The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Citi Custom Cash® Card Review

Eric Bank

By: Eric Bank

Eric Bank
Eric Bank

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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Editor: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon leverages 15-plus years of journalism expertise to inform financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry. He is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Reviewer: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Disclosure: When you apply through links on our site, we often earn referral fees from partners. For more information, see our ad disclosure and review policy.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.

Citi Custom Cash® Card Review

Rated 4.7 /5.0 ★★★★★

Several credit cards have adopted a relatively new rewards theme: Customizing the top cash back category each month. In some cases, cards allow you to choose the category; in others, the card picks the eligible category based on where you spend the most during the billing cycle.

These cards can maximize your cash rewards by automatically identifying the appropriate merchant category, be it travel, groceries, gas, or something else. Citibank’s entry in this market niche is the Citi Custom Cash® Card.

Beyond its dynamic top bonus category, this cash back credit card is rather basic. It should appeal to consumers who want a simple, inexpensive card. In this credit card review, we examine it and three top competitors worth considering. One of these could easily be the next addition to your wallet.

Main Takeaways:

The Citi Custom Cash® Card caters to consumers with fair, good, or excellent credit who want to maximize their cash back according to their monthly purchases, up to the first $500 spent. This unsecured card charges no annual fee but has an unremarkable credit limit.

It does offer a signup bonus and an introductory 0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers APR. Qualifying balance transfers must be completed within the first four months.

Its APR is 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable), and you may face foreign transaction fees, late or returned payment fees, and a penalty APR for missed payments.

How to Qualify & Apply For the Card

Before you fill out an application for the card, be sure you are eligible. To qualify for the card, you must:

    • reside in the United States

    • be 18 or older

    • have an email address, Social Security number, and sufficient income to afford your monthly minimum payments

    • not have an existing account for the same card

    • have a FICO score of 640 or higher

    Here are more details about the card and a link to the application on the issuer’s website:

    Disclosure: When you apply through links on our site, we often earn referral fees from partners. For more information, see our ad disclosure and review policy.

    Advertiser Disclosure

    CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.

    Citi Custom Cash® Card Review

    at the issuer'ssecure website

    BEST OVERALL RATING

    ★★★★★

    4.7

    OVERALL RATING

    • Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 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.
    • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 19.24% - 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
    • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
      Special Travel Offer: Earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.
    • No rotating bonus categories to sign up for – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.
    • No Annual Fee
    • Citi will only issue one Citi Custom Cash® Card account per person.
    Intro (Purchases)
    Intro (Transfers)
    Regular APR
    Annual Fee
    Credit Needed
    0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers
    0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers
    19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
    $0
    Excellent, Good, Fair

    Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

    You can apply for the card at a Citibank branch or over the phone, but the easiest method is online. To apply, submit your name, contact details, Social Security number, date of birth, citizenship status, total annual income, and monthly housing payment.

    The credit card company performs a hard credit pull when you apply for the card, which may have a minor impact on your FICO score. You should receive an immediate decision unless the bank requires time to resolve data inconsistencies.

    Benefits & Drawbacks to Consider

    When you’re exploring credit card options, considering the benefits and drawbacks is crucial to ensure the card aligns with your financial habits and goals.

    This card stands out for its tailored rewards program, although it is subject to a monthly cap. While the card offers a flexible rewards structure, it may not provide the highest value for your specific spending patterns. You may benefit more from a card offering more consistent rewards in certain categories.

    Benefits

      • Tailored rewards program: Automatically earn 5% cash back on your highest spending category each billing cycle (on up to $500, then 1%) without the need to enroll in rotating categories.

      • Broad category selection: The card offers about a dozen categories eligible for the 5% cash back rate.

      • Annual fee: Enjoy the benefits of the card with a $0 annual fee.

      • Signup bonus: Earn a bonus after spending a set amount in purchases within the first few months of account opening.

      • Introductory APR offer: Benefit from an introductory 0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers APR following account opening (then a variable APR applies).

      • Cash back rewards do not expire: You keep your rewards as long as your account remains open. Rewards are in the form of ThankYou® Points.

      • Citi Entertainment® access: Gain exclusive access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and more, through Citi Entertainment®.

      • Simple redemption options: Redeem your cash back for a statement credit, direct deposit, check, or use the points in the Citi rewards program.

    Drawbacks

      • Earning cap on 5% categories: The 5% cash back applies only to the first $500 spent in the top spending category each billing cycle, then drops to 1%, which limits benefits for big spenders.

      • Limited benefit for diverse spenders: If you evenly distribute your spending across many categories, you may not maximize the potential of the 5% cash back compared to cards that offer higher flat rates on all purchases.

      • Foreign transaction fees: This card charges a fee on foreign transactions, making it a poor choice for international travel and purchases from overseas merchants.

      • No dedicated travel rewards: While it includes a travel category for 5% cash back, the card lacks dedicated travel benefits such as trip insurance or no foreign transaction fees, which are common on travel-specific credit cards.

      • Introductory APR period condition: To benefit from the introductory APR promotion, you must complete the transfers within four months of account opening, adding a time constraint to this benefit. In addition, the card’s balance transfer fee is higher than average.

      • Automatic category selection: The card issuer, not the cardholder, selects the bonus category based on the highest spending category each billing cycle, which may not always match your planned or preferred rewards strategy.

      • Penalty APR: You’ll face a high penalty APR for an indefinite period following a late or returned payment.

    Other Cards Worth a Look

    The card is best when you use it alongside other credit cards that complement its reward structure. That’s because non-bonus purchases on the card earn only 1% cash back. The following cards are worth your consideration, either instead of or in addition to this card.

    Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Review

    at Bank Of America'ssecure website

    BEST OVERALL RATING

    ★★★★★
    4.9

    OVERALL RATING

    • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
    • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
    • Choose 3% cash back on gas and EV charging station, online shopping/cable/internet/phone plan/streaming, dining, travel, drug store/pharmacy or home improvement/furnishings purchases.
    • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn 3.75%-5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
    • No annual fee and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
    • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
    • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
    Intro (Purchases)
    Intro (Transfers)
    Regular APR
    Annual Fee
    Credit Needed
    0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
    0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
    19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
    $0
    Excellent/Good

    Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

    The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card will suit consumers who like choosing where they earn rewards. You, not the bank, can select a new top-tier category each month, including online shopping, travel, drug stores, dining, gas, and home furnishings.

    Compared with the Citi Custom Cash® Card, this card offers the same signup bonus amount but requires you to satisfy the spending requirement in less time. The card’s top reward rate is below Citi’s, but it offers additional bonus tiers, and its regular APR is lower. Both offer similar introductory APR promotions. However, you must complete balance transfers in 60 days with the Bank of America card versus four months with the Citibank card.

    Discover it® Cash Back Review

    at Discover Card'ssecure website

    BEST OVERALL RATING

    ★★★★★
    4.9

    OVERALL RATING

    • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers–only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
    • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
    • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
    • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 18.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
    • No annual fee.
    • Terms and conditions apply.
    Intro (Purchases)
    Intro (Transfers)
    Regular APR
    Annual Fee
    Credit Needed
    0% Intro APR for 15 months
    0% Intro APR for 15 months
    18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
    $0
    Excellent/Good

    The Discover it® Cash Back card’s top bonus tier matches that of the Citi Custom Cash® Card and has a similar cap. Still, the merchant category rotates quarterly, and you must activate the bonus each rotation. Instead of a modest fixed signup bonus, the Discover® card provides new cardmembers with unlimited Cashback Match for the first year, a potentially more rewarding deal.

    The Discover® card shares a similar introductory APR promotion, but it doesn’t impose any early deadlines on balance transfers. The card is less costly and provides better security features. You cannot qualify for it if you have fair credit.

    BEST OVERALL RATING

    ★★★★★
    4.9

    OVERALL RATING

    • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
    • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
    • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
    • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
    • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
    • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, alerts, and more.
    • Member FDIC
    Intro (Purchases)
    Intro (Transfers)
    Regular APR
    Annual Fee
    Credit Needed
    0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
    0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
    20.49% - 29.24% Variable
    $0
    Good/Excellent

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card offers a larger signup bonus, with a higher spending requirement and a one-year introductory period. The bonus takes the form of an extra 1.5% cash back during the initial year, giving the card generous bonus rates in several reward tiers.

    The Chase card offers an introductory APR that matches that of the Citi card, except balance transfers are available for the entire promotion period. The cards have similar costs, but Chase Freedom Unlimited offers many more benefits, including extended warranty protection, travel insurance, and rental car collision damage waiver.

    Cardholder Reviews Around the Web/Reddit

    Reddit user stayyfr0styy likes the card despite his low credit limit:

    “A $500 limit is all this card needs. There’s no reason to spend more than $500 on this card in a month. A $750 limit would be better to get some flexibility, or maybe a $1,000 limit. But if you are only getting 5% on up to $500 spent per month, don’t spend more than $500 on it. My wife and I both have a Custom Cash card and since the 5% cap is so low, we use them both for groceries.”

    Many Redditors recommend using the card in combination with others to maximize rewards. WhoNeedszZz doesn’t like that plan:

    “The thing is that getting multiple cards is a hassle, and then you have to juggle those cards and know which one has what balance every month to do that effectively. That’s a ton of micromanaging I’m not interested in doing. I’ll stick to my [other cards] and call it a day. There are better ways of accumulating funds than credit card rewards.”

    Opinions about Citibank’s customer service were quite polarized. Some hated it; others had no problems with it. Many commentators advise “YMMV” (i.e., your mileage may vary).

    FAQs: What Is the Average Credit Limit?

    If Citi approves your application, it offers you a credit limit based on your credit score, earnings, and debt. Some limits may be as low as $500. Please note that the bank may also limit cash advances to a portion of your credit line.

    Our friends at Intuit CreditKarma found that the average credit limit for owners of the Citi Custom Cash® Card and similar cards is $5,502. But the most common limit was $500.

    You can request a credit limit increase on the Citi website under the “Credit Card Services” tab. The bank will request current financial information, including your income and monthly housing cost. Citi may perform a soft or hard credit pull to check your score when you ask for a credit increase.

    The bank will provide you with an immediate decision. If it denies your request, it will follow up by sending you an Adverse Action Notice explaining the reasons why.

    How Do the Cash Back Rewards Work?

    This card pays 5% cash back on your top spending category each billing cycle, up to $500 in purchases. The eligible merchant categories include groceries, gas stations, restaurants, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment. All other eligible purchases earn 1% cash back.

    Citi pays out the rewards in the form of ThankYou® points. Each billing cycle, you will earn five points per $1 on purchases in your top eligible spend category up to the first $500 spent and one ThankYou® point per $1 on all other purchases.

    You earn points as long as your card account is open and current. Points don’t expire while the account remains active, but you will forfeit your unredeemed points 90 days after closing the account. The bank may close your account due to inactivity or convert your card to one that doesn’t participate in the ThankYou® Program.

    You immediately lose your points if the bank closes your account for any reason other than inactivity.

    You can redeem your points for cash back as a statement credit, direct deposit, or check. Or you can explore other ways to redeem points, including for gift cards, flight, hotel, and car rental bookings through Citi Travel, and Shop with Points at Amazon.com and other participating online partners.

    Citi rewards screenshot
    Citi provides multiple ways for cardholders to redeem points.

    You can also use Pay With Points to cover recent purchases in certain categories. You can access this feature online or through the Citi mobile app. If you prefer, you can transfer points to a participating loyalty program, share your points with other ThankYou® Rewards members, or donate them to an approved charity.

    Is the Citi Double Cash® Card Better?

    Determining which card is better depends on your spending habits and financial goals. You may prefer the Citi Custom Cash® Card for concentrated spending in specific categories that can change over time. This card offers significant rewards if you consistently spend heavily in one of the 5% cash back categories (up to $500 per billing cycle).

    The card automatically selects your highest spending category each month for the 5% reward, which is great if your major spending category varies. But you can only control the category by managing your spending — you cannot tell Citi which category to use.

    On the other hand, you may want to get the Citi Double Cash® Card if you’re looking for simplicity and consistent rewards across all spending categories. This card offers up to 2% cash back without caps on all purchases — a straightforward rewards structure without the need to track spending categories.

    However, this card doesn’t offer the potential for higher rewards in specific categories. It provides a steady return on every purchase, which can be more beneficial if you have varied spending habits.

    The following chart compares the key features of both cards:

    FEATURE  Citi Custom Cash® Card Citi Double Cash® Card
    Cash Back Rate 5% on top spending category up to $500, then 1% on all other purchases 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay)
    Bonus Cash Categories Automatically selected each month based on your highest spend None
    Annual Fee None None
    Intro APR Offer 0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers APR, then variable APR; you must complete balance transfers within four months 0% Intro APR Period 18 months on Balance Transfers, then variable APR; you must complete balance transfers within four months
    Foreign Transaction Fee Yes Yes
    Signup Bonus Yes Yes
    Credit Requirement    Fair to Excellent Fair to Excellent

    A few other factors should come into play when deciding between these two cards. Here are a few areas to analyze:

      • Spending patterns: If you focus your Custom card spending on one of the 5% categories, you may collect more rewards. For broad-based spending across many categories, the Citi Double Cash® Card may be more rewarding.

      • Rewards maximization vs. simplicity: Do you prefer maximizing rewards by matching your spending with specific categories, or do you value simplicity and consistency in rewards?

      • Introductory Offers: Consider the introductory APR offers. Both cards offer the same signup bonus. The Citi Double Cash® Card offers an introductory APR only on balance transfers. The Citi Custom Cash® Card provides a 0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers APR promotion. The Citi Double Cash® Card promotion may run longer than this card.

    The bottom line is that neither card is inherently better in all situations. Your best choice depends on matching each card’s features to your lifestyle.

    Is the Card Worth Getting If I’m Not a Citi Customer?

    There are two aspects to this question. The first is whether any special benefits exist for a cardowner who has a Citi bank account. The second is whether owning the card is worthwhile, regardless of where you bank.

    Special Benefits

    Having a Citi bank account to complement your Citi credit card may provide additional convenience and privileges.

    For starters, managing both your bank account and credit card through the same online banking platform or mobile app can streamline your money management, making it easier to track spending, transfers, and payments. Having a checking account with the same bank as your credit card issuer can make payments more straightforward, allowing for immediate transfers and potentially avoiding delinquent payments.

    Citibank may offer additional perks or enhanced customer service if you hold multiple types of accounts. While these benefits often vary and may not directly impact credit card rewards, they could improve your overall banking experience.

    In some cases, Citibank may provide exclusive offers, lower loan rates, or better savings rates to customers who have a broader relationship with the bank. These offers may make the bank’s other financial products more attractive.

    Card Ownership

    The Citi Custom Cash® Card is not a compelling choice if it’s your only credit card. You get much more value by combining it with other credit cards that complement its rewards.

    The basic strategy is to use the card for a single merchant category, one that typically requires monthly spending of $500 or more. This is ideal for recurring, predictable expenses in categories such as groceries, gas, or dining.

    You can then use one or more other credit cards for your different spending since this card pays only 1% on non-bonus purchases. For example, other Citi cards may offer up to 2% cash back on all other purchases. Use another card for all other spending outside of this card’s top category to ensure you’re getting the most cash back on purchases.

    If you travel frequently, using the Citi Strata Premier℠ Card for travel and dining expenses can earn you three ThankYou® points per dollar spent. This card is especially useful for spending on airfare, hotels, and dining out — categories that may not be your highest spend on this in a given month.

    While the Citi Custom Cash® Card and Double Cash cards do not have annual fees, the Citi Strata Premier℠ Card does. You should ensure the rewards you earn outweigh any fees.

    Of course, you can get your other cards from any credit card company unless you are loyal to Citibank. Many savvy consumers use a wide array of credit cards for specific merchant categories. This strategy may increase your overall rewards, but don’t underestimate the amount of time and thought it takes to juggle multiple credit cards.

    If you do embark on a multi-card program, it’s sensible to set up automatic payments so you don’t forget a due date. Alternatively, you can use a calendar or personal financial software to keep you informed.

    This Card May Be For You If…

      • You have concentrated spending in one category each month: It appeals to consumers who typically spend the most in one of the eligible 5% cash back categories, such as groceries, gas, or dining, up to $500 in a billing cycle.

      • You prefer simplicity and savings: This card may suit you if you’re looking for a high rewards rate without an annual fee. It also offers the convenience of automatic bonus category selection without needing to enroll or track specific categories.

      • You are planning a large purchase or want to consolidate debt: This card lets you take advantage of the 0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers APR for an extended period, giving you a cost-effective way to manage your money.

    Comparing the Citi Custom Cash® Card with alternatives helps you select a credit card that matches your spending habits and financial goals. Given the wide range of credit cards available, each with its own rewards structure, fees, and benefits, a thorough comparison can help you identify the card that maximizes your potential perks, given your specific spending habits.

    We suggest you consider the three alternative cards reviewed above before applying for any credit card. In the case of this card, you may find it best to apply for multiple cards with complementary rewards and benefits.

    About the Author

    Eric Bank
    Eric Bank Finance Expert

    Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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    Eric Bank