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If you’re a credit card enthusiast or enjoy maximizing your rewards, you may be interested in a credit card trifecta. This approach combines three cards from the same issuer to take advantage of the best perks and rewards rates on each card. It allows you to easily combine your rewards for better redemption options like the ability to transfer rewards to travel partners.
What is the Citi trifecta?
For this Citi credit card trifecta, we’re going to utilize the Citi Premier® Card, Citi® Double Cash Card and Citi Custom Cash℠ Card to rack up the most possible Citi ThankYou points and cash back. Previously, we recommended pairing the Citi Prestige® Credit Card* with the Citi Double Cash and Citi Custom Cash, but the Citi Prestige card is no longer offered to new cardholders.
All three cards offer different rewards structures and redemption options. With the Citi Custom Cash, you can redeem your rewards for direct deposits, checks, statement credits, gift cards, travel booked through Citi or eligible purchases on Amazon via Shop with Points. As for the Citi Double Cash, you can redeem your rewards for statement credits, direct deposits, checks and Citi ThankYou points.
It should be noted that both the Citi Double Cash and Citi Custom Cash earn basic Citi ThankYou points, which can not be redeemed with Citi travel partners. That’s where the Citi Premier comes in. It includes all of the redemption options available for the Citi Custom Cash, plus the ability to transfer Citi ThankYou points to Citi airline and hotel partners. With this trifecta, you can earn rewards quickly and maximize your rewards with each card.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the perks and rewards structures of the Citi Custom Cash, Citi Double Cash and Citi Premier cards before we dive in to how you can maximize your rewards with each card:
|Cards||Welcome offer||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|Citi Custom Cash Card||20,000 bonus points (worth $200 in cash back) after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months||5% cash back (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1% back) on your top eligible spending category each billing cycle||$0|
|Citi Double Cash Card||N/A||2% cash back — 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay off your purchase||$0|
|Citi Premier Card||80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening||5X points on air travel and restaurant purchases; 3X points on hotels and cruise line purchases; 1X points on all other purchases||$95|
Citi Custom Cash: Best for spending a lot in one category
The Citi Custom Cash card comes with plenty of perks. To start with, you can earn 5 percent cash back on your top spending category each billing cycle (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent back). Eligible 5 percent categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. You’ll also earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
You can generate plenty of cash back if you happen to spend a lot in certain categories. Maybe you cook all week long — you could score 5 percent back on your grocery spending. Or maybe you have a membership at an expensive fitness center and you can pay the annual bill to get 5 percent back on it that billing cycle.
The Citi Custom Cash card also comes with a welcome bonus of 20,000 ThankYou points — worth $200 in cash back — after spending $1,500 in the first six months of account opening. Plus, you’ll get a 0 percent intro APR on eligible balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After the intro period expires, you’ll have a 18.74 percent to 28.74 percent variable APR. Additionally, the Custom Cash card does not charge an annual fee.
Citi Double Cash: Best for spending a lot in many different categories
You can also earn plenty of cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card, though you’ll earn your cash back in a different way. Instead of earning higher rewards rates in one spending category per month, you’ll earn 2 percent cash back on all of your purchases — you’ll get 1 percent cash back when you charge a purchase and another 1 percent cash back when you pay for that purchase.
This flat 2 percent cash back rate makes the Citi Double Cash one of the best flat cash back cards on the market since most cards earn a maximum rate of 1 percent to 1.5 percent back on all general purchases. With the Citi Double Cash, you won’t have to keep track of bonus or rotating categories; you can earn the same high rate of cash back on every purchase.
The Citi Double Cash also comes with a 0 percent intro APR on eligible balance transfers for 18 months, then a variable APR of 18.74 percent to 28.74 percent. The Citi Double Cash also charges no annual fee and it doesn’t come with a welcome offer.
Citi Premier Card: Best for frequent travelers
The Citi Premier card is a travel rewards card that let’s you earn Citi ThankYou points that can be transferred to Citi airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’ll earn 3X points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases, along with 1X points on all other purchases. It also comes with a $95 annual fee and a welcome offer of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
As for other benefits, you’ll receive World Elite Mastercard benefits and an annual $100 discount on a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) when you use your card to book your stay through Citi ThankYou.
How to maximize the Citi trifecta
- Choose the right card for your purchases. First, be mindful of how you use the Citi Custom Cash. You can focus on using it for some of its more unique category offerings (like select streaming services or home improvement), or you can use it for groceries, restaurants and gas, for example. Just make sure you’re spending enough in one of the eligible 5 percent categories to max it out. Then, after you’ve maxed out the spending limit, use the Citi Premier to earn 3X points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases. And use your Citi Double Cash on all non-category purchases each month since you’ll earn up to 2 percent cash back on these other purchases.
- Keep the Custom Cash’s spending limit in mind. You will have to be careful when choosing between the Custom Cash and Double Cash for some purchases. If you max out the Custom Cash’s 5 percent category, and if the Citi Premier doesn’t offer that same category, make sure you switch over to the Double Cash so you can earn that up to 2 percent cash back instead of dropping to the Custom Cash’s 1 percent back.
- Redeem rewards for high-value options. As with most credit card trifectas, the main reason to use a credit card combination is to maximize rewards redemption value. By adding in the Citi Premier, you’ll be able to transfer your rewards to Citi airline and hotel partners. Access to this redemption method is key for maximizing your rewards value — your points could be worth 1.9 cents each when redeemed with a high-value transfer partner.
How to get the Citi Trifecta
This Citi trifecta strategy won’t work if you don’t qualify for all three Citi cards — the Citi Premier, Citi Double Cash and the Citi Custom Cash. And to qualify for these cards, you’ll need a good to excellent credit score. However, the higher your credit score, the higher your chances of qualifying. For example, you may have a better shot at approval if you have a FICO score of 700 or higher.
If you credit score is too low, you can working on building your credit by paying your bills in full and on time each month and by paying off as much of your existing credit card debt (if you have it) as you can. Complete these steps and your FICO score will gradually rise. Then, you’ll be able to qualify for better cards.
Also, before you apply for any Citi cards to make up your Citi trifecta, make sure to space out your card applications. Then, you can take full advantage of each welcome bonus without spending over your budget to do so.
The bottom line
Using the Citi trifecta is a great way to maximize your Citi ThankYou rewards. But this move won’t work for everyone. If you don’t travel much, for instance, the Citi Premier won’t make sense for you, especially considering its $95 annual fee. Or if you don’t spend much in the available bonus categories for the Premier or Custom Cash, you won’t earn as many rewards.
Review your spending habits before applying for the Citi Premier, Citi Double Cash and Citi Custom Cash. If your current monthly spending habits won’t result in the highest possible amount of rewards, these cards might not be the best combination for you. But if they do, the Citi trifecta could be your perfect rewards credit card strategy.
*The information about the Citi Prestige® Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.