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I’ve been interested in some of the new lower-end credit cards that have come out recently. In the past, it seemed like when new credit cards come out, they would be pretty underwhelming. But we’ve recently seen a few of the lower-end credit cards with no annual fees come out that seem exciting. First there was the Wells Fargo Active Cash card and now the Citi Custom Cash card. And yes, the Citi Custom Cash card did come out a few weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to reviewing it. Let’s take a look at it and see who this might make sense for.
Citi Custom Cash Card Review – Earnings Rate and Perks
The Citi Custom Cash card has an earning structure similar to some other cards out there, but with a twist that I don’t think I’ve seen before. You earn 5% cash back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle up to the first $500 spent. All purchases over the first $500 in your highest spend category and all purchases in any other category earn 1%. Unlike say the Bank of America Customized Cash card, you don’t have to select your bonus category – you’ll automatically get the 5% back on whichever category you spent the most that month, and it will automatically change each month as your spending changes.
I can see this as useful for 2 groups of people. First is people with relatively low spending that is concentrated in one category. Grocery purchases seem like the most obvious choice but it could be gas stations, dining or any other category. If you are spending $1000 each month and $500 of it is in one category, you’re essentially getting 3% back on all purchases with a single card.
If you don’t mind holding multiple cards (and I’d imagine many people reading this website do not!), the other group of people would be people who can use it as a secondary card. Pick one category where you are spending around $500 each month – again groceries seem like it would work for some people. Then use the Citi Custom Cash card in that category and use your other card or cards for your other purchases. If you max it out each month, that’s basically 30,000 ThankYou points each year, all for a card with no annual fee. Sign me up!
You’ll also get a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers with the Citi Custom Cash card. I know most people reading this site aren’t looking for balance transfer cards, but it could be useful depending on your situation.
Citi Custom Cash Card Review – Welcome Bonus
For a card with no annual fee, the Citi Custom Cash card still has an attractive welcome bonus. You can get 20,000 ThankYou points after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months. Citi’s marketing says this is a “$200 cash bonus” but the fine print indicates that the rewards that you earn come as ThankYou points. Interestingly it also says that you can redeem these ThankYou points for 1 cent a piece, which is different than the ThankYou points that you can earn with other Citi no annual fee cards.
While this is similar to the welcome bonus that some other no annual fee cards give, it certainly destroys the Citi Double Cash in this regard. The Citi Double Cash has no welcome offer, which makes it not a better option to product change. 20,000 ThankYou points is not as great an offer as the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points you can currently get on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it is still pretty good for a card with no annual fee.
Combining With Other Citi Cards
The real bonus here would be the fact that, as we mentioned earlier, this doesn’t earn cash back but instead ThankYou points! And you can combine the ThankYou points that you earn here with other Citi travel rewards cards. This still gives you the opportunity to cash out at 1 cent per point if you want, but also transfer to travel partners. You can use the rewards that you earn from the Citi Custom Cash card to fly the Turkish Airlines 7,500 Mile Sweet Spot, for example.
Other Credit Cards to Consider
Here’s a look at how the Citi Custom Cash card compares with some similar cards:
- Citi Custom Cash card – $200 welcome bonus, 5% on one category up to $500 in spend each month. Earns ThankYou points
- Citi Double Cash – no welcome bonus, 2% cash back on all purchases. Ability to transfer your cash back rewards to ThankYou points
- Wells Fargo Active Cash card – $200 welcome bonus, 2% cash back on all purchases
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – $200 welcome bonus, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases. Ability to transfer cash back to Ultimate Rewards points
- American Express Blue Business Plus – 2 Membership Rewards on up to $50,000 in spending each year. 10,000 Membership Rewards as a welcome bonus.
On the other hand again, the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the current Chase Sapphire Preferred is pretty compelling as well, though it’s not really an apples to apples comparison for these cards.
As always, if you have any questions about the new Citi Custom Cash card or what card might work best for you, feel free to email me at dan at pointswithacrew dot com. I will do my best to help out!
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