Citi Custom Cash vs. Citi Diamond Preferred

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For a lot of us, paying down a credit card balance is hard, so we need all the help we can get.

Enter the Citi Custom Cash Card and the Citi Diamond Preferred Card, two credit cards with amazingly long introductory 0 percent APR periods (15 and 18 months, respectively) and no annual fees. These two credit cards give those of us carrying a balance some of the longest periods on the market to pay down our debt at no extra cost.

For most of us, this feature would be great on its own, but one of these cards takes its benefits package over the top with a unique way of delivering rewards. Which one is it?

Read on to find out, as the Citi Custom Cash and the Citi Diamond Preferred prepare to scrap it out for credit card supremacy.

Main details

Cards Citi Custom Cash Card Citi Diamond Preferred
Welcome bonus Earn $20,000 ThankYou Points ($200 cash back) when you spend $750 in the first three months. None
Rewards Rate 5% cash back in your top spending category up to $500 per billing cycle (1% after that and on everything else) None
Intro APR 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%) 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months (then a variable APR of 13.74% to 23.74%)
Annual fee $0 $0

Citi Custom Cash vs. Citi Diamond Preferred highlights

Let’s take a deep dive on what these cards offer and see which one comes out on top.

Welcome bonus winner: Citi Custom Cash

It’s not even close. Citi Custom Cash is the only card between the two that offers a welcome bonus, which makes it the winner in this category by default. That being said, it is a nice welcome bonus and it’s easy to attain in the allotted time.

All you have to spend is $750 in the first three months and you get 20,000 ThankYou points, which translates to $200 cash back. In addition to using this $200 to pay for purchases, you can use it toward paying your bills or redeem points for flights, hotels, gift cards and merchandise. The Citi Diamond Preferred could use a welcome bonus, but it doesn’t have one, so if you like that kind of thing, choose Citi Custom Cash.

Rewards rate winner: Citi Custom Cash

Citi Custom Cash is the rewards card here, so once again, it’s not a fair fight—Citi Custom Cash is the definitive winner.

A lot of credit cards on the market require you to pick the categories that you spend the most money. Or, you get one spending category per quarter that gives you the most cash back, and if you forget to change it to the next category with the most cash back in the next quarter, the spending category from the previous quarter instantly reverts to the least amount of cash back (usually 1 percent).

Citi Custom Cash takes the thinking and manual labor out of it. It automatically gives you the highest cash back (5 percent) on the category you spent the most money on that month, up to $500 (and then 1 percent after that).

The spending categories that could give you 5 percent are numerous. They include streaming services, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, drugstores, home improvement stores, live entertainment, select travel expenses and select transit expenses. Other expenses don’t miss out on, but you only get 1 percent on everything else.

Intro APR rate winner: Citi Diamond Preferred

The competition for the crown here was a lot closer. Both cards offer a 0 percent intro rate, but the Citi Diamond Preferred gives you that rate for 18 months, while the Citi Custom Cash only gives you 0 percent for 15 months. The 0 percent intro rate applies to both purchases and balance transfers on both cards, so if you want to pay down a balance—new or old—fast without incurring more interest, these are great cards to choose from.

The edge, though, still goes to the Citi Diamond Preferred because it gives you three more months at 0 percent and, with that, a little more breathing room. Once the rate expires, the Citi Diamond Preferred keeps its place in the winner’s circle, as its annual interest rate reverts to between 13.74 percent and 23.74 percent, which is slightly lower than the 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent the Citi Custom Cash charges.

Annual fee winner: Both

Both the Citi Custom Cash and the Citi Diamond Preferred offer all of their benefits with no annual fee.

Which card earns the most?

The Citi Custom Cash is in a class by itself here, as the Citi Diamond Preferred neither gives you an opportunity to collect rewards nor offers you a welcome bonus. But with the Custom Cash, your top eligible spending category will earn you 5 percent cash back.

So let’s say you spent $1,000 at restaurants in July, but only $500 at grocery stores and nothing on every other eligible expenditure. This means you’d get $50 in cash back on your restaurant spending because it was the most you spent that month in an eligible category. What you earn the next month could be different and could come from a different eligible spending category, but it’s all gravy when the Citi Diamond Preferred earns you nothing by comparison.

Why should you get Citi Diamond Preferred?

If you want to pay down any balance fast and you want the longest possible window between which to do so interest-free, then the Citi Diamond Preferred is the way to go.

Additional benefits

Besides the fantastic intro interest rate and no annual fee, the other benefits offered by the Citi Diamond Preferred are pretty pedestrian and nothing you haven’t seen before. Things like 24/7 customer service, contactless payments, digital wallet capabilities, zero fraud liability, identity theft protection, account alerts and access to exclusive live events are so standard across the credit card industry now that they barely deserve to be singled out as “ additional benefits.”

Redemption options

There are no redemption offers here since the Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer points to redeem.

Recommended credit score

Approval for this card likely hinges on a credit score of 700 or better. Approval with a credit score as low as 670 is possible, but it may be more of a long shot.

Why should you get Citi Custom Cash?

You should get this card if you don’t want to have to remember which spending category gives you 5 percent cash back and you simply want a card that adapts to your spending month-to-month. You should also get it if you want a welcome bonus that’s realistically achievable, 15 months at 0 percent APR and no annual fee.

Additional benefits

The additional benefits here are identical to those found on the Citi Diamond Preferred above. On their own, they are just as underwhelming, but because the Citi Custom Cash also has a welcome bonus, a one-of-a-kind way of applying cash back, a long 0 percent APR introductory period and no annual fee, it feels like you’re getting even more with these benefits.

Redemption options

The redemption options for the Citi Custom Cash are numerous because the cash back comes in the form of ThankYou points (5 points per dollar in the 5 percent categories and 1 point per dollar everywhere else). You can redeem ThankYou points for cash, statement credits, flights, hotels, gift cards and merchandise.

Recommended credit score

If you want a solid hope of being approved for the Citi Custom Cash, you’re going to need a score somewhere around 700 or better, but a score as low as 670 may possibly give you an outside shot at approval.

Bottom line

Sure, the Citi Diamond Preferred has one of the longest intro 0 percent APR periods we’ve ever seen (18 months)—along with no annual fee—but that’s pretty much all it has. There’s no welcome bonus and there are no rewards, which are both features the Citi Custom Cash will give you.

The Custom Cash puts the cherry on top by offering 5 percent cash back in a way that’s unique. As a result, the Citi Custom Cash beats the Citi Diamond Preferred, and it isn’t particularly close.

Written by
Aaron Broverman
Personal Finance Writer
Aaron Broverman has been covering personal finance for over a decade for Bankrate and Creditcards.com, starting with its former sister site Creditcards.com Canada. His personal finance work has also appeared on Yahoo and Money Under 30.
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