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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 incredibly long intro APR periods and no annual fees. These two credit cards provide some of the longest intro APR periods on the market for paying down debt at no extra cost. For many of us, this feature would be great on its own. However, one of these cards takes its benefits package over the top with a unique way of delivering rewards.

Read on to find out which Citi credit card takes the lead, the Citi Custom Cash or the Citi Diamond Preferred.

Card details at a glance

Citi Custom Cash Card Citi Diamond Preferred Card
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)
  • 1% back on everything else
  • None
Intro APR
  • 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • Then a variable APR of 14.74% to 24.74%
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months
  • Then a variable APR of 14.49% to 24.49%
Annual fee $0 $0

Citi Custom Cash vs. Citi Diamond Preferred highlights

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

Welcome bonus winner: Citi Custom Cash

It’s a nice welcome bonus and easy to attain in the allotted time. All you have to spend is $750 in the first three months and you get 20,000 Citi ThankYou points, which translates to $200 in cash back. Besides using the $200 in cash back to pay for purchases, you can use it to pay your bills or else redeem the ThankYou points for flights, hotels, gift cards and merchandise.

Rewards rate winner: Citi Custom Cash

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

A lot of credit cards on the market require you to pick the categories (such as grocery store or gas station purchases) that you spend the most money in. For example, you may get one spending category per quarter that will provide you with a higher cash back rate. If you forget to change your chosen category to another category for the next quarter, the spending category from the previous quarter instantly reverts to the least amount of cash back (usually 1 percent).

For many people, having to regularly change rewards categories can be complicated and confusing. Citi Custom Cash takes the thinking and manual labor out of it. It automatically provides you with the highest cash back rate (5 percent) for the category you spent the most money in, on up to $500 of purchases each billing cycle (1 percent after that). So, if you spend at least $500 in one of the eligible spending categories, you will earn at least $25 in cash back each billing cycle ($300 per year).

The spending categories that could give you 5 percent are numerous. They include select streaming services, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, drugstores, home improvement stores, live entertainment, select travel expenses and select transit expenses.

Intro APR rate winner: Depends

The competition for the winner here is less clear-cut. The intro APR winner here depends on whether you’re looking for a better intro APR rate for purchases or balance transfers. Both cards offer a intro rates for purchases and balance transfers, but for different lengths of time.

The Citi Diamond Preferred provides you with a 0 percent intro APR for purchases for 12 months, while the Citi Custom Cash gives you the 0 percent intro APR rate for 15 months. So, if you’re looking for a better 0 percent intro APR rate for purchases, the winner here is the Citi Custom Cash. Citi Custom Cash Card’s APR (14.74% to 24.74%) and Citi Diamond Preferred Card’s APR (14.49% to 24.49%)

However, the Citi Diamond Preferred has the better intro APR rate for balance transfers at 21 months, while the Citi Custom Cash only offers that rate for 15 months. The Citi Diamond Preferred is the clear winner for a better intro APR rate on balance transfers.

Once the intro APR rate expires, the Citi Diamond Preferred moves slightly ahead for both purchase and balance transfer APR since its APR reverts to a variable APR of 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent, which is slightly lower than the 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR the Citi Custom Cash charges.

Annual fee winner: Both

Both the Citi Custom Cash card and the Citi Diamond Preferred card offer all 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 doesn’t provide you with an opportunity to earn rewards. But with the Citi Custom Cash, your top eligible spending category will earn you 5 percent cash back on up to $500 worth of purchases each billing cycle (1 percent after that limit is met), plus an unlimited 1 percent back on everything else.

So, let’s say you spent $1,000 at restaurants in July, $500 at grocery stores and $100 at gas stations. This means you’d get:

  • $30 back on restaurant spending ($25 for the first $500, $5 for the next $500)
  • $5 back on grocery store spending
  • $1 back on gas station spending

That comes to a total of $36 in cash back for that billing cycle. 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 in comparison.

Why should you get Citi Diamond Preferred?

If you want to transfer a balance and you want the longest possible window in which to do so interest-free, then the Citi Diamond Preferred is the way to go.

Additional benefits

Besides the fantastic intro APR interest rate on balance transfers and no annual fee, the other benefits offered by the Citi Diamond Preferred are pretty pedestrian and nothing you haven’t seen before. Benefits like 24/7 customer service, contactless payments, digital wallet capabilities, account alerts and access to exclusive live events – all so standard across the credit card industry now, 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

The recommended credit score for the Citi Diamond Preferred is Good to Excellent (670 to 850). 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, a 15-month intro APR rate for both balance transfers and purchases, and no annual fee.

Additional benefits

The additional benefits here are identical to those found on the Citi Diamond Preferred. On their own, they are just as underwhelming, But because the Citi Custom Cash also has the above-mentioned rewards rate that the Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t have, 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 direct deposits, cash, statement credits, gift cards, eligible merchandise or travel booked through Citi.

Recommended credit score

The recommended credit score for the Citi Custom Cash is Good to Excellent (670 to 850). If you want a solid hope of being approved for the Citi Custom Cash, you’re likely 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.

The bottom line

Sure, the Citi Diamond Preferred has one of the longest intro APR period for balance transfers at 21 months, along with no annual fee, but that’s pretty much all it has. Further, the Citi Custom Cash adds the cherry on top by offering 5 percent cash back on one eligible category each month. As a result, the Citi Custom Cash beats the Citi Diamond Preferred, and it isn’t all that close.

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