Credit Cards Cash Back Credit Cards

Citi Custom Cash® Card Review [2024]: High But Limited Cash Back

The Citi Custom Cash Card is a solid card, but its monthly earnings cap limits its usefulness. (Citi is a FinanceBuzz partner.)

Updated June 28, 2024
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Citi Custom Cash® Card

Citi Custom Cash® Card
4.7

OUR VIEW

The Citi Custom Cash® Card is a card that’s a good fit for a variety of people. It offers 5% bonus rewards for your top spending category, and that’s automatic. You don’t have to remember to activate a bonus each quarter like you do with other cards.

Useful categories like grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, select transit, and select travel are eligible for the highest rate.

What’s the catch? Not every purchase is going to fit into one of the categories Citi rewards with its highest rate. And there’s a monthly cap of $500 on purchases eligible for 5%.

Still, given the high price of groceries and gas, this card could be a good fit for families, frequent travelers, commuters, and busy professionals.

Pros

You don’t have to activate categories
A variety of categories are eligible for the highest rate
$0 annual fee
Multiple intro APR offers

Cons

Walmart and Target purchases generally aren’t eligible for the highest earning rate
3% foreign transaction fee
Monthly cap rather than quarterly cap
High spending requirement for welcome offer
How we evaluate products

Card basics

Card type Cash Back
Credit card issuer Citibank
Credit card network Mastercard
Annual fee $0
Welcome bonus Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back
Reward rate 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases; plus, as a special travel offer, earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good, Fair
Intro APR 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months, then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

Foreign transaction fee 3%

Who should get the Citi Custom Cash® Card?

You should get the Citi Custom Cash Card if you have consistent spending in one of the categories it rewards:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Select travel
  • Select transit
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

This might include:

  • Couples and families who shop for groceries at local or regional supermarkets (not Walmart or Target) or frequently dine out
  • Frequent travelers or commuters who spend on gas or public transit
  • A DIYer working on a home renovation
  • Someone with high prescription costs
  • Fitness enthusiasts
  • Frequent concert goers or sports fans with season tickets

Tip
This card is especially good for travelers right now — you could earn 4% on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.

How this card works

This is a card where it's especially important to know the details so you can make the most of it.

Each billing cycle, Citi reviews your spending in each of the reward categories. You receive the 5% rewards rate on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back).

That’s a very good rate and on par with other bonus category cards like the Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover it® Cash Back.

The $500 cap is also on par with other cards of this type, except other cards typically have a quarterly cap of $1,500 rather than $500. And the 1% you earn on all other purchases is also similar to other cards.

A potential strategy

To use this card effectively, plan out what purchases you’re going to use it for. You might decide to put all your groceries on that card. Then go with a different card for the rest of your purchases so you earn more.

For example, if you want to stay with Citi and earn ThankYou rewards that you can combine with the Citi Custom Cash, you might put the rest of your spending on the Citi Double Cash® Card. It offers up to 2% back on all purchases. You might also want to switch to your alternate card once you’ve spent $500 in a month in your highest earning category.

Notable benefits

Low annual cost

This $0-annual-fee card is more valuable because there’s no annual cost to offset. Other cards like this one also have no annual fee, so it’s not a unique feature to this card. It does mean that if you don’t use it every month, you’re not losing anything by having it.

ThankYou Points

The Citi Custom Cash is advertised as a cashback card, but it actually earns Citi ThankYou Points on purchases. ThankYou Points offer more redemption options, including cash back (statement credits, check or direct deposits), gift cards, travel, and Shop with Points at Amazon.

Combine points

Citi allows you to combine points together if you have multiple Citi credit cards. This is beneficial for multiple reasons, including being able to pool your points for quicker redemptions, as well as unlocking more redemption options. If you also have a Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card card, combining your points together lets you transfer points to Citi travel partners.

Intro APR

If you’re considering a balance transfer or have big purchases coming up, an introductory APR period on a credit card can be helpful. The Citi Custom Cash has a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers for 15 months (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)) and 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)). There is a balance transfer fee for this service, and after the intro period is up, your balance will be subject to the regular variable APR.

Drawbacks to this card

Less-than-stellar welcome offer

You can earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back. Which sounds good until you realize other cards don’t require you to spend as much to get the same amount.

For example, the Chase Freedom Flex allows you to earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

I wouldn’t get the Custom Cash card for the welcome offer. If the rewards are a good fit, get the card for that, and enjoy the welcome offer as a bonus.

No transfer partners

The Citi Custom Cash may earn ThankYou Points, but they’re not the kind you can transfer to Citi travel partners. If you want that benefit, you’ll need to combine your points with a Citi Prestige or Citi Strata Premier card.

Foreign transaction fee

The Citi Custom Cash isn’t recommended for foreign purchases because of its 3% foreign transaction fee. Which is a bit unfortunate since travel is an elevated category on the card. So if you’re planning travel abroad, consider one of the best travel credit cards instead.

Monthly rather than quarterly cap

If you’re planning to make a one-time large purchase in a category you don’t ordinarily spend in, having a monthly cap is a disadvantage.

For example, let’s say you’ve taken a week off to tackle a bathroom renovation project. You go to Home Depot and spend $1,000 on supplies. With the Custom Cash, you’d get the highest rate on $500 of that spending. With a different card with a quarterly cap, you could potentially get the entire purchase at the highest rewards rate.

In fairness to the Custom Cash card, if you have enough spending to hit the spending cap in other months, it should all even out. Ultimately, the Custom Cash is designed to reward ongoing spending, not large, one-time purchases.

Earning and redeeming Citi ThankYou Points

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look how your cash back can add up with the Citi Custom Cash Card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of 1 cent per ThankYou Point.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $814

Year two earnings: $614

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model, which looks at points earned via spending, the sign-up bonus, and the annual fee. For our calculations, we assumed groceries would be your top spending category each month and therefore earn 5% cash back.

Best ways to earn

Categories Rewards rate
Purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back) 5%
Hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025 4%
All other purchases 1%

The best way to earn Citi ThankYou Points with the Citi Custom Cash Card is by focusing your purchases on one of the available bonus categories. This card earns 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases; plus, as a special travel offer, earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.

Maximizing your redemptions

The Citi Custom Cash Card earns Citi ThankYou Points on every purchase. On this card, these points offer the following redemption options:

  • Cash back in the form of a mailed check, statement credit, or direct deposit
  • Gift cards
  • Shop with Points at Amazon
  • Travel
  • Charitable donations

Most of these redemptions can be made directly through the Citi ThankYou portal after logging into your online account. Redemption portals are typical for most credit card rewards programs and are often the easiest way to redeem points or miles. If you want to use your credit card points on Amazon, visit the Citi Amazon page to link your Citi and Amazon accounts together so you can use ThankYou Points on eligible Amazon purchases.

ThankYou Points are typically worth the most when you redeem them for travel. Your points redeem at a 1:1 ratio (one point equals 1 cent) for travel, so if you have 10,000 points, that’s $100 toward a travel redemption. Gift card redemptions are also available at this same ratio, but redeeming for cash back or shopping with points on Amazon offers a lower redemption value.

If you also have a Citi travel card, such as the Citi Prestige or Citi Strata Premier, you have the option to combine your points together and transfer them to one of the Citi transfer partners, typically at a 1:1 ratio. These partners include airlines like JetBlue Airways, Emirates, and Qantas. It’s possible to get more value from doing a points transfer like this if you can find a good flight deal with a certain airline.

An alternative to consider

The Chase Freedom Flex® also has high-earning bonus categories. It offers cash back at a rate of 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You get multiple bonus categories, so you aren’t tied to only one each statement period — but you do have to activate your bonus category.

Depending on your spending, it could be a good alternative or a good complementary card to use alongside the Custom Cash.

To learn more about this card, read our Chase Freedom Flex review.

FAQ

What kind of card is the Citi Custom Cash Card?

The Citi Custom Cash Card is a Mastercard credit card that’s focused on earning cashback rewards. It’s different from other cashback credit cards because of the flexibility it offers for earning bonus rewards.

You can earn 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases; plus, as a special travel offer, earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.

Which is better: the Citi Custom Cash Card or the Citi Double Cash Card?

The better card between the Citi Custom Cash and the Citi Double Cash® Card depends on your lifestyle and spending habits. The Citi Custom Cash has a higher 5% earning rate, but that’s limited to $500 per billing cycle in your top spending category.

The Citi Double Cash earns 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24. This is better if you typically have expenses in multiple categories. But using both cards as a pair is likely the best option for earning the most rewards possible in this situation.

What is the credit limit for the Citi Custom Cash Card?

Your credit limit for any credit card is typically based on different creditworthiness factors, such as your credit score, credit history, total income, debt, and history with the credit card issuer. If you qualify for the Citi Custom Cash Card, you’re likely to receive at least a $500 minimum credit limit, though it could be higher. Citi doesn’t have maximum published credit limits available.

Bottom line

The Citi Custom Cash® Card(Rates and fees) is a solid choice for many due to its useful categories. Its welcome offer leaves a lot to be desired, and it doesn’t work well for large, one-off purchases. There are enough benefits to this card that it’s still a worthwhile choice for many, especially given its $0 annual fee.

Earn the Most in the Category You Spend the Most

4.7

Citi Custom Cash® Card

Current Offer

Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases; plus, as a special travel offer, earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Melinda Sineriz, ABFP™

Melinda Sineriz is a Lead Editor at FinanceBuzz and an Accredited Behavioral Finance Professional™ designee. Melinda has a B.A. in English from Miami University and a master’s degree from Bard College. Before focusing on personal finance content, she worked in insurance for six years, educating clients on Medicare supplements, life insurance, long-term care, and annuities.

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.