Move over rotating category cash back cards, you’ve got some new competition. The brand-new Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, which runs on the Mastercard network, was launched June 10, 2021 and aims to give other credit cards that offer 5% cash back in rotating areas of spending a run for their money.
Attributes of the new Citi Custom Cash Card include:
- No annual fee
- Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle. All other eligible purchases will earn 1% cash back.
- Welcome bonus: Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. The bonus points come in the form of 20,000 ThankYou points that can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
- This card offers a 0% introductory APR on eligible balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
- Balance transfer fee: Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
- Foreign transaction fee: 3%
Rewards are issued as ThankYou points, which can be redeemed as cash back at a value of a penny per point as a statement credit, ACH transfer, used to purchase a gift card or donated to charity. You can also use them to make a purchase on Amazon via the Pay with Points feature but the value is less than a penny a point. Unlike other Citi cards that earn ThankYou points, the Citi Custom Cash has the confusing policy that there are no travel transfer partners with this card, just a retail transfer partner which is Sears. You also cannot pool your points between this card and another Citi card or share your points with another Citi cardmember.
There are several no-annual-fee cards on the market already that offer 5% cash back rewards up to a spending cap, most notably the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Discover it® Cash Back. So what makes the Citi Custom Cash a worthy competitor?
Unlike the Freedom Flex and the Discover it Cash Back which have preassigned 5% categories which change quarterly and require activation, the Citi Custom Cash will automatically choose the area where you spend the most each month to earn 5% cash back on up to $500 on purchases each month. Other spending will earn 1% cash back. Eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.
The adaptability of the Custom Cash card means you’re more likely to max out your 5% possibilities than with a card that may offer bonus rewards for three months at a warehouse club where you’re not a member or elevated earnings on tolls or gas stations when you don’t own a car, not to mention the fact that the Custom Cash includes categories that aren’t captured by other credit cards like fitness clubs and live entertainment.
The Custom Cash card may not be the right fit for everyone, however. Keep in mind that all spending besides your top category for the month will earn just 1% cash back and the spending cap for the 5% bonus category of up to $500 per month means you may earn more overall with a different card.
For example, if you have $1,000 in travel expenses one month and travel is your top spend category, with the Custom Cash card you’d earn $25 worth of points back for the first $500 and then $5 for the second $500 for a total of $30. But on the Chase Freedom Flex℠, which earns 5% back on travel booked through the Chase portal with no spending cap, you’d earn $50 worth of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You should consider your personal spending and compare a number of the best credit cards available to decide which card(s) will give you the most rewards.
And other cash-back cards may offer greater flexibility in how you can redeem your earnings and include options like transferring to travel partners or pooling earnings with another card or cardholder including one from Citi itself, the Citi® Double Cash Card.
If you want to get started with a cash-back card that earns elevated rewards in rotating categories, the Citi Custom Cash is an intriguing new option. But before applying, be sure to consider your spending habits and if the rewards structure on this card aligns with how you shop and how you want to redeem your earnings.