Citi ThankYou trifecta guide

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If you’re a credit card enthusiast or enjoy strategizing 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 rewards points or cash back for redemption or transfer options to travel partners.

What is the Citi trifecta?

For the Citi trifecta, we point to the combined rewards-earning power of the Citi Prestige® Card, Citi® Double Cash Card and Citi Custom Cash℠ Card to rack up the most possible ThankYou points and cash back.

You can turn your Citi ThankYou points into cash, gift cards, merchandise, airline miles or hotel stays. Earning these points quickly, then, can give you a financial boost. And by using the trifecta strategy to use each card for purchases that maximize your rewards, you’ll also earn the most cash back each billing cycle.

Here’s a look at the perks and rewards structure of the Prestige, Double Cash and Custom Cash credit cards, and tips for using the trifecta strategy to maximize your monthly rewards.

Card Rewards Annual Fee Welcome offer
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card 5% cash back (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1%) on your top spending category

1% cash back in all other categories

$0 $200 cash back if you make $750 in purchases during first three months of opening account
Citi® Double Cash Card 2% cash back in all categories (1% at time of purchase, 1% when paid on time) $0 No welcome offer
Citi Prestige® Card 5 ThankYou points per dollar for restaurant and air travel spending

3 points per dollar for hotels and cruise lines

1 point per dollar for all other purchases

$495 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within first three months of opening account

Citi Custom Cash: Best for cardholders who spend a lot in one category

The Citi Custom Cash card comes with plenty of perks. You can earn 5 percent back on any purchases you charge in your top spending category for each billing cycle. Your 5 percent category can be restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, travel, transit, streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs or live entertainment.

You’ll earn 5 percent cash back in this category on the first $500 you charge during each billing cycle, then 1 percent cash back after that. You’ll also earn 1 percent unlimited cash back on all other purchases.

You can generate plenty of cash back, then, 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 for being your top category that billing cycle.

You can receive your cash back in the form of a statement credit, direct deposit to your bank account or as a check. If you’d rather earn more points, you can convert your cash back into Citi ThankYou points, which you can spend on everything from gift cards and merchandise to hotel stays and airline miles.

The Citi Custom Cash card also comes with a $200 cash back welcome offer if you make at least $750 in purchases with the card in the first three months of opening your account. The card also comes with 0 percent interest on balance transfers and new purchases for 15 months. You must make your balance transfer within the first four months of opening your account to qualify for this offer. The balance transfer fee is $5 or 5 percent of the amount you transfer, whichever figure is greater. After the welcome offers expire, you’ll have a 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR.

The Custom Cash card does not charge an annual fee.

Citi Double Cash: Best for people who spend a lot in several different categories

You can also earn plenty of cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card, though you’ll earn your cash back bonus in a different way.

Instead of earning high in one spending category per month, you’ll earn 2 percent cash back on all your purchases. You’ll get 1 percent cash back when you charge a purchase with the card and another 1 percent cash back when you make on-time payments toward these purchases. As with all Citi cash back cards, you can receive your cash back as a statement credit, direct deposit or check. You can also convert your cash back into ThankYou points.

The Double Cash card was not offering a welcome bonus at the time of this writing, but it did come with a generous 0 percent interest rate on balance transfers for 18 months. You must complete balance transfers within four months of opening your account to take advantage of this offer. The balance transfer fee is either $5 or 3 percent of the amount you transfer, whichever is greater. The 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR applies after 18 months.

The Double Cash card charges no annual fee.

Citi Prestige card: Best for frequent travelers

The Citi Prestige card isn’t a cash back card. Instead, it’s a travel rewards card that lets you earn Citi ThankYou points.

You’ll earn 5 points for every dollar you charge at restaurants and on air travel. You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you charge at hotels and on cruise lines. You’ll earn 1 point for every dollar you charge for all other purchases.

The Prestige card also comes with a welcome offer of 50,000 bonus points. To earn this, you need to spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

You’ll get valuable travel perks, too, with this card. This includes a free fourth night at a hotel of your choice if you book at least four consecutive nights through ThankYou.com. You’ll also get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit on your statement for up to $100.

Citi will also provide you with a travel credit worth up to $250 every calendar year, which is applied automatically to eligible travel purchases. Cardholders also gain free access to hundreds of VIP lounges in airports across the country.

These perks aren’t free, though. The Citi Prestige card charges an annual fee of $495.

How to maximize the Citi ThankYou trifecta

How do you use these three Citi cards to maximize the amount of ThankYou points and cash you’ll earn?

First, use the Citi Prestige card to charge airline tickets and restaurant meals. These purchases will earn you 5 ThankYou points for every dollar you spend, so the points can accumulate quickly if you are a frequent flier or you eat out often.

Don’t make purchases at restaurants or for travel on your Citi Custom Cash card. You’re already earning that 5 percent bonus in these categories with your Prestige card.

Instead, choose one of the other 5 percent categories to use your Custom Cash card for—maybe you spend a lot at grocery stores each month or drive a lot. Focus your spending in one of these categories on your Custom Cash to make it your top spending category and snag that 5 percent back.

Selecting a different 5 percent category with your Custom Cash card will help you earn 5 percent on three categories of purchases, adding your Custom Cash 5 percent category to the restaurant and air travel categories on your Citi Prestige card.

Use your Citi Double Cash card on all other purchases during the month. You’ll earn 2 percent cash back on these other purchases, giving you a nice bonus on the cash back and ThankYou points you are already earning with your Prestige and Custom Cash cards.

You will have to be careful when choosing between the Custom Cash and Double Cash card for some purchases, though. That’s because of the $500 spending limit per billing cycle on your top Citi Custom Cash category—if your top category goes over that $500 mark, switch the spending in that category to your Double Cash so you can earn that 2 percent cash back instead of dropping to the Custom Cash’s 1 percent.

For example, you may want to buy a new washing machine, dryer and dishwasher at a combined cost of $3,000. If you put that purchase on your Citi Custom Cash card, you’ll earn 5 percent on the first $500 of that charge (if home improvement stores are your top 5 percent cash back category), then 1% on the rest. That comes out to 5,000 points, or $50 cash back. If you put that purchase instead on the Citi Double Cash card, you’ll earn 6,000 points, or $60 cash back.

How to get the Citi Trifecta

This Citi trifecta strategy won’t work if you don’t qualify for all three of the Citi Prestige, Double Cash and Custom Cash cards. And to qualify for these cards, you’ll need a solid FICO credit score.

Credit card providers rely on your three-digit FICO score when deciding whether to approve you for their cards. The higher your score, the higher your chances of qualifying. Unfortunately, Citi doesn’t publish any minimum credit scores for their cards. But for cards that offer rewards, such as the cash back bonuses of the Double Cash and Custom cash cards and the ThankYou points you can generate with the Prestige card, you’ll usually need a higher credit score.

While Citi doesn’t provide a minimum score, you’ll typically need a FICO score of 700 or higher to qualify for rewards-heavy cards such as these.

What if your score is too low? You can steadily improve it by paying your bills on time each month and by paying off as much of your existing credit card debt as you can. Complete these two steps, and your FICO score will gradually but steadily rise until it is high enough to qualify you for better credit cards.

Also remember that as you apply for your Citi trifecta, you should space out your card applications to make sure you can take full advantage of each welcome bonus without spending over your budget to do so.

The bottom line

Relying on the Citi trifecta is a great way to maximize your cash back bonuses and rewards points. But this move won’t work for everyone. If you don’t fly much, for instance, or eat out often at restaurants, you won’t earn many ThankYou points from the Prestige card. And if you don’t spend heavily in any one type of spending category, the Custom Cash card might not generate the higher cash back bonuses each month that make it a worthwhile addition to your wallet.

Review your spending habits before applying for the Prestige, Double Cash and Custom Cash cards. If your monthly spending 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 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.