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Why the Citi Double Cash card is good for first-time card owners

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When I started looking for my first credit card after college, I felt like I was playing a game where I didn’t know the rules. Credit scores, APRs, soft and hard pulls, rewards multipliers—it was all gibberish to me.

So I jumped in blind and applied for the first credit card that looked good.

And I was rejected.

Card application number two? Also rejected.

It wasn’t a smooth entrance into the world of credit cards, to say the least. After spending a few months getting finances in order and building a credit history with a starter credit card, I was ready to apply for my first “real” rewards credit card. I chose the Citi Double Cash credit card, and it was the best decision I could have made.

Here are the top three reasons why the Citi Double Cash Card is excellent for first-time card owners.

Simple rewards structure

For many first-time cardholders, the most confusing aspect of credit cards is the rewards structure. When you start to wade into the world of points and miles, you’re bound to encounter a wide variety of spending categories, exclusions, minimum spending requirements and rotating rewards categories.

Cash back and travel credit cards can earn you many great rewards, making the work worthwhile, but it may be easier to get a card with a simple rewards structure when you are just starting out.

It doesn’t get simpler than the Citi Double Cash credit card when it comes to cash back credit cards. You earn a flat rate 1 percent back on all purchases—no spending categories or confusing exclusions to remember.

Are there credit cards out there that will earn you more rewards? Sure! While it wasn’t around when I was applying for my first card, the Citi Custom Cash Card will give you up to 5 percent back on purchases made in your top spending category. But if you don’t want to think about rewards categories every time you make a purchase, the Citi Double Cash comes with simplicity in spades.

Rewards you for good behavior

The Citi Double Cash card is not only simple to use—it also rewards you for your good behavior and on-time payments. Every time you pay your balance, you get an additional 1 percent back on all your purchases. This means that with consistent on-time payments, you’ll earn 2 percent back on all your purchases with minimal effort.

As a first-time credit card holder, I was cognizant of my spending habits to ensure I didn’t carry a balance. Knowing that I would earn additional cash back with each on-time payment gave me extra incentive never to carry a balance.

ThankYou Points

While you can easily redeem your rewards in the form of a statement credit, the Citi Double Cash card can also help new card owners wade slowly into the world of credit cards rewards points.

On top of earning cash back, you can transfer every dollar you earn into 100 ThankYou Points. ThankYou Points can be redeemed in several ways, from travel expenses and gift cards to purchases on

You can extend the value of your rewards by roughly 70 cents per dollar when transferring your cash back to ThankYou Points.

No annual fee

When I started looking at rewards credit cards, I knew that I didn’t want a card with a costly annual fee. Some cash back and travel credit cards come with annual fees ranging from $95 all the way up to $695.

While the benefits of these cards can more than pay for the annual fee, I knew that I didn’t want to spend that much every year. With rewards that are on par with many cards that do charge an annual fee, this was an excellent choice for my first card.

There are no “set it and forget it” credit cards out there. All cards require a certain amount of oversight and maintenance to ensure that you pay your balance on time and avoid potential fraudulent charges. That being said, if you’re looking for a card that will require less attention, the Citi Double Cash Card can be set on autopay with spending notifications. This, coupled with no annual fee, makes it a hassle-free credit card to own, which is great for novice and veteran cardholders alike.

The bottom line

I’ve had the Citi Double Cash Card for a few years now, and while it isn’t the highest earning rewards card in my wallet anymore, I still think it’s one of the best. It helped ease me into the world of credit cards and is great for first-time cardholders looking to earn rewards without putting in too much effort. Its 1 percent cash back on all purchases coupled with the 1 percent you earn when you pay your balance makes this card worthwhile without the hefty annual fee or confusing rotating categories you can expect from some rewards cards.

Written by
Meredith Hoffman
Credit Cards Reporter
Meredith Hoffman is a personal finance writer covering credit card news and advice at Bankrate. She is originally from Columbia, S.C., and received her bachelor's degree from the Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington. Before joining Bankrate in October 2019, Meredith worked as the news editor of Wilmington’s local newspaper, The Seahawk.
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Part of  Introduction to the Citi Double Cash Credit Card