Citi Custom Cash Card Review [2021]: Simple and Easy 5% Cash Back

Can the Citi Custom Cash Card compete with established cashback credit cards? It seems so, but check it out for yourself.
Last updated Aug 16, 2021 | By Ben Walker | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins

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The Citi Custom Cash Card puts a new spin on how you can earn cash back by automatically offering 5% bonus rewards for your top spending category (up to a limit) each billing cycle. It’s intriguing because you don’t have to choose or activate a category to receive your bonus rewards, like certain credit cards require.

But how does it stack up against other well-known and established cashback cards?

This Citi Custom Cash Card review will help you learn more about this card’s features and benefits, as well as how it works. This will help you understand whether the Citi Custom Cash would be a good fit for you and deserving of a spot in your wallet.

Automatically Earn the Most on What You Spend the Most

Citi Custom Cash Card

Citi Custom Cash Card

Citi Custom Cash Card

Intro Offer

$200 cash back

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 5% cash back

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • $200 cash back welcome bonus
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases
  • 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent)
  • 1% cash back on everything else
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • Has foreign transaction fee
Card Details
  • Earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Intro purchase 0% offer: 0% for 15 months then 13.99% to 23.99% (variable)
  • Intro balance transfer 0% offer: 0% for 15 months then 13.99% to 23.99% (variable)

In this Citi Custom Cash Card review

Who should get the Citi Custom Cash Card?

The Citi Custom Cash Card would be an ideal fit for cardholders who want to earn bonus rewards on common expenses. The 5% rewards rate on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that) is one of the best bonus rates available, and you don’t have to select a category or activate the bonus — it’s automatically applied.

In addition, the available bonus categories can easily align with most people’s spending habits. It’s unlikely that one of the categories — between groceries, restaurants, gas stations, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment — wouldn’t somehow factor into your typical expenses.

However, this particular rewards credit card might not make sense if you want to earn in multiple bonus categories at the same time or if you spend a lot more than the $500 limit in one category each billing cycle. It’s also not likely the best fit if your credit score isn’t within the good to excellent range because that’s what it typically takes to qualify.

Card basics

Card type Cash Back
Credit card issuer Citibank
Credit card network Mastercard
Annual fee $0
Intro bonus Earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months
Reward rate 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
Recommended credit score Good, Excellent
Intro APR 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months

0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months

Foreign transaction fee 3%

Citi Custom Cash Card benefits and perks

  • Generous welcome offer: New cardholders have the opportunity to take advantage of a lucrative bonus. Earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Flexible earning: Most cashback credit cards have set or rotating bonus categories, but the Citi Custom Cash leaves you flexible earning space each billing cycle. You have the opportunity to earn 5% on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that).
  • Bonus categories: Your bonus categories align with many common expenses, which makes it easier to earn the 5% rate. These categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel and transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment.
  • Low annual cost: This $0-annual-fee card is more valuable because there’s no annual cost to offset.
  • 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 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 or Citi Premier 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 and 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months. 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

  • 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 Premier card.
  • Bonus limit: Your purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that) bonus rate is limited to $500 per billing cycle and applies only to your top spending category. If you typically exceed that spending cap in a certain category each month, you might have to dig into the calculations to see whether this card alone, another card, or a combination of cards makes more sense.
  • Foreign transaction fee: The Citi Custom Cash isn’t recommended for foreign purchases because of its 3% foreign transaction fee. Consider a travel credit card instead.

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: $1,003

Year two earnings: $803

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

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, and then 1% cash back after that), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

If you spend $500 in one of the bonus categories, such as groceries, and it’s your top spending category, you’d earn 2,500 ThankYou Points. But all other purchases on this card would only earn the 1% rate. So it makes the most sense to use this card for a single bonus category that you think you can hit the $500 limit on each billing cycle.

If you’re determined to earn a higher cashback rate than the 1% on other categories, it likely makes sense to have another rewards card for those purchases. A flat-rate rewards card like the Citi Double Cash, which earns up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay, could be a useful option.

Categories Rewards rate
Purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that) 5%
All other purchases 1%

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 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.

Citi Custom Cash Card FAQs

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 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, and then 1% cash back after that), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Which is better: the Citi Custom Cash Card vs. the Citi Double Cash Card?

If you’re trying to compare credit cards, the better card between the Citi Custom Cash and Citi Double Cash 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 up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay. 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 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.


Other cards to consider

The Citi Custom Cash Card can help you earn a high rate of rewards on purchases you may already be making each month. But if it doesn’t align with your typical spending habits or you want to pair it with another card, consider the Chase Freedom Flex and the Citi Double Cash cards — both of which make our list of the best cashback credit cards.

The Citi Double Cash Card could be the ideal complement to the Citi Custom Cash. Where the Citi Custom Cash fails to perform is offering bonus rewards in only one category each billing cycle. Introduce the Citi Double Cash and you get up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay.

To learn more about this card, read our Citi Double Cash Card review.

The Chase Freedom Flex can be another helpful alternative. It offers cash back at a rate of 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% 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.

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

Automatically Earn the Most on What You Spend the Most

Citi Custom Cash Card

Citi Custom Cash Card

Citi Custom Cash Card

Special Offer

Earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Citi Double Cash Card
Citi Double Cash Card
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 2% cash back on all purchases - 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay
  • No annual fee
Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Flex
  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Up to 5% cash back on spending
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $12k your first year)
  • Lyft and DoorDash perks

Author Details

Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.