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Citi Custom Cash® Card review: Innovation or inconvenience?

Pairing this card with a more premier Citi rewards card could be a match made in earning heaven.

 /  17 min
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Bankrate rating
Rating: 4.4 stars out of 5

Bottom line

With no annual fee, this card offers a unique middle ground between different cash back card styles and features one of the strongest rewards rates available in key spending categories.

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Rewards rate

1% - 5%

Annual fee

Intro offer


Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
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Citi Custom Cash® Card Overview

Choosing a cash back card can be a tough call if you want the big rewards of a high-rate rotating category card, the flexibility of a custom category card and the simplicity of a flat-rate card. Thankfully, the Citi Custom Cash® Card provides a fourth “all of the above” choice.

Citi’s no-annual-fee credit card earns cash back rewards on purchases in one of 10 popular everyday categories but doesn’t require you to keep track of categories or activation periods. Instead, you automatically earn rewards in your top spend category each billing cycle.

That said, like other no-annual-fee Citi cards, the Custom Cash is light on extra features. You’ll need to pair it with another card, like a Citi travel card, to activate your rewards’ full potential.

  • Credit Card Cash Back


    • 5 percent cash back (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent) on your top spending category each billing cycle

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

  • Rewards

    Welcome offer

    • 20,000 ThankYou Points — worth $200 in cash back — after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Apr

    0% APR offer

    • 0 percent on purchases for 15 months
    • 0 percent on balance transfers for 15 months
    • 19.24 percent to 29.24 percent variable ongoing APR

    Expert Appraisal: Typical
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • No annual fee
    • 3 percent foreign transaction fee

    Expert Appraisal: Typical

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • World Elite Mastercard benefits

    Expert Appraisal: Unimpressive
    See our expert analysis

Citi Custom Cash Card pros and cons


  • Checkmark

    Its cash back on your top eligible spending category per billing cycle offers one of the highest rewards rates available on key categories for no annual fee.

  • Checkmark

    Its World Elite Mastercard status may provide valuable perks for a no-annual-fee card, such as partner offers with Lyft and DoorDash.

  • Checkmark

    Its unique rewards program and poolable rewards make it an excellent partner for the Citi Premier® Card and Citi® Double Cash Card.


  • The 5 percent bonus category has limited spending per billing cycle, which could dim your reward earning potential if you spend heavily in one category or have authorized users sharing the account.

  • If you want to earn rewards from a certain bonus category, you’ll need to track and categorize your spending since you only earn elevated cash back in one category.

  • If it’s your primary rewards card, you’ll potentially miss out on cash back for the majority of your spending because of the card’s one-category focus.

Why you might want the Citi Custom Cash Card

The Citi Custom Cash Card is an excellent choice if you want to earn rewards across categories or even in a single high-spending category for maximum rewards. Plus, you can earn a welcome bonus with a reasonable return on the amount you're required to spend. Another point in favor of the Citi Custom Cash is its decent intro APR period for both purchases and balance transfers.

You can also double your point value on earnings, giving you even more reason to use this card for everyday expenses like groceries or gas.

Welcome offer: A good deal compared to similar cash back cards

New cardholders can earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in purchases within their first six months, which comes in the form of 20,000 ThankYou points.

Although the Citi Custom Cash card’s spending requirement may be a bit hard to meet for some spenders, an offer worth $200 is on par with the sign-up bonuses you’ll find on some of the most popular cash back cards. The current $1,500 spending requirement is double the card’s previous bonus spending requirement and higher than what’s often required to earn the same cash bonus with competing no-annual-fee cash back cards (some cards require a spending threshold of just $500).

Here’s how the Citi Custom Cash card’s bonus stacks up to those of competing rewards cards when you break down the bonus as a return on spend:

Intro APR: Save on interest for the long run

Like a number of other no-annual-fee cash back cards, the Citi Custom Cash offers a solid intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers — making it a great option if you need to transfer your balance to Citi.

Besides being an effective balance transfer card, the Citi Custom Cash doubles as a somewhat low-interest credit card thanks to its 19.24 percent to 29.24 percent variable ongoing APR. This interest rate is reasonable for a rewards card, with its low-end APR slightly below the current average interest rate.

Rewards: Earn elevated cash back within a wide variety of categories 

The Citi Custom Cash earns 5 percent cash back on up to $500 (then 1 percent back) of purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle, plus unlimited 1 percent on all other purchases. The 10 categories that earn you 5 percent rewards are:

A pro tip to maximize your rewards is to pay for all your subscriptions or big expenses in a given category in a single billing cycle. For example, paying for all of your fitness club memberships in full in January, renewing your annual transit passes in February and booking all of your summer travel in March means you could earn cash back on a wider variety of purchases across the year’s billing cycles.

Redemption options: The unique chance to double your point value

The Citi Custom Cash offers one of the more well-rounded suites of redemption options among no-annual-fee rewards cards. You can redeem any number of your ThankYou points for cash back in the form of a direct deposit, check or statement credit, but your points must equal at least $5 in cash back to redeem for a check. Alternatively, you can redeem your points for gift cards, booking travel through Citi or eligible purchases on Amazon via Shop with Points.

Since you earn ThankYou points instead of automatic cash back, your point value can vary depending on the redemption choice. The Custom Cash card’s cash back redemption options will get you a value of 1 cent per point. You’ll also get 1 cent per point for gift card redemptions and travel bookings through Citi.

But if you pool points with the Citi Premier or Prestige, Bankrate’s latest point valuation estimates that your points may be worth around 1.9 cents each on average through certain Citi transfer partners. This valuation estimate means transferring your 20,000-point sign-up bonus to the right transfer partner could nearly double its value from $200 to $380.

Why you might want a different cash back card

The Citi Custom Cash Card offers several fantastic advantages, such as the welcome offer, increased rewards rate on bonus categories and intro APR offer, but there are a few drawbacks to consider. If you value a card with a diverse set of benefits, this card's short list of perks will disappoint you. Also, if you value earning high rewards in more than one category at a time, you may find the Citi Custom Cash rewards system challenging because you earn less in non-top-category spending and the rewards value is lower than other Citi cards.

Cardholder perks: Doesn’t stand out compared to similar cards

Your Custom Cash Card carries the World Elite Mastercard logo, meaning you’ll have Mastercard’s highest tier of benefits, but unfortunately they may not offer extensive purchase protections and travel perks. These features could make a slight difference if you’re deciding between the Custom Cash and a typical no-annual-fee cash back card with minimal benefits, so check with your issuer first to see if your card specifically qualifies for choice features like:

  • 24/7 World Elite Concierge assistance
  • Three free months of DoorDash DashPass, plus $5 off your first two orders per month
  • $5 Lyft credits after three rides each month
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership

But even though its Mastercard benefits and standard Citi benefits like fraud protection and access to presale concert and sporting tickets through Citi Entertainment can slightly set the Custom Cash apart from other no-annual-fee cards with even fewer additional features, the Citi Custom Cash card’s benefits just aren’t remarkable enough to give the card an edge like Chase no-annual-fee cards’ travel perks provide. 

Reward value: Higher with other Citi cards

Although it’s marketed as a cash back card, the Custom Cash actually earns Citi ThankYou Points. All of Citi’s no-annual-fee cards earn basic ThankYou points, which are slightly different from the full-fledged ThankYou points you collect with the Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige® Card (if you obtained a Prestige card before it was discontinued). That’s because basic points can’t be transferred to Citi travel partners for a potentially higher value unless you have a Citi Premier or Prestige card to redeem your Custom Cash’s points through.

However, unlike the points you’d earn with some other Citi cards, ThankYou points earned with the Custom Cash card retain their value when redeemed toward cash back or statement credits. To squeeze the most value from each point, it’s important to study the Custom Cash card’s unique rewards program and consider how it could be great for travel and card combinations.

Bonus categories: Low rate outside of your top eligible spending category

Here’s a look at how Citi defines some of the card’s 5 percent bonus categories:

Select travel categories Select transit categories Select streaming services
  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Cruises
  • Other major travel categories
  • Car rentals
  • Buses
  • Taxis and rideshares
  • Ferries
  • Trains
  • Subways
  • Parking garages and tolls
  • Motorhome and RV rentals
  • Other major transit categories
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Amazon Music
  • Apple Music
  • Disney+
  • DirectTV Stream
  • ESPN+
  • fuboTV
  • HBO Max
  • NBA League Pass
  • Netflix
  • Pandora
  • Paramount+
  • Showtime
  • Sling TV
  • Spotify
  • Starz
  • SiriusXM
  • Tidal
  • Vudu
  • YouTube Premium
  • YouTube TV

If you spent $500 in one of these categories each billing cycle, you’d earn at least $25 cash back per billing cycle, which comes to $75 per quarter or $300 per year (similar to other 5 percent rotating category cards). Realistically, you probably won’t earn more than 1 percent on any purchases outside the card’s four major bonus categories — restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and select travel — if you use the Custom Cash as your primary rewards card.

That’s why the Citi Custom Cash may work better as a second credit card that allows you to maximize your cash back outside these four staple categories. For example, the Citi Premier already earns ThankYou points in these four categories, so you could pair it with the Custom Cash card to earn more ThankYou points in other categories like select transit, home improvement stores, live entertainment, drugstores and streaming services.

We tried it: Here’s what our experts say

Bankrate credit cards editor Robert Thorpe uses the Citi Custom Cash to maximize the money decides to spend, taking advantage of the tiered-rewards rates:

I use my cards for cash back to reduce the amount of money I’m spending each month. I love that I can earn 5% cash back in categories that typically only receive 3% or less with more versatile cards. I use two Custom Cash cards for two of our biggest spend areas that typically would only earn 3%. My wife is the account holder for one, which we use for gas purchases. I’m the account holder for the other, which we use for dining out. When I first started using the card, I couldn’t see if I was eligible for the sign-up bonus. I messaged customer service via the app on a Sunday morning and received a prompt reply that assured me I was eligible.

— Robert Thorpe — Editor, Personal Finance

Nouri Zarrugh, another Bankrate expert, also recommends the Custom Cash for its high, flexible cash back rate in a choice category.

This card is so underrated! You can’t get a rewards rate this high in almost any of its eligible categories without paying an annual fee. If you stick to using it for only one category, I think this card is almost a must-have for building a multi-card strategy. I only use it for groceries — that way I always know which category is going to earn the top cash back rate. I juggle several cards, so having this card dedicated to only one type of purchase makes things a bit easier to manage.

— Nouri Zarrugh— Senior Editor, Credit Cards


How the Citi Custom Cash compares to other cash back cards

Deciding on a cash back card can feel overwhelming at first. With so many spending categories available, it can be hard to say which fits you best long-term. With the hassles of enrollment and rotating categories, it can be hard to maximize on rewards every billing cycle with the Citi Custom card. Considering these factors, credit cards with several ongoing bonus categories can be worth looking into.

Image of Citi Custom Cash® Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Citi's secure site

Annual fee


Intro offer


Rewards rate

1% - 5%

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Image of Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Annual fee


Intro offer


Rewards rate

1% - 5%

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Image of Discover it® Cash Back
Bankrate Score
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Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Annual fee


Intro offer

Cashback Match™

Rewards rate

1% - 5%

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)

Best cards to pair with the Citi Custom Cash Card

Hands down, the best cards to pair with the Citi Custom Cash are the Citi Premier and the Citi Prestige since they let you transfer your pooled Custom Cash rewards to Citi’s travel partners for a potentially higher value. But overall, any of the Citi ThankYou trifecta cards would be a great choice.

Who is the Citi Custom Cash right for?

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it?

The Citi Custom Cash Card is a breath of fresh air in the world of cash back credit cards. Its unique approach to earning a high rewards rate on each billing cycle’s top category grants cardholders a valuable middle ground between the current four cash back program styles: flat-rate rewards, tiered bonus categories, choice bonus categories and rotating quarterly bonus categories.

It also delivers perhaps the highest available year-round rewards rate for a no-annual-fee card in key spending areas like groceries, gas and dining.

But for all of its strengths, the Citi Custom Cash card’s reward structure is a double-edged sword. Instead of a quarterly spending cap, you have a $500 spending cap per billing cycle in your 5 percent category, which could make you miss out on cash back if big purchases fall in a single billing cycle. It may also take some planning if you want to earn cash back on purchases other than groceries, since only your spending dictates which eligible category earns cash back.

Fortunately, however, this caveat makes it a great partner credit card. If you’re already a Citi cardholder (or plan on getting another), the Custom Cash is one of the most versatile supporting cards for generating extra cash back or ThankYou points thanks to its flexible redemption options. The Citi Custom Cash is a strong card for everyday spending in its own right, but pairing it with the Citi Premier or other Citi cards can really help it flex its muscles.

The information about the Citi Prestige Card and Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Dig deeper: Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it?

How we rated this card

cards rated
rewards programs valued
data points analyzed
Credit Card Reviews
perks evaluated

We rate credit cards using a proprietary card scoring system that ranks each card’s estimated average rewards rate, estimated annual earnings, welcome bonus value, APR, fees, perks and more against those of other cards in its primary category.

Each card feature is assigned a weighting based on how important it is to people looking for a card in a given category. These features are then scored based on how they rank relative to the features on other cards in the category. Based on these calculations, each card receives an overall rating of 1-5 stars (with 5 being the highest possible score and 1 being the lowest).

We analyzed over 150 of the most popular rewards and cash back cards to determine where each stacked up based on their value, cost, benefits and more. Here are some of the key factors that influenced this card’s overall score and how the score influenced our review:

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Garrett Yarbrough
Writer, Credit Cards

Bankrate expert Garrett Yarbrough strives to make navigating credit cards and credit building smooth sailing for his readers. After regularly featuring his credit card, credit monitoring and identity theft analysis on, he joined the and Bankrate teams as a staff writer to develop product reviews and comprehensive credit card guides focused on cash back, credit scores and card offers.

Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards
Reviewed by Former Editor, credit cards

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.