has a low baseline cash-back rate of just 1%, or 1 ThankYou point per $1 spent. This rate applies to all purchases except the first $500 in eligible purchases in the cardholder’s top spending category for the month. For higher-spending cardholders, that’s apt to mean the bulk of all card spending.

By contrast, 2% flat-rate cards like Citi Double Cash earn unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases, all the time.

2. Has a Foreign Transaction Fee

Citi Custom Cash has a 3% foreign transaction fee. That’s a drawback relative to competing cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees and of particular concern to cardholders who frequently travel abroad or patronize international vendors.

3. Not Appropriate for First-Time Credit Card Users

Citi Custom Cash requires good to excellent credit. It’s not accessible to first-time credit card users with limited credit history, nor to applicants with impaired credit (low FICO credit scores).

4. Bonus Cash-Back Earnings Capped at $500 in Monthly Spending

Citi Custom Cash caps bonus cash-back earnings at $25 per month, equating to no more than $500 in monthly bonus category spending. That’s a disadvantage for heavy spenders who consistently hit the spending cap.


Final Word

The Citi Custom Cash Card improves upon the category-based cash-back card with one sensible tweak to the model: automatically rewarding spending in the cardholder’s top spending category for the month, rather than in an arbitrary category or two that rotates every quarter.

Nothing against old-school category cards like Chase Freedom Flex. With advance purchase planning, maximizing Chase Freedom Flex’s 5% bonus categories is absolutely doable. Diligent Freedom Flex cardholders with ample budgets can easily extract the maximum $300 annual bonus cash from their cards.

Then again, Citi Custom Cash also holds the promise of up to $300 in bonus cash each year, housed in a much simpler rewards scheme. No manual activation, no checking the cash-back calendar every quarter — just everyday spending that automatically earns five times the baseline cash-back rate. What could be simpler?

Verdict
Citi Bank Custom Cash Card
4.3 / 5
Rating

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The Citi Custom Cash Card is an excellent everyday spending card that splits the difference between flat-rate general spending cards and category- or tier-bound cards that restrict spending and limit choice. A generous sign-up bonus and unusually long 0% intro APR promotion sweeten the deal for new cardholders, but a foreign transaction fee might give frequent international travelers pause.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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