Citi recently rolled out a unique cash back credit card that mimics some popular 5 percent cash back cards while offering more flexibility. Instead of only offering cash back in rotating bonus categories, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card adapts to your spending habits by earning 5 percent back in whichever eligible category you spend the most in each billing cycle (on the first $500 you spend per billing cycle, then 1 percent back). The card also carries a generous sign-up bonus and no annual fee.
But how does the Custom Cash Card stack up against what may be the most popular Citi rewards card of them all—the Citi® Double Cash Card? Offering an even more streamlined cash back program, the Citi Double Cash Card earns a flat 2 percent back per dollar—1 percent when you buy and another 1 percent when you pay off your purchases.
While both cards can be a lucrative addition to your wallet, one may be a better fit based on your spending habits and cash back strategy. Read on to learn how the Custom Cash Card compares to the Double Cash Card when it comes to earning rates, welcome bonuses, benefits and more.
Citi Custom Cash Card vs. Citi Double Cash Card highlights
Both of these cash back credit cards let you earn rewards on your spending with no annual fee, but they vary quite a bit in terms of their earning rates and intro APR offers.
|Card||Citi Custom Cash℠ Card||Citi® Double Cash Card|
|Welcome bonus||$200 in bonus cash after spending $750 within three months of account opening||None|
|Rewards Rate||Earn 5% back in top spending category each billing cycle (then 1% back) and 1% back on other purchases||Earn 2% back for each dollar spent (1% when a purchase is made and another 1% when it is paid off)|
|Intro APR||0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%||0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%|
Rewards rate winner: Citi Double Cash Card
While we like the fact the Citi Custom Cash Card automatically gives you 5 percent back on the first $500 you spend in an eligible bonus category each billing cycle, you’ll still only earn 1 percent back on regular purchases. This means that unless you spend heavily in one of the Custom Cash card’s eligible bonus categories, you’re unlikely to match the rewards you’d earn with a card that offers rewards at a flat rate on all purchases.
The Citi Double Cash Card squeaks out a win in this category due to the fact you earn an unlimited up to 2 percent back on each purchase you make and pay off, and you never have to worry about maxing out a specific spending category each billing cycle. The overall simplicity of this earning rate makes it more attractive if you want a no-hassle way to earn rewards on most of your spending and bills.
That said, if you make the most of the Citi Custom Cash Card by maxing out your top eligible spending category each billing cycle, you could earn more than you would with the Citi Double Cash. For example, if you spent $20,000 per year with each card, paid off your purchases in full and maxed out the Custom Cash card’s bonus cash back category each billing cycle, you’d end up with $400 in cash back on the Citi Double Cash ($20,000 times 2 percent back), versus $440 on the Citi Custom Cash ($6,000 times 5 percent back, plus $14,000 times 1 percent back).
While the Citi Double Cash may come out on top for most cardholders thanks to its simplicity and consistency, the card that’s best for you will depend on your spending habits and how much effort you want to put into maximizing your cash back.
Welcome bonus winner: Citi Custom Cash Card
While the rewards rate category may be a toss-up depending on your spending habits, the Citi Custom Cash Card is the clear winner in the welcome bonus department.
With the Custom Cash Card, you’ll earn $200 in bonus cash when you spend $750 within three months of account opening, which comes out to a minimum of $250 in spending per month for your first three months. Meanwhile, the Citi Double Cash Card offers no bonus whatsoever and has never offered a flat cash bonus.
While a sign-up bonus alone shouldn’t sway you one direction or another (instead, long-term value should be your focus), the Custom Cash card’s bonus can substantially increase your first-year rewards haul with minimal effort on your part.
Annual fee winner: Tie
Neither the Citi Custom Cash Card nor the Citi Double Cash Card charges an annual fee, and that’s common among cash back credit cards. This makes either card—or both—a solid choice if you’re looking to avoid the risk of an annual fee cutting into your rewards earnings. Indeed, the Double Cash card offers one of the highest flat cash back rates and the Custom Cash offers one of the highest rates you can get in categories like groceries, gas and dining while paying no annual fee.
Intro APR winner: Depends on your goals
When it comes to which card boasts the better introductory APR offer, it depends on how you plan to use your new credit card. While the Citi Custom Cash offers the flexibility to minimize interest charges on both transferred balances and new purchases, the Double Cash card only carries an intro APR on balance transfers.
The Citi Custom Cash Card offers a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months, followed by the variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent. Meanwhile, the Citi Double Cash Card offers a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers only for 18 months, with the same ongoing APR as the Custom Cash after that (13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable).
Since the Citi Custom Cash card’s intro APR offer applies to both balance transfers and new purchases, it offers a bit more flexibility than the Double Cash, allowing you a chance to both chip away at existing debt and finance large expenses. However, the card’s 5 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) makes it a more expensive option for balance transfers.
The Citi Double Cash lacks an intro APR on purchases, so it won’t be of much use for financing big-ticket items, but it carries a longer promotional period for balance transfers, which could come in handy if you have a large balance and need as much time as possible to pay it down. The card also only charges a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5), so if your primary focus is on consolidating and paying down high-interest debt, the Double Cash is the clear winner.
Which card earns the most?
While the Citi Double Cash carries familiar flat-rate rewards, the Citi Custom Cash Card offers a unique take on rotating 5 percent cash back categories since it automatically earns cash back in whichever bonus rewards category you’ve spent the most in each month. Eligible bonus categories are restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select streaming services, select travel purchases, select transit, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, live entertainment and drugstores.
Both of these cards are appealing due to their practical cash back programs, but which card earns the most will depend on both what you buy and how much you spend on a credit card each month.
Citi Custom Cash Card vs. Citi Double Cash Card spending example
Considering how cash back works with these two cards, the Citi Double Cash Card is the best option for people who put more than $2,000 per month on a credit card.
Let’s say you have the Citi Custom Cash Card and max out your top-earning cash back category each month with $500 in spending, and that you use your credit card for another $1,500 in spending each month. In that case, you would earn $40 in rewards each billing cycle—the exact amount you would earn with $2,000 in spending on the Citi Double Cash Card.
However, if you spent $2,500 on the Citi Custom Cash Card (including $500 in an eligible bonus category) each billing cycle, you would only net $45 in rewards each month compared to the $50 in rewards you would earn with the Citi Double Cash Card.
That said, the welcome bonus on the Citi Custom Cash Card makes a big difference in terms of first-year earnings. If you spent $2,500 per month on the Citi Custom Cash Card, maxed out the bonus category each billing cycle and managed to earn the welcome bonus by spending $750 within three months of account opening, you would earn $740 in rewards your first year. With the Citi Double Cash Card, on the other hand, you would earn just $600 in cash back rewards.
Why should you get the Citi Custom Cash Card?
Along with its impressive rewards rate in practical categories like grocery store and gas purchases, there are a number of reasons to consider the Citi Custom Cash Card over the competition. The following factors should play a role in your decision.
If you can take advantage of an intro APR on purchases for a limited time, the Citi Custom Cash Card stands out. This card gives new customers a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent, which could be a tremendous help if you have a big expense like a home repair or renovation on the horizon.
Also note that since the Citi Custom Cash card essentially lets you choose your own bonus category and automatically adjusts your cash back as your spending changes, it may offer more flexibility than other cards with rotating categories and enrollment requirements, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Discover it® Cash Back.
The Citi Custom Cash offers a nice variety of redemption options: You can redeem the rewards you earn for cash back in the form of a direct deposit, check or a statement credit. You can also use your Citi ThankYou points for gift cards, charitable donations, travel, purchases made through Amazon.com and more. The card also carries very few redemption restrictions, only imposing a $5 minimum redemption threshold if you opt for a check.
Recommended credit score
Consumers need good credit or excellent credit to qualify for this rewards credit card. This typically entails a FICO credit score of 670 or higher, but those with scores of 740 or higher may be preferred.
Why should you get the Citi Double Cash Card?
The simplicity of earning cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card makes it a popular choice for rewards enthusiasts and heavy spenders who want to stick to a single cash back card. We review some other Citi Double Cash Card benefits here.
Along with its cash back program, this card’s introductory APR offer stands out, competing with the offer you’ll find on some of the best balance transfer cards on the market. This makes the Citi Double Cash Card an excellent choice for people who want to consolidate debt with a Citi credit card.
New customers get a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 to 23.99 percent. Better yet, this card comes with a lower balance transfer fee of just 3 percent (or $5, whichever is greater), which could save you a good chunk of cash versus the Citi Custom Cash card’s 5 percent balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is greater).
This card has a few more restrictions than the Citi Custom Cash, but should still offer solid flexibility when it comes time to redeem your rewards. The Citi Double Cash Card requires a minimum cash rewards balance of $25 to make a redemption for a check, a deposit to a linked bank account or a statement credit. You can also convert rewards to Citi ThankYou points once you have at least $1 in your account. At that point, you can redeem for gift cards, merchandise, travel and more.
Recommended credit score
As with the Citi Custom Cash, Citi Double Cash applicants with a FICO credit score of at least 670 may be eligible for this card. Those with FICO scores of 740 or higher have the best chances at approval.
The bottom line
Both the Citi Custom Cash Card and the Citi Double Cash Card are solid cash back credit cards, but the right one for you depends on your spending and goals. Make sure to compare cash back credit cards based on how they might work for what you hope to accomplish, whether you want to maximize your cash back rewards or you want to access an introductory APR for purchases or balance transfers.
Also, consider the prospect of picking up both of these rewards credit cards to maximize your rewards. With both the Citi Custom Cash Card and the Citi Double Cash Card in your wallet, you could max out 5 percent categories each billing cycle and then use your Citi Double Cash Card to earn 2 percent back on all other purchases.